For what it’s worth

wizard crop

“Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

— Stephen Stills, “For What It’s Worth”

“For what it’s worth” – Why is that the name of the song? It’s a great and probably apt title, but I wonder what Stills was thinking. Why not “Stop Children, What’s That Sound?” or “(Everybody Look) What’s Going On”?

I do think it’s time we stop, children, and everybody look what’s going on.

What IS going on? WTF is going on?

Who benefits when people are this angry and this afraid? Why, what a surprise: It’s the people who are selling the anger and the fear – and especially the people who claim to have a solution.

I approve THIS message: You and I have more in common than we have differences. I got no need to beat you, I just want to go my way. You go your way, I’ll go mine. There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys, there’s only you and me and we just disagree.

Asterisk: There are bad guys, and they’re the ones who elevate a little disagreement into fighting words. As long as we leave each other alone, we have no need to quarrel. Them folks in high places, they like to see us fighting, partially for their amusement but mostly because it keeps us from paying attention to them. The longer we stay mad each other, the longer they can perch on their potard and promise to protect us from each other. I reckon they’re protecting us by sticking us in a cage and yelling, “Cage fight!” And so we fight until we’re blue in the face, or black and blue physically, and the ones who sow the discord sit back and smile. For what it’s worth.

My solution? Don’t get mad at anyone except the ones who try to herd you into a cage and fight. In fact, don’t even get mad at them, because anytime you let anger be your primary emotion, you play into their hands. Don’t walk into the cage and don’t fight.

What you do with a fear monger is the one thing that drains their power: Ignore them. Don’t listen to the whispers or the shouts. If you’re angry, you’re in their clutches. They want you mad, and scared, and feeling like somebody ought to do something, because they’re there to volunteer to be that somebody, but give them the chance and what they’ll do will just stir us all against each other while they ride to the bank and cash our checks.

So here’s what I’m going to do: Love my neighbors. Give more than I receive. Eschew the initiation of violence. It seems to me there’s plenty of world for for all of us.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain spinning wheels, flipping switches and pressing buttons. In the end, he has no power. Or rather, he has only as much power as you surrender to his control. So ignore him and deny him the power with his loud booming voice and his flashy explosions. You’ll eventually be able to see he’s only a weak, powerless guy with a squeaky voice and an uncertain fear of his own making shining from his eyes.


What is and what may have been

planning the week

When I have time to sit and ponder, the week ahead unfolds with certain order. Today I can do this task and that, and I can start on that project that’s due the day after tomorrow, and this afternoon I should have time to accomplish the usual accomplishments.

But of course, one by one the images unravel with unexpected interactions with other people’s plans and expectations and needs, and The Week That Was is not The Week That Was Going To Be.

As the next week approaches, I assess that at least this got done and that got started, although this other thing is still not begun and overall progress should have been better. The certain order collapsed into uncertain disorder, or at least less order than I would have preferred.

But such is life in the pinball machine, careening from wall to wall and bumper to bumper, getting bopped by the flippers and staying in the game as long as possible.

It never happens quite the way it was envisioned because of the push and pull against each other in infinite combinations. The journey is the destination, because the journey determines the destination, which is always different – slightly or dramatically – from the one envisioned at first step.

Lovely Rita

Saturday Stories #9

rita's story

When Rita was a little girl, there was a song about a meter maid, and it sounded like such fun, and she grew up to be a meter maid of charm and loveliness, and instead of grousing over tickets people would see her name tag and smile and say, “Oh, it’s you! ‘Lovely Rita, Meter Maid.’ And yes, I suppose I am a little late getting back to my car, and I’ll cheerfully pay my fine because you asked so sweetly.”

But then they equipped the meters with devices that did Rita’s job with electronics and told her “It’s not performance-related, it’s the economics,” and the sadness returned to the meters and the resentment: “I was only a few minutes late, damn machine.”

But Rita never lost her smile, and if she were sad not to be walking among her meters – and it did make her sad – she never let on, she just went on to share her charm and her loveliness in other places and for other people, who said, “You’re so lovely, Rita; lovely Rita, you should have been a meter maid.”

And she would say, “I was, for a time, but this is now. And I’m so grateful, at least, that I had that chance, for a while.”

Photo 102417709 © Kamil Janiszewski |

Where have all the Watchers gone


In the old Marvel comics, there was a character called The Watcher, who came from a race of beings who bore witness to history and recorded what they saw but were forbidden to take sides, after a catastrophe occurred in their ancient past when they tried to influence an outcome. (The Watcher predated Star Trek’s prime directive, I might add.)

I think The Watcher influenced the way I have tried to report in my journalism. I always have tried to understand and describe both – rather, all – sides of a conflict as I write the story, as accurately and matter-of-factly as I can, with an overt effort not to try to influence the situation.

I have my own point of view, of course, but the reporter’s job is not to push a point of view, it’s to chronicle the clash and perhaps offer some objective facts to help the reader decide whether one side is in possession of more of the truth than another. Points of view were expressed in a column or editorial on the opinion page.

That no longer seems to be the goal of many journalists, who act as if they have bought into one side or another’s point of view and are hired to agitate and propagandize for that point of view.

Rather than rail against some soulless and faceless monolithic Media, I would simply encourage readers to be aware of this trend and – if you do wish to understand an issue – seek out other viewpoints or even those rare old-school Watcher-type journalists who may still be encountered here and there.

#TBT While My Guitar Gently Weeps

The beauty of the Beatles was that they refused to remain the pop-rock band that emerged in 1963-64 as the most popular entertainers in the world. Starting, I think, with “Yellow Submarine”/”Eleanor Rigby” and probably sooner, they went out of their way to make records that sounded like nothing they had done before.

There were a couple of times when, as a teenage boy alone in my room with the stereo, I was left absolutely stunned by what I was hearing for the first time. The first time, of course, was the finale of Sgt. Pepper, “A Day in the Life,” probably acknowledged as the best damn thing Lennon-McCartney ever built.

But then there is “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the moment George Harrison announced to the world that he is not only equal to his bandmates as a songwriter buy capable of brilliance that surpass anything they can imagine. His are the best songs on the White Album and on Abbey Road, and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is my favorite Beatles song of them all. The sweeping grandeur of the arrangement, the perfect weeping lead guitar by Eric Clapton, the evocative title and lyrics – this song had me staring at the speakers in shocked delight, soaking in the wall of sound. At that stage in the album, Lennon and McCartney had already dazzled with a half-dozen innovative tunes, but then, starting with a “Hey-oh” and guitar fanfare, George just blew me away.

The miracle of words

miracle of words

When Poe wrote “The Raven” or Shakespeare “Hamlet,” did they stop at the end and say, “This. This is what I will be known for, in a space of time measured in generations” – or did they just pick up and write the next, forgotten words?

There are times when you say yes, these are good words, and times the words you never suspected have touched a soul. The words in combination march along, march away, and they are heard sometimes in ways that are more than you intended or realized.

That is the wonderful surprise of saying something – the miracle of being heard – the precious dance of speaker and listener, writer and reader, the creative mating that grows (at best) into a wondrous understanding, an insight rediscovered or newly found.

Speak and be heard; speak and listen for the echo; remember what was forgotten and tell about it; and find what was lost without realizing it was ever gone.

A next time sometime past time

a next time sometime past time

The old man sits, head bent, eyes closed, in his familiar comfortable chair, pen poised above paper bound, blank and waiting.

Suddenly his eyes drift open and his hand begins to scrawl across the page: “I remember this – this is how it was – this is why it is the way it is now – this is what I recall and when and where.”

He scrawls, alive, bringing the past and the memories and the what-is-it to life. And scrawls and scrawls.

And just as suddenly, the words have been written and the images and the thoughts are spent. Hand poised over paper, just in case, his eyes flutter and his head sags forward, and he snoozes, waiting for the next burst of energy and thought and yesterday and tomorrow and dreams of a next time sometime past time.

Here comes a living soul, and another, and another, flying past his house on a mission from here to there, thousands a day on millions of missions – and somehow it all comes together.

… This is why I rise before I’m ready: to write on these pages. The words may be nonsense, but it comforts me to extract them from bleary blurs and to ramble across the page – and maybe the nonsense means something after all. If I’d slept another hour, the pages would still be blank, wouldn’t they? And then they would be saying something else entirely.