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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another Day...That's How It Goes

Another day, another hour
Another prophet in my land
A poisoned patch of stinking flowers
Now I'll make my final stand

I will not run into the night
I have not lost the will to fight
I will not fall into the end of time
I know what's wrong and what is right

Those are the lyrics to a song my old band did on our one album. The singer changed the second two lines to "another dollar in my hand" and "another bloom, a stinking flower," but I always liked my originals better.

Why'd I type them? Dunno; they just popped into my head as I was preparing to blog. I guess they're apropos to many of our lives these days--we get up, if we're lucky kiss someone good bye, go to a daily grind where we get through another day hour by hour, then we go home and many of us plop down in front of the TV where we are bombarded by the prophets of the 21st century--advertisements. They present an ideal world, a world as it should be...if we buy the right kind of jeans, the proper weight-loss supplements and talk to our doctors about the side effects of the psychotropic drug du jour. Kind of reminds me of Philip K. Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? wherein people can program an emotion for themselves for the day just by plugging into a machine. They did a similar thing on a third-season episode of Doctor Who, with the ability to purchase emotion patches in New New York.

We're being programmed. I'd say we don't even realize it, but that's not true. Most of us realize it all too well...most of us just don't care.

Another set of lyrics I heard this morning that dovetail nicely with this:

Everybody's dreaming big
But everybody's just getting by
That's how it goes in Everyday America
A little town and a great big life

We've all got things we want to achieve before we die. We all have goals and dreams, and many of us just want to make a mark on the world. Have something to leave behind and be remembered by. That's the only real immortality we can hope to achieve. J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, Clara Barton, Elvis Presley, Mozart, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Susan B. Anthony, Charles Dickens, Stephen King, Jimi Hendrix, Julius Caesar, George Patton, Emily Dickinson, Anne Frank...these are people who left a mark on the world, who will be remembered for all time because of the indelible etching they left on society, pop culture, or history. Some, like Susan B. Anthony and Julius Caesar, were great men and women who did great things (sometimes, to quote J.K. Rowling, "Terrible things...but great"), leaving the entire world changed for their efforts. Others had just as great an impact but in less grandiose ways. Tolkien and Howard, for example, changed literature, and eventually forced stuffy scholars to recognize the pulps and fantasy as legitimate explorations of humanity. Did they change history like Susan B. Anthony did when she stood up for women's voting rights? Nope, but their contribution was no less lasting.

There are some folks out there who seem quite content to live an ordinary life and have no desire to leave a mark. Personally, I think these people are scamming not only the people around them, but themselves. I think we're all driven to make a mark and leave something's just that the system breaks many people. Some struggle their whole lives to break out and never make it, but to my mind those folks are better off than the ones who let themselves be beaten into complacency. Mark Twain said, "A man who tries to do something and fails is vastly better off than one who tries to do nothing and succeeds."

I worry about the next generation. I was a part Generation X, the so-called "MTV" generation who grew up without a real sense of identity. We grew up in the 80's and came of age in the 90's. We lost the 80's to the yuppies, who had the "me" decade well in hand and left nothing for those that would come later. Hell, many of them are still working and refuse to retire (or can't because they put all their yuppie earnings up their noses in the 80s) and leaving the rest of us to struggle to find work because there are too many workers and not enough jobs. The 90's was pretty much a dead decade. We saw an IT and Internet explosion thanks to Bill Clinton and Al Gore's administration, but that whole bubble burst sometime around 98 or 99, leaving the Precious Few to rise from the ashes and control the development of technology with an iron grip, just like always happens. The grunge bands of the 90's, as much as I abhor them, were a perfect voice to that, "Who are we? What do we do, now? What comes next for us?" decade. And so far the 2000's haven't seemed much better--the youth of America are all too happy to let corporations think for them entirely. Many kids today couldn't even tell you WHY they like their favorite band, or WHY the books they read are cool, or WHY reality TV is so great. They just like that stuff because the media fed it to them and they ate it all up with a big fat greasy spoon.

We think we're conquering racism and bigotry in this age. We're not; we're just using extremes of political correctness to hide the issues so we don't have to face them. Does anyone really believe that saying "n-word" conquers the negative attitudes that go with the word? Nope; it just forces them under the surface, where in some dangerous people they fester until they violently erupt. By saying, "visually impaired," instead of "blind," we're attempting to sanitize a disability for no real good reason. And so-called "culturally sensitive" terms like African-American can actually be offensive to others. I had a professor once who was actually from South Africa and a naturalized citizen of the U.S. He referred to a girl in class as "black" and she got indignant and insisted she was African-American. He got incensed and challenged her to tell him if she or either of the past two generations of her family had even ever been to Africa. She hadn't and didn't know of anyone in her family who ever had. "I," he said, "am African-American. You are just American. The color of your skin doesn't automatically give you claim to being African."

Feh and meh. It all comes down to the same thing in the end. One side wants to legislate morality, using law to tell us what's right and wrong instead of what's good and bad for society. The other side wants to legislate sensitivity, bringing Orwell's idea of "thought crimes" into the picture because gods forbid we should offend someone's delicate sensibilities.

I think this blog has gotten off base and far from my original point. What was my original point? Stop being complacent. Dream big, but go after those dreams. Don't let this society we've built to stop us from enjoying life achieve that goal. Love your life and treasure every breath as though it were your last. Leave your mark on the world, and don't be afraid to express unpopular opinions or be subversive. No one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe or keeping their mouth shut. The world has to change one person at a time, and it starts with individual thought.

Oh, hell, someone better with words than I'll ever be already said this, better than I ever could:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

--Dylan Thomas

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Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom, and Mary Magdalene.

I'm not a mad bible thumper--Sophia, however, is my inspiration and always in my heart