When Old News is New News

July 22, 2010

I’m sure there must be a name for it, though I don’t know what it is.

I’m talking about the phenomena of finding out something, long after the fact, and feeling a shock as if the event just occurred.

For instance, just tonight, I learned that one of my favorite university presses almost got shut down last year. Last year, mind you. But the shock, worry, and sadness that I feel at this news (even though it is old news) is fresh and real.

A few years ago, I learned more details – maybe too many details, about a friend’s death more than 10 years earlier. I knew she had died, and knew in a general sense what had happened. But when I read a lengthy news article about what had happened – the shock and grief and sadness were all very real, in the present. I was shook up for at least a week, maybe longer. And my grief was made more complex because no one else was grieving this loss – to them, it was all long ago. To me, it was as if her death had just occurred.

I ponder these things because I find it interesting in a philosophical sense how “old news” can have such an emotional impact in the present.  I also have to believe this phenomenon has a name or term to describe it.

I also think something along these lines might make an interesting story line for a short story or maybe even a novel, about a main character who has her world turned upside down by finding out “old news” and its impact on her present life. I’ll have to think on that one, some more.

© writingreading, 2010

Kudos to Craig!

April 4, 2010

See why talk show host Craig Ferguson of The Late Late Show won a Peabody Award for his interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

Part 1 – thoughts on good, evil, and the resiliency of the human spirit, and some delightful laughter from the Archbishop

Part 2 – about suffering and forgiveness, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa

Part 3 – the power of telling one’s story; the Archbishop’s reflections on the election of Barack Obama, and his attendence at the Inauguration

What Craig learned that night.

Craig reflects further on his interview with Archbishop Tutu.

Little Things can be Big Things

July 12, 2009

I was at a friend’s house this weekend, and she had something that said, “Pay attention to the little things – because someday you may find out they turn out to be big things.”

I was reminded of this again, the next day. I ran into an old, very dear friend, whom I had not seen or heard from for a very very long time. It was so joyous to see her, and spend just a few moments catching up. A few years back, this friend told me, simply but in the forceful way that friends can have with one another when they are saying something important: “Go for it.” I had just told her about how my entire life’s dream was to write a book. And not just any book, but a non-fiction history book, about which I had been doing research for years. It truly was my passion. “Go for it” she said. “Go ahead. Call the publisher. Ask them what to do.” I thought, no, I don’t even have it written. I need to do more before I call. “Go for it” she insisted. “Call them.” So at her urging, I did. The phone call led to me submitting a formal proposal, which they liked. Now, for the past few years, I have been doing the writing. Although it is taking a long time, I believe that I can get this published, and with a reputable publisher, at that. Now, I can’t say that I recommend this particular approach, for everyone. In fact, it is probably not a good idea or publishing etiquette, to call a publisher so far in advance of having a complete manuscript. But my point here, is – those three simple words from her – “Go for it” – truly changed my life. They set me on a path that I could not have imagined becoming real. And they gave me confidence and faith in my abilities and the story I had to tell. I have often told my friend how very grateful I am for her encouragement, and her support, and her insistence that I take that first step in this journey. I compare it to a tiny pebble that starts an avalanche. A very small thing, that has a huge impact. I have always been very grateful for her friendship – but that for me will always be a defining moment.

So – fast forward to today, several years later. Me and my friend had since drifted apart – not deliberately, and with no hard feelings – just mutually busy lives. So I run in to her today, and we spend a little time catching up. She tells me about her teenage daughter, who was about 11 when the previous story took place. At that time, years ago, my friend mentioned that her daughter was working on a “novel”. I was impressed because her daughter was in about fifth or sixth grade – and that she literally had been working on this consistently for more than just a day or so. She had been doing some sustained writing. In fact, she had been doing more writing on her book than I had on mine! So of course I was impressed! I think she had maybe 6 or 10 or maybe even 12 pages. In any case – a lot, esp. for someone that young. Well, today, my friend told me, “Remember when you read ______’s novel? That meant so much to her. She started writing then and hasn’t stopped since.” Wow. I started to cry, it meant so much to hear that. Now, of course, obviously, this young woman’s parents are to be given all the credit for encouraging her to pursue her writing skills – but to be told this by the young lady’s mother, nearly four or five years after the fact – and to have it be one of the first things she tells me as we are filling each other in on our lives – was so humbling and such an honor. “It just goes to show you,” my friend said, “you just never know how you’re going to impact someone’s life.” Wow. What an honor.

It’s true that sometimes what seems like a little thing can turn out to be a very big thing, indeed.

Would love to hear from some of my readers of any of their own experiences with how something that seems like a little thing, turns out to be big thing.

© writingreading, 2009

Your Brain on God?

May 22, 2009

Heard a fascinating story on NPR today. I missed the beginning, but it is about near-death experiences and as part of the story, they interviewed a woman who had an experience while undergoing surgery that is flat-out weird and uncanny – even eerie. She had an out of body experience where she saw herself on the operating table, counted 20 doctors in the room, identified and described medical instruments in use, and even commented upon hearing the song “Hotel California” playing while they were operating. All of what she described was confirmed and true, even though she was completely unconscious, her eyes were taped shut (part of the surgery procedure) and she was even wearing headphones to help the surgeons monitor her brain activity while she was undergoing surgery.

I’m a skeptic when it comes to such things, but the details on her story, and the impossibility of her being able to know these things through “conventional” methods, really made me wonder about this one.

Listen to the full story at NPR, and draw your own conclusions.

© writingreading, 2009

We Can Make Beautiful Music Together!

December 5, 2008

Just saw an incredible video on PBS. It is about Mark Johnson, who has made a film called “Playing for Change.” He filmed musicians all over the world, playing the same song, then edited them all together so it is an ensemble performance.

It is moving, and amazing. Johnson’s premise is that music unites all of us, and even though we may be from different cultures, nations, races, religions, music can transcend all of the other things that may try to divide us.

It is a powerful concept, and a powerful video. Inspiring and moving.

Johnson’s even started music schools in places throughout the world to make his vision real, and to help people who live in desperate circumstances find solace and hope through music.

There’s really no need for me to say anything further – except to encourage you to check out the links above, and see and hear it for yourself!

I just found out that Johnson is also guest blogging at Bill Moyers’ Journal – so you can follow up on this story, there.

© writingreading, 2008

Small things make a big difference

July 13, 2008

It’s been a few months since I saw this film, but I find it to be “haunting” in the sense that it still occasionally pops up on my mental landscape. It is called Midnight Clear and stars one of the Baldwin brothers. It’s kind of one of those “sleeper” films, I think, not sure if it was ever released to theatres – maybe more kind of film festival fare.

It basically follows several characters through a short period of time – maybe even just one or two days, and is one of those kind of movies where through plot turns and twists, all of the characters end up becoming interrelated in some manner. What I found most meaningful, and yes, “haunting” about the film was its overall concept or philosophy of “sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference.” All of the things that take place in the plot seem quite believable, and even are properly confusing at times for the viewer – but make sense in the character’s world. The characters are pretty much ordinary everyday people, and all have their own flaws, weaknesses and hangups.

Definitely the thing that stuck with me most about this film, is the way small acts and decisions can have a large impact – and that sometimes we remain completely unaware of that impact, even as it happens, and even as time goes on. The kindness to help a stranger, answering a knock on the door, turning left instead of right, these are all the small things that can (in the movie, and I think sometimes in life) have big effects.

The film, especially on their website, may have Christian implications or undertones, but I did not find the film to be overtly evangelistic, preachy, or even to have much of an obnoxiously Christian message. I view the lack of all of these to be positives, and as a result, I was not put-off from either picking the film up in the first place, or losing interest or being offended during the viewing of it. About the only real “Christian” element is simply that the story takes place at Christmas time.

I really liked this film, because it is thoughtful, well-written, the characters are fully developed, they are “ordinary” people, and the plot, although twisty, makes sense in the end. I especially liked the “meaning” and philosophy of the film, that small things make a big difference. It is a film not just with a heart, but with a mind. I like that!

© writingreading 2008

Blogging as an Act of Faith

May 12, 2008

I’m not much for faith or religion of any kind. I tend toward the existential, skeptical, doubtful and cynical. That’s where I feel the most comfortable. Among the questions, not among the answers.

But I realized today that what I’m doing by creating a blog, as both a practical matter and from a more philosophical point of view, is in fact an act of faith. And in many ways.

Faith in myself –

  • That I will “commit” to myself (and to others, if there are others) to post often enough to sustain my blog and my readers. That I won’t neglect The Blog to the extent that it becomes a dead carcass.
  • That blogging helps me to create and maintain the discipline I need as a writer (even if drawing time away from my Primary Mission – offline writing!)
  • That I have something to say, even when I think I don’t. Dare myself to try. (and not just “fill space” – nobody wants that!)

Faith in the Web of the universe –

  • That “if I build it, they [readers] will come.” I’m not out to be a Big Blog – that’s obvious enough. But I do hope that I will have some visitors who stop by for a spot of tea now and then, maybe like what they see, perhaps tell another soul, and grow a small but interesting group of readers.
  • That although my blog is still in its infancy, with its features unformed, its voice still a shrill squeal, and uncertain of its bearings, that over time, it will grow and mature to learn, have fun, and eventually take its place in the larger society of the blogosphere.

Like in the real world, I often have my doubts. “Does it matter? (does anything matter?)” “Is there meaning in what I’m doing? (is there ever meaning in anything?)” And sometimes, even if I answer “no” – I still keep searching, and asking the same question(s) again. By asking the very questions, repeatedly – I reaffirm my doubtful faith that surely there must be some purpose, some meaning, some reason…for everything…for anything…for something, even just one thing. For me. For all of us.

Even though I say “There is no reason. Never has been. Never will be. It is just a farce to think there is a reason, and if I didn’t believe it, or try so hard to find one – and just accepted the absurdity of it all – I’d be a lot better off.” And yet I find myself asking the same question(s) again, all over again. My persistence in Asking must indicate I have at least a microscopic mote of Faith in Purpose, and an equally microscopic element of Doubt in my Doubt.

I know from my work with archives and history and similar resources and materials, that it is often not the single “valuable letter” that makes a collection of materials special, unique, or important. It is the accumulation of materials relating to daily life – letters written about the crops, the weather, Aunt Betsy’s hat – that are often of more interest and significance to historians – precisely because of their everyday ordinariness. Just a single letter about Aunt Betsy’s hat might not be all that interesting – but taken in context, within the larger whole, it may gain in significance…because you later find out that her hat marked her involvement in the suffrage movement, for example – and then you get a whole lot more out of it! It is the accumulation of things that marks its significance, not a single item (or post).

In a similar way, I have to have faith that my occasional labors in the blogging world will someday be of interest not only to myself, as a retrospective, but to others, and that as my blog begins to grow – so will I.

I have the Faith – skeptic tho I am!

©2008 writingreading