Monday, August 28, 2017

#227 - Struggling With Myself

Sometimes, the hardest battles are the ones you wage with yourself. For instance, at the moment, I am fighting over myself concerning just what it is I bring to the world's table. On days like this, I'm not so sure.

For instance . . . for years, I have called myself a writer or a would-be writer or a writer wannabe. The fact is, I really none of those. I can write and well. But I lack both the passion and the discipline to be a writer.

In college, I dabbled in writing poetry. I also wrote a novella. A bad novella, but a novella nonetheless. I have also written lyrics for somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 songs, roughly 50 of which have actually been put to music because I also lack the discipline and determination to learn any musical instrument well enough to be able to do my arrangements or write the music for any of my songs, many of which do have melodies bouncing around in my head.

I know in my heart that few people read anything I write or value any opinion I might have or any advice I might give. This blog, which was meant to be a continual stream of my thoughts, views, and ideas, has instead turned into the very occasional uttering of someone who writes when he gets too bored with the everyday trappings of his existence and finally feels the need to do something different or in addition to the normal routine.

In some ways, it is safe to say I lack the courage of my convictions, even the courage of my dreams. Along the way of my thus far 60-year journey on this planet, I have had and abandoned numerous dreams, none of which I apparently felt strongly about to risk pursuing. If I did, I might be the architect I dreamt of being in seventh grade or the lawyer I thought I would become in high school or even the world traveler I had hoped by now to be.

Instead, I respond on Facebook to people who hold views opposed to those I say I hold or try to make humorous comments about something someone else has posted. Or I agree with someone about something they have said.

I am not on the front lines of any fight or even on the back lines, for that matter. I sit safely at my desk, at my computer, and watch the world go by, rushing past me ever faster, without the courage to join in.

I think I can sing. I think I can write. But it wasn't until I was nearly 60 years of age that I even tried to share my singing or my songwriting with others. It turns out few want to hear it.

The first post of this blog was written January 25, 2008. That means that in a little more than four months this blog will be ten years old. In nearly ten years, I have managed to write 227 posts counting this one. I have managed to draw all of 15,068 total views in that time, which is actually more than I expected.

This year, I have written nine posts, including this one. It isn't that I don't think I have things to say. It's just that most days I don't say them because I don't think anyone will read or care what I have to say.

I have had three posts out of 226 previous posts that have garnered more than 100 page views. Roughly one-third of my posts have been viewed by fewer than ten people, including one just last month. Four posts have never been viewed. If I am a writer, I am a niche writer at best.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with any of this. Perhaps it's self-pity. Perhaps it's a realization that whatever I have to say isn't really all that unique. Who knows?

When I started this blog, it was not actually with the idea that it would attract a large following. On the other hand, I did hope that some people would read it. Occasionally, some people do. More often, though, people do not.

I'm not sure what any of this means for the future of this blog. I sometimes wish I had a focused interest or handful of interests that people could rely on reading about on these virtual pages. It would likely result in a more reliable readership, not to mention a more predictable publishing pattern. But I don't.

Unfortunately, my interests can change from day to day, just as my mind can wander from one subject to the next, sometimes without warning. That, in fact, may be the key reason I cannot consider myself an actual writer. My mind is often not capable of staying engaged in a subject long enough to write about it. That, in term, may be why I write song lyrics and not longer forms of prose.

Truth is, I don't really know that either. On the other hand, since it is likely that few people will see this, let alone read it, I suppose I can use this blog as a sounding board.

For a while, I had hopes of easily reaching 500 posts on this blog, which is why I began numbering them. Now that seems a bit out of reach since I am less than halfway to that number one decade into writing this blog.

Right now, at this moment, I do not know what it is I want to say or what it is I have to say. Perhaps things will be different tomorrow. In which case I'll be back with a new entry, though I'm not counting on it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

#226 - Guess what? It really IS all about me

Recently, a Facebook friend of mine was called out for her post about voice. In it, she asked that other voices seeking to be heard not be shamed or silenced. She then went on to talk about the challenges, misadventures, and issues she has faced and continues to fight to work through and overcome.

In addition to the outpouring of love and support she received from most of her Facebook friends, there was this disturbing response:

Honestly, your post sounds like you perceive everything as being all about you. Most people, whether they be spouses, lovers, children, friends, are going to eventually have a problem with that.

 To which my Facebook friend replied (among other things):

When I'm writing something about my life and stories about what I've experienced, how can it not be something to do with me?

Well, guess what? It can't. Each person's Facebook account is about them in one way or another. Some people get deeply personal in their posts while others reveal themselves in more subtle and not so subtle ways through the items they choose to share and/or like.

My friend is a writer and, based on what I've read, a very powerful one. So, naturally, her posts are going to often be more personal and more intense than someone who adopts what I'll call the "let's all get along" approach and only posts pictures of cats and the like.

Yet both types of posts are about the posters and reveal aspects of their personalities and personas. In my friend's case, she has revealed herself as a fighter and, more importantly, a survivor. She has, I think (and she should correct me if I'm wrong), decided to no longer allow others to stand in the way of her quest for well-being and happiness.

This approach to life fits with how I have always viewed the words of Christ when he commanded us to "love thy neighbor as thyself." If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If one does not take care of and love her or himself, how can that person truly love another? They can't. Not really. I know.

In the case of my second fictional Facebook poster (based on a composite of several people I've encountered on Facebook), what seems to be revealed is a desire to avoid conflict and keep people at arm's length. It is possible this person has also been hurt before and, rather than confronting that, has chosen to try to avoid going through it again. Regardless, they do not seem to want to face or deal with difficult topics or issues, at least not publicly.

Everything we post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like is about us in that we reveal something of ourselves: what we like, what we think, what we feel, what we believe. All of this helps to form a picture, perhaps imperfect, though perhaps less so than we believe, of who we are and the type of person we are.

In the case of the disturbing response I shared earlier, that person revealed themselves to be the selfish and self-absorbed person they implicitly accused my friend of being. They were focused on how such a post would affect them and make them feel instead of how to help and/or support my friend.

I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist and have never played one on television. Nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. So I could be wrong about all of this. It has been known to happen.

On the other hand, these are my perceptions, and since this blog and my Facebook page are all about me, I'll conclude that I'm right. After all, this is my blog, and it didn't cost you anything (aside from a little time) to read it. Remember, you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

#225 - When The Words All Wash Away

Toward the end of March, I posted the words to a song I had written titled "When The Words." The song was inspired by a Facebook conversation with another musician/songwriter about inspiration and how it often comes at inconvenient times, such as when we are doing dishes or taking a shower.

This post has nothing to do with that song, but the title seemed appropriate. Words are supposed to help us make sense of things good and bad, help us explain things to others, help us to communicate. There are, however, other times when words seem inadequate, even though they are all we have.

This is one of those times.

Earlier today, I got word that my brother-in-law had died suddenly, of an apparent heart attack. When such events occur, I imagine most people go through some series of reactions and emotions. First and foremost is the feeling of sadness for the family, in this case my sister and her children and grandchildren.

Second, perhaps, is a feeling of shock. My brother-in-law was my age, perhaps a year or two younger. Third for many people, though they would not want to admit it and might even be likely to deny it, is a sense of relief that it isn't them. This feeling may be stronger the further removed one is.

Right now, I suppose I am rather numb. I liked my brother-in-law and know he was a good husband to my sister and a good father to his three children, but I can't say we were particularly close. I had only seen him (and my sister) a handful of times in the last ten or 15 years. I don't know that anyone is to blame for that. It's just how things worked out.

I know my sister is hurting right now. I know her children are hurting right now. I'm not quite sure what to say to them. The words have all washed away.

At times like this, words have a tendency to become cliches or platitudes, all uttered by well-meaning well-wishers who, like me, are not sure what to say. Perhaps platitudes and cliches are exactly the things to say. Having never been much good at platitudes and cliches myself, I am left at a loss for words.

Not being a religious man myself (though hopefully a spiritual one), I have no words to offer up on high. I hope that God is watching over the family, but I don't claim to know one way or another.

There is, though, one thing I do believe and have for some time. So long as you keep the memories of a loved one close to you, hold those memories in your heart, the person is never really gone or lost. Perhaps that is the true afterlife.

I think there was a line in a movie or television show to the effect that death is but another step in the journey each of us makes. That notion appeals to me. If that is, in fact, the case, I hope my brother-in-law and I can get together for a conversation and a drink and make up for the time we lost on this side.

Until then, Godspeed, Kenny.

Friday, July 7, 2017

#224 - Where Does The Time Go?

I realized this morning it had been more than three months since my last entry on these pages. Where did the time go?

Perhaps more accurately, I should ask myself where didn't the time go? It seems it went everywhere.

Over the last several months, my wife and I have been busy at various times working to get ready for our son's graduation, preparing and performing musical gigs around town, recording and editing a self-produced CD, get ready for several house projects. Oh, and we managed to get in a couple of excursions in the RV.

I believe Einstein came up with the idea that if one were able to travel at the speed of light, he or she could then basically make time stand still. Lately, it feels as if I have been moving faster than the speed of light, but time still seems to rush past.

I'm no Einstein (and have never played one on television), but I would like to posit my own theory of time and space. It seems to me that the speed at which time passes increases in conjunction with chronological age.

When we are younger, time seems to pass so much more slowly. As a child, how many times did you or a sibling ask your parents, "Are we there yet?" As we age into adulthood, we enter the world of appointments and deadlines and the dreaded "time crunch."

A second facet of the Huntsman theory of time and space could be stated thus: The speed at which time passes increases in direct proportion to the demands placed on said time.

For instance, how many times have you said or wished there were more than 24 hours in the day in order to get everything done that needs doing? Or how many times have you gotten involved in a task you thought might take an hour only to look up at the clock and realize several hours have passed?

I'll wrap this discussion up with a complete statement of my theory of time and space:

1) Advancements in chronological age result in a quickening pace of time passing.

2) Increased demands on one's time result in time passing at a more rapid rate.

3) The speed at which time passes increases or decreases in opposition to one's physical and mental state of being. When in a place and state of relaxation and well-being, time passes more quickly. ("Where did the weekend go?") When in a place and state of agitation, anxiety, and/or stress and pressure, time slows. ("Isn't this day over yet?" "Today just seemed to drag on.")

4) Time, when viewed in retrospect, is more often than not seen as wasted or misused. ("I should have done X." or "I could have been doing Y.") This is especially true when one's use or spending of time is reviewed by another. ("What did you do with your time?")

As for the last three months without an entry on these pages, the time just got away from me.

Monday, March 6, 2017

#223 - Anti-Social Aspects of Social Media

For several years, some have asked whether social media actually makes people antisocial. The New York Times first explored this question in 2010, visiting it again two years later.

The question of whether social media is making us more antisocial has been raised in places as diverse as car discussion forums and IBM. One informal poll on Debate.org shows 77-percent of respondents believe social media makes us more antisocial.

Most of these responses and articles focus on the always-connected nature of modern society. They contend that even when people get together they often spend more time looking at and interacting with their phones than they do with one another.

In the informal poll on Debate.org, some of the 23-percent who contend social media does not make us antisocial say social media "gives you a kind of boldness which is really helpful." They also cite the usefulness of social media in keeping track of distant friends and family members.

I can personally attest to both of these things. I have stayed connected and reconnected with family and friends through social media. However, I can also attest to the negative flip side of the "kind of boldness," which I don't see as being "really helpful."

My own belief, based on my own experience and anecdotal evidence from simply reading comments of others on Facebook, is that there is a sense in which social media makes us antisocial. I am not speaking of people always staring at their phones or their computers or their tablets.

The antisocial aspect of social media I refer to is the freedom it gives to people to say things to one another they would not say to another person's face. While there is a positive aspect to this freedom in that it allows everyone a voice, there are some downsides to this freedom as well.

For one thing, I personally believe social media has given rise to more questionable media/news sites, sites whose stories get more attention and are believed by more people simply because they get spread and shared on social media. As a result, trust in more conventional and mainstream sources becomes diminished.

Perhaps worse, is that people feel more free to ridicule others, call names, shame people, and even accuse them of being anti-American, anti-God, etc. simply because they see things differently. Since the election, I have been called any number of things I have never been called to my face.

Even when you know the person doing the name-calling, I think there is still a sense of anonymity (you see just the name, not their face), an electronic barrier between you and them that emboldens them (or you) to say things you likely would not say if you were in the same room together.

I recently unfriended someone on Facebook (for the first time) as a result of this sort of antisocial behavior. It was not because I disagreed with his views, although I do. It was because I was ridiculed for my beliefs and called things like "libtard," "crybaby," and "liar."

Social media makes it all too easy to get wrapped up in our emotions without the normal filters we use to keep from crossing that invisible line from passionate arguing to flat-out rudeness and disrespect. Most of us have either stepped on that line or stepped over it. I'm sure I have, although I try not to.

It is this aspect of social media that I worry about more than the image many conjure up of people always staring at their phones so as to not miss a tweet, a Facebook post, an Instagram message, or a Snapchat video. Perhaps this is a reflection of the society in which we live.

On the other hand, perhaps society has become more divided as a result of our reduced ability or willingness to filter what we say thanks to the power of social media to allow us to say whatever we want whenever we want to say it. I am beginning to lean in this direction.

For those of you who disagree and with whom I am still connected through social media, you are welcome to your opinions. Please just try to keep them civil.

Oh, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't always feel the need to scream out your opinions (through the use of ALL CAPS). Conversations are usually more fulfilling and more useful when they are two-way, and that cannot happen if one side is always yelling. My virtual ears thank you.