Tag Archive for community

RESIST, PERSIST, EXIST

by Matt Thuney

We human beings are a cooperative species by nature. We have to be in order to survive. We come together for protection. We come together for growth. We come together to make our lives better. If we don’t come together, we fall apart. When human beings fall apart, civilization fails.

There is a myth that has gained increasing popularity here in America: it’s the myth of the “rugged individualist.” According to this myth, rugged individualists built this country. Lone entrepreneurs moved it forward. Only strong, independent leaders can keep us on the path to…to what? Going it alone as a nation? Ignoring or subduing the rest of the world?

It’s all a lie. “Rugged individualists” did not build this country; refugees and dreamers did that. They did it together, by working together to build towns, villages, cities, states, and finally an entire nation created from a vast patchwork quilt of heritages, beliefs, and visions for the future.

Yes, individuals can imagine and create amazing things. But it takes more than a single person to translate those amazing things into reality. And imaginative individuals do not arise mysteriously out of the ether and develop their capabilities single-handedly. They come from families, grow up in neighborhoods, learn from those around them. Whether they battle their environment or are nourished by it, they are the product of human interaction. And these individuals always receive help somewhere along the way. A piece of advice, a life lesson, someone’s garage to work in. There is no such thing as a self-made man. Man, woman, or child, we are all in this together. Together we achieve; apart we abate.

But it’s a jungle out there, right? An every-man-for-himself, dog-eat-dog world?

Another lie. Exactly how long do you think a rugged individualist would survive alone in the jungle? What kind of life would that be? No man, woman, or child can stand alone for long. And what do you get with a dog-eat-dog world? A bunch of half-eaten dogs. Animals run in packs for a reason. Humans do, too. For one thing, it makes life easier. For another, if you have a big enough pack working together toward a common goal, you can make life better, both for you and your pups.

Individuality is indeed one of the great beauties of being human. Here in America, we especially prize it, and rightly so. By celebrating individuality, we celebrate diversity; and diversity is the key to our survival. Monocultures don’t tend to last long. Being so uniform, they lack adaptability and do not hold up well against changes and challenges. When it comes to survival, conformity is not a good thing.

That is the conundrum our nation has always faced: Celebrating the individual while working together. That’s what truly makes America great: Our ability to hold that paradox in our hearts and minds and to move forward toward a better tomorrow for ourselves and our children and all the generations to come.

But there are boogeymen out there! People who don’t look like me, people who don’t think like me, people who want to control me…The Government!

A big lie, and one that now threatens to tear our country apart. Oh yes, Americans are most definitely diverse in appearance and thought. That is our strength. That is what propels us forward and brings out our unique creativity as a culture. And The Government? We are The Government! It’s not some monolithic, menacing monster that’s out to get us. We elect our representatives. If they fail to do their job, that’s our responsibility.

Responsibility. There’s a word that’s lost its way. Yes, we the people are the government. We can provide for the common good if we truly want it. If our elected representatives are acting irresponsibly, then that’s on us. We can change that. We can make it so that governmental officials respond to our wants and needs, not those of their wealthy donors. Right now, it sure seems like many of our representatives are bought and paid for by individuals who want only what’s best for them. We can change that, too. The Government is not the boogeyman. We, through inattention and falling for those lies, have become our own monsters.

We must resist the lies that lead us to believe we can only trust ourselves, that our self-interests are paramount, that we know what’s best and the rest of the community be damned. Paradoxically, this often-heard complaint is the most self-destructive command in the English language: “Just leave me alone.” You are not alone. You may try to be a “loner,” but you are never alone. Alone is a place where souls go to die.

Resist the lie that someone’s out to get us. Let’s not blame our neighbors, the terrorists, the government. Fear is the enemy. Division is the enemy. Exclusion is the enemy.

We came from all over the world (yes, even the “indigenous” peoples), willingly or not, to create this nation together and to live our diverse lives in harmony and with dignity and imagination.

We must not let this dream that is America die.

Resist the lies. Persist in the truth. Exist together.

Author’s bio: 

For the past 30 years Matthew has been scribbling humor and human-interest pieces and crafting political blogs for consumption in the Pacific Northwest.
Matthew has always been a student and seeker. Early on, it looked as though his path would lead to the Episcopal ministry. Luckily for the Episcopal Church, that path turned into a 40-year detour.

But everything started falling into place when Matthew and his wife moved to the hinterlands of northwest Washington. Lo and behold, he rediscovered his journalistic muse, reporting on his bumbling attempts to adapt to country living; He rediscovered his radio voice when a small band of crazed volunteers fired up a community radio station; and he rediscovered his spiritual roots as new friends and neighbors approached Matthew to give eulogies and even preside over the marriages of loved ones.
Who’da thunk it?

Certainly not his long-suffering spouse Donna, who thankfully remains at his side. Nor their puzzled families, who long ago gave up trying to figure Matthew out. Nor their two-and-a-half cats, who are always giving him quizzical looks.

 

Writer, Announcer, Instructor, Officiant, Community Coordinator

Bucolia: Hijinx in the Hinterlands is now available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bucolia-Hijinx-Hinterlands-Matthew-Thuney/dp/1519400225/

And on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018HMANRW

Writer: https://www.facebook.com/Bucolia/

Community Coordinator: https://www.facebook.com/southforkvalley/

Announcer/Station Manager: https://www.facebook.com/KAVZradio/

Wedding Officiant: https://www.facebook.com/weddingswithspiritandwit/

The Great American Collective Novel(s)

By Cami Ostman

Well, dear friends, NaNoWriMo is over.

I had grand ideas of adding 50,000 words to my own novel in addition to facilitating our two RWB collectives, but alas, that’s not how the month unfolded for me. The good news, personally, was that once I added about 17,000 words to my own novel, I realized that the skeleton of the story was done and that what is needed is a careful, slow revision with attention to detail. For me that was a victory, even if it did mean watching NaNo buddies update their word counts all month while I played with words already on the page.

And the further good news for me this November was that I had a TON of fun with No Rest for The Wicked. A total of 51 writers wrote a total of 57 chapters in two versions of a novel that started with the same set of characters and circumstances and veered in about… well 51 different directions! Each evening I would post a chapter, thank that day’s author for contributing, email the author for the next day’s chapter and go to bed wondering what Eli’s clan(s) would be up to in the next 24 hours.

I observed that most of you who participated brought your expertise and passion to the project. We clearly had writers with medical, legal, poisonous, and arsenal specialties. We also had the soft-hearted among us who tried (to no avail) to redeem characters such as Eli and Randy, only to have them villainized once again by their successors.

The dog found her voice in version ONE, where Eli decided to leave his fortune to his four-legged friend, the only creature who had any true affection for the man. In version TWO, Eli feigned bankruptcy to see who loved him best. The answer, no one, really.

And by my count, a total of three illegitimate sons came out of the woodwork (well, actually, one switched-at-birth, one a result of a date rape, and one who thought he might be Eli’s from a 15-year affair, but who secretly did a DNA test to discover he was the product of his mother’s one-night stand with a different man altogether).

I don’t know about everyone else, but illegitimate children notwithstanding, I learned a few legitimate things about the writing process this month. I learned:

1. If you set a time limit and make yourself accountable to other people, you WILL get words on the page.

2. First drafts are rarely consistent with what has come before and that’s why God invented revision.

3. People of all skill and experience levels are willing to risk writing and putting their work out in public IF the pressure to be perfect (or even good) is taken off the table–ergo, perfectionism is not the friend of productivity.

4. It is possible to write 100,000 words in 30 days–even if it does require 51 authors.

5. I live among supportive, good-natured, risk-taking writers whose works I cannot wait to read in the years to come.

Thank you to all who made the NaNoWriMo Great American Collective Novel (s) possible this year.

 

Join us for a reading from our two great novels at Village Books, Monday, December 10 at 7pm.

How to Become a Writer Part 3 by Laura Kalpakian

The Romantic Particularist 

by

Laura Kalpakian

 I have always thought that the perfect person to be married to would be an astronomer. Every day at work he would sit beneath the massive dome of an observatory and peer out into the cosmos, the distant constellations, the galaxies far far away. Then, he’d come home and see the baby throwing applesauce everywhere, one kid painting on the walls, and the other having a meaningless, unfettered tantrum. The astronomer would walk past Legos spilled all over the floor, past the unwashed dishes, unfolded laundry, wave to the wife who is on the phone while the rice overcooks and bubbles on the stove. The astronomer would know that in the great plan of the universe, these particulars simply do not matter. (Full disclosure: I was once married to a theoretical physicist, an oceanographer who spent his days making mathematical models of the way the wind and the sea made love, but it wasn’t like the above.)

 Nonetheless, I cling to my notion of the ideal-astronomer-spouse, the Universalist whose approach to life is cosmic. As a writer, I am a confirmed Particularist. The writer can’t be anything else. Others might be able to choose: either you look for, take your cue from the universal in the world, like the astronomer. Or you are fascinated, transfixed by the particular. Writers belong in the latter camp. Poets belong in the former.

Great poetry might emerge from the Universalist instinct, as in Byron, Keats, Wordsworth, Whitman, Yeats, Matthew Arnold, or further back, (to my mind, boring) Mr. Milton and boring Mr. Pope. But narrative prose emerges from Particulars. Stories might eventually approach the Universal, but they do not begin there.

No writer, including Shakespeare, ever said: I am going to write a narrative prose about universal themes. (Remember that hilarious scene in Shakespeare in Love where Will is flailing away trying to write Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter?) Every writer, including Will the Bard begins with scraps of particulars, What If?

Hmm, what if you have a king, a powerful king, whose judgment is failing, who decides to test his children’s love (Note in margin: which he doubts anyway) by making them slaver after his inheritance. Thus you have King Lear, or with a tweak, tug and pull, Death of a Salesman. Hundreds of years apart, these plays are thematically linked under the Universalist canopy. Perhaps for those universal reasons, we return to these works to cry our eyes out at the particulars: the delusions of these men, the loyalty or treachery of the family, the friends, the last grasp at dignity.

Remember William Faulkner’s well-known anecdote about how he came by the idea for The Sound and the Fury? True, he took his epigram and his title from Macbeth, and true the book is divided into three sections (only one of which is actually readable), and true the central character, the sister, Caddy, only shows up in her brothers’ narratives indirectly, and true The Sound and the Fury is a challenging read of epic proportions. But Faulkner got the idea watching a bunch of kids climb a tree, and the little girl at very top had muddy drawers. That Great American Novel emerged from a particular pair of dirty knickers.

As a writer the Romantic Particularist is constantly nudged, nettled, fascinated, kept awake by the great What If. The writer gets the equivalent of imaginative poison ivy mulling over a shard of story overheard, a conversation on the bus, a scrap of incident, a friend’s dilemma, a cranky barista. These are particulars that irritate, stay with the writer till she actually does something about it. She can forget about it; that’s one possibility, or she can write about it.

The best and most succinct description of task of the Romantic Particularist, ironically comes from a writer who was a confirmed Universalist. I speak of that eccentric, poet, printer, painter and illustrator, a taker of tea while naked in his garden, the dreamer and death-haunted, William Blake. From his Auguries of Experience it goes something like this:

To see the world in a grain of sand

And heaven in a wild flower.

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand.

And Eternity in an hour.

That’s your task, my ink-stained friends. Have at it. You are responsible for the particulars. The universals will take care of themselves.