Sunday, February 17, 2008

Boats Against the Current

I hesitated to make this post for fear that I would come across as selfish. I am always dealing with my worry that I will offend and trying to balance it out with my need to say what's on my mind. Saying what's on my mind appears to be winning more and more often as I grow older. There are some really good things about aging.

A friend sent me a NY Times article today about students' reaction to reading The Great Gatsby. He felt that the kids didn't really get it and wrongly viewed Jay Gatsby as an inspirational character, far from Fitzgerald's intent. We're both former English teachers and these types of discussions fascinate us. I agreed with him that Fitzgerald didn't create a figure of inspiration in the character of Gatsby, the poor farm boy who achieved the success that he thought would bring him love and happiness, and didn't. What I didn't agree with him on was his analysis of the comments from the young students. I didn't view them as seeing Gatsby as inspirational but aspirational. They got it that Gatsby's obsession with material success and all its trappings ultimately destroyed him, but they still aspired to achieve their own version of the American dream. I think that believing in possibilities is the essence of youth.

The interchange with my friend got me to thinking about our generation and why so many of us wear a mantle of misery and self-absorption. I look at my parents' generation and they don't take Paxil. I'm not against medications for clincal depression, but when I look at my parents and their contemporaries, it doesn't appear that their generation is as beset with depression, anxiety, and other emotional and psychological disorders as my own. At any given gathering of baby boomers, there are some of us who regularly take antidepressants and various other mood altering prescription medications (a few non-prescritption as well, but we won't talk about that today).

Maybe we chase after happiness too much. I've read a few articles recently suggesting that our pursuit of happiness is what's making us unhappy. I sort of buy that. I think that to appreciate happiness, you have to be willing to experience unhappiness. I also think that you have to be bold enough to unencumber yourself of the things that weigh you down and sap your joy. That's where the selfish stuff comes up.

One of the most difficult challenges is getting rid of the things and/or people in our lives that are sucking the life out of us. Our baby boomer generation was raised to believe that responsibility was our god; suffering and misery are the altars upon which we worship; and self interest is not only selfish, it's the pursuit of evil. What a load of crap, but most of us succumbed to it. I think that our generation is beset by angst because we have convinced ourselves that it is an inevitability to be unhappy.

I'm not pollyannaish enough to believe that happiness, as in joy every day, is possible. But I do believe that a sense of well being and contentment is doable, making some sense of your life so that discontent and sadness are passing stages. You find some space within that gives you what you need to survive unhappiness because it doesn't define your life; it's just a part of living. I don't think that it is the pursuit of a goal and disappoint upon achieving it that destroys us; I think that it is looking for meaning and fulfillment outside of ourselves that turns it all to ashes. We become swept up in our sense of responsibility to work, family, friends, to the extent that we feel as if we are like the speaker in Stevie Smith's poem, "not waving, but drowning."

I'm not certain what comes after this life, but I don't think that this is a dress rehearsal. Like the commercial says, we have to grab all the gusto that we can in this round. I think that means that we can't settle and resign ourselves to lives of "quiet desperation." We have to give ourselves permission to bestow upon ourselves the same care and kindness that we extend to others, to indulge in a bit of selfishness, and we have to refuse to judge ourselves as lacking for doing so.

A poem by Stevie Smith: Not Waving But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hy-Art and Me

This morning I decided to sleep in and go into the office at noon. While leisurely preparing to go into work, I decided to check my emails. I spied a couple of alerts and began checking out blog posts. I landed on my friend Marc's journal and was surprised, delighted, and highly amused by what I found there. It involves me and his creative Hy-Art. By now, we all know that I am one of my favorite topics, and Marc has more than satisfied my cravings for attention. I'm not going to say more. If you want to know what has so pleased me, you'll have to visit Marc's journal. I have to go to work!

Sunday, February 10, 2008


My blogami, Marc, sent me an article today by humorist/journalist Joel Stein of the L.A. Times, entitled, He's Got Obamaphilia. It's a great title and it made me laugh. The catchline below the title reads: "It's embarrassing to be among the fanatics of a relatively mainstream presidential candidate." The satirical gist of the article is summed up in the lead paragraph (they teach you to do that in journalism school.)
You are embarrassing yourselves. With your "Yes We Can" music video, your "Fired Up, Ready to Go" song, your endless chatter about how he's the first one to inspire you, to make you really feel something -- it's as if you're tacking photos of Barack Obama to your locker, secretly slipping him little notes that read, "Do you like me? Check yes or no." Some of you even cry at his speeches. If I were Obama, and you voted for me, I would so never call you again.

Stein goes on to admit that he has been infected with Obamamania, going so far as to write, in what Marc pointed out is the best line of the piece, "I want the man to hope all over me." Mr. Stein's humorous essay gave me quite a few giggles; he's a witty journalist and very funny. However, as well done humor often does, he made me think about the serious matter underlying his essay.

As I read news and blogs across the Internet, I encounter those who think that we (Obama supporters) have lost site of the man and become enamored of the movement, in other words we are infected with Obamamania to the extent that we are embarrassing ourselves in succumbing to hope that Barack Obama can make a difference.

I don't see anything embarrassing or naive about viewing Obama as a living symbol of the possibility of a government that actually focuses on meeting the needs of the people. Besides, Obama doesn't believe that he can change the world; he believes that we can change the world. There is a big difference.

The video features Sam Cooke singing "A Change Is Gonna Come." I am so addicted to YouTube.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Yes We Can Can

Among my favorite singing groups are the Pointer Sisters. My all time favorite Pointer Sisters' song is "I Want a Lover with a Slow Hand." However, this post is not about that song. I can't type and fan myself at the same time. My friend SG sent me a link to a video on YouTube that made me think of another song by the Pointer Sisters, Yes We Can Can.

I know we can make it. I know darn well we can work it out. Oh yes we can, I know we can can Yes we can can, why can't we? If we wanna get together we can work it out.

I love the rhythm of the song; I like to sing along and dance about the room when it is playing. It's a feel good song with a feel good message about our ability to make the time that we borrow to spend on this planet meaningful. When I watched the video on YouTube that my friend sent me, I felt the same urge to sing along and dance around the room.

It is a unique production, a new, original music video that takes its subject from an ongoing presidential campaign. The frontman and a founding member of a contemporary group, Black Eyed Peas, who goes by the moniker of, was inspired by Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign and in particular by his speech following the primary in New Hampshire to create a song that utilizes Sen. Obama's words. was ably assisted in producing the video by another young man, Jesse Dylan, a director and a filmmaker, and yeah, he's the son of that other Dylan who characterized another age of change.

The list of performers in the video is extensive and includes familiar faces from the entertainment industry, but what made me take notice of the video were the words of Sen. Obama. His words inspire me and I feel a sense of optimism that we can do better. I believe that we can eliminate homelessness and poverty. I believe that we can ensure that no person in this country is without full access to quality healthcare. I believe that all children can learn and that public schools can ensure that every child receives a quality education. I believe that all nations can learn to live in harmony and that war can become extinct. I believe that we can, yes we can can.