I want to tell you something deeply personal. It’s also the big reason I keep one toe in the writing world when I know that I’m so focused on making ends meet that I’m truly not giving this the energy it deserves.
Some people, or so I hear tell, were raised by wolves. I was raised by books.
The first 20 years I was raised by my parents, who as most parents, did the best they could. It was, for me however, an “Emperor Has No Clothes” kind of a world – a world where faith was more valid than facts, a world where everyone was “out to get you”. It was a world where when I got lost on the beach as a young child, a number of hours and five miles later, I expected that the stranger that offered me a glass of water was trying to poison me. Later, as a teen, I might have prayed for a nuclear war or some other apocalyptic disaster in my neighborhood on the theory that bad change was better than no change, certainly, it would be more exciting.
As a young adult I walked out into the world with little more information about that world than that. My saving grace was a passion for books and music, and the world was full of a greater trove of books and songs than I had ever imagined. They taught me about empathy, and villains and heros. They gave me words for my feelings, my experiences. They showed me what was possible. I read stories about people full of kindness and human decency who solved problems with information and I learned how to believe kindness and human decency were real and I looked for and found people like those in the stories I read. There, there were people who did not question the reality of their eyes, hands and instincts. In an “Emperor Has No Clothes World” your perceptions are useless. This paragraph can’t do justice to what I learned from these books but perhaps it is enough.
I believe books saved my life. They raised me.
So here we are, and I must mention politics briefly (stay with me, I’ll be gentle).
The Republican Campaign reminded me a lot of the “Emperor Has No Clothes” reality in which I grew up – falsehoods poisoning the well of truth in a world where there is no human decency – “he’s a man what do you expect?” I understand the attraction of that way of thinking very well and I fear it.
However, the election is settled. Done.
I have a suggestion for all of us. It’s more of a Challenge really.
Whenever or not you worry about what just happened, write, or sing, create. Write about people full of human decency who solve problems with facts, who make their way through the maze of the human condition in all its forms. Write about strong men and women who protect the weak. Write about human decency. Write about people who trust their instincts. Write about people who have enough self knowledge to know when they’re attracted to something because it’s exciting but not because it’s what they want. Then, market those stories, sing those songs, get your creations out into the world as if lives depend on them. I believe they do.