My Best Wisdom …

… is useless. Mostly.

Not because I don’t have any (though, like most worthy notions in this world, it is borrowed from elsewhere) … but because I rarely apply it. It exists primarily as “good ideas in my head.”

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But a good idea is good idea. Right?

I have long said that one of the most important things we have to accomplish in life is to “Learn to like living in your head.” If being with yourself sucks you are in trouble because that is where you will be spending your entire corporeal existence.

As French dramatist Jean Anouilh put it, “Our entire life consists ultimately in accepting ourselves as we are.” Or as Buddha said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

It seems so easy to dwell on what we don’t like about ourselves: imperfections of the body, insufficient accomplishments, inadequate wealth, failed relationships, morally ambiguous choices … the list goes on and on. We don’t focus enough on forgiving and accepting ourselves, which is pretty much always the only place from which we may be ready to implement positive change.

Be your own best friend. Remind yourself that you have frequently loved others to the best of your ability. Remind yourself that you are loved, that you possess talents and positive attributes and, most importantly, the capacity to choose to be your “best self” the next time you face a choice. Which is pretty much every second of every day.

What will you tell yourself about yourself today? Will you point out every bad thing, beat yourself into a bloody useless pulp? Or will you spur yourself onward to a better day than you had yesterday? And on into tomorrow and the rest of your life …

The choice is yours. And mine.

As we look toward 2015, I urge you (and myself) to choose the path of inspiration.

Rest In Peace: Johnny Winter

Photo by John Kinsler
Photo by John Kinsler

I shook Johnny Winter’s thin, pale hand back in the winter of 2007 when his manager Paul Nelson introduced me to him. This was in the band’s trailer before a show at Dundee’s Clearwater Theater. Nelson said, “This is the journalist who wrote all those nice things about you.” I had just published a piece about Winter in The Courier promoting him and the Clearwater show. Winter answered some questions I’d emailed his manager and I worked up a historical piece, put the e-interview at the end of it.

I wish I could tell you I remember a bunch of cool stuff Winter said to me that night, but I don’t. I was a little overwhelmed by being there. I remember he was gracious, quiet, mellow, spoke softly. He and his manager and band mates told stories about clueless journalists asking very uninformed questions. I nodded and laughed and hoped they weren’t about to roast me. They didn’t.

At the height of his career, Johnny Winter put everything into his playing and singing. He had style and speed and originality. His voice had soul and gravel. I think it’s fair to say he made an important contribution to the music world.

Thanks for sharing your music with us, Johnny. Rock on.

CNN Article: http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/17/showbiz/obit-johnny-winter/

Courier News Article Dec 2007
Courier News Article Dec 2007

Book Review: “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman

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His Dark Materials
Author: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Random House

Frodo Baggins, tormented by the lure of the One Ring, battles within himself to find the will to destroy it. Mere feet from the fires of Mount Doom, he is under attack both by Gollum and his own intense desire to possess the ring’s power. As a reader I am totally absorbed by Frodo’s drama. I must find out what happens next. Tolkein has me.

Paul Atreides prepares to sink hooks into the great sandworm, to ride it across the deserts of Arrakis, ready to lead the Fremen warriors into battle for control of spice and the future of Dune. I can’t put the book down. Herbert has me.

I devoured the Dune trilogy and the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I discovered them many years ago. Wonderful books they were, and seminal in the maturing of my love for both reading and writing. I did not care what J. R. R. Tolkein believed or didn’t believe. I didn’t care if Frank Herbert was an atheist or a Zoroasterian. If these authors had an agenda, an ulterior motive, a political or religious point to make with their novels, it was of no consequence to me. I loved their stories. They entertained me for countless hours, yes, but they also made me think, laugh, cry, and hunger for the next opportunity to spend time in the worlds and lives of complex, fascinating characters caught up in epic struggles.

On to His Dark Materials.

If you want to ride on the back of an armored ice bear, if you want to wield special tools to divine truth and slice into parallel worlds, if you want to step into the land of the dead to see if two strong-willed children can free their young friend’s ghost … then you won’t really care that Phillip Pullman, the author of the His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass), is somewhere between an atheist and an agnostic on the religious scale.

Pullman’s made no secret that he is anti organized religion. It’s not hard to see the subtext in these stories. He would love to convince you that the church is utterly rotten and that Christianity’s God is an unfortunate but powerful myth best shed in favor of more reliable scientific and human truths.

But these works by Pullman—like the works of Tolkein, Herbert, and C. S. Lewis—are magnificent stories, well told. To refuse to read them simply because you don’t care for the author’s religious views is to rob yourself of the immense pleasure derived from reading exceptional, compelling, and often poetic prose.

I loved these stories. It’s been years since I’ve been so gripped by a novel, much less three novels. Pullman had me, no question.

I didn’t become a non-believer upon completing the series. If anything, I saw a whole lot of ways in which Pullman’s created world cries out for a sane, just, moral center and even a hopeful afterlife. I saw Pullman’s longing for the triumph of the good and the right, despite his disdain for religion.

This trilogy is not perfect. In places it is convoluted, confusing and maybe even a little oppressive. But, mostly, it’s a great adventure and a great read.

Jim Wormington