Dec 14, 2012

Mad World

I just can't get my mind into a proper headspace to write fiction today. The non-fiction in the world seems hell bent on spearing itself through my waking thoughts, and it's simply too much noise for me to reach a calm balance and steer through to create. President Obama just talked publicly about the shooting in a Connecticut elementary school; the flags are being lowered to half mast. A lot of people have taken to having a moment of silence for the lives impacted by this event, which is a good idea. It's the bit where we all start talking again afterwards that has me curious.

Two mass public shootings in the past few days, this one at an elementary school. I'm.... I don't quite know what to say about this. It's a terrible thing, not only in the immediate tragedy of the moment and with respect to the lives that were lost, but also at watching the chaos that ensues among those of us forced to stand in observation of it, and being left to wonder not just what was it that led to this horror but in trying to discover a plan to prevent it from happening again.

I have a child who's in elementary school. This whole thing just flares into my mind in a truly real "what if" capacity, and it's a struggle to keep my emotions from blinding me to pure and undiluted rage.

The conversation at present, unfortunately is devolving into the same one that always happens after these events. The fact that it's happening so often now makes me worried that at some point CNN or Fox or whoever will just end up having a daily "Today's Massacres" update. It doesn't feel like we're far off from that now.

Many people are drawing this whole event into a chance to discuss gun control laws, or, on the other side, a chance to point out that a person did this, not a gun. As with most public debates, I find that both sides are right. A person walked into an elementary school and shot some two dozen people.... WITH A GUN.

I'm forecasting that they'll find the shooter to have had no previous criminal record, making this act his only actual crime, other than perhaps having the guns in the first place. Gun control opposition will use this to reinforce their stand that gun control laws only ensure that nobody has a gun except for the criminals. Although the opposite is also true - having no gun control laws just mean that anyone can have a gun, even those people who haven't committed any crimes YET.

Gun Control laws or not.... this won't change a thing. Take all guns away - if such a thing were even possible - and you'll see people walking into schools with a baseball bat or a bow and arrows, or maybe just driving down the halls at full speed in their honda prelude. The weapon is the facilitation of the crime - so there's something to be said for taking away or controlling those weapons that allow a person to take even more human lives so easily. For that matter, I wouldn't mind there being better driving laws, too, and do what they can to keep reckless drivers off the road. But regardless, this doesn't fix the actual problem.

The problem is that for whatever reason, there are people who think it perfectly allowable to walk up and kill people. Oh, I know, some people think homosexuality is the big evil - or drug use, or Dungeons and Dragons, or heavy metal or rap. But the real truth - the thing we're not looking at - is that we are forgetting about the value of a human life. I'm not making an arguement for or against abortion, here, either. What I mean is that a life should matter. Your life matters. Other people's lives matter. Life. Matters.

A thought crossed my mind earlier, almost flippantly, about how all these people who shoot at dozens of random strangers then turn the gun on themselves, tidily wrapping up the entire event into the title of "murder/suicide", and why these people should stop being so cowardly and START with the suicides. I mean, lower headcount, and in the end, as far as they know, they got the same basic result, right?

But the deeper I thought about that, the more I realized that even the shooter's life matters. They may not agree - - they clearly disagree to such an extent that they want to go out with a series of big bangs - but what if they had made a different choice? What if, instead of killing all those people, they had written them all anonymous Christmas cards? What if they had made it to the news by walking into the school, randomly hugging all the school administrators, left a box of oreos on the table and then gone home to play "Simpsons: Tapped Out" on their iPads?

Dude, I never knew who you were, but...well, going by the odds, there are some dozen people right now in this country who are considering doing what you did today. We don't know who they are, we don't know why they're doing it. We can't imagine their resolve, and may not even remotely imagine them capable of doing something so horrible. To a certain extent, maybe you can't either.

But here's the thing: we would infinitely prefer that you didn't. You have a chance to make an impact for good, regardless of what you might think. Killing other people, killing yourself... those aren't your only options. Especially taking someone else's life. It's not yours, you don't have that right to it, you just don't.

Death is not the only option. And, among all the options out there, it's rarely very high off the bottom of the list. Certainly, it's never the best option.

Please, from one human being to another, I'm begging you. Put the gun away. Step away from this sense of pre-destined entropy and remember that these lives are not yours to take. You can't have them. And if all your thoughts revolve around dreams and fantasies of murder and violence, please get help. It's okay to get help, you know? You don't have to deal with this.

In fact, none of us have to. Regardless of our differences, we're one big group of people, one giant community, one breathing and living organism of the human condition.

Let's be better than this, everyone. Let's move forward. Let's go.

Dec 12, 2012

Remember This.

Been an interesting year. Winding down, now, into the last 2+ weeks of 2012, and as I just cannot seem to keep from doing, I am tripping over my tendency to pause and look back over the year.

It's been a plus and minus year - advances in publishing and writing, as well as advances in discovering the limitations of my own awareness and ability. It's been a climb, that's to be certain, but nothing ventured, nothing pained.

It's a year, that's all. Just like the Mayan calendar, they are less like fixed points and more like mile markers. Except they tell you how far you've come, not how far you've yet to travel.

So let me wrap this year up with a revelation: Dare. When you're out in the middle on uncharted waters, and mucking about in the center of an unexplored forest, it doesn't mean you're hopelessly wrong or abandoned.

Remember this:
  • Not all who wander are lost.
  • Flying comes from falling.
  • Making no choice at all is still a choice.
  • Following in the path of others is neither innovation nor invention.
  • When you're doing something that's never been done before, you're doing something that's never been done before.
Here comes 2013. Make it count, buster.

Twas the Night Before the Hobbit

Twas the Night before Hobbit

Twas the night before Hobbit, and all through my home
Not a goblin was stirring, not even a gnome
The blu rays were placed by the TV in stacks
With the extended versions and CD soundtracks.

We’d all gone to sleep, more or less, and we dreamed
Of what we would soon be enjoying on screen
Thanks to Phillippa Boyens and Pete Jackson, too
Fran Walsh, Howard Shore and the cast and the crew.

When up on the roof there arose such a noise
Like the dogs had knocked over my collectible toys
So I sprang from the bed and ran to the door
And I grabbed Glamdring so I could give them what for

The moon in the sky seemed to shine with a flame
Like it was echoing fire up from old what’s-his-name
But I could see well enough to perceive in the night
At the end of a long staff, a twinkling light

Held aloft by an old wizard, grey was his cloak
And around him a gang of fourteen smallish folk
There was one who was smaller by far than the rest
Who was quaint, somewhat humble and casually dressed

While the other thirteen all bore armor and swords
And the wizard looked ruffled and angrily swore
“Now Thorin and Balin and Bombur and Dori!
And Bifur and Bofur and Ori and Nori!

On Oin and Gloin and I see you there, Fili,
Please stay with the rest, you two, Bombur and Kili!”
And he said to the Hobbit who stood by his side,
“Master Baggins, I don’t think that you'll need to hide.”

To the fellowship, he indicated to stay
While he had “just one errand, one part left to play.”
And he vanished right then from the top of my roof
Without any outrageous display, not one poof

But I heard him just then somewhere inside the house
And I climbed the stairs quietly, just like a mouse
So I caught a fair glimpse of that wizardly gent
As he took it all in and saw how much I’d spent

On the books and the videos, (also the games)
The art books and novels, each thing bearing the name
Christened them by their maker, of Tolkien himself
Who’d written these tales of man and of elf

Good John Ronald Reuel, who’d penned them all down
And whose visions live on in the lights and the sounds
For a new generation to have and to hold
And to let inspiration make new tales to be told

As I stood there and thought of the marvelous fables
Old Gandalf the Grey took one look at the table
Where three tickets were placed for the matinee show
So that after elevensies, we could then go

To that movie which we’d been excited to see
About Gandalf and Bilbo and the Dwarven thirteen
Would we get to see Gollum? Oh, yes, this I am clear
But I doubt we’ll see Smaug for at least one more year

Til in twenty thirteen we’ll have the Hobbit, part 2
But then only one more and the movies are through!
This sad thought occurred to me - briefly just then
But before I could go there, or come back again

I discovered that Gandalf was looking at me
And I thought very much that I wanted to flee
But he shook his head no, with his pipe in his teeth
And blew out a small cloud in the shape of a wreath.

He looked tired and thirsty, leaned on his staff
But I held out a chair and he started to laugh
I offered him a drink, but he passed all the same,
“We’ve miles to go, and I must not delay,

But we wanted to thank you, and all of the fans
Who have watched us and read us every woman and man
From the oldest to youngest, every parent and child
Who have walked on beside us for all the miles.

We will share these adventures, they’ll never be gone
For this road that we travel, it goes ever on.”
And he said all these things and gave me a stare
But then, suddenly he vanished into thin air

And I heard high above, back outside in the night
With a voice that could give even dark riders fright
“Let us go, Master Hobbit,” and “Let’s ride,” to the rest
“Many miles to go, put our feet to the test!”

And away they all ran, cross the wintry sky
Even Bilbo, who looked like he wanted to cry
But he turned at the last, sharing this wish with me,
“Go on, see the Hobbit, parts one, two and three!”

- Ren Cummins (with thanks and apologies to the aforementioned Misters Tolkien, Jackson and also Clement Clarke Moore)