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Sunday, August 30, 2015

I Am Switzerland

Neutral with no opinion left or right. 

It seems to me that this is the only safe place to be these days. 

Yes, oh yes, I read the comment sections, especially on Amazon after an author publishes a new book. 

Oh people, do none of you recall latter days when we just went to the bookstore or heaven forbid, the LIBRARY, and checked out a new tale.

We took the book home and those of us from a prior generation, held a determined and resolved tradition that we would read the tome from cover to cover. Down to the very last word. The final page. 

Only then would we decide if it was our cup of tea. If the writing proved satisfactory to our wants, our needs. If the story or fable or tale made sense in the middle of the muddle of lives. But even then, we did not write the author or scold them for falling short or failing to rise above. We simply said a silent Yes or a quiet No. 

Nowadays, everyone is a critic, of every single last drop, parsing every syllable, noticing the use of punctuation, the lack of character development, the rise and fall of the arc, and the ultimate conclusion. 



What about the human condition do you people not recognize?

What appeals to me, may not appeal to you

What makes me smile in the middle of the night may not soothe your soul, but does that mean it is no good?

Tell it to a two year old. 

I cannot explain to you why The Spooky Old Tree or The Little Engine That Could appeals to my grandson, nor need I explain that in two months he will change his tune to find these books exceptionally dull, but for right now, in this very moment, he cannot get enough. Over and over and over again, he pulls these books from the stack, because they give him comfort. They fulfill a need. The words land in a space only he determines, no matter how much I offer Aesop’s Fables or The Tale of Peter Rabbit. These books are his choice.

Being not only a parent, but a grandparent as well, I can assure you that his mind will change, and his heart will move to a place full of trains and planes and automobiles. 

But don’t you?

Don’t you find yourself meandering through the card catalog of choices, depending on your wants and needs?

Well, my dear friends, authors do the very same thing. For some reason, unbeknownst to them, a topic will appeal, a character will take shape in their imagination and off they go. Telling a story that must be told. 

No one said you have to agree. All that is asked is that you be patient. Be fair. Give the authors you read the same wiggle room that you require in your own life.

If I am a writer known for my grip on the South, or the ecosystem, or the witty remark, what happens if I cross the line that defines me, just to see what lies on the other side? Should I be punished for that? Or perhaps praised for taking a risk, for peeking into corners that are slightly uncomfortable, unusual to settings familiar?

We celebrate the Extreme Athletes, the ones Naked and Afraid wandering into the deepest jungles, the fiercest and deeply bug infested terrain, then call them heroic for lasting three days without water and days beyond that without sustenance.

I know writers who brave the elements, make a move across the globe, go without friends and family, or less heroic, but no less dangerous, disappear into their writing space and explore new vistas sans a well traveled guide. 

Some hit the the peak in record time. Some stretch their muscles and end up in the ER. So let’s just all pile on in the Comment section, anonymously of course, and rant and rave that this particular book did not meet up to YOUR expectations. 

Okay. Fine. Now let’s parse YOUR review....let’s dig deep into YOUR gift to readers everywhere. Let’s applaud your singular ability to end the career of a selfless soul living in the corner of a small room well off the beaten path, trying to respond to an inner voice. 

I would not do that to you...ever. 

Nor would they. 

The world is full of possibilities and choices. Think about the shelves in your supermarket aisle. Ever find yourself standing for twenty minutes just deciding which soup is best for you? You stand with a can in hand, reading the label, checking the ingredients, and what eventually happens?

Be honest now. 

You choose. 

You choose what you NEED

If you are financially in need, you pick the cheapest.

If you are buying for your family, you buy the can that appeals to the most without causing a prison riot. 

If you are dieting or restricting all the variables, salt and cholesterol content etc. etc. then you pick the healthiest choice no matter the price. 

But if you are true to yourself, if you get to pick simply on the basis of your need as an individual, you will take home the comfort food. 

Do Not Deny It. 

We all do!

We all turn to comfort in times of stress and deep need.

So, please, please, please, give these authors a break. They are simply looking for product placement. Appealing to a new audience. Wondering if there are folks out there like them, seeking new horizons. 

Once, long ago, I ate cream of chicken soup with a chaser of hot dogs, because that was the only thing I could afford. Now, I can appreciate the distinct subtleties of more refined tastes, but that doesn’t mean I do not once and again long for the simplicity of a Krispy Kreme or a Burger King Baconator. And for all you critics out there, waiting to pounce on me for Literary Treachery, please remember how this post started...

I am Switzerland.

An equal opportunity reader. 

I may mutter in the middle of the night, if an author leaves me cold, but what you cannot hear are my tears, when an author finds me exactly where I am and pulls me close...either in gentle text or in an unexpected smile....

All I ask is that you learn to be kind...

Learn to be Switzerland in the world of wordsmiths...

I cannot fathom anyone willing to not only pay the price but to celebrate eating foie gras, but if that makes you smile, if that fills your heart enough to be kind to others on the new day dawning...

Do it. 

Chilean Sea Bass or chili cheese dogs...

I offer no criticism. 

I merely suggest there is room for a variety of taste, but no room for bullies in the the Comment Line at the Check Out. 

If you are so clever with a remark, I suggest YOU write a book. 

Oh, and be sure to buy a bottle of Imodium, on your way out...

An Addendum...

A Moment In Time...

Tomorrow is September 11th...the anniversary of the World Trade Center bombings, the attack on the Pentagon and the devastation of the crash of Flight 93, in a field in Pennsylvania. 

Awhile back, several years in fact, I studied the teachings of the Buddha and stumbled upon a book by Jack Kornfield entitled The Wise Heart

It seems apropos of this blog, to mention a writer, who brought me to my knees. Who gave me the compassion to forgive myself my human failings, and to encourage others to forgive, yet never forget. 

In the teachings, mention is made of the ringing of a bell. A symbol to stop the wandering mind and bring it into the present, minus the noise and chaos that surround us everyday. 

So, please, if you will permit me, I am ringing a bell, for each and every one of you, no matter where or who you are. I ask only that you step outside, pause and remember, that day, now 14 years past. Remind yourself where you were, what you were doing, how long it took to sink in. Retrace your steps and recall how quickly you picked up a phone to check on loved ones. 

Step back and think over the moments the towers fell, and the gathering in of loved ones both near and far. 

Please, also, take a moment to remember the heroes of that day, both citizen and public servant. People covered in dust leading others to safety. Firefighters rushing into burning buildings never to return. 

Police and public officials, guiding unknown citizens, down unfamiliar streets, and across the bridges that span the city proper. 

And do not forget those teachers who stood in their doorways until late in the day to insure, that your children held your hand, on the way home, while their families waited patiently for their return. 

I was one of those teachers, and it was late in the evening before I arrived home to hear the voices of my children, far away, yet safe and secure. 

As the bell rings, may we all bow our heads for those who did not return to family and friends, lost in the dust and ash. 

May we also, repeat on this the eve of a day so tragic, that there is work left to be done, and repeat to ourselves the mantra...

To do no harm.
To cause no pain. 
To act out of loving kindness....

Because everything and everyone matters. 

In Memoriam...September 11, 2001

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