What to expect

This year promises to be another unusual year, but not necessarily in the same way last year was unusual. Everyone was knocked off-balance by 2020, and the recovery from that shellacking is still under way.

The new year seems to be promising that recovery. Hope is shining through the seams from around every stitch, and it’s looking good. Not that we should become complacent. But, a little hope goes a long way, and it’s about time we got some.

So we’ll march through these next months, rebuilding and restoring. Some businesses are gone forever, but new ones will crop up. As restrictions ease and the threat of pandemic stops looming large, new opportunities will reveal themselves.

So, it seems that what this new year is ushering in is the new. A period for new innovation, new creativity, and new optimism.

Inauguration

I’ve been considering this particular day for a couple of months now. In the lead-up to November elections, it was whether President Trump would win or lose the election. In the days that followed, it was wondering how President Biden would begin his presidency.

For whichever side you fall on, the truth is that we have become a fractured nation. Split by party politics and shattered in our varying views.

There may be some, there may be many, who think that President Biden isn’t up to the task. Whether he is or he isn’t, he is the one whose job it will be to mend broken ties. It’s in everyone’s best interest that he succeeds.

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

What is said today, on MLK Day, just days before a new president is sworn in, just weeks after an insurrection at the Capital, and in the midst of a world-wide pandemic – the words that are said today, and every day, matter. They matter to the ones who hear them, the ones who learn of them later, and the ones who will come long after we’re gone.

Words matter. And how we use those words, how we speak, and the actions that back them up – creative altruism, or destructive selfishness?

No one seeks to be selfish. No one seeks to be self-destructive. But it happens. Whether by training, or by need, there are learned behaviors that can become harmful is left to persist. We’ve seen the course of action that people will take when acting destructively, and operating on misleading words.

King wished for, and believed in, the goodness of humanity. A goodness we’re still trying to live up to.

Impress yourself

There’s a tendency to act and speak in a way that can be impressive to others. How we’re perceived can matter a great deal to us. But rather than look outward for edification, why not look inward.

How would you behave if you wanted to impress yourself? What would you say, and what would you do?

Because, at the end of the day, finding your own value is more important than the value that anyone else can place on you.

Artists love to be miserable

“The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, wether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.” – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

This bleak prognostication of artistic life is, well, off-putting. But it’s a calling, much like any other calling. And when a calling drives you, pushes you to engage it, no matter what life may throw in your path, then it’s a calling that you must fulfill.

When driving towards your goal, expect to be miserable at some point. No great achievement ever came easy, or with no cost.

Consider this

The ever-changing Friday lineup of things that made me say, “Hmm…”.

So consider this:

It goes on to report that Philadelphia, where Congress was meeting, didn’t send out a militia, though the crowd “were wantonly pointing their muskets to the windows of the hall of Congress.” Philadelphia felt the disturbance didn’t merit response. Congress next met in New Jersey, but there decided that they “needed a meeting place under its own control and insulated from local political pressures and from such threats as drunken soldiers.”

  • England may very well be on its inevitable decline – at least, if you pay attention to the legend of the ravens. According to legend, possibly dating back to around the 17th Century, The Tower of London must always be home to six ravens, lest the tower fall, and England with it. Currently, the Raven Queen Merlina is missing, presumed dead. However, the raven master did keep one extra on standby, so the requisite six still reside within the tower.
  • Speaking of decline, I’ve been wanting to cover this particular point for a week now. The event at the Capitalon January 6th brought to mind something I’d read before (and, eerily, the tv show Designated Survivor – I’m happy that connection didn’t go any further). So, I pulled a book off my shelf, to read this: “The authority of the United States having been this day grossly insulted by the disorderly and menacing appearance of a body of armed soldiers about the place within which Congress was assembled, and the peace of this city being endangered by the mutinous disposition of the said troops…” The book was Washington Goes to War, by David Brinkley. The passage, a Congressional resolution in response to a 1783 event comprising Revolutionary soldiers demanding payment for wartime service.

And yet, over two hundred years later, Congress was once again threatened by a disorderly and menacing crowd. This time, however, in the building that was supposed to be sanctuary.

  • A few years ago I was introduced to Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Actually, like five years ago now. Twice I’ve tried to complete the 12 week program of exercises and artist dates, though twice I’ve fallen short of the twelve weeks. Here, in Vogue, journalist Sarah Spellings lays out the basics of that program.
"I think each of us, sometime in our life, has wanted to paint a picture."

Keep or discard

There’s no small amount of ideas and opinions in the world. Everywhere you turn you’re able to pick out some concept that someone has had. You have the ability to take that concept, use it. Or you can discard it.

In the moment, you’re only certain of the possibility. That it may or may not be useful. Hindsight is 20/20, and that’s the only way to verify whether something was as beneficial as you hoped it’d be.

However, it’s important to not let past failures dictate your decision-making too much. Being afraid to jump at a new opportunity is just as bad, or worse, than failed attempts.

What is it that changes

We don’t notice it, but suddenly things that made sense to us no longer seem to. Our tastes have altered, and now the humors we enjoyed no longer seem as funny. The thrills we sought now might feel too dangerous. The decisions we made no longer seem the best course of action.

But what is it that’s changing? We’re basically the same, biologically speaking. Over the course of a few years, thoughts and worldview can change drastically. Maybe we stay relatively consistent as to values and morals, but everything else is subject to transformation. Even values and morals can grow and evolve.

Where does this change stem from? The seeming solution is that, the more we weigh situations and past decisions, the more we have that background behind us, the most data we have to conceptualize current situations in light of those past ones. We’re more informed, even if the information is flowing at a subconscious level. Once again, it seems like it comes down to data.

And, as I’ve stated before, the more data one has, the better decisions one can make.

Amplification

There’s a quietness that we’ve lost, a quietness that used to carry us through our days. The joys of a good book, a quiet evening, the fireplace and conversation as entertainment for an evening in. Everything is louder now, faster, more complicated, and more dense.

It’s been turned up, and much of it is owing to the speed of information through technology. The instant something happens, it can be transmitted worldwide. But it isn’t just one transmission, and it’s not just one recipient. It gets amplified the longer it goes on, the more hands it passes through.

Information can be turned way up.

We’ve been grappling with information overload for at least the past decade, and still are learning to come to terms with it. The only thing certain is – it doesn’t seem very likely to have a dimmer switch on it.