Unfettered

the weakest linkAs reality sets in about my mother’s passing, I sit considering over my morning coffee how much I felt I could not write about – the unspokens – because I knew that my mother would read some things and think that they were about her, or that they would make her feel sad or even angry.

We censor ourselves – some of us, anyway – and with the understanding that anything on the Internet must exist in it’s own context, it’s difficult to predict how something will be read, if it is read at all.

There’s some humor there; the majority of my family do not read things much longer than a headline, status update or text message. My mother, on the other hand, would read everything and stew. She could be eerily good at reading intent, or reading underlying meaning – and denying things she was right about would be not only dishonest, but an insult. I come by it naturally.

Sitting here, I realize she was the last reason I censored anything. I did so for my father as well. Despite the grief and sorrow, I am unfettered. Free. A final gift from her, of sorts, an accidental good in a bad situation.

The Bookstore

Rain. Bookstore. I read the Glad well before, but find myself referencing when I don't have a copy.I’d needed a haircut for a few days, but the stylists – whatever you wish to call them – were having bouts of the flu. Today, though, I called and faced the traffic to get there, to have my hair cut – and the lady in charge was kind enough to throw in a complimentary shampoo. The shampoo involved a head massage by a woman I can only describe as gifted.

I was in a good mood. It was rainy. I did not want to go home; a lady asks me if I was hungry – a hint that I was boggled at to the point where I fumbled it. I left, and went to a place I am always comfortable. A bookstore.

In entering, I was immediately asked if I needed help. I said no, and began perusing titles – I liked the Louis L’amour, I always have, so I picked that up because I hadn’t read these stories by the dead author. Some will point out that he wasn’t the best Western writer, talking about how his publishers made sure his books were prominent… I don’t know. I do know that my father purchased all of them, that a Louis L’amour novel lasts me about 4 hours at most, but that I always enjoy them.

Another young woman comes up to me and asks me if I need help. I said no again.

A few more minutes perusing. Looking for minds more original than my own has become difficult; I scan titles and look at cover art. I read the back covers, instantly annoyed at how marketers have taken over that spot to tell people what other people have said about the book.

I don’t give a shit what anyone else says about the book, I want to know what the book is about.

And… a young man comes up to me and asks me if I need help. I stare at him. “You’re the third.”

“What?”

“The third person who asked me if I needed help. I don’t understand why. If I’m in a bookstore and I need help, I probably shouldn’t be in a bookstore.” I said this maybe a little more annoyed than I should have, but I let it sink in a moment. This attempt to play librarian in a bookstore forgets that the librarian sits quietly until provoked; the librarian doesn’t go around asking people, “Do you need help?”

I scan titles I’ve seen easily in the background as I considered the plight of the young man.

“Look, I’m sorry, you didn’t deserve that and you’re doing your job as your employer says you should – and maybe even as the market dictates. So I apologize. It’s just that I know my way around the bookstore, I like the joy of finding things I couldn’t possibly tell you about because I don’t know them yet.”

He accepts the apology, but I see that my former words had stung more than my latter words had soothed. He wanted to explain. I let him, let him let the ooze rip from the cyst I had accidentally incised with my words, nodding at moments, keeping eye contact, but flipping through the books I had scanned in my mind. He needed to let go of something, I didn’t need to hear it. His face relaxed. He was done. I smiled, nodded and said, “I think I understand” and continued looking over the shelves of books.

The young woman who had asked me if I needed help first witnessed the exchange. She assured me he was fine, but her assurance didn’t mean he was fine. He was sensitive. People had been nice to me today. Part of me wanted to shout at him to toughen up, the other part regretted my casual abrasiveness. The latter won this time.

Most of the books were ancient in the age of the Internet; a point of anguish for me sometimes, but also a time of opportunity to see some of how the roots of present ideas form. I read very, very fast – not ‘speedreading’. I just read fast and have a reading comprehension that frustrates me to no end when people with degrees are so bad at it. So, while the books are generally what’s sent and left in this tropical armpit of the planet, where books come to die, there are opportunities to explore things – with the knowledge that the information in them is likely outdated. It’s better than reading ingredients on soup cans.

I peruse some more, finding the Gladwell that I so often tried to use as a reference for some of the solid concepts he has written about – but I had left my copy in Trinidad the first time I had left, had left the copy I had in Florida, and was down here without a copy. And I picked up one on the rise and fall of information empires — something that I’m constantly researching new perspectives on (because none of them truly fit). I explore more, seeing the same tired titles that no one wanted yet.

I encounter the young woman I had first met upon entering the store – she’s nestled quietly in a corner with a book, reading.

“Ahh, that’s exactly what I would be doing if I worked here.” Nothing makes a literate person more comfortable than seeing the person working there reading instead of pestering them, in my mind, but we’ve already established I’m an outlier (gratuitous Gladwell reference).

She looks up and smiles, “I love working here. I get to read.” Well, look at this – a rare bird in this day and age, the Literati Exoticus.

She looks at the books in my hand, “I see you found some things. Why did you choose them?”

So I go through, explaining, “Well, the Louis L’amour is like cocaine to read; it’s fast, action packed, well paced and unfortunately over quickly leaving you wanting more. The Gladwell is something I like to refer to when writing, but I don’t have a copy so I’m getting this one. And this one is about Information Empires, which I’m interested in because I find myself writing about them indirectly.”

“You’re a writer?”

“Ugh. I wrote an eBook that got published back in 2005 or 2006. I wasn’t pleased with it, but yes, I’ve been published and I do write… though I haven’t published a book since then.”

“Why not?”

“Partly things changing so fast, partly procrastination and all the excuses not to write, and partly too many projects I’ve started and not finished.”

“I want to write children’s books.”

“Then write one.”

“I’m procrastinating.”

We laugh. In conversation she points to the bookshelf next to her as a generic reference to books and accidentally points at “50 Shades of Grey”. I laugh, telling her what she pointed at – and looking around to see that the store was empty of other customers, went on to say, “That book is so horribly written.”

Enter sensitive Third, who apparently loves the book. I try to make the distinction, “I’m not saying it’s a bad book… I’m saying it’s horribly written.” An attempt to be honest without being dishonest to smooth over the sting. This poor guy looked like someone kept walking by and killing puppies. I decided that there was nothing to be done, that I had been kind enough, that part of growing up was facing facts and that the “my puppy died” face was just to trigger enablers.

Fuck enablers. I’ve seen too many make children of what could have been men in my generation and prior. There’s a place for sensitivity, but there’s that thin line.

“Listen, it’s a popular book, but being popular doesn’t mean it’s well written. In fact, the BDSM community came out against the book. Writers mock the book openly. But people buy it, just like people think McDonalds sells hamburgers.”

His eyes grow distant, as if I had also killed puppies in the distance. Or maybe he was sad yet thoughtful. It’s not my business, my business is being honest and, at times, hurting feelings – conscientiously, for ‘the greater good’.

I bought my books, having made a friend of one person there and having killed a few virtual puppies of the other – a shame because if the puppies were real, I’d probably still be playing with them. Who doesn’t like puppies?

Exited stage, left.

Conversation.

Dharma MoonWhy are you up so early?

I woke up. I’m not tired.

No one else is awake.

That’s sort of the point. No one’s making noise aside from that confused rooster nearby that crows from 2 a.m. onward. And the dinosaurs that live upstairs have fallen silent. They must have fallen silent, because there was quite a racket before they became silent.

What are you going to do with the time?

Clearly, I’ll write. I’ll read. Check the weather outside, see if it will let me get some things done out on the land. Plan the day. Do some reading.

– Write? What about?

That’s a problem this morning. There’s nothing really on my conscious mind, so I’m free writing and having this conversation with you.

– Me?

Don’t be a smartass.

 

Thanks.

Crows RockI suppose it’s in the air, a spirit of thanks – and really, after writing here for a year, I have been pleasantly surprised by the empirical data compared to what has been my ‘main’ site for over almost 2 decades.

Thank you, people who follow the blog and people who have liked my posts.

I’d tried the experiment before with OpenDepth.com, but that was more of a finding of voice than anything really worth keeping – so I didn’t. And since I write about so many things, as a human I have my fingers in so many pies, it used to be much more difficult to decide where I publish what – and sometimes, that meant I didn’t write at all. Over the past year, I have an instinctive understanding of what should be here and what should be somewhere else.

Thank you for your help over the past year in this. Please continue reading, sharing and commenting.

Twisted


Driftwood
Some treess are allowed to grow straight -a tree might have stable light, stable water, stable ingredients with no tropisms that would cause them to twist. They are not safe; they are cut industriously to make other things by the toolmakers, to build things. This is so true that they are grown for that purpose, to be used for industry like so many other things. Their corpses are to be found straight and true somewhere, sometimes bent, hammered, screwed…

And then there are the survivors, those whose circumstances twist them, winds might break them, rivers may wash them away – their bones persist, washed into an ocean, their roughness worn away by the incessant massage of ocean currents and waves, their character revealed in the process.

People do not collect straight pieces of wood, they are not drawn to them – they are drawn to the gnarled and twisted driftwoods.

And yet society tries to cultivate people straight and narrow, repelled by that which is twisted until it’s character is revealed years later when it no longer lives.

Drone Writing by Humans.

ChainsA recent message on LinkedIn from a new connection had me laughing. I’m barely active on LinkedIn, as I consider myself retired from most of that, but it serves to amuse me more than educate me.

The message:

Thank you for connecting with me earlier. I reached out because I’m a big believer in using Linkein to create win win strategic partnerships with highly motivated individuals and businesses from around the world. If interested, I would like to briefly speak with you so you may tell me about yourself and business and discuss if we might potentially have any synergy together. Thanks in advance for both your time and consideration. Best Regards, ….

I cringed. A boilerplate. It could have been written by the Corporate B.S. Generator.

And I sighed. There were times I had to write like that, in that soulless speak of buzzwords – but it was never to be understood, it was so that it was parsed by Human Resource departments, or Upper Management. This sort of writing is only appealing to the people who either make the Koolaid or drink it. Here. I’ll take a stab at a better way of writing the above with some pointers in blockquotes.

Thanks for adding me [use of personal pronoun attempting to establish a human connection]. I try to connect to people and businesses I might do things with – having looked over your profile [which apparently was not done] I saw you have experience with [add what you found interesting] and thought I’d drop you a note. Maybe we could chat about it sometime?

See, somewhere along the path of writing for business, people lose what they really need for actual communication. The first is not to make the reader cringe. The second is to write toward an objective – what do you actually want to talk about other than overused buzzwords? I mean, I could write like that:

I can schedule a synergistic meeting such that we can holisticly evolve out-of-the-box solutions that leverage competently iterated open-source results. We can appropriately benchmark high-payoff outsourcing through synergistically facilitating scalable relationships in a many-to-many matrix. I look forward to working with you to progressively formulate sustainable ROI.

Regards,
Corporate Drone.

Or, I could just write, “Clearly, we can communicate here” which translates to:

“I communicate when I desire.

I take great joy in watching you squirm as you actually have to write something of worth to continue attempting to communicate with me.

Please, make yourself relevant or bugger off.”

Clarifying Syntax: Eats Shoots And Leaves

Shoots & Leaves.As luck would have it I ran into Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation in a local bookstore here in Trinidad and Tobago. That’s the upside of the bookstores in Trinidad and Tobago. A hungry reader finds themselves reading off their own beaten path because the books on the shelves simply haven’t been purchased since they were published.

Bookstores in Trinidad and Tobago are a topic worthy of their own book, if anyone would read it.

Amazon.com never suggested it for me. Of course, my digital shadow is not known for reading books like this. Amazon.com doesn’t know I have a Reverse Dictionary within a foot of my left hand, or that next to it are rare paperback copies of Sir Isaac Newton’s works.

As I started reading it this morning, chuckling at a few things, I came to think of why I had always been interested in these sorts of things. Was it my mother the poet? No, not really, it simply made her happy that I was interested for a while in poetry as a child. Was it the devastating accuracy I needed in saying what I meant to my father when I was growing up, being understood? Partly.  The anniversary of his death was yesterday, and I might write something on that.

And so, as I started reading the book, all of this came flooding back. Writing was an outlet, a way to think through things, and most desperately a way to be understood. There is folly in that; even the best of writers is limited by the reading comprehension of the reader.

If you are interested in writing, take a look at this book. I’m only through the first chapter with my first cup of coffee. That alone was worth the price for me so far. The rest, as they say, is cream.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation