Saturday, September 23, 2017

1984 is Not an Instruction Manual

I know it's been awhile since I last posted. The political climate knocked me back and left me unable to create. So, fittingly I'm coming back with this article on George Orwell.

[But first I want to share that it was a dream that got me back in the blogging saddle. I awoke this morning in that hypnagogic state between dream and waking to see a track runner jumping over a hurdle. On the hurdle were slats with the names: Pete, Orwell and two others that don't apply to this post. I quickly wrote them down and when I got up did a bit of research that led me to writing this article. Pete Wehner and George Orwell]

George Orwell’s classic book “1984,” about a dystopian future where critical thought is suppressed under a totalitarian regime, has seen a surge in sales, rising to the top of the Amazon best-seller list in the United States and leading its publisher to have tens of thousands of new copies printed. (New York Times, January 2017)

The country has been reading George Orwell’s 1984 because he struck a nerve. What exactly is that nerve? Is it the fear that we’re going down that path that will lead to war or our loss of freedom? But how much freedom do we actually have now? We have been sliding into a haze of forgetfulness, driven into divisions by the power hungry men of the world, while we bicker among ourselves. Time for a change.

Peter Wehner (First Things 9-7-16) wrote about Orwell and the lessons we can take from him.
Orwell wrote in Homage to Catalonia,
“…no one is or can be completely truthful. It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with your own eyes, and consciously or unconsciously everyone writes as a partisan...having seen only one corner of events. And, beware of exactly the same thing when you read any other book.”

“This doesn’t mean that objective truth doesn’t exist,” writes Wehner; “it simply means that neither you nor I can fully ascertain it.” Quoting his friend, Steve Hayner, “We need to make room for other perspectives. We “should hold more lightly to our capacity to perceive truth.”

We are all so sure we know the truth, because we’ve experienced it--or god forbid, we've been told what is truth without experiencing it. Like the story of the group of blind men exploring the large elephant (traceable to the Buddhist text Udana 6.4, dated to about mid 1st millennium BCE.) we only see the part our experience and senses allow and come to completely different conclusions. “Humans have a tendency to project their partial experiences as the whole truth, ignore other people's partial experiences.” Wikepedia

Wehner goes on with this take away, “to be open to accepting that views besides our own have validity, or at least are worth listening carefully to. We might be wrong, or partially wrong, or less than fully right, even on matters we feel passionately about, and that, as a general matter, we should speak with a touch less certitude and a bit more humility.” How often have we prejudged people we could have learned from? 

Orwell at one point in his life dressed in rags and went to the slums of East London to live with the homeless and poor, where disease, overcrowding, alcoholism and crime existed in overabundance. This experience defined his writing career—thereafter he used his words to fight social injustice and authoritarian rule. 

Orwell showed courage in telling the truth as he saw it—acknowledging that it was only one man’s truth. "Given where things are just now," as Wehner points out, "our country is increasingly divided, our politics despoiled, and the animosity directed against those not in our tribe being sky-high—we need Orwell's sensibility now more than ever.

(quotes taken from Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times.)

What do you think? 


#GeorgeOrwell #tolerance #truth #dreams #1984

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Writers Resist

I haven’t posted for a while because I've had so many different emotions and thoughts flooding me about this whole political atmosphere we’ve been going through—are still going through.

I have my up days and I have my down days and the yoyo spins between the two. The Washington Reality Show has many of us flailing to maintain balance. It’s been an unsettling time (to say the least) for artists trying to create art. The emotional turmoil is real. And I’m astonished at the reactions which vary from “fight to never go back,” to the passive “send out love and let’s wait and see.” I’m of the former clan for this time in history, and I can’t stay silent. (And although I believe in the power of Love, as the Bible says, "There is a time for everything under the sun.")
So, this morning I decided to try a different tack and see what other writers were saying (other than those on my Facebook feed that react to the latest horror with astonishment, tears or angry emojis at the latest new horrors being unleashed on our democracy.)

Rather than my own rant on loving your enemy or one of 'Don’t Tread on Me,' I decided to let you hear the words of other writers out there. 

I found:
Anita Walker caught my attention on the video when she started with, “Many artists are struggling with dueling impulses; an impulse to heal and an impulse to confront.” 

Yeah, that!

So I continued to listen to her speak the words of Martin Luther King and President John F. Kennedy: 

MLK: “True peace is not the absence of tension. It is the presence of justice.”

JFK, (to the role of the arts in a democratic society at an event honoring poet Robert Frost):

“If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate all true artists, makes them aware when our nation falls short of its highest potential. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda. It is a form of truth. 

"It may be different elsewhere, but in a democratic society, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist, is to remain true to himself and let the chips fall where they may. 

"In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man; the fate of having nothing to look back to with pride and nothing to look forward to with hope.” 

Anita Walker continues on the video, "President Kennedy believed in the power of the arts and he believed that power was embedded in the honesty of the artist. Art can exist in a totalitarian society, but there is an enabling relationship between the artist and a democracy.  

JFK, “What freedom makes possible, a free society will make necessary.”

I found this on Literary Hub, An Open Letter to the American People:
Asked why he signed the letter, Richard Russo responded on Twitter:

      I signed the letter because, as Dr. King once observed, history
      proves that there's such a thing as being too late.

I'll close with the NY Times article:

So, now that I see and hear and feel the support of some of my fellow artists that perceive and feel as I do, maybe I'm encouraged enough to get some writing done today.

Stay positive, stay strong, keep hope alive—and take an action to make it so. Don't be so passive that you crawl into your shell and hide. That won't help you or your country.