Monday, June 07, 2010

Blessings, Struggles, and Idiots

Day 22 of 28

Novel Word Count: 122,800

Some weeks are harder than others. This truism is an expected part of life, because life is filled with tragedy and tiredness, as much as it can access joy and jubilation. More exhausting, if only for the emotional gamut we are forced to travel and more indicative of a typical week, is one that is filled with both blessing and struggle. A week filled with uplifting conversations and attempted communications with idiots and racists. Inevitably, we seem to remember the idiots and the pain, they linger like a bad stench, and if we’re not careful, we miss the blessings along the way.

The sun is out this morning, and it looks like it will be another nice day. I’m thankful for the brightness of it. Normally I prefer rain and snow, the ambience of clouds and darkness usually makes for a better atmosphere to work. These days however, I find myself welcoming the sun. Welcoming the light. Around me, the bustle of a typical Monday morning at my favourite Starbucks fades in and out of my consciousness. Some people like to work in silence. I find cafĂ© commotion to be better than silence, as it offers cheerfulness without requiring a response. An old lawyer, who I see here often, says hello. It’s all I can do to smile. This past Friday a filling fell out of one of my molars and my left cheek swelled to bulbous proportions. An emergency trip to the dentist. A fresh batch of antibiotics. A great deal of pain. Two days later, my face is still lopsided, but the swelling has been reduced enough to be seen in public. Threedays before my filling fell out, my back seemed to collapse. A trip to the chiropractor. An adjustment. Prescribed exercises. A great deal of pain. It hurts to smile and to move, but life moves on. As a trainer, you work or don’t get paid. I choose to work. The physical discomfort doesn’t touch the mental frustration of a recent conversation on Facebook however. Dealing with idiots is always tiring, but dealing with racists is something else altogether.

I head to the bathroom and gingerly splash water on my face, being careful around the swollen part of my jaw. Dark lines underline my eyes. Sleep has come in brief fits or not at all the past week. The pain keeps me awake. And yet, even in the haze of it all, I can’t help but be thankful. It's been a week of tremendous blessing. Last Sunday, my old laptop, circa 1998, finally died. Stuck on a half-screen, a clicking noise indicated that something had jarred loose. Although I’d picked the computer up five years ago for nine bucks and though it was incapable of accessing the internet, it was a sad moment. Especially in the midst of the final push to finish my novel. After mentioning to my wife that I needed to pick up a new laptop in the next two days, a series of fortuitous incidents coincided with one of my clients/friends suggesting that she had an old laptop I could use. Her ‘old’ laptop was in prime shape, and was better than anything I’d considered getting. After a bit of work, it was hooked up and ready. Even now, I can’t help but stare at the gift that I’m writing on. For my friend, it wasn’t a big deal, but the consideration mattered. As my wife pointed out, most people don’t even consider what they can do to help. I think my wife’s right. It was the consideration that mattered so much, that she took the time to leave her world to see what she could do to help mine. Some would describe the series of incidents that resulted in a new laptop as lucky, but I see God’s hand. But then, I always see God’s hand when one human considers another. To that end, I notice His absence when I see hatred.
***
Facebook is dangerous. It’s like a drug, in that you can lose yourself in endless debates for hours at a time wasting precious emotional and mental energy. Sometimes those debates are fun and healthy, but often they turn ugly. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved energetic discussion, but the internet seems to unlock the shackles on people’s hatred and ignorance. People can say anything they want without the accountability found in face to face conversations. They can post pictures, like one Obama with a rope around his neck, and claim that it’s satire. They can claim that the picture, which to any informed person immediately evokes lynching, is a protest of Obama’s imperialism. Huh? And if someone like me protests that such a depiction is offensive, they accuse you of being either politically correct or a closet racist. What does a thinking person do with that? What does a moral person do with that? Especially when that individual claims to be a Christian.
The frustration here, I think, comes from that deep human longing for consensus. The optimistic idea that if we just share enough information, we’ll be able to come to an agreement on right and wrong. Perhaps the likelihood of that happening is more realistic in person, because the more I read comments on Facebook and forums and online newspapers, the more disgusted I become with my species. As a novelist, it makes you less than optimistic when you are discovering your characters. Sketching characters with courage and class seems a stretch, almost too unbelievable. Is there a solution? Probably not. Avoiding Facebook discussions, perhaps. The truth is that there will always be people who think human suffering is entertaining, people who care more about their own world and microscopic existence than the world around them. The internet has simply given them a bigger voice. Important though, that we don’t allow ourselves to get trapped there. It’s too easy to forget the blessings. Of course, what do I know? According to some, I’m a "f******, self-projecting idiot" and a Christian who “allows people to parade the rainbow through the streets of Toronto every summer because its politically correct and casually forgets the significance the rainbow received when the Lord presented it to Noah as a covenant.” If you can understand that statement, you’re a better person than I am, and probably better suited to spending time on the Internet.
***
The final push continues on the novel. For those of you who are writers, I discovered a terrific podcast this week. http://www.writingexcuses.com/ with Brandon Sanderson. He’s the writer who has taken over Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Excellent fifteen minute podcasts filled with useful and encouraging information. You can find them for free on iTunes. I hope to be back before the week is out, but it will all depend on how well the work goes. Cnsidering the week so far, I might be back just to vent.

Steve