community

11/03/2017 — Leave a comment

Last evening, we heard a David Brooks lecture nearby that confirmed our appreciation for what he says and how he says it. We’re big fans. He gave a preview of his next book, an assessment of, among other things, what needs to happen to make it through our current “slough of despond” to our next phase as a culture and community. As usual, he draws a compelling conclusion based on solid history and analysis, and delivered with humor and accessibility.

The “we’re all in this together” generation that fought and emerged humbled from World War II yielded in the 60s to the “free to be you and me” generation that in the 80s and 90s spawned the “what does anything mean?” generation. We parents said “be free” and “go be you.” Be free to do what, exactly? They are yearning to know who they are; they are lonely and unconnected to institutions and beliefs of the past. And it’s not their fault. The imperative for their futures is to become embedded in communities, causes, relationships that they will commit to and build their lives in and around.

Brooks says he now understands that the 2016 election wasn’t about the usual big government/small government issue that has characterized the essence of the Democratic and Republican philosophies since forever. 2016 was about the growing gap between those who are relatively globalistic, progressive, forward-looking and technology-enabled (generally college-educated) and others who are relatively protectionistic, reactionary, tradition-bound and technology-phobic (generally high-school educated). I sensed this schism as early as the 80s in Silicon Valley as I participated in building the new world and read on the news about the dissolution of the steel and other industries in the rust belt. The divided forces of progress and regress were catalyzed by Trump, for and against, and in the end, guess what? A wrinkle in our election rules, which are unlike any other country’s election rules, allowed the underdogs to carry the day. (I mean here the combined impact of generations of gerrymandering, the edge effects of the electoral college system, and the aggregated disenchantment of lots and lots of voters, for a variety of reasons.)

New communities need forming based on new ideas about proximity. Who is my friend and neighbor? After 42 years of moving, staying awhile, and moving on, from one coast to the other and then to the middle, my wife and I are only really proximate, connected and committed, to people and groups that are far away, Facebook friends and family, and not the next-door neighbors. But I remain optimistic about it all. Recent tragedies, man-made and nature-borne have shown every time that people do feel connected, that they will create, almost instantaneously, communities of help and support, where none existed minutes before. At the crucial moments, we are suddenly all in this together, again.

Bookends

10/31/2017 — Leave a comment

I’ve been a Bob Dylan fan since the release of his second album, Free Wheelin’. I was 15. Last Friday, I attended my fifth (only) Dylan concert and the third in Chicago. It was a fitting bookend to my first two concerts in 1963 and 1965.

On December 27, 1963, Dylan was all blue jeans and acoustic at Chicago Orchestra Hall. The Times They Are A’Changin’ had just been released, so this was at the height of his folk period. Coming five weeks after the JFK assassination, the concert was a profound palliative for a traumatized teen-aged spirit needing reassurance.

On November 26, 1965, at the old Aerie Crown theater at McCormick Place, it was a very different vibe and result. The first half of the concert was acoustic. When the curtain opened on the second half, there was the band (The Band) and Dylan in sharkskin with a Fender electric.

floods

08/31/2017 — 1 Comment

In October, 1955, we had a terrible flood in my home town that left three feet of water in our basement. I was eight. I still remember standing on the basement stairs watching stuff float by — years of photos and memorabilia on the loose, the past drowning.

Much was saved, though, and I have savored the family photos we still have all the more ever since.

Next summer after the flood, my much older brother, on a visit home, hauled boxes other debris out into the back yard for an inventory and great unburdening event. With a twenty-something’s lack of appreciation for a fifty-something’s sense of value, he became impatient after a while and tossed things that our mother would have rather kept a while longer, maybe cleaned up, perhaps restored. I don’t know she ever fully recovered from the losses. I quickly got over the few toys that I lost. My brother never spoke of the event again.

Floods come. If we are lucky enough to suffer only small losses, we can move on more easily sometimes. And other times, not.

Note to self:

You need to start writing again here on the Guy Cicero blog. It’s good for you! Don’t expect that anyone will notice. Don’t expect “likes” or “attaboys” or great reviews. Just do it. Show your respect and appreciation for all the bloggers you follow who crank out their thoughts and creations weekly, or even not weekly. They have taken the writing bull by the horns and are riding it to self-enrichment and fulfillment, even when they are scared to death of being thrown off into the dust any second. Even then, get back on and grab those horns. Get your ideas out. It’s part of being really alive.

Chuck Todd on Meet the Press recently referred to the 2016 Presidential campaign as happening in the “post-truth world.”  Add this to the post-church world and the post-modern world, and what you have is a whole new world. Get on board, or not.

The very idea of a post-truth world sets my teeth on edge. Isn’t this a bit hyperbolic? There’s nothing new about news people making stuff up, right? Remember the Maine! (Citizen Kane) Boy sportscaster Ronald Reagan making up baseball play-by-play from newswire transmissions. Hildy Johnson (The Front Page) made up the news at a screwball pace.

Nonetheless, the very idea that Wayne’s World (Albania edition) is pumping out fake news just for kicks, and we’re buying it, is a bit much…isn’t it?

I cried when the country elected JFK over Ike’s man Dick Nixon. It’s true; I was thirteen and a lifelong Republican, or so I thought. The Democrats got lucky again when we elected their Georgia peanut farmer, (although he turned out more than OK as an ex-President), and later, a glad-handing, wanna-please-everybody, philanderer who just kept […]

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adulthood

02/23/2017 — Leave a comment

I blame no one.

NPR ran a piece this morning on a school that teaches 20-somethings some basic skills helpful to running an adult life: money management, making a bed, etc. Some, according to the reporter, think this is coddling—that they don’t deserve to have someone show them skills that others see as basic, skills you shouldn’t need help with.

When I went off to college in 1965, my mom intentionally taught me two new skills: how to scramble eggs and how to iron a shirt. These both came in very handy. I’d be glad to teach them to anyone today (except for the shirt thing, who cares?). Just having these two skills under my belt boosted the confidence of a young adult who was to have his confidence squelched many times for many years.

So what skills do young adults need today? I mean they know about computers and social media and activism and cause-based organizations and the chemistry and artistry of craft brewing and their music is amazingly sophisticated and they care and know a lot about the Earth and bio-diversity and sous vide and civil rights.

But unless someone has shown them how to clean the lint filter, how would know that this is why their clothes aren’t getting dry?

I remember so well how mystifying the world was at 20-something. I blame no one for not being able to put air in their tires when no one has shown them how.

Never

02/06/2017 — Leave a comment

Never in my lifetime have I seen

So much, so fast, so soon.
Facts, ideas, opinions, innuendo,
Flying at me wherever I go to watch and listen.

Being 69, television’s child,
I remember Little Rock and Einstein’s dead,
and the Hungarian Revolt and Sputnik paranoia,
and Khrushchev in Disneyland,
and Selma fire hoses and Nicholas Katzenbach in Tuscaloosa,
and the funereal drumbeat,
and the Six Day war,
and Daley with a bullhorn and Kent State,
and the run-up to resignation (I just hated the Washington Post),
and helicopters over the embassy.

Lots of moments to ask
“What?” and
“Not that, too.”

But never have I seen triffids in the Oval Office,
making it look like any old room. Except for Clinton.

So many events have occurred on my TV that made me question
the viability and sustainability of the democracy.
Iran-Contra, the Bork and Thomas hearings, but not 9-11.

Because we are so many, all yearning to be free, and so driven
to speak out, and so diverse in our facts, ideas, and opinions.
That makes all the difference.

thucydidesJust about every day, I hear something on the news or Facebook, or in conversation that leads me to think, Wait a minute. Don’t you remember that….” whatever. And being a history enthusiast, even with all the faults and biases of historians (like Thucydides), I always like to replay in my mind the historical events I can remember that bring better understanding and, I hope, wisdom to my interpretations and imagined solutions to the problems and crises of the day. For people reading the same news who don’t know or remember the history, I feel sadness, and for the media, exasperation that they seem satisfied to spew headlines and leads that excite and feed our anxiety but fail to place today’s tragedies in context. We are left to cower, fume, and worry instead of pause, ponder, and prepare to be watchful for other news that might help us discern a trend, plan a response, or take an action that would get us engaged.

But, hey, the news is a business and not a public service, or charity, or “helping institution.” It’s on us to seek out the context and understand how this latest detail fits in a bigger picture (which they all do). Or cower.

He was called a poet from the start, and commented about himself, “I’m a poet; I know it; I hope I don’t blow it.” (I Shall Be Free No. 10, 1962). His poetry was a medium inside a medium, delivering mind-shaping ideas and observations that confirmed our suspicions.

The Guardian, 6 April 1965