by Ray Jason…….
As I sail deeper into my Middle Years, my ship of self seems to be entering the Sea of Paradox. On the one hand, I am comfortable with the inescapable termination of my physical self. But on the other hand, I am troubled by the possibility that my work – my little essays that strive to inform, awaken and inspire – will also vanish. And I do not mean that they will disappear simply because they are not perceptive or poetic enough. Instead, I am referring to a far more cataclysmic fate.
However, before I elaborate on that dismal prospect, let me respond to the various readers who have inquired as to how I developed my particular writing style. Many seem intrigued by my more “measured” approach to discourse in a Blogosphere that seems to be dominated by excessive ranting.
Sometime long ago, I realized that even though screaming is part of any revolutionary crusade, it is preceded by a long period of whispering. This convinced me that the quiet voices are also instrumental in shaping societal improvement. I opted for that approach. My goal is to sculpt essays that are provocative, powerful and poetic.
As for my specific training, I did not spend years attending “writers’ groups.” Nor did I major in English literature during college. My bachelor’s degree is in Political Science. Since most of you dear readers already know that I spent decades as a San Francisco street juggler, you can laugh with me about the uselessness of my college years. In fact, one of my favorite bumper stickers reads: “I‘m proud of my Political Science degree. Do you want fries with that burger?”
My only guidance came from one lone professor during my freshman year. He would read a short piece from a famous author, and our assignment was to write something in that same style for the next class. But this teacher, whose actual name was Matthew McSorley, did not just read to us. He appeared in the lecture hall dressed as the character associated with that day’s text. One day he would be Hemingway with a wineskin at a bullfight. For the next class he would be a sea captain from a Conrad novel. He brilliantly brought this immortal literature to life. His teaching was inspirational and entertaining.
He had several literary guidelines that he encouraged us to follow. Here are some of them that still shape my efforts after all of these years:
- If something seems forced or stilted, it probably is. Eliminate it and start over!
- A writer strives to either say something new, or to say something old in a new way.
- Your first obligation is to move the reader along from sentence to sentence. Fail at that and you have truly failed.
- Always avoid clichés. They are symptoms of a weak creative mind.
- Great authors write for 2 people – themselves and a reader 100 years from now.
Because my decades as a street entertainer provided me so much enjoyment and fulfillment, I spent no time yearning for a career as a writer. And even now, I could happily walk away from it. My efforts are “message driven.” Certainly, I would prefer to share my philosophy with many people, but my motivation is not powered by the lust for fame and fortune. Just having an internet platform, where I can share my unconventional outlook on life, is more than enough.
I assume that during my lifetime my attempts to inform and inspire will be perceived as too radical and too “out there.” This lack of acceptance, while I am still here to savor it, does not upset me. But what does disturb me is the possibility alluded to in the first paragraph. I fear that cataclysmic events will so dramatically unravel the world, that there will be no Blogosphere and probably not even many books remaining.
Even though that sounds preposterous, don’t forget that the people of the Roman Empire were convinced that their advanced civilization would continue advancing … forever. Not only did it decline, but it essentially vanished. And the only thing that allowed the treasures from that era to survive during the Dark Ages, were the efforts of the many monks who copied and preserved the artistic masterpieces from the Roman and Greek cultures.
The Romans vaporized many centuries of human advancement in literature, philosophy, jurisprudence, governance, architecture, science, painting and sculpture. They were the most sophisticated people in the Western Hemisphere, and yet they failed to perceive the catastrophic and self-destructive path that they were on.
I contend that their lack of situational awareness is being repeated in our current era. But what makes our predicament far more dangerous is the apocalyptic power of our modern weapons. The Romans could destroy a castle or a town, but we can obliterate our entire wet, lush planet and turn it into a toxic, smoldering wasteland leaving behind only a residue of cockroaches.
The standard response to my cautionary message is that “cooler heads will prevail.” I remain unconvinced. How much progress has been made in thousands of years by the wiser, cooler-headed people? Here is a list of some of the foundational problems that have existed for dozens of generations and yet show no sign of improving:
- Hierarchal systems are swiftly commandeered by the most selfish and ruthless and manipulative people. They are so megalomaniacal that they develop God complexes. Plus, they surround themselves with sycophants and courtiers who reassure them of their omniscience and omnipotence. These types were dangerous enough in the age of knights and swords, but they are Earthocidal when equipped with an arsenal of missiles and nuclear warheads.
- Religious zealotry was undeniably hideous 1,000 years ago, but now in our Cyber-Age, it could lead to Armageddon. Why haven’t the supposed wiser, cooler heads succeeded at tossing religion onto the land fill of human history? For those seeking moral grounding, it already exists in the innate compassion and generosity of the average human being. Those desiring uplifting spiritual majesty can find it in the unfathomable sweep of the Cosmos or the delicacy of some of Earth’s tiniest creatures.
- If the people in charge are not Malignant Overlords, as I contend, and instead are cool-headed leaders, why don’t they realize that the planet cannot absorb the grotesque amount of poisons and pollutants that we subject her to? Nor can a finite planet provide infinite resources for extraction such as coal, oil, and copper.
- If there is indeed a group of wise, cool-headed people who will help us avoid global disaster, they might wish to address the issue of the obscene wealth disparity that is a powder-keg of potential societal destruction. The gap between the rich and the poor can only grow so much before violence explodes across the continents.
- Because of the massive influence that the Military-Industrial-Complex has in the halls of power, the threat of war is a constant in our lives. And as military tasks become outsourced to more and more private contractors, their greedy incentive is to keep the world in a state of Perpetual War. This threat is made even more horrendous because there is a group of behind-the-scenes policy-shapers in the Deep State known as the Neocons. These maniacs, who will never have to personally experience the horrors of combat, have never seen a war that they didn’t like. They have even managed to reignite what is now called the Cold War 2 – although I feel the better description is Cold War 2.0. Plus, they have begun again the utter insanity of the nuclear arms race. And, if that is not sufficient lunacy, these pathological monsters actually state in their think tank documents that a nuclear war is “winnable.” Someone please show me the “cooler heads” who are calling for a global decommissioning of nuclear weapons and for the closing of the nearly 1,000 U.S. military bases overseas.
- The final piece of evidence to support my distress about the near future prospects of the human project is the existence of secret underground bunkers that are hidden around the USA, and that are accessible only to The Malignant Overlords. Google up Deep Underground Military Bases or DUMBS and prepare to be shocked. These fools, who are deemed worthy of admittance to these survival pods should the missiles fly, actually believe that they can emerge and re-begin normal lives on the charred cinder of what was once a rare garden planet amidst innumerable dead stars. How tragic and sick is that!?
Joseph Conrad, in one of his masterpieces, describes the kingdom of the dead as The Dark River of the Nine Bends. Hopefully, my ship of self will not be headed to that destination for many more years. But when my hour arrives, and I set my final anchor, I believe that I will do so willingly and without drama or remorse.
But I will be far less tranquil if my little essays end up in The Dark River of Oblivion. Because if that occurs, it will indicate that “cooler heads” did not prevail. It will mean that the worst amongst us steered the ship of our species into the Abyss – and to a fate that the vast majority of us did not deserve.
POSTSCRIPT: I always attempt to not just be a purveyor of negativity. And in this regard, I would encourage you to read my essay entitled “The Sea Gypsy Tribe” which you can find HERE.