Hope Springs Eternal


For anything good to happen in your life, or indeed, in the world around you, you have to be open and willing to learn. You need to have hope, and the ability to trust. The greatest triumph of last week’s election is how Canadians came together to change what they could no longer tolerate. Our cynical apathy had to end, or the Canada we loved would be irreparably damaged. election ballot box

Of course, the true irony is that we came together positively for a negative reason: to oust Harper.

We live in a time of deep cynicism, where irony is viewed as intelligence. Only the clever, we believe, know that the world is a terrible place, and that it’s better to be wry than wide-eyed.

When I was a kid, I had a dream. I wanted to be a singer. I didn’t hunger for fame, I just wanted to sing. And I did, for many years. It was wonderful!

What wasn’t so wonderful was the cynicism disguised as righteous scepticism, which said that pursuing a career in the arts was unrealistic. Despite proven talent and a fierce hunger to follow my dream, I allowed myself to be shuffled off to secretarial school, so that I would have something to ‘fall back on,’ when my dreams were inevitably and cruelly crushed.

College of Arts and Sciences (and a few things to fall back on).

In hindsight, I understand the worry and fear that hid behind the cautionary tales. I DID meet some unsavoury people, and there really were some nasty folks out there who wanted to take advantage of a naive innocent.

But what that distrust also did was stop me from potentially meeting good, honest people, who might have nurtured my talent and helped me to have a career. I’ll never know, as I took the path of least resistance for the next ten years before finally emerging from my cocoon of self-doubt.  give it a try

Faith, hope, love, warmth, loyalty … these are all traits we now consider naïve and passé.

I can remember exactly when cynicism entered into mainstream media – it was personified by Michael J. Fox, who played the character of Alex P. Keaton, in the sitcom Family Ties. He was seen as the voice of reason in a household headed by his two liberal parents, former hippies. The entire cast, actually, perfectly represented the clash of values emerging in the 80’s, as the hippies grew up and out of innocence, and Reagan began snipping away at the American Dream; it was conservatives vs liberals, with Mallory added in for laughs as a vacuous consumer who epitomized the “Greed is Good” principle.

Alex was portrayed as the level-headed voice of reason, able to see through the tricks of the world that his dozy, optimistic parents could not. Irony, cynicism, a general distrust of others’ motives, a world weary attitude light-years ahead of his actual age … this was the new intelligentsia in sitcom form.

cynicism is not wisdomBut cynicism is not intelligence; it’s a way to close one’s self off to new emotional or intellectual experiences, and to excuse missed opportunities. Cynics live a life of doom and gloom, where nothing ever changes, because “that’s just the way it is.” They have decided that it’s hopeless to even try for any sort of improvement, as any attempt is just a waste of time ending in abject failure. Cynics live a life of low-grade depression, their only joy resting in letting everyone else know that it’s useless to try, so why bother? Optimism, they’ll tell you, is a cruel joke, that only the young and foolish can enjoy.

Cynicism, disguised as bitter irony, has become the norm to many. Where a healthy dose of scepticism might suffice, we’re seeing instead a vicious distrust, kneejerk pessimism, and a feeling of captivity to a society ruled by materialism and corporate greed. A feeling of inevitability segues into passivity and apathy. We’re all flawed, we tell ourselves, some are just flawed on a larger scale. cheating on taxes lying pieces

This point of view is just as damaging as being over-optimistic. It is precisely what has allowed those forces to stealthily infiltrate society, as pessimists assure optimists that those with the money are always right, and will always win, so there’s no point in even trying. You begin to justify, in your mind, that abuses of authority are warranted by those somehow better than yourself by dint of money or power. You’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, and it no longer tastes so much like lies.

http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/10/08/opinion/it%E2%80%99s-not-harper-derangement-syndrome-it%E2%80%99s-stephen-stockholm-syndrome

Being cynical doesn’t require courage, it requires an egotistical belief that you, out of all humanity, have completely experienced the world, and have found it lacking. There is no room for the wisdom of the ages, for anecdotal tales of the power of love, for seeking out new ways of advancing mankind. Cynics don’t climb the highest mountains, or boldly go into unknown frontiers. cynicism does not require courage

Optimism, on the other hand, takes a great deal of courage. It requires jumping into life with both feet, aware of, but accepting of what may come your way. Your journey will be good and bad, painful at times, ecstatic at others. The ebb and flow of any life comes with no guarantees, other than that it will be an adventure, and that yours will be solely your own experience.

pissed in a sink lying piecesThe funny thing, though … or call it irony … is that within every cynic there is an innocent who’s been hurt by life. They are so sure that there’ s always a catch, that they are therefore the easiest to fool by a bona fide sociopath who’s figured out how to capitalize on the cynic’s very cynicism.

George Carlin once said that, “within every cynic there is a disappointed idealist,” and I believe that to be true. But what the cynic has most to beware is of treading a path so narrow and circumscribed that he finds himself with “nothing to look backward to with pride / And nothing to look forward to with hope.” –Robert Frost

(originally published Oct 25/15, DBAWIS – /bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/roxanne-tellier-hope-springs-eternal/)

Books, Music and Stuff


Tolkien if-more-of-us-valued-food-and-cheer-and-song
The skies are grey, it’s been raining for days. What better time to turn my attention to the accumulated office mess and scan through the wee bits of paper on which I’ve written a germ of an idea, usually accompanied by an *asterisk* and several exclamation points!!!? I just have to haul them out from under the weight of the newspaper clippings, flyers, magazines, library books and paper backs they’ve landed under, over and in between.

I’m an idea junkie, a bibliomaniac and a collector of all things relevant to my incessant research on anything that tickles my imagination’s fancy. Don’t tell me to go digital – my computer’s ‘bookmarks’ are too numerous to be manageable. No, the printed word is my vice, which is why I live in fear that, at any time, a laden shelf will collapse under its own weight and crush all in its path.

george_carlin_house stuff1It has been ever so. Even as a kid, I would escape into a world of books. My temple of choice was the local library, where I could devour books of all kinds … for free! … and float home on a cloud of new fantasies. When I left Montreal for Toronto in my twenties, I had to have several car loads of boxed books and files moved to my new city. It’s madness, a mania, and despite my current need to downsize, an almost impossible task and a literary Sophie’s Choice.

It’s hard to get rid of “stuff.” George Carlin nailed it when he said, “Have you noticed that their stuff is shit, and your shit is stuff? And you say, ‘get that shit off of there and let me put my stuff down!’”

Carlin accumulating possessionsWe love our stuff; we’re emotionally attached to our stuff, especially if the stuff has the added sentimentality of having coming from a loved one. Having our stuff around us makes us feel secure. We’ve got our house stuff, our office stuff, our gym stuff and our car stuff. I have a purse so prepared for any eventuality that it could double as an overnight bag. Except – no, I’ll need that too, cuz for overnight I’ll need even more stuff.

BOOK-HOARDERSome people like stuff more than others. We call those people ‘pack rats,’ or in extreme cases, ‘hoarders,’ the distinction being that the pack rat has a messier house than you, and the hoarder is in imminent danger of being crushed under a shelf that might collapse under its own weight and … oh my god I’m a hoarder!

Fact is, it’s easier to hoard than to be an organized person. You just never sort the stuff, or throw anything away. You find great deals on something you must have, or you sell off less significant items to finance your obsession, and you scour Craigslist or freecycle, where those without your particular kink actually give away what you’re jonesing over… and the collection grows …

ant-and-grasshopperI am the Ant, with a need to amass that trumps the flightiness of the Grasshopper. I shore up my perceived literary needs, present or future, with a stockpile that will protect me from a cold winter.

But even within my collection, there are prejudices and disunions. Books about music and the entertainment world live happily side by side with dictionaries and reference books. Those are the ‘honourables,’ the undisputed Lords of the Shelves. Books written by or about friends come next, with first, special and signed editions following.

treasured-booksLowliest of the low are the mass market paperbacks and hardcovers, although I have a few authors whom I adore, and will never unfriend. And then there are the hundreds of books that piqued my interest, but have yet to see their spines cracked. Whether fiction or non-, they taunt me with their promise and possibility.

book monsterI’m working on dismantling my book monster. Every day I sort through another category, refining my choices to what I MIGHT write about, as opposed to subjects I’ll never really pursue. I’m streamlining what remains, in the hopes of becoming a more selective reader, and of being better able to actually locate that particular reference that I need while writing a column or proving a debate point.

-it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-nightAlthough I can see a day when I’ll rely more on electronic media, the internet and e-books than I currently do, I still crave the physical sensation of holding a book in my hands, opening the cover, and reading the first sentence of a new tale, one which the writer laboured over incessantly until he or she thought they’d found the exact right words to capture a reader’s imagination.

But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk indifferently past a bookstore, especially one with shelves that groan under titles I’ve never read. Books – displayed, sold, and treasured – these are the gold I seek. A man who can write, and who can passionately discuss a favourite book, attains a special status in my heart and mind.

And music … I must have music. A man who can slip a literary reference into a song … that’s a delight beyond words. I quivered when Sting mentioned Nabokov’s Lolita in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” I grinned when Smoky Robinson referenced opera’s Pagliacci in “Tears of A Clown.”

Books and music are not such strange bedfellows. The Strokes, The Smashing Pumpkins and deadmau5 have all written about soma, the drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album had three songs that mused upon George Orwell’s1984.” Bowie actually planned to do an entire rock musical based on the novel, but Orwell’s widow objected to the idea, so the project was shelved.

The Ramones wrote “Pet Sematary” for the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. It was later covered by Rammstein. And of course, Elton John’sRocket Man” is Bernie Taupin’s condensation of Ray Bradbury’s short story.

Books and music are my hoarded gold. Toss in a beer and a sandwich and we’re golden.

(originally published Feb /2015 @ bobsegarini.wordpress.com)