Sunday, April 23, 2017

An Orwellian Scene

"An Orwellian Scene"
By Stephen B. Bagley

I once had a friend who was a survivalist. Let's call him Jacob, because that was his name. He stockpiled five years of food, a couple of months of water, guns and ammo, medical supplies, etc. Built a nice cabin in the woods with solar power and a windmill, although he still needed an electric line for all his power needs.

All through the Bush years, Jacob complained about how the government was trying to become a dictatorship. He foamed at the mouth when the Patriot Act was passed. He could actually recite the Act and give you point by point how it was taking away our civil liberties.

I thought perhaps he would calm down when Obama was elected, but no, he was even more up in arms. The National Health Plan, you see, would allow the government to embed nanobots into our brains and control us.

Then Trump got elected, and while I hoped Jacob would finally be reasonable, he was not. In fact, he claimed Trump was a tool of the Illuminati and would betray all those who elected him to further their goals of world domination.

Well, after that, I had no choice. I reported him to the Thought Police, and they picked him up yesterday. I will get a share of his goods after the officials take their percentage. It should be enough to bribe the Controllers so they will upgrade my nanobots to less painful ones.

I am proud and happy just as you are. We're not allowed to be anything else.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Live life well

Chilly, rainy day currently. We were forecast clear, sunny skies. No such luck. We needed the rain, of course, and it's not freezing, so the blooming and budding plants and trees are okay. Still, it's depressing. I enjoy such days in the fall, but in the spring, they feel sad.

Rainy days are generally depressing. Humans are--for the most part--creatures of sunlight. We're made to walk in the day and sleep in the night. We lived that way for thousands of years; only now are we up all hours. We may be losing undefined things by choosing our 24 hour day. Despite our desire to do more, live more, enjoy more, make more...we are doing less and feeling more frantic about it as the years--and our lives--speed by.

Sometimes, I think the greatest gift would be to slow down time, to live each hour as a day, to have enough time for walks in the park, enjoying the sun and wind while sitting on a stone bench, to feel the light on our faces like a benediction.

Time doesn't do that, though. Life goes on despite our attempts to hold on to each precious moment. Eventually, we live our lives in our memories. And then we don't. Other people take up the memories which become family stories and tales of times past until they are gone, too.

My point? Be happy now. Live in the present. Let all those "mores" care for themselves. Don't let your life not be lived. Walk in the sunshine now with me, even on rainy, cloudy days, and we will live life well.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Remember these

I will not take these for granted:

A beautiful spring day. I felt the sunshine on my face like a blessing.

My computer. It gives me problems sometimes, but it keeps plugging along, outdated as it is. It helps me write and be creative in ways I couldn't have imagined when I was a kid pounding away on a Smith-Corona.

A roof over my head. It's a modest house, it needs paint and some repairs, but many poor people would love to have it. Many people have nothing at all between them and the bitter winds and the burning sun.

Food on my table. Millions of men and women, millions of children struggle with starvation. Truly I live in a land of plenty.

My country. It isn't perfect, but it's the best that humanity has ever been able to produce. I'm not one to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We'll fix the problems. We'll continue to grow and change and get better. That's what we do.

My dear friends. A close second to my family in my affections. I appreciate the laughter and lunches and talks about life, politics, and everything else.

My precious family. In the end, they're the people I love the most and who count on me and on whom I depend. We've been together a long time, and God willing, have many more years to go.

My personal salvation. I don't preach to people. I'm not built that way. But it would be a mistake to assume that my silence meant that I didn't take my spiritual life seriously. I hope that people can see by my life and by how I live that there's something more to this life, that we aren't alone by any means, and that even the smallest of us matter in this vast universe. I know I fail in this daily, but the struggle makes life worthwhile.

Every now and then, I have to remind myself to not take these things for granted.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Scene from a Cemetary

Scene from a Cemetery

Yesterday I walked among the dead.

Not my dead.

Strangers in an old cemetery a few miles from my house.

Thought I might take photos...that the spring sun might illuminate a particular stone or give a halo to an old weathered angel.

Instead I carried my camera and walked among the rows of graves. Stopping to read a date or name. My feet crunched on old brown leaves. The few trees were mostly bare except for a row of bedraggled evergreens along one side of the cemetery.

And I thought about life and how it goes so fast. How we can't hold our dead no matter how much we try, no matter how much we cry, they slip away when we're not looking.

I thought about those who have left us and how I miss them. My grandparents, my parents, aunts and uncles, baby brother.... My mother was so sharp, so smart, she would see right through your soul, and my father loved to laugh and loved to make me laugh. All those losses. Is that why we're ready to go at the end of our lives? Do the losses pile on until our spirit is ready to fly, to escape the burdens of sorrow? Or maybe we're just ready to meet them again. Maybe we're tired of not being with them. Maybe we're tired of this earth.

I sat down in an old concrete bench beside an empty tree.

Across the rows, I saw a robin. A mockingbird called. I watched a lonely cloud make its way across the pale blue sky. And I felt the stillness settle into me, the quiet calm that I call peace for the lack of a better word. I stopped thinking for a while, stopping imagining, stopped remembering.

For a few moments, the horizon held me. That beckoning sky. The endless heavens beyond.

Then I took a deep breath of the cool wind. I smiled for no particular reason other than it felt better than not smiling. I stood, walked back to my car, and drove back to my life.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Monday, April 03, 2017

Scene from a Writers Group

"Scene from a Writers Group"

I got involved in an interesting discussion with some other writers the other day -- WAIT! Don't go away. This discussion involved SEX! I thought that would peak your interest -- about SEX in books. I had struggled through a book recently that featured fairly explicit SEX and had wondered out-loud what made that book "literature" and not just plain porn. (Names changed to protect me.)

"Because the sex was integral to the story," said Writer Aromance. "It wasn't just thrown in to titillate. It revealed the characters."

"Yes, it revealed they liked sex," Writer Begenre said. "But doesn't everyone? Sex scenes are put in books to increase sales. And give lonely writers a thrill."

"Are there any more cookies?" asked Writer Cookbookins. "I only got one."

"I don't read books with explicit sex," Writer Divine said. "In fact, I'm quite happy to read about a sweet kiss and then a sunset."

"Today's readers want more than that," Aromance said. "They want to feel the characters' passion. They want to experience the hot, steamy moments, the indescribable sensations." Aromance panted, head rolling slightly, eyelids fluttering. "They want details. Oh yes! YES!!!"

The rest of the group moved their chairs away from Aromance.

"Isn't reading a sex scene the same as renting a porn movie?" Begenre said. "Just because they're not watching a sexual encounter with their eyes and instead 'watching' it in their minds, doesn't mean that it's not for the same purpose."

"Well, I don't read romances for that!" Aromance said, scooting over to join them again. "I want to read about true love, and sex just happens to be part of it. We need to turn the air-conditioning on."

"There were enough cookies for two apiece," Cookbookins said, looking around. "Someone had to have three."

"True love is more than just sex," Divine said. "It's a marriage of spirits, of souls reaching out to each other."

"Those souls come with various pieces of plumbing attached," Begenre said. "I think fading off into a sunset leaves the reader hanging."

"Some things are better left to the imagination," Divine said with a sniff. "It totally kills the romance when a writer starts describing ... er ... how the pipes fit into the joints."

"We're going to run that plumbing metaphor into the ground," Begenre said.

"I blame TV," Writer Eongo said. "People have become accustomed to seeing everything right before them. They don't exercise their minds. So they can't even imagine people having sex!"

"You know, I brought those cookies to share," Cookbookins said. "I think it's a shame that someone is so greedy that he or she deprived another writer of their cookie."

"Eongo has a point," Divine said. "What's wrong with letting the reader know that the characters have had sex, but not showing the sex? When two characters make love, that's one thing, but when we invite the reader along, that's an orgy."

"Not really an orgy," Begenre said. "Or least I don't think that's one. It's been a long time since my college days." The others looked at Begenre. "I heard about them back then," Begenre hastily added. "But I think a good case could be made for it being voyeurism."

"I love ocean ones," Farawa said dreamily.

The other writers regarded the elderly writer carefully.

"Not voyages, dear," Begenre told Farawa. "Voyeurism."

Farawa frowned. "I don't think I'm familiar with that. I do like to travel, though, so perhaps I'm a voyeur, too."

Divine's face turned red. Eongo choked back a laugh.

Begenre patted Farawa's hand. "I'll explain later, dear."

"I guess readers' tastes are just varied," Divine said. "Some people like to read inspirational, morally uplifting books while others prefer filth and gutter-life."

A long pause ensued.

"Hmm, I hate to agree," Aromance said. "But she's basically right. Readers' tastes vary. Some people like stuffy, boring, moralistic, and simple books while others like to read about a complicated, adult, intelligent world view that reflects contemporary life."

A longer pause.

Divine smiled too brightly. "Perhaps we should discuss this afterwards, dear."

"Oh, let's, sweetie," Aromance said, smiling just as brightly.

"I brought cookies because I thought that would be easier to divide," Cookbookins said. "When I brought pie last time, someone took nearly half of it."

"To return to the original question, I think intent has a lot to do with it," Begenre said. "If a writer is writing the sex scene and the whole point is to simply give the reader a sexual thrill, then maybe it strays into the ... let's not say porn, but the titillation arena. But if the scene is for character development and illumination, it's firmly in the literature arena."

The clock chimed nine, and that was all the time we had. They filed out, leaving Farawa and me. She gathered up her large purse and her notebooks. I smiled at her and asked, "How was that third cookie?"

She winked at me. "Delicious."

(Copyright 2017 Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)