Courage to Write, Courage to Speak

I’ve been re-reading an important book in my life, The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes. The basic premise, of course, is that fear in all its infinite variety is part and parcel of writing, and that the act of writing is itself an act of courage. The corollary to this is that most writers do not suffer from writer’s block (sitting to write and having no words come), but from writing avoidance: wanting to write, but avoiding it because, ultimately, of fear.

As I’ve been working through this again, I’ve come to realize that it is true not only of writing. The same fears — of rejection, of failure, of loneliness, of misunderstanding — apply to speaking, and especially to speaking out on things we care about. We’d rather tell jokes to friends than speak truth to power and risk losing the friends.

One of the joys of both middle age and recovery is finding your voice. You come to realize that the risk of losing friends is less deadly than the risk of being silent. And, if you’re fortunate, you’ve developed some friendships that are based on mutual respect for each other’s differences rather than on shared sameness.

Doing this blog, doing my web site, and trying to write something every day, are all exercises in fear control. In Keyes’s eyes, all acts of courage. Speaking out, writing letters, contacting officials — also acts of courage. Not big courage, not hero courage, not anything needing a medal, but small acts of courage, nonetheless.

If all of us with normal lives, normal checkbooks, and normal health — in other words, all of us with power — would face our internal fears and write and speak our truth, we could relieve the larger fears, the big fears, of the powerless. Here’s to a tsunami of small acts of courage.


BTW — The book is available through Amazon here

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State Dept Condemns Same Torture Techniques That Defense Dept Uses

The Washington Post reports here that a State Department study of torture methods in other countries condemns the very same techniques the Defense Department and CIA have been using for the past three years.

Does anyone else feel like we are living in Looking Glass land?

–> Looking Glass Moment #1 — We condemn certain techniques as torture when used by Syria or Egypt, even though we have used the same techniques in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

–> Looking Glass Moment #2 — We condemn Syria and Egypt for torture, but we send certain prisoners to those countries knowing they will be tortured.

–> Looking Glass Moment #3 — The administration officials who signed off on these practices are not only still in office, they are the ones standing up and condemning the torture in other countries.

There is nothing that makes me more ashamed of my country than to know that we carry out torture ourselves and condone it when carried by others on our behalf. It is beyond my comprehension that we do this, and beyond my comprehension that the public at large is not outraged.

This voter, for one, is outraged. Everything this country stands for is made mute by government-sanctioned torture. This must stop.

A Paean to Small Joys

Let us sing the praises of small joys, of everyday joys, of the little blessings so often missed and ignored:

— Of independent coffeehouses, in old buildings with wooden floors, with classical music playing on the CD player and young people with dreadlocks behind the counter.

— Of independent bookstores right next door, full to the roof with books, bestsellers cheek-to-jowl with obscure tomes by obscure writers, books for every taste and almost every viewpoint, and hilarious greeting cards you can’t find at Hallmark.

— Of regulars, those familiar faces that aren’t friends, really, but whose facial expressions and political views you know probably better than your friends’ expressions and views, who greet you when you arrive and share a cuppa and a story.

— Of good coffee, and good conversation, and a good start to the day.

Ethics versus Morals

As we prepare for the inauguration and reflect on recent and current events, we may find benefit in the comparison of ethics versus morals.

Morals, according to the dictionary, is “concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action.” And when it comes to judgment, the current crop of Bushites certainly excel, especially in the sexual arena. Their judgment is clear: abortion is immoral, homosexuality is immoral, gay marriage is immoral. Stating these judgments loud and often was their path to power. And, it worked.

Ethics, on the other hand, is “a set of principles of right conduct.” Again, the actions of this administration and its supporters are clear. Torture — not immoral, must be okay. Rape of the environment — not immoral, must be okay. Corporate and personal greed — not immoral, must be okay. Revealing the identity of an undercover CIA agent to get back at her husband — not immoral, must be okay. Telling lies about opponents in order to get elected — not immoral, must be okay. Lying to go to war — not immoral, must be okay.

Obviously, the Bush team, and many of their supporters, see no connection between morals and ethics. You could say they have morals without ethics. They can judge others, they can hold others up to the moral mirror, but when they themselves look in the same mirror, all they see is their own unseeing eyes.

Cliches Become Truth

One of my interests is sports — but only certain sports. College football, college basketball, pro football; that’s about it. As for team, that’s easy: Tennessee Tech (alma mater), Tennessee (grew up there), Louisville (live here), Kentucky (live here too). I follow Indiana to some extent, just because it’s close by.

So, today was pretty good. Louisville beat Cinci by 3 after being pummeled in the first half. It was a great game, and a great win. Indiana beat Purdue in double overtime, and that was a great game too.

Why do I love sports? These two games are examples. The teams didn’t give up, even though they were in difficult settings and difficult situations. Saying the teams didn’t give up really translates into a lot of individuals not giving up. Francisco Garcia, Louisville’s leading scorer, was heavily guarded and not getting his shots, so what did he do? Keep working hard, make assists, get rebounds, and make his teammates better through his attitude and support. The Indiana team should have won at the end of regulation, then again at the end of the first OT, but when they didn’t, they just sucked it up and won it in the second OT.

Why do I love sports? Individual effort, team effort, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, discipline, unselfishness — all the cliches that actually come true on occasion. This weekend, Louisville and IU turned the cliches into truth, and it was a joy to watch.