Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Why write? Why not write?

Having been in the writing business for almost ten years (although I’ve been writing for quite a bit longer than that, on a non-business basis), I’ve learned many things. My hope is to impart them to my readers, both to share wisdom and to prevent you from making the mistakes that I did.

When you have something to say, say it. Sharing information is cathartic and if you find someone or some entity that wants to read it, so much the better. One of the lessons that I’ve learned through a significant amount of experience is that you are not the same as the work that you create. In other words, people will like you and not your work. Or more importantly, it’s critical to understand that a lack of positive response to what you’ve created in no way diminishes you. It’s simply the taste fairy thing.

Now that I recognize the value of this medium, I’ll be adding comments much more often. If you want to see more of me and what I’ve done so far, my website is http://www.csscribe.com. Looking forward to hearing from you – Shalom.



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Our country’s music

Growing up in Chicago, we had very little affection or appreciation for country music. At that time, peer pressure was enormous and no-one we knew or acknowledged had ever listened to country music, much less complimented it.

Since that time, tastes change, understandings change and only recently (five to ten years?) have I realized how important this genre is to music and our population in general. My appreciation always favors traditional values and doing the right thing. This practice not only generates maximum good to the universe; but also, it provides a center and foundation for everything in which I believe.

While we spent much of our listening time to Beatle adventures in musical experimentation, veneration of popular drugs or mindless repetitive lyrics, much of country music avoids all of these. As compared to other genres, country wants and expects you to listen to the lyrics, many of which espouse very basic (American) values.

For example, most of the songs I hear that reference love also allude to wedding rings, visiting the local preacher and changing the names of ladies who are the targets of that love. Clearly, we have an appreciation for the institution of marriage and living according to plan.

Occasionally, we have digressions that relate to broken hearts, beer bottles and beaches replete with margaritas and senoritas. But for the majority of music that I hear, we respect our mamas, our pasts and all of those lessons that we were taught.

If we are sincere about teaching the difference between right and wrong, it’s everywhere in country music. If we want to hear refrains of patriotism and serving our country, we can tune into Toby Keith, Willie Nelson or George Strait.

Those who are resolute about heavy metal, classical or anything in between, enjoy. But I’m happy that we have a place to visit that sounds like Mom, the flag and apple pie. Life feels pretty good there. Shalom.

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Baseball reality

There’s something about little league that brings out the best and worst in big and little people. For the most part, the kids who are playing in little league are usually supportive, forgiving and encouraging. They are not modeling this behavior from or for the adults in attendance. These are observers who are often rowdy, pouty and totally without softheartedness.

We teach the good lessons and the kids get them. Be good sports. Cheer for your team members. Overcome defeat with grace and class. It’s easy to see how they bolster each other and promise success at the next at bat.

Parents, on the other side of the plate, expect perfection. It was my misfortune to listen to one of them completely destroy his son’s composure. “Your fielding needs work, you’re not paying attention and your swing is pathetic.” In spite of being an absolutely non-violent person, I wanted to punch him.

It would be a promising idea to let kids be kids. He doesn’t bat like an MLB all-star because he’s only 14. And if you spend all that time correcting, where’s the fun for anyone? Don’t forget that it takes courage to get out there and give it your all in the first place.

Happily, the coaches are usually on the plus side of the baseball equation. They predict successes, promote individuals and rarely show disappointment. It’s difficult to believe that they are simultaneously parents and coaches to the little leaguers.

Can it be that this has been little league since the beginning of the sport? Have mothers always yelled at umpires to address their vision impairments? Most of this ancillary baseball behavior from years ago remains undocumented. We can only hope for not taking performance personally and for promoting partnership. Shalom.

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No matter what I recollect or reference, I can’t completely understand what has caused the relatively sudden popularity of tattoos. During my college years and thereafter, we found ways to express ourselves that had nothing to do with ink or skin. Right now, I need to spend quite a bit of time to identify people who have no tattoos.

This is not a position statement for or against tattoos, although there is no possibility of my investing in one. One reason is my dedication of many years to Holocaust studies. My people at Auschwitz had no choices about their tattooed numbers but I do.

The second reason concerns permanence. Most of my philosophies and ethics are constant and immutable. But other tastes change, and I would never color my skin with anything that could (thankfully) wind up in my past.

Finally, neither do I want all those who see me to see my beliefs, dreams and fantasies; nor do I want to know that much about others. To me, tattoos are the obvious displays of our feelings or passions, for all the world to inspect.

When I meet someone, I’m not interested in reading someone’s body in order to get to know them. And if I do, how much of the information is current? How much is obsolete? And ultimately, how much is none of my business?

In my distant past, tattoos were for sailors or women of ill-repute. That reference is in the category of archaic, with only the memory remaining. Very often, I see tattoos that are tasteful and sublime. But as a student and educator of life, I often find myself saying, “Did you really think this through before you did it?” It might be illuminating or picturesque to hear the responses. Shalom.

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Saving the world

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.

For those who are familiar with the Talmud, this is a famous excerpt that is very much worth remembering and repeating. If you are not familiar with the Talmud, it is a collection of writings (the Mishnah and the Gemara) that cover the gamut of Jewish law and tradition. Regardless of its origin, the sentences have profound meaning, now as much as when the Talmud was written in 200 and 500 CE.

The quote occurred to me yesterday in conjunction with the death of Kate Spade. We are reminded that money, fame and achievements in the public eye do not necessitate mental well-being or happiness. From the outside, we would have believed that Kate had everything anyone would have wanted from life. But obviously, this was not the case.

In terms of one life saving the world, my hope is that her death has influence on those who are struggling with life and need counseling or support. We don’t know what other legacies she left. But if others benefit in some way, we can be certain that she showed us what alternatives are available to us.

The quote was often cited in terms of Oskar Schindler who saved the lives of 1200 Jews during World War II. In modern day terms, we all have the potential to save the world through thoughtful intervention. If we see someone around us who is struggling or fragile, it is our responsibility and privilege to guide that person toward help. Likewise, when we are at risk or without solution, it is our empowerment to identify agencies or professionals who can assist.

May the memory of Kate Spade be for a blessing. We can hope that those whom she left behind will be comforted by their memories and the accomplishments of her life. For those of us who didn’t know her, we can hope that her death saves portions of the world she left. Shalom.

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What’s the point?

While no-one will ever accuse me of being prudish or pristine, I admit to having limits to the amount of obscenity that I can or will tolerate in my world.  Just now, I observed a list of fifty people who were all preceded by an “f” epithet, with the qualification that if I didn’t like the message or the list, I could attach the same epithet to myself. The post was (again) on social media, posted by one of my high school classmates who tirades daily about conservatives.

If I had direct access to this person other than through social media messaging, I would be tempted to ask what purpose was served by this post. But somehow, doing so is not worth the effort required. Most likely, none of the fifty cursed in the post will ever see it. And if they did, what then?

My first objection is based on the fact that the post is visible to all those with social media accounts, some of whom are way below voting age. Most likely, we don’t want our younger viewers to use this word once, let alone fifty times.

After that, what did you accomplish outside the fact that you know how to spell an obscenity and the names of fifty people who are somehow associated with the president of this country? To my recollection, no-one has held you responsible for a minimum of hate posts per day, with a certain punishment associated with under-performance.

Now that we know all of the people for whom you have no trust or belief, in what do you believe? Is voting for Democrats your entire contribution to society, along with daily blasts of Republicans? Has it occurred to you that the lines in our society are not black/white, right/wrong, liberal/conservative or Democrat/Republican? Some Republicans sincerely dislike the POTUS. And many Democrats and Republicans voted for Hillary in order to keep him out of office.

Stop contaminating my space. Every now and then you add something to social media that’s worth my reading what you write. But junk like this is pure trash and does absolutely nothing to improve our world. Instead of spending time on this activity, spend it in a food bank or senior center. Shalom.

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Gathering rosebuds

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

Old Time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today

Tomorrow will be dying.  Robert Herrick

Mr. Herrick, although he was writing in the 17th century, had a message to which many of us can still positively respond. The symbolism for the ephemeral nature of roses and youth is far from obscure. But I believe that each of us has a method of interpretation by which this passage can take on significance.

To me, it’s a reminder about waste. Wasting time is more than squandering money. If I have misused my time and effort, I could have been using it on something useful or constructive or worthwhile. Ultimately, this is why I choose to invest my time in educating. When I focus my energy on disseminating knowledge and life lessons, I feel that my hours are spent on the most relevant recipients of any wisdom I possess.

The avoidance of time dissipation can and does apply to many of our ongoing activities. How useless is it to complain and screech about others who have wronged us in some way? Generally, they are unaware and unconcerned about our dismay, as in the case of road rage. And if they do become aware of our reactions, what good is derived from that knowledge?

When we model this behavior of timeliness to those who seek our guidance, we accomplish two major outcomes. One is to demonstrate the need for prioritizing all that we do for the sake of efficiency, effectiveness and depositing good into the universe. The second and less obvious is to maximize the enjoyment that we derive from our short voyages through the beauty and brilliance of life. All of the petty grievances and distractions deplete that journey instead of amplifying it. Shalom.

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What matters

Speaking with a special, highly valued friend the other day, we determined that we are at exactly opposite positions on what I will call a “social issue.” This friend is also a business associate, resulting in a proximity that is closer than those friends with whom we sporadically connect.

We spent some time on the issue, agreed to disagree and went on to other topics with which we are largely in accord. As always, we ended the conversation on a high note, promising to communicate again in the near future.

Since that time, it has occurred to me that many of us create either reasons not to be close to another person or to castigate that person simply because of a difference of opinion on a subject. Here’s how that looks:

I can’t be friends with Rupert Lunchbucket because he is a right-wing conservative and I am a liberal.

I can’t associate with Linda Lunchbucket because her daughter is dating an African American and I think that’s just wrong.

You have decided that the American Cancer Society is your designated charity of choice. Mine is the Parkinson’s Association so there’s no sense in our continuing this relationship.

It’s possible that time and the nature of a relationship dictate how important any single concern can become. If we are at the initial stages of getting to know each other, it’s possible (but not likely) that a political stance can make or break that collaboration. But I would suggest that many people prematurely decide to admit or exclude another person based on sincerely superficial reasons.

Formidable friendships such as the one I earlier referenced are extremely difficult to establish and nurture. Consequently, we defeat ourselves by creating artificial (and often absurd) conditions under which those liaisons can continue. As one who has had many acquaintances and comparatively few true and lasting friendships, I know how valuable friends can be and are to me.  If you find a person with the right heart and spirit, toss away any of his or her beliefs with which you may be at odds. When it has to do with a union of souls, all the rest is incidental. Shalom.

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The price for free speech

Those of us who watched the response of a TV network to the unfortunate and irresponsible remarks of Roseanne Barr probably had a wide assortment of feelings about the event. Should she have made the comments that she did? Does freedom of speech allow her to say whatever she feels at the expense of whomever she references?

We can all have our opinions about whether or not Rosanne’s remarks were appropriate or inappropriate. Ultimately, I submit that the accuracy of her statement is not the issue. Most of us learned from an early age, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

It’s interesting but not germane to the discussion that Rosanne apologized for her remarks. By the time she did and by the time that her show was canceled, many millions of people had read the tweet and she accomplished disseminating the information that she wanted to spread.

Is social media an excuse to distribute ugly remarks? It appears that there is no agency that monitors or censors anything and everything that goes out on social media. If I chose this medium to spout nastiness about someone or something, the chances are reasonably good that no-one would prevent its publication. My guess, however, is that my followers who are accustomed to my positive observations and conclusions would object or check out entirely.

What’s the point of all this, you ask? Let’s talk more about the golden rule than we do the right to free speech or any other constitutional guarantee. Someone recently mentioned to me that we can’t use the term, “golden rule” in the schools any more because of the need to keep religion out of the educational system. My feeling about this is that the mandate is garbage although I will follow the guidelines to the best of my ability while still teaching the concept of treating others as you want to be treated.

Before you suggest that someone resembles an ape, think about how you would feel if were said to you. We all know that opinions are like kidneys – everybody has at least one. Sometimes it’s better to keep opinions and kidney references to yourself. Shalom.

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One life

This morning delivered the news that someone was shot to death approximately two miles from my home. His name was not disclosed, and the event was reported before the weather and baseball scores, with the same amount of air time as they required.

To be sure, the loss of any life is sad news. My greater concern, however, is that such occasions have become so routine and common that we cease to notice or care.

Murders of high-profile, visible citizens are reported ad nauseum. We can easily recollect many, complete with ugly court scenes, declarations of innocence and so on. At the same time, we are inundated with news reports of those celebrities who have indulged in behaviors that compromise others such as sexual harassment.

Am I suggesting that we either shouldn’t report these crimes or that we should deliver extensive and detailed coverage of every murder? No, in both cases.

But somewhere we are falling short as a society if we fail to attach value to every life. Perhaps the news can be dispatched with the parenthetical of expressing condolences to the family involved for their loss. Maybe the answer is to humanize the victim – Mr. Blank was thirty-five years old, a resident of this city and is survived by a wife and two kids. He was a veteran who has been employed at the ABC Company as a pipefitter.

Let’s back up a bit. Without engaging in a second amendment debate, I wonder if it might be useful to add a note about the weapons involved. If this killing was the consequence of an illegally-secured handgun, it’s appropriate to say so. Let’s make it a social conscience lesson. Likewise, if the perpetrator was legally licensed for the possession of this weapon, so be it.

As one who will never get used to murders, I want to live in a society that is not blasé about them. My educating includes the message that all lives are special and important. We celebrate all holidays, birthdays and accomplishments. Don’t we send a conflicting message when we say “There was another shooting this morning in our town. The event took place at 2:00 am and the perpetrator is in custody.” Another life is lost. Refuse to be one of those who don’t care. Shalom.

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Easing the pain

We are all experiencing pain of one type or another during most of the days of our lives. This includes the physical aches or irritations and emotional or psychological pain. As a recipient of both, I often ponder methods of dealing with pain. At the same time, I attempt to identify strategies for helping with the agony of others.

Sadly, the older we become, the more difficult it is to alleviate those things that distress us. In the classroom, a cartoon-covered bandaid will magically eradicate tears and tenderness. But for the girl who is suddenly despondent because she hasn’t seen her brother in two years, the solutions are much more elusive.

One of my fiercest determinations is not to discuss any pain from which I am suffering. This includes physical and emotional burdens, large or small. There are two main reasons for this decision. The first is that talking about pain rarely alleviates it. Secondly, I know that many people share my sadness at discovering that someone they love is suffering. Put most concisely, why cause someone to feel sorrow because of my condition?

On the very bright side, I have discovered along my life’s path that asking others to relate their pain or unhappiness often brings them a form of relief. While telling me about your ache may not make the hurt go away, there is some sort of comfort associated with knowing that someone else cares. When one of my students reports a headache or stomach distress, I always say that I am sorry. They frequently look at me quizzically, asking why I’m sorry. My response is always that I am sorry that they are hurting.

Does this constitute hypocrisy that I don’t share my pain but I ask others to do so? I don’t think so. My pain is such that it will not go away. As a result, sharing it would be a daily event, difficult for all involved.

My conclusion is that empathy or sympathy are powerful resources when sincerely launched. Perhaps, if I tell you that I am so very sorry for your loss, that loss may be reduced, if only minutely. Trying to make major changes in the universe is much too large a task to undertake. But if I can let you know that I care about your distress, both of us will feel a bit enriched. Shalom.