Saturday, November 3, 2012



I used to be very bad at rolling with the punches—a serious disadvantage because setbacks are an innate part of life, and business in particular. In short, it is in the natural order of things that matters will go wrong every now and then; but that the important thing is how you conduct yourself when they do. And here I should add that not only are we writers in business –whether  we like to admit it or not—but we live in a world where rejections, and corporate nastiness, are the norm. We stay with it, not because we have any sense—by commercial standards—but because we are committed to the point of obsession, and we love what we do. Family apart, our work validates our lives, and little else matters.

Yes, I know that makes no sense—in corporate terms—but life is not yet entirely controlled by the values (or lack of them) of Big Business. Creativity has its own standards, and though they overlap with business, they are greatly concerned with such intangibles as the pushing the envelope, the integrity of the work, and the drive to excel creatively. In the creative world, the vision is the thing and the profit motive is secondary; if, indeed, it exists at all.

If you doubt the value of that, consider what life would be like without the movies, TV, radio, music, dance, sculpture, poetry, design and architecture—indeed the arts in general. It would be, at best, intolerable. Creativity, in all its myriad forms, not only advances civilization, but is the ingredient that helps us function.   

Typically, I would over-react to a rejection or setback. Why so? It is difficult to speculate about one’s own emotional makeup, but I’m fairly sure that part of it stemmed from the fact that my decidedly dominant mother was over-emotional and prone to histrionics—to put it mildly—so that flying off the handle was more the norm than anything else. In short, high drama, and extreme behavior, constituted the domestic norm. It was how I was taught to react.

The decades have passed and I am now ashamed of my earlier behavior. True, I don’t think I did anything too terrible—and there is some evidence I did some good things; but I still regret losing my cool. As I have written before: Cool is king; and it really is. And cool is also Zen. Damned if I can define Zen, but it stands for a very positive state of mind.

This week I had a friend—whom I trusted implicitly—let me down. It couldn’t have happened at a worst time. But here is the funny thing. Just when my morale was really low, a visit to my local Bank of America restored my faith that there are some thoroughly decent people out there—and that small kindnesses can make all the difference. No, I didn’t get a loan or anything similar; nor was I after one. I’m writing here about simple human decency.

The Bank of America has long received a terrible press and its senior executives have been chastised accordingly—though whether sufficiently is a good question. I’m in no position to comment further on that at this time (tempted though I might be). What I can say is a number of people at the sharp end—where a bank meets its customer –are doing an exceptional job. Could it be that is the way it should be—and may be? I would seriously like to think so.

We writers are notoriously skeptical of the human condition—with good reason if history is any guide—but every now and then I feel decidedly optimistic about the human race. Such feelings may be fleeting, but they are heart-warming while they last.

Thank you, Vickie and Billy.


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