Make America Great Again: A Journal Entry with Adam Smith.

 

The alarm buzzed and I reached to hit snooze. Who am I kidding? The alarm had been ringing for 20 minutes before I finally wrangled it into silence. Not unlike every morning the first move I made was to walk into the kitchen and flip on the coffee pot.

It’s the fancy kind that has an alarm but I don’t set it. You could make a case that I’m too lazy. I pretend it’s because I enjoy the sound of the drip-drip-dripping followed by the wafting scent of the freshly brewed ground beans. Whatever. I’m just glad somebody built such a contraption.

I prefer a dark roast ideally. Right now I’m on a Columbian kick. Something about opening up the little yellow bag and smelling the robust flavors makes me appreciate the little things in life. I bought the coffee a few blocks away at the Publix. It cost about $10 for the bag. Not to mention the tax I paid. I enjoy good coffee and I’m glad it cost so little.

I’m glad for the guy who probably makes around market wage to stock the shelves so I don’t have to hunt for it long. I’m also glad for the guy who took my money at the register and made the purchase so easy. The guy who thanked me for shopping at Publix and sacked my groceries wasn’t so bad either. I thanked him back. We both smiled and went about our own lives. Everybody wins.

In a way, I’m happy I contributed to their income. It didn’t cross my mind when I bought the groceries. I don’t think about them when I brew my coffee. I’m just glad they’re there when I need them. Providing a service. Exchanging their labor for my money. It’s brilliant.

So anyway, back to the coffee before it gets cold.

I sat down at the table to work. These days as I make my start in the mornings I pull up one page on my Macbook Air and another on the Microsoft Surface. I like screens. The more the better. What a cool world I live in where I can drink my coffee from the comfort of the house and talk with people miles away before I’ve even stepped a foot out the door.

I didn’t think about it this morning but I’m thankful for the people who built those machines. Not to mention the wireless internet. I bet the inventors weren’t thinking about me. Nor the manufacturers. Or the technician who installed the internet service. They were just living their lives. Just like I was living mine.

I finished my second cup of java and poured the remaining contents into my steel Yeti cup. If you’ve never had one I highly recommend it. I still burn my tongue in the afternoon from coffee I poured in the morning. It’s fantastic. Those two guys that created it did me a solid. I tossed on real people clothes and headed out. It’s pretty cool to lock the door and leave all of my stuff behind each day. Remind me to thank somebody for that later.

For the past couple weeks I’ve been switching between talk radio and podcasts on my morning commute. Today it was talk radio. What good entertainment. There were several riffs about Chris Rock’s monologue last night. Some demonized. Some praised. After about the fifth election ad I settled on another station. It was one where people call in and talk about terrible dates. “Who listens to this shit?” I thought to myself as I became invested in Jessica’s story about Todd. It was clear the talk show hosts weren’t thinking about me. They were each just doing their thing. I’m glad they did. I got a kick out of it.

By the time I made it to work this morning I had probably benefitted from a few dozen other people, maybe even a few hundred. I hadn’t even spoken a word aloud to any of them. I just used their stuff. The products of their labor. The stuff I’d traded money for. It didn’t cross my mind. Today was just another Monday.

I bet none of those people thought of me today on their way to work either. It doesn’t bother me. I didn’t think of them. They were each just doing their own thing. Just like I’m doing mine.

Tonight I scrolled through my news feed. I saw a million more campaign ads. I tried to ignore it. I couldn’t. I ended up watching a few spoof videos. “Little Marco Rubio…the light weight…” I laughed. I liked. I scrolled on.

I started to fall asleep on the couch. I got up. I took a shower. I laid down for a few minutes. I began to drift off and the words Make America Great Again stirred me back to life.

I started thinking about all the individual actors whose labor had gotten me through the day. I’m glad I could trade my money for their products and services. I bet they weren’t thinking about me. They were each probably just doing their own thing. Just like I was doing mine.

I thought about my coffee drip-drip-dripping tomorrow morning. America’s pretty great already I guess.


“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.”

–Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol 1

 

 

 

 

For the Love of Words

Take-Home Message: Writing moves me. Writing composes my love affair with words.

Writer’s Note: I dedicate this piece to addressing the first questions submitted on the Ask Me page. Here are those questions: What is your process or procedure for writing?  Do you begin with an outline in mind?  Do you sit in front of a blank screen and wait for inspiration?  Do you have goals as far as length?  Do you edit as you go?

It would be unfair to attempt to answer these questions without first telling you the greatest love story of my life. I enjoyed learning and using new words from a young age, but the manifestation of my love for these words did not take root until a few years down the road. I always crushed on them, but I played hard to get. When I fell, though…well, the rest is just history. Here’s my story.

There are two important details from this story. The first being that as a tike Webster’s Dictionary was my favorite book. I filled notebook after notebook with words I found as I scoured through it on numerous evenings throughout my childhood. (I still have many of these sacred symbols of our love, too.)

The second aspect sets the tone for the rest of the story. It happened in eighth grade English class. I had a teacher with whom I did not see eye-to-eye (go figure). Nearly every day of the year, she wrote a prompt on the board at the front of the classroom and told us to get to work. I felt like both these assignments and being forced to stay locked up in a room with someone who I felt was failing at her job were both complete wastes of my time. I was wrong on both accounts. Boy, was I blindsided.

Love always finds us when we’re not looking for it, though, I think. I chose to undertake each assignment from a place of contempt. I’d ask myself, how can I earn an A without actually writing about the prompt? This is where I learned about flirting and foreplay–to brainstorm a while before spilling my guts on the paper, and to do so without caution. 

It was at this point, though, that I began to develop feelings for my craft. It wasn’t actually ever contempt at all, but the humble beginnings of a romance. And a strange romance it was indeed. I wrote about the most bizarre things in order to touch the prompts as lightly as possible–some might even say deranged.

I wrote about squirrels eating human faces.  I wrote about feral children running the world. I wrote about animals breaking free from city zoos, stampeding, and trampling innocent by-standers. I wrote about school shootings. I wrote about the horrors of war and the evil of bombings. And the list goes on and on… This is where I learned to write without limits. Some might even say that my approach to these assignments turned me into a lunatic of my own merit.

I’ll happily accept these indictments, though, because I pursue writing the same way I pursue all things I love: aggressively. I come on too strong. I vomit words that sound great until they’re out in the open. When that idea comes, I run, not walk.  I sometimes send vibes that I need you (the reader or audience) to love me back, to make me feel wanted, or to give me your undivided attention. I don’t. I’m independent in my creation process.

In fact, if I felt like I had an expectation from you or as if I knew what you wanted, it would entirely transform my writing into something that it’s not. I would stray from the topic, and this knowledge would become an unwanted distraction. Distractions not only slow down my productivity, they flat out irritate me. While writing, I remove all distractions. When I’m wooing the piece I’m writing, if I truly love it, I am absolutely, unabashedly devoted to it and only it.

As for length, I never think about how much will go into a piece of writing until well after it’s over. I begin each new piece as if I’ll love it forever, and I just love it the best I can until it feels like it’s come to an end. Sometimes, the words break up with me and simply stop flowing. Other times, I call it off, because I’ve come to resent what I once found to be beautiful. This is the only time I edit structure.

When this happens, I stop writing completely and I begin back at the beginning with an axe. I read through everything and I delete anything I find ugly, negative, or clashing with the overall arc. Sometimes it’s just to substitute a word. Sometimes it’s whole paragraphs. (It’s like couple’s therapy, really.)

Unless I come to despise the writing, though, I only spell and grammar check. I leave the rest in tact, as is. If I’ve loved the piece all the way through, or I felt like I was genuine in pouring out my soul, then I know there’s nothing that needs to be changed. I know that I left nothing unsaid and that what I said was precisely what I had to let out. It’s all exactly how I would have said it. It’s authentic.

When I find myself uncertain about my feelings for a particular piece, though–and, this happens quite often–I abort the mission. I’ll have one topic in mind and realize she’s not the one for me only a page in. I find myself being a phony in the pursuit of these topics, usually. Hell, sometimes I’ve written half a dozen pages before I’ve even found real inspiration. Usually the inspiration I find at this, is to hit Control A + Delete. It’s fake. Start over. We don’t do fake, here.

Of course, sometimes I feel as if there’s no love left, as if my love for the words has gone stagnant. I can’t find even the slightest spark. It’s these times, when I force myself to work through the struggles, to fight for my love of the words, that the flowers smell the sweetest. This is when writing hurts. This is when I’m the most honest, because I have to write about myself. I have to dump my flaws, pains, sorrows, and feelings into a piece. It becomes personal. It becomes confessional.

But, when I finish those pieces, I feel the best. It’s like making up after a fight. Or embracing the words after they’ve hurt me. That’s when I know how much the words really mean to me, and that my love for the words is real. And the whole romance comes full circle, my love for the words awakens anew, in a different light, and in a later chapter…the words begin to flow once more, effortlessly, and the story goes on.