One the first day of Hanukkah, my true love gave to me . . .
Yep. It’s that time of year when latkes sizzle and candle flames flicker.
And let’s not forget the old saw about the miracle of a small amount of oil lasting for eight nights.
But for me the real miracle is that a small band of determined and incredibly outnumbered people fought for the freedom to worship, to believe in their own way, and actually won.
I don’t know about you, but I think about freedom a lot:
Physical freedom from slavery, hunger and disease
Political freedom to express opinions, to vote
Creative freedom to think differently, to break the chains of our self-imposed limitations
Yet all of us are prisoners. We embrace “conventional wisdom” without thinking about it. We often succumb – willingly – to a negative status quo.
When I stop to think about my writing and career, I’m agog at all the truisms I’ve bought into without question:
No one respects creativity anymore
Writers must market to be successful
Piracy is inevitable
More editing = better work
No one reads anymore
The list goes on and on . . .
I’m not saying that the above – and the many more givens I accept – don’t hold grains of truth. I’m just sayin’ that maybe I’ve spent more time responding to them rather than thinking about how much they’re true in the first place.
So . . . this Hanukkah, my first present to all of you is in the form of a wish:
May you all experience the miracle of questioning, of looking anew at your long-held beliefs. And may you free yourselves from those that are holding you back in your personal and professional life.
The videos below are my second present to you. All of them blast away at certain kinds of conventions. I hope you enjoy them
1. Dar Williams sings “The Christians and the Pagans”
I love this song for the message of putting aside differences — if only for an evening — and learning to find “common ground.” (Sorry to include a link rather than embedding, but this is the best quality link to really hear the words.)
2. Danny Macaskill rides his bicycle in ways that’ll blow your mind.
3. Paddy Jones dances at Spain’s big talent show.
Ms. Jones is a 75-year old woman who can dance a mean salsa. Even though the quality of the video isn’t as good as I’d wish, it’s message comes through.
Questions for discussion:
What are some of the positive or injurious conventions you see out there in the reading and writing world?
Have you rejected a conventional wisdom lately? If so, what was it?
Positive: I can read anything I desire.
Most things that I’d like to read are available to me.
Negative: Reading is not enjoyable to some people, in fact, they take pride in not even reading a newspaper. I think it is school systems that take the love of it out for some and the parents don’t help.
Positive: However, reading and books in whatever form will never go away. There will always be writers wanting/needing to tell a story.
The oil lasted eight CRAZY nights… Oh, wait. That was Adam Sandler, not John Maccabes. Sorry.
You really nailed those conventions on the nose. Isn’t it amazing how much *is* available for us to read — at least here in the US — we really are fortunate.
RE: School killing the love of reading . . .
Yeah, I’m sure that happens. It didn’t to me. And my parents didn’t love to read, but they tried to get me to. I just had to find the path myself anyway. But those who are proud of not reading? Where did they come from?
And YES! Thank goodness there will always be readers and writers. Thank goodness.
Thanks for the smile. I almost put Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song up AND Neil Diamond’s cover of the same song (Yeah, can you believe it?).
The whole "magic" of the eight days is interesting to me. I’m perfectly willing to believe it, to believe it was a miracle. But I think that just like the true meaning of Christmas gets lost in an astounding wave of consumerism, the meaning of Hanukkah gets suborned by the trite "miracle."
Danny’s not RIDING that bike, he’s muscling it. Dang, that’s good.
The conventional wisdom I’ve decided not to buy into? "You have to write at least a book a year or you’ll lose your audience."
Good for you, Louise. And it’s especially true, I think, for people who write powerful books — memorable books — and your works are definitely in that category.
I mean, look at Harper Lee, she’s still celebrated and never got on to any treadmill in the first place.
Paddy Jones – There is much better footage on the Spanish TV Website http://www.telecinco.es/tusiquevales/
Philip Jones (The dancing Grannie’s youngest son)
Thank you. I did a search but didn’t find that link.
Of course, it just hit me that YOU’RE Phil — the "Grannie’s" youngest grandson.
You must be so pleased and proud.
I can tell you this, I want to be your grandmother. She’s really a marvelous inspiration because she really dances — it’s not some weird pity or "oh, isn’t she lovely for a 75-year old." It’s that she’s darn good.
Thank you for including Dar’s song. It’s one of my absolute favorites!
I think miracles come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re frequently overlooked because they’re often quite small.
Happy Hanukkah, Pari!
And thank you for your comment. I think miracles are what we make of them. Don’t you? I mean, it still astounds me that an entire plant can come from a minuscule seed. Or . . . that the sun rises each day.
Ooh, thank you! I’ve really been wrestling with these demons recently – I’m too old, my law job takes up too much time, I don’t have enough time to write and edit and market anything decent and – worst of all – I’m boring don’t have "it" (and that’s why you are a business lawyer and not a creative success).
Bah humbug to every one of them. Yes I’m 40, but I didn’t have insight into quality storytelling and the human heart when I was 25 (from 28 on I was in law school or law and often too busy to have any insight). Yes I’m busy but I can always carve out 1-2 hours. Yes I am interesting and creative – back in your hole, nasty little voice.
Thank you thank you thank you for reminding me to tell the nasty little voices to stuff it and get back to work (law work until this evening when I’ll sit down with my Neo and work on more of a story with the good criminal tax stuff I pick up at work).
And THANK YOU, MJ!!!
Thank you for "getting" what I was trying to do. I am just so happy that you shoved those nasty voices right where they belong.
Isn’t it astounding what we do to ourselves without even realizing it? I’m constantly amazed at the myths I’m living by, ones that I’ve accumulated without any discretion whatsoever.
I think we need to do these check-ups at least once a month.
Hey, maybe that would be a good New Year resolution . . .
"May you all experience the miracle of questioning, of looking anew at your long-held beliefs. And may you free yourselves from those that are holding you back in your personal and professional life."
In the Florida Writers Association blog, I’ve spent a lot of time lately questioning some of the conventional wisdom of your (and hopefully someday my) industry. For instance, when digital publishing takes off, and it will, what does Stephen King need with a publisher? Why not just post his books to his website, get them listed on Amazon and BN and be done with it? As technology advances, why have a whole bookstore, when you can print books on demand from digital masters and save yourself the floorspace and accompanying costs?
As we’re in the holiday season, one of the coolest, best-kept secrets about being Catholic (or, as I like to say "Papist") is that we’re supposed to question things and inform our conscience and make the best decision based on that information. It’s one of the reasons I’m not a cradle Catholic any more. (Cradle Papist wrecks the alliteration.) It’s a good approach to other stuff in life, too.
OJ Simpson. STILL not a jew.
I’ve been flaunting conventional wisdom for many years now. But then again, I’m a contrarian anyway. : )
Seriously, if I listened to the naysayers, I’d live a boring life. We all have to follow our hearts to our own happiness.
I wish I’d had your around when I wrote the article about a magnificent santero here in New Mexico — Jose Ramon Lopez. One of the things I wanted to show somehow is that his works demand (and he demands this of himself too) that people go deeper, look deeper. If I’d had that bit of Catholic doctrine, I would’ve been better informed.
And, yeah . . . not too shabby.
You’ve been an original for a very long time. That’s part of the fun of knowing you.
Thanks for this post, Pari. I skimmed it rather quickly this morning, but thought about it off and on today. I’m very good at challenging and questioning the status quo and conventional wisdom of others. I excel at seeing things from a different (often warped) perspective. But too often I fail when it comes to challenging my own perception about what is possible and, specifically, what I am capable of doing. It’s an ongoing battle with myself, this fight for freedom.
I’m glad it made you think. It’s so much easier to see the limitations others impose upon themselves. But the benefits of looking within, of waging the battle for our own personal freedom, prod us forward even in the simple act of looking . . .