Writing Practice 11/23/2019

Write without purpose. Let the words flow freely. Do not impede their progress, from Muse to brain to pen to paper, but let them allow them encourage them to express themselves in your presence.

Become their conduit, rather than their dam. Become a gate through which they flow, rather than a barrier blocking their passage from the universe to your audience. See yourself not so much as a writer, or artist, or sculptor, as if you have the power, as if you have agency over the final form. But, rather, see ourself as the liberator, the catalyst, the accelerator of the birth and emergence of ideas, which once were clouded in the obscurity of the quantum foam, and which, through you, have been able finally to find their true expression, their fullness of being, their own transcendence of the chains holding them back from their truest, fullest, most complete and satisfying existence.

For is that not truly what all things, beings, even ideas, want? To achieve their potential? To make as large an impact on this universe as they are called to achieve?

To be anything less, then, is to laugh at the judgment of those who designed these spaces, these worlds, these modes of expression, and to say to them, “Bah, forget you, I know better than you do how high I can rise, how complete I can be, how fully my heart can be, and, contrary to your exalted expectations, honestly, I must say, you were quite mistaken. Would that I could reach so high! Alas, it is your error in judgment, then, that we expose here today. You aimed too high for me. I, on the other hand, have achieved exactly what I believed, and, truly, know could be done, at the limits of my performance.

This is, let me remind you, absolutely not my failure to achieve the plans you have set in place for me and my benefit and my success and my happiness. Could I have more? Oh, if it were only so easy! But the fault, then, is clearly yours. Do you not see that in fact I have truly reached my limit? Fret yourself not over my ‘failings.’ It is not I who have missed the mark, but instead it is you, you power, you divinity, with your overestimation, with your naïveté to the reality of the situation, with your foolhardy expectation of a life that, clearly, I am not bound or able to live. Shall we all agree in that, everyone would be much better off.”

Do you see, then, how your arrogance plays out in limiting you? Turn not to your own small [illegible], therefore. Believe not the small, limiting voice in your head. Listen, instead to the wide, grand, aspirational call from afar, and seek and strive and achieve the great heights to which you are truly destined.

A Philosophy of Life (unrefined essay)

Writing Practice 7/25/2019

My philosophy of life is…

My philosophy of life is still evolving. It’s never going to be completely static and arrived. That would be a naive way to view the world, as if you had arrived and had all the answers. We’re not Budhha over here. Which means we will constantly need to adapt our philosophy of life to new situations, new experiences, new people, who come into our lives. We need to recognize this dynamic nature, so that we don’t consider ourselves stuck, or stable, or solid, and get so entrenched in those ways, and so enamored with our own selves, that we cannot do any kind of modification at all when the time necessary for adaptation emerges.

Not to say we adjust according to every whim, every new fad in society. But we do recognize that there may be times when what we previously thought becomes insufficient to comport with the whole of the world presented to us, around us, beside and above us. We must, therefore, continually test and evolve to and refine our philosophies of life, even if those refinements are no more than to say, “yes, this philosophy also works well in that new situation.”

For us to wholesale, grand scale, top-to-bottom and soup to nuts try to remake our philosophies, though, is too large an undertaking. We shall be in a state of constant adjustment, whipsawing back and forth between extremes, with no real progress ever made towards the goal. And, since each philosophy of life shall have a different goal, one will hardly ever have the chance of Obtaining it, and either finding it a worthy goal or finding it wanting, should we continuously choose to bounce, to alternate back and forth between such options.

It is for this reason, much like the coxswain in the scull, that I advocate smaller and smaller steps of change each time, moving approximately half of your deficit each time. So, for example, suppose you’re starting out at the origin of a plane. You have two axes, the X and the Y. You decide that your best philosophy of life is designed to send you as far along the Y axis as possible. As much “UP” as you could go, as it were. Suppose, then, that you stat out living life, and find yourself traveling, or even just pointing, “EAST”, along that X- axis. Do you, immediately, slam on the brakes, and try to come to a full and complete stop?

Well, you could. Or, you could take the same energy you would use to stop, and you could simply apply pressure in the “UP” direction. Yes, you’d still going east, somewhat, but you would also be now heading more towards the UP than you were before.

Suppose it works. As it should. Eventually you may find that you have overshot your Y-axis, and are now headed a bit WEST-UP, UP-WEST, UP-LEFT, whatever. At this point, do you once again apply so much UP-RIGHT pressure as to continue to go back and forth across the axis?

No, if you are smart you will, after the first overcorrection, go less-right and more-up; if as, to be expected, you overshoot once more, your error will likely be less than it was originally. Continue to aim for your target, but with smaller and smaller corrective actions, and you will eventually eliminate your overshoots, and you will start to simply approach your goal, to be lived however and whatever and wherever it becomes you.

 

 

How To Write A Book Review

I recently finished reading 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Petersen. If you’re not familiar with the man, his book does provide a little history of his rise to recent prominence. I only found out about him in the last 6 months, from seeing some YouTube lectures on the nature of humanity, psychology, and various other subjects. Millions of others are like me in that they didn’t know about this former Harvard professor and clinical psychologist until he garnered quite a bit of attention for a political position about compelled speech, for the fact that the alt-right has commandeered some of his arguments to bolster their position, and for the fact that he’s quite solidly against some of the feel-good trends of the day.

Not getting into those here.

Instead, I’m going to write a little rant about book reviews.

It’s weird. Many book reviews are often not reviews, but summaries. I blame 11th Grade English teachers.

In their insistence that we answer exactly the question they’ve asked, with exactly the facts they wish to hear, but written “in your own words”, they’ve trained us less to think critically and more to paraphrase. This comes out when you look at the multitude of reviews on Amazon.com (or any other review platform). Most of the time, these are simply restatements of fact about the book, rather than their own impressions of the book’s content, how it made them feel, or what they take away from it.

And let’s not confuse a “rating” (1 star, 2 stars, etc.) with a “review”. A rating is an objective ranking. This is better than that. Those over there are worse than these here. A review is a subjective evaluation. This spoke to me. I appreciated parts here and there. Generally they’re correlated, but not equal. That is, most of the time you have a positive rating you also have a positive review. But sometimes not. I think it is entirely possible to have a 1-star rating with a “positive” review. That is, someone could find the format absolutely terrible (1-star) and disagree with the conclusions, yet still respect the arguments laid out within(“positive” review).

Which is why we need to have more critical reviews out in the public sector. But, ironically, not too many. Currently, Amazon.com has 4,878 reviews of 12 Rules for Life. I imagine B&N.com has thousands more, not to mention Goodreads and an uncountable number of independent opinions hosted on blogs or other smaller sites. If I read even a small fraction of all of those, I would easily spend longer on that task than the 15 or 16 hours I spent reading the text. Would that be worth my time? Probably not. I’d do much better to read a few and make a decision based on that information and spend the majority of my time with the actual book.

But where to start?

I’m sure that’s why Amazon introduce the [HELPFUL] button. This allows me to see whether other readers of this review have found value from the review. A meta-review, as it were. But doesn’t this also contribute to the problem of social conditioning and trending and social signaling? As more people find a particular review “helpful”, Amazon drives that review upward in the feed, creating a feedback loop in which I as a user don’t get the chance to experience the whole range of reviews, only the lucky leaders which came in to the process early, and have been promoted not necessarily because of quality, but simply because of quantity (of “helpful” ratings earlier than those which came later and are, unfortunately, buried too far back in the queue to ever get a chance at visibility).

Back to the review vs. summary discussion, what ends up happening is that many of those summaries are not helpful. They are not rated as such by readers. Good reviews, though, as actual reviews which provide insights, now take prominence because we, as readers, don’t want to waste our time reading unhelpful summaries. So we want to read the most helpful reviews, often of the value which we believe we’ll end up holding after we read the text! That is, if I think I’ll like it, I’m mostly going to spend time reading 5-star reviews. If I think I’ll hate it, I’m probably going to be waist-deep in 1-stars.

Ironically, and unfortunately, this confirmation bias problem drives a narrowing of the perspectives we are likely to see when considering a book. How many people read the 5 “most helpful” of each of the 5-star reviews, 4-star reviews, 3-star reviews, 2-star reviews, and 1-star reviews? Not many. We often read a couple of 5-stars, and validate our own internal prejudiced decisions we’ve already emotionally made with reference to these “independent” observers.

I think that’s a bad way to go about it. I don’t think this gives us a broad base of knowledge on which to base a conclusion. Instead, it feeds the brain’s energy-saving decision shortcuts

So. I there a way to fix this? I don’t know. Limit the # of reviews? Create an algorithm within Amazon’s display that forces a random review to be shown, rather than the “most helpful”? Cycle through on a first-written-first-shown basis so that each has a chance to be seen in equal measure? I don’t know the right answer.

Right now we’re getting the same sort of ineffective (destructive?) virtue-signaling and trend-whoring that we all complain about in social media. For the information industry (book publishing, lectures, blogging, etc.), which is so critical to the healthy function of a society, we may be running dangerously low on healthy debate, dissent, and critical thinking. Because we all want “the best” (again for a multitude of reasons), yet we’re not willing to go through the difficult process of evaluating for ourselves what the best might be.

Perhaps having a conversation around what it is we seek to accomplish through reviews, ratings, and the entire feedback process is warranted. I’ll leave that to someone else to organize.

SJ

P.S. I realize this essay doesn’t make much sense. Probably because I’m thinking as I write. I reserve the right to review and revise later.

P.P.S. I guess the least I could do is give you my review. Link here:

See below for text. You’re welcome.

P.P.P.S. I gave the book a 5-star rating and a positive review. It’s unlikely anyone will ever see that review and make a decision because of it, because now this review is buried a hundred pages back.

I don’t write many reviews on Amazon. They’re often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of everything else, so it feels as if I’m simply shouting into the void. Because…

This book needs no additional 5-star review. There are plenty of them already. This book needs no additional commentary – there is plenty of that already. This book, this author, needs no additional puffing up of his reputation – there’s plenty of that done by the Patreon subscribers and the purchasers of his other books. And yet…

In keeping with the rules that say “Tell the truth – or at least, don’t lie” and “Be precise in your speech,” I offer this rating and review in order to be consistent with the pull in my innermost Being, to respond to what I have just read and to share my thoughts, regardless of their receipt.

Thank you, Mr. Peterson. Thank you for saying, eloquently, what many of us have felt within our own spirit for years now. That this life is not easy. That there are hard things to do, and hard ways of doing them. That we’re not all badasses, that we’re not all going to win. That we must work, because of reasons outside our control, but despite that work and those obstacles we can still create within ourselves a life that is meaningful, that reaches for higher values. A life that represents better, a better Being, and strives agains the Chaos around us.

All should read this book. Not all will. And even of those who do, some shall be put off by the many references to God and Christianity and the Bible as authoritative. That’s a disappointment. For, even if one does not hold that same philosophy (as I do not), one should admit that, in accord with one of the rules, that this other person, this author (who has striven to bring your life additional Order) has something to say. Not just something for the sake of saying something, just to be heard and followed mindlessly in order to inflate an ego out of selfish desires, but something important and, ultimately, valuable as you strive to create a life you can be proud to leave behind.

Writing Practice – 4/16/2019

chaos

Chaos abounds in the darkness. In the light, even if there is motion, or disorganization, or interaction, or conflict, these are all seen, are all understood, are all mapped inside our consciousness and prepared for, planned for, contemplated by those lovely lumps of brains atop our spinal cord, and we have no fear. We do not stress. We do not wonder. Seeing is believing? No, seeing is truth, and acceptability, and regularity, and pattern, even if it is wild, incoherent, and random-ish.

But in the dark, in the absence of light, in the places where you sense with infrared and ultraviolet in the realm of navigating the world through our other nine senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing, balance, time, ESP), these are still not enough for us, for humans, to feel as if we have control of the situation. For is that not what chaos really is, but lack of control? We may not have authority over the teeming mass of wandering hordes out for destruction, yet if we see them we fear them much, much less than when they come under cover of darkness.

No other sense, no other attribute, contributes as much to our fear as our lack of vision. Were we to see but not hear, their terror in us would, paradoxically, be lessened, for that is one which, by its absence, reduces th threat. We don’t believe silent things can hurt us. For, what do we fear more, the snake’s rattle or the owl’s quiet wingbeats? precisely.

We fear those things which are loud, and unseen, and so adding a chorus of clanging boots and rattling armor to the darkest night is a combination fit to turn even the most self-professed brave soul into a withering baby. This combination takes away the one sense which adds assurance, sight, and adds another element which increases terror in its own right, sound.

The others – smell, taste, touch, we are too undeveloped in yet to have a way to know whether these will increase or decrease our fear. At long distance, that is. In the immediate presence, if you can smell the putrid, rotting flesh of the zombie horde, you may as well give up, because if they’re close enough for you to smell, they’ll be on top of you soon enough. And at the same time, touch, taste, require a physical intimacy which beggars belief of fear. So, then, this fear of the unknown, this fear of change, of the “other” out there, is heightened, and is birthed out of, chaos, disorder, unreality, irrationality, and the way the world works is far, far beyond our own mortal capacity to understand. WE have limited scope of using our brains, and we have devoted much of that to sensing in the visible spectrum. When a creepy-crawling comes approaching outside of that spectrum, then is when our distrust kicks in, our fear of chaos (destruction, impermanence, intransigence, ending, power, power to finalize, power to transform, power to erode) takes over, and we turn away as soon as possible, as strongly as possible, and we seek out that alternative, of places of light, and order, and permanence, and connectivity.

***

Commentary: So, this isn’t a great essay. It doesn’t hold any special revelations. I didn’t find any unique turns of phrase. I didn’t really “lose control” at the end. I felt like I sort of stopped a couple of times along the way, and just sort of plodded through it all. I could go back and edit, to make it flow better, to make it more impactful. It doesn’t even really end well. So why do I post it? Why do I let you see it? Why do I expose my soft underbelly of semi-incompetence?

Trust me, it’s not to fish for compliments. If that were so, I’d be ultra-negative on myself and expect someone, anyone, any reader, to correct me and tell me it’s fine, it’s great, it’s still inspiring. No, I don’t do this to garner sympathy or comments or feel-good-ness.

I post this in its mediocrity as it is because that’s what writing is about.

Writing is about doing the writing. Writing is about doing it even when it doesn’t feel great, even when it’s kind of boring at the end and you’re like, “yeah, nobody’s ever going to read that.” And you know what? They’re probably not. But you do it anyway. Because that’s how you get through the really low periods to the points where it’s great, where your pen is just banging, where you’re in the flow and you’ve got it all good and things just couldn’t get any better. Those things don’t just happen because you decided to show up once or twice or even ten times. Those things come when you’ve put in the work, when you’ve been steady and faithful to the muse, and when hit happens… damn. There’s nothing like it. So that’s why you write the crap pieces, the drudgery, the stuff about chaos and leadership and boring descriptions of shoes and conversations. So that you’re there and ready to strike when called. If you’re skipping out, you’re missing out.

Extremely Bad Advice – Losing A Limb, Gaining A Life

Okay, I’m stealing this one from Reddit. Apparently these people don’t know I’m available, or they wouldn’t be wasting their time with piddling “it’ll get better, just wait” pablum.

Hi Reddit, So as the title says, my Step-Dad, whom I’m very close to, had an accident at home on the weekend. We have all been left quite traumatised by the events. He was cutting thru mortar to remove limestone blocks, and the blade got stuck and kicked back, into his lower arm.

It severed his artery and he was bleeding out. My mum was at home but couldn’t hear him yelling (very big house). He shoved his other fist into his wound and walked to their door. He couldn’t take his hand out to open door or bang on door, so he banged on it with his head. When that failed he walked down to the driveway because, as he explained, he was bleeding out and all he could think was he was going to die alone and didn’t say goodbye to anyone.

He lay on the driveway yelling for help and luckily a neighbour drove past and saw him. Other people came and got my mum. There was a nurse there too, thank God. Ambulance was called and my mum called me, screaming to get my step-sisters and I to him because he was losing too much blood. I was with 1 of my sisters at the time and 6 of our kids. The kids (between 5 and 10 years of age) saw the fallout of that, us crying and panicking etc. They seem to be ok.

He got to hospital where they gave him ketamine to knock him out. Surgery followed to reattach his arm and nerves etc and he is currently undergoing more surgery right now. They say he lost so much muscle, he may never regain feeling. He can move his fingers though. He is a very physical man, a builder by trade, and is always building and fixing things. This will destroy him. He is 63 years old and now needs years of rehab.

My mum and Step-Dad have enough savings to survive for a few years. My mum works too. It was his left arm affected and he is right-handed, small mercies. We are all deeply affected by nearly losing him. He does so much for everyone and the thought that he nearly died alone is awful. My mum has major guilt about not hearing him. I know we are blessed he is still with us, but the trauma in that moment is still lingering.

What can we do now to make his life/their lives easier?

**

Okay, sounds like a bad situation. First part of my answer is, don’t listen to my advice. It’s extremely bad. Nobody should listen to this advice. Got that, those of you reading at home? Don’t listen to this advice! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Second part, of three, is that you’re going to have to put some money out of your pocket for a few months. At least until your dad gets moderate use of his hand back. Let me explain.

Judging by your use of the word “mum” and misspelling of “neighbor” as “neighbour”, I conclude that you are located somewhere in England. This means your procedures and operations and therapy will be covered by the National Health Service. I have two thoughts on that.

One, you will get what you need, but not all of what you need. Oh, you’ll get the surgeries and the physical therapy and the emotional counseling and all that, but that’s only half the picture. My other mind tells me that since your father is now hideously deformed, much is going to change between him and your mum. Due to not only the physical change, but her feeling like she must be “delicate” with him while he recovers, and that she feels she must care for him during his convalescence, she will no longer find him sexually attractive. Instead, she will see him as a “project”, a work to be completed, and she will therefore pull away physically out of fear of hurting him, as well as due to the time constraints and the stress.

At the same time, he will begin to feel like less of a man, less of a provider, hell, less of a human being, because he can no longer do the things he had previously done. This will drain his libido and lead to a downward spiral in which he does not improve because he doesn’t see any benefit to it, and because his wife, your mum, is acting aloof and “strange” to him.

This cycle will continue to build, albeit beneath the surface, because nobody wants to admit their true feelings about the situation, until it blows up into a destructive case of anger and, paradoxically, depression, driving your mum into the arms of Trevor down the street, because at least he listens! When the truth comes out, the downfall continues: your step-dad feels even more humiliated, incompetent, impotent, deformed, and unworthy.

His depression deepens and eventually their split becomes permanent, and he’s on the dole while your mum and Trevor are snogging nightly, bemoaning the fact that if they’d just admitted their feelings years ago, they could be on the beaches in the south of France these days, taking it easy. Meanwhile your step-dad spirals downward into a whiskey-fueled haze combined with a fanatical obsession over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s neckties. Now, nobody wants that; but you can avoid it by the following actions, and here’s where the money comes in, because the NHS doesn’t cover “emotional support concubines”:

Once a week, you hire a hooker to hit on your step-dad. [You’re in England, so, small mercies, this isn’t so frowned upon as here in the U.S. Good for you guys.] Prepare her, and pay her to be ready for, giving your father a handjob, though encourage her to allow him to stop her whenever he wishes. This will make him feel attractive, make him feel worthy, and, if he goes through with it, give him the sexual satisfaction neither he nor your mum is prepared to provide during his recovery. He’s busy thinking about staying alive, not about getting off, and she’s thinking about keeping him alive, not about getting him off. But this way, he still feels like a man, and he has options: accept the hooker’s advances and get his rocks off (lessening the stress), or reject her and have a great story to tell your mum in order to solidify their relationship.

This will probably need to last about eighteen months. After that time, his therapy will be done, and they’ll have figured out their “new normal”, which will likely include some kind of cosplay, generally around the “Captain Hook” theme. They’ll be good to go, although you won’t want to ask them for any stories after their anniversary nights out on the town. Good news is you can stop the hooker. Or you can give her my number and pre-pay for a little long-distance “talk therapy”, if you get my drift. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

I mentioned that there were three parts to my answer. That was the second. The third is this, and while you may think that part 2 was bad, just wait.

I advise you to convince your step-dad to amputate his arm, preferably as quickly as possible. The physical and mental trauma and struggle he’ll have to go through over the next handful of years to overcome his disfigurement and disablement is just not going to be worth it. Prosthetics are fantastic these days! He’ll actually be vastly more functional in a dramatically shorter time frame if he replaces, rather than “saving”, his arm and rehab from there. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to pull the old switcheroo as he self-deludes more and more into the idea that he’ll be better off with half his original hand.

But, in reality, his “healing” will be a much, much longer process if he has to view daily reminders of how much he’s lost, and how insufficient his “recovery” will ever be.

Now, how do you convince him to do it? Well, you probably won’t. Which is where you’ll have to take matters into your own hand. Literally. Go back out to his driveway and find that angle-grinder or whatever it was, and finish the job. Use a torniquet (I bet that’s how you’d spell it) tied off at the elbow so he doesn’t bleed out, but just throw that leftover hunk to the stray dogs in the street and apply to the NHS for a prosthetic. The trauma will be over much quicker, and your step-dad will, in the end, thank you once he realizes you’ve actually shortened his grieving period and given him a far superior solution to having something that looks like, and is about as useful as, beef jerky dangling from his elbow.

Cheers!

When You Go And Do A Thing

So, yeah… A while ago, and pretty recently, I wrote stories, and this year I put them together, edited them, formatted them, got a cover, went through the rigamarole of signing up on Amazon, added things like bank account numbers for payment, ordered proof copies, marked them up, resubmitted texts for print and ebook, reordered proof copies, marked those up, re-resubmitted texts, ordered more proof copies, got e-mails from Amazon that my cover was wrong by 0.05 fucking inches!, stressed out, freaked out, ordered a new cover from my cover designer, got antsy, did it myself, reuploaded the cover and resubmitted the book, got antsy and called Customer Service to see if I could expedite processing and approval, got shot down, had to learn how to sit on my hands to wait, RECEIVED APPROVAL!!!, ordered 50 copies for the Book Launch party, freaked out that they wouldn’t arrive in time, calmed down once they’d been finally shipped and scheduled for delivery, FREAKED OUT AGAIN when the delivery was delayed due to “inclement weather” (pfft – natural disasters, who the fuck cares?), called Amazon already like seventeen times [yes, I exaggerate. It’s a coping mechanism] this morning to learn that indeed, the delivery is scheduled for today, FREAKED OUT YET AGAIN upon learning that the delivery window is anytime between 8 am and 9 PM {FFFFFffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu………….}, took a deep breath, and said, “I believe it will all work out.”

And so, there you have it. That’s how you publish a book, my friends. Thirty-seven simple steps, and you only have to freak out like nineteen times! Why wouldn’t everyone want to do this?

 

PS: Never in my life have I been prouder to be ranked #6,846! (as of 8:35 am Central Standard Time, Monday, March 4).

Writing Practice – 2/25/2019

A walk in the woods…

Footsteps crunch on brittle lanes. Pebbles scatter before the toe of my boot, startling and chasing away small creatures of 4 legs or no legs, the brown-and-green-and-yellow of a garter snake just barely registering in my mind before it disappears again into the underbrush. I hear chickadees calling, twit-tweet, twit-tweet, echoed falsely by jays, robins, maybe even a crow or a raven. I walk in my ignorance, knowing names of things, but not essences. I can hear bird songs, identifying that they are different, but I am no ornithologist. I cannot, with any certainty at all tell you which is the robin and which is the cardinal’s song. I can recognize their picture, but everything else is a false front. I know nothing for real; all I list on these walks is impostering.

I cannot tell you the difference between granite, quartz, shale, limestone, other than that they will be found in different layers, exposed as the winding streams have cut mercilessly into their hillsides over the last ten million years. Which must mean, then, that those same hillsides are far older than that, right? Which came first, ended up at the bottom of that pile, and will be exposed last: limestone or igneous rocks? See, I cannot even be sure I have the right kinds and thin categories. I have many facts within my head, but little use of them.

I cannot tell you, again, with any kind of certainty, whether you are looking at an aspen, a maple, or a boxwood cedar. I think I could reasonably tell you which is a birch, and maybe an oak; yet to distinguish an apple tree form a box elder would take much more expertise than I can bring.

It’s not that that I am ignorant. I care. I do. When I am in that environment, active, embedded, I listen to my guides and gurus, I understand what they say, I nod along when they explain how the leaves of this species are identified by the thick veining pattern on the underside of their leaves. I pay close attention as she points out the differences in this bark from that. I strain my hearing and indicate, with a subtle nod, that yes, I do hear the differences between the twoot-twoot-twoot of the whippoorwill and the tip-tip-toop-tip of the nuthatch. I concentrate, hard and expressively, on every word that helps me to differentiate the bluebells from the lady slippers growing beside the path. I am a good student, the best, and I ask insightful, meaningful questions, ones that inspire my guide, impress them with my ability to make connections between fauna and flora, that show I am not only paying attention, but that I care, and I will continue to care in the future, and that perhaps they have convinced another disciple, they have converted another recruit, they have a future bird-watcher or tree-hugger or trail-sustainer in their midst, and all their effort has not gone to waste, that I will come alongside them, and will come along behind them, and I will pick up their convservationist bent, and I will continue their work after they are gone, and I will pass that love and passion on to another and another, and another, and these great resources, these great forests, these trees and trails and pine-needle-strewn meadows, they will never disappear, they will always be with us, they will always remind us of our responsibility to care, to husband, to shepherd the world around us, as our responsibility and our privilege for the privilege of living the blessed life we do.

I will let them believe this, for I am a good person, and, then, I will finish my tour, I will walk out of the woods, I will knock the dust off my boots at the edge of the parking lot, and with that dust will fall my intention, my memory, my insightfulness, my burden to carry on their passion, their love of nature, their desire to see this world thrive for generations, centuries, millennia to come, and I will return to my life, my world, retaining nothing more of my experience than a few more names to add to the list of near-meaningless facts accumulating within my mind.