Tag Archives: inspiration

Top Five: Historical Moments

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as the momentous inauguration tomorrow, today’s top five is: in no particular order (unless you wanna), which five events or moments in history strike a chord with you, inspire you, or otherwise give you the warm fuzzies? It has nothing to do with which you feel are most important, because I feel like that judgment would be impossible (for me anyway.)

My top five historical moments:

1. Rosa Parks on the bus- the fact that a regular person did a small act that was also a large, difficult act, reminds me that I, too, should be standing up or sitting down or whatever it takes to point out injustice and make things right.

2. Samantha Smith – In 1982, a 10 year old girl named Samantha Smith from Mancester, Maine wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov expressing her fear that a nuclear war would occur between the Soviet Union and the US. I was about her age and suffered similar nightmares. She was invited to go to the Soviet Union, and hearing about her trip was, seriously, one of the first moments when I realized that citizens of the Soviet Union were not monsters but ate breakfast and stubbed their toes just like Americans. It is also inspirational to me that a little girl could engage in dialogue with a world leader.

3. The invention of the printing press (so many books… so little time…)

4. Development of agriculture – the transition from a nomadic, hunting/gathering/gee-I-wonder-if-we’re-going-to-eat-or-be-eaten kind of community to a settled down, looking-out-over-my-fields-with-a-shotgun kind of life definitely appeals to me. I like me some illusion of security!

5. Obama’s victory – I know it’s not very imaginative, but I would feel dishonest leaving it out. I got a serious jolt of hope out of this past election, and I am eager for the country to get started on the next four years. I think it is a moment reminiscent of the 1960’s when people came together in a wave of energy to make things happen. Not the acid trips or the love fests, I mean the kind of action that came about through the inspiration of Dr. King and Rosa Parks and all the other heroes of the day.

So what moments in history move you?

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My Original Inspiration

When listing my favorite writers, my husband comes second, then Ousmane Sembène, Carlos Fuentes, Assia Djebar, and Beryl Markham.  It’s impossible to list every author I admire and can’t get enough of, so I just toss out whichever names come to mind at the time.

But my husband is always second.  And the name I always put first, and I know my husband doesn’t mind, is my father, Lewis Horton. 

A few months ago my Dad sent me an article from his local paper written about his recent publication of a short story in an anthology called Big Water.  He has one whole shelf of a bookcase filled with anthologies and magazines that he’s been published in over the years.  

But that shelf is not the reason I list him first.

I have watched him practice his craft since my earliest memories.  Every evening he would retire to his bedroom where he had a desk and a typewriter (now he has a computer and an office in his home).  He would be in there for at least three hours.  

A few years ago he finally had his first book published: Escape From Mexico.  It is a memoir of his adventure on a weekend leave in Mexico while he was in the US Army.  It is a funny and exciting story, so well written that at the end, when he is describing his escape from a Mexican prison, I couldn’t help wondering if he made it out alive, even though I knew perfectly well he was sitting at home the very moment I was reading it!  I admire him so much for teaching me that even if it takes 20 or 30 years, you can get published.

And now, after over five years of trying to sell his second book, he has again succeeded.  I don’t even know the title yet, but I will definitely post an update when it gets closer to publication.

He is also my favorite writer because when I read his stuff, it is a guaranteed laugh.  I’m not sure if other people find it as gut-bustingly hilarious as I do, because they don’t have the added advantage I have of being able to hear his voice and see the facial expressions he would be using when telling the story.  Reading his work is never just me in my own head digesting meaning; it has visual and audio effects as well, which makes for a lot of fun.  Any sense of humor I have I attribute to his example and influence.

I got a lot of great stuff from my mother as well, just as good but in a whole other realm, interests such as cooking and baking, sewing, gardening, mothering, and having faith.  I owe her just as big.

But when I see his picture in that newspaper clipping, holding up a book in which yet another of his stories has been published, and when I hear that, finally, he will have another book on the shelves, I am proud that I have a father who had a dream, went for it, and continues to pursue his craft and explore his talent.  I hope I have inherited at least some of his determination, and that I can be even half as successful.

Thanks, Dad.

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Slacker gone hopeful

It really feels odd.  I’m not one to drone endlessly on the same topic, but as the days go by I can’t help but continue to meditate and marvel on the transformation… and figure out how to keep it going.

Growing up I was told I was part of the slacker generation.  We didn’t care about anything.  Apathetic little brats.  At the time I knew that this was a load of crap, but didn’t have the perspective to pinpoint exactly why.

Over the years I have been able to see how it was trained into us: living with the constant fear of nuclear war.  Learning about politics in the wake of Nixon’s criminal activity.  Learning about world affairs so soon after the raw-wound fiasco of Vietnam.  Growing socially aware in the self-absorbed 70’s and materialistic 80’s.  Traditional gender roles being overcome by brave men and women but with nothing healthy put in their place, our only choice to be “supermom-careerwoman-totally independent- I’ll do it all myself-sexy but it shouldn’t matter if I am or not” for the girls and “Fine I’ll let you do it all yourself-see I’m not controlling you but neither am I helping- this is awesome that you have to bring home the bacon AND serve it to me” for the guys.  Hearing about how the earth is being polluted, over-populated, raped and pillaged while everyone just continues about their business refusing to alter their ways to remedy it.  And finally, not because this is all there is but because I can’t think of the rest of it right now, film and literature evolving beyond postmodern nihilistic existentialism, which had already taken “What the hell is the point?” to the most extreme.

But my generation isn’t motivated.  We’re a bunch of lay-abouts.

And which part of this ridiculous mess were we supposed to be inspired to participate in, exactly?

I felt my first wave of political hope when Clinton was voted in, but that faded quickly as he came up against multiple forces that held his administration back from what they had intended to achieve.  Instead of resounding affirmation of gay rights the country got the military policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”  Etc.

Then eight years of W.  I have never felt like such a slacker as I did in 2004 when he was re-elected.  Honestly, why am I going to get out of bed?  Having kids made it easier to remember why I wanted to live, but also made it more depressing to realize that we were going to have the awful leadership continue and cause more damage to our nation and our nation’s reputation.

I was steeling myself for a McCain win.  To me this would confirm what I’d known all along: the fat cats control everything.  The corporations own not only almost all of the capital, they own our government, they own us.  And worst of all, that people didn’t care a whit about informing themselves and refused to reprimand ignorance.  If regular people had bought the whole “Obama is going to make us SHARE!!!” whining, thus falsely identifying themselves with the super-rich and reaffirming the trickle down theory rubbish that we are content to live off the scraps of the well-off, then I would have figured that all was lost.  I think my cynicism would have reached new depths, and I don’t know how I would have dealt with it.

I wish there were a way to share this feeling with those who are apparently as devastated by this election as I was in 2000 and 2004.  Does it make them feel any better to know that they had their two turns in a row, and, just like on the playground, it’s nice to give someone else a chance on the swing, especially when the last swinger was throwing rocks and creating general chaos?  Doesn’t it make them feel better to see so much of the American population so happy and hopeful, not because we are scared and want to hide behind our leader who will shake a stick at the big scary things in the world, but because we feel inspired to roll up our sleeves and finally get to work under the leadership of someone who isn’t going to be conspiring against our best interests behind our backs with his pals in big oil, Haliburton, etc.?  Does it make them feel any better to realize that this president was actually elected not only by the electoral college but also by a majority of Americans of all flavors who turned out in huge numbers, and this president-elect didn’t even need his governor-brother to help him win a key state?

I keep coming back to Obama’s slogan, “Yes, we can.”  The “we” includes everyone, I believe, no matter who or of what opinion.  It is open-ended.  It doesn’t prescribe a goal or an outcome, or even the method to achieve it, it simply speaks to the needs and desires that we all have, affirming them and encouraging individuals to come together and embark on whatever projects call to their hearts.

Can’t everyone see how long we, as a nation, have had to live without this positive spirit?  Since before I was born, as far as I can tell.  Doesn’t everyone wonder how far we can take it, how many wrongs we might right, how many dreams we might fulfill, how many new ideas we might produce?

The slackers. along with the rest of the population, might emerge from our depressed lethargy and embrace our lives in this world as never before.  

I’m ready.  Let’s do it.  What have we got to lose?

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