Books Creativity

I’ll Be Right Back…

I have a confession to make. For the past six months, I have been disappearing down a rabbit hole, crawling to the backside of the wardrobe, hitching a ride on a tornado…and making my way to the empire of Une Belle Ville.

It started innocently enough — my nephew on his tablet in the backseat on our way home from an adventure.

“What’s that?” I asked, hearing huzzahs and sing-song chimes.

“Forge of Empires,” he said.

“A video game?”

“Yea, it’s cool. You build a city by collecting resources and building an army. I’m in the Stone Age still.”

When we got home, we sat on the couch together and he showed me his city. Just a few random huts, some dirt trails, an obelisk — but it had me at sing-song. So I loaded it on my iphone and away we went, my nephew and me sharing our cities and achievements.

“I’m in the Iron Age!” he announced.

“Me, too!”

“You caught up with me. I have three archers!”

“I built a fruit farm!”

We went on like this for a few weeks, comparing notes as we played dueling technologies. And then one day, I started hearing zap-zap-zap and kaboom instead of huzzah and sing-song, sing-song.

“What age are you in now?” I asked, curiously.

“I’m playing Minecraft.”

“Not Forge of Empire?”

“No. It was too boring. This is better, see…”

And so our paths diverged. He and his kabooms went one way, and I skipped along with my huzzahs from the Bronze age straight on through to the Industrial.

Ok, maybe it seems a little silly. It’s also one of those nefarious escape mechanisms that gets you strung out on dopamine.  But given the state of the world (and the state of my family of late)? I’m all in for an extra hit of dopamine thank you very much.

The funny thing is, my city — Une Belle Ville — is exactly the kind of place I’d like to spend my time if the rabbit hole jumping, wardrobe crawling, tornado clinging thing actually worked. My fellow villagers and I rank high in enthusiasm and participate happily as members of the local Guild. We trade instead of battle, we polish instead of plunder, we explore the world and give aid when we can. We have lots of trees and gardens, a rosarium and a butterfly house. There’s a mountain preserve, a Celtic farmstead, and a vineyard. We can see the Oracle of Delphi, the Arc de Triomphe, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Notre Dame, and a Statue of Zeus all in an afternoon’s walk. We can visit the zoo, laugh on the ferris wheel, take a hot air balloon ride, or climb the steps of the Observatory to see the stars.

So far, I’ve built a paper mill, am working towards a print shop, and look forward to the day I can build a library for my city, because we all need books, don’t we? Those other things that give us a beautiful out, an “I’ll be right back” excuse to leave the 21st century messes and remember what’s possible with a little bit of imagination and some escapism-flavored dopamine. Huzzah!

Community Family

An Open Letter to My Family about the Election

To My Family,

I am writing to you today to ask you to think about the America for which our fathers and grandfathers fought wars.

My grandfather, above, fought and died in World War II, participating in a worldwide conflict that battled the evils of Hitler and the Nazis. My uncles, aunts, and cousins have served in the U.S. military throughout the years, including time in the Pacific Conflict and the Vietnam War. Each of them fought to preserve a way of life in America that valued freedom for all, that supported a melting pot of cultures and ideas, opinions and beliefs. They fought for the rights that allow you to believe what you believe, and for me to believe what I believe.

I think a lot about my grandfather these days. About the people in our families who believed in the American way of life before we were even born — and what they would think of where we are now as a country.

With all of that in mind, I am writing to say this to you: Donald Trump does not represent the America that our fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers, worked hard to protect and serve.

I’m not talking about politics, here. I’m not talking about the rhetoric or our differing opinions about the hot-button topics. I’m talking about the man who is supposed to be leading and representing the United States of America.

Maybe, if you look hard into your heart, you will see that Donald Trump does not act in ways that unite us or bring us to common ground; that he does not promote the basic principles of our good and hopeful country; that he does not represent the values that we were taught as children, or the ones you have worked hard to teach your own children: kindness, respect, the Golden Rule.

I know you might doubt that. I know there are people and media outlets and memes that portray someone like me as the enemy and Donald Trump as a person you can respect and support. But I would encourage you to do some soul searching.

Do some actual searching, too. Watch real, unedited videos of Donald Trump in action. Listen to his speeches and read the actual transcripts. Listen to the words he uses and the things he says about people — people like me, your family. Then ask yourself: is he a good man? is he an honorable man? is he a honest man? is he a man of faith and right action? does he speak and behave in ways I would want my children to emulate?

At the very least, I encourage you to do what I do: fact check, read other sources, listen to the folks who don’t just say what you want to hear. No one is perfect, I know that. But you have to ask the questions: is this true? is this for real? Challenge the concept that our issues are black and white, all or nothing, good or bad. Check yourself when you talk about “Us versus Them” — you might actually love some of Them. I do.

I love you. And I have watched you worship your god, practice your faith, love your family, raise your children, and do the best that you can for your community since we were young.

If you think voting against Donald Trump changes the things that are important to you, changes your values — I would beg to differ.

Voting against Donald Trump is standing up for and honoring goodness, compassion, integrity, honor, love…and the United States of America.