Ownership without the joy of the hunt

I’m heavily reliant on my playlist during my writing times. These days, that actually means Apple Music. Want to listen to a particular artist or song? Type it in the search bar and Boom. You’re listening to Rob Thomas or Beethoven or Florida Georgia Line, depending on your taste. (Right now I’m listening to O.A.R.)

Music has come a long way, though. Remember the days when you would hear a song on the radio and listen as it worked its way into your soul and as soon as it ended you could barely wait to hear it again? Remember switching from one radio station to the next in the hopes of catching “Careless Whisper” playing? (Okay, maybe it was something different for you…)

I think Sylvia’s “Nobody” was the first song that I bought in a music store. I heard it on the radio and could barely wait to get to the record store to buy it. We had one record store in my little hometown. Austin’s Art Shop, I believe the name was. One wall was lined with 45s, and that’s where I spent my allowance more often than not. I still remember the thrill of searching the carefully alphabetical 45s for the one I wanted—and the absolute joy of finding the one I wanted, knowing this song was mine now, and I no longer had to wait for the fickle disc jockeys to decide I should hear it.

We’ve lost that sense of ownership, I think, in our world of ready music. The same threatens to happen to the world of books. I think this was happening long before ebooks, though, with the world of mass market paperbacks. Easy enough to pick up a cheap paperback, and leave it on an airplane or in a hotel room, right? Or stick it in a box to donate to Goodwill, the Salvation Army or your local library. Who needs to own a book once it’s read? If anything, I actually think ebooks might reverse this trend. It costs nothing to leave an ebook in your Kindle library.

Hopefully, the thrill of ownership for both music and books will return. Because like a painting proudly displayed on your wall, artists crafted the books and songs that exist in your ether. Remember them. Bring them out from time to time to admire. Own them—even without the joy of the hunt.

Like them or not, you should listen to the poets

If anything has caught me off-guard about today’s political climate, it’s the rising dislike of celebrities and intellectuals. Once upon a time, these were the heroes. Movie stars like James Dean smoked, so everyone had a pack of cigarettes tucked in their rolled up t-shirt sleeve. Jane Fonda said we need more exercise so everyone started aerobics. Remember those “The More You Know” PSAs? They featured everyone from Tom Brokaw to Matthew Perry speaking out about issues like conservation and education. Stars trying to use their star status to make a difference in the world.

In 2016, it felt like all that changed. All of a sudden, conservatives wondered out loud where athletes and movie stars and, God forbid, writers got off having political opinions. And why should they be allowed to speak out about the every day world of politics? Movie stars should just act, singers should just sing, athletes just play their sports (and stand for the National Anthem). The other day, Rob Thomas tweeted that he was shocked to see a reporter’s White House press credentials taken away because he asked the president a question the president didn’t want to be asked. The response Thomas got from fans was less than encouraging in many cases.

But the worst of this is that suddenly writers aren’t supposed to have an opinion. Writers aren’t supposed to speak out against what looks like certain doom. Writers shouldn’t remind the public of what has come before and what it wrought. The press is “fake news” because they are trying to report what’s happening to us. This seems a particularly dangerous attitude, honestly. To prove my point, I’ve compiled a partial list of things writers (mostly in science fiction, but not all) predicted, for want of a better word, in their fiction.

And after reading this, maybe you can understand why I say, listen to the poets. Otherwise, you may live to regret it.

1726 (Jonathan Swift) Gulliver’s Travels predicted the discovery of Mars’s two moons.

1818 (Mary Shelley) Frankenstein predicted organ transplants.

1865 (Jules Verne) From the Earth to the Moon predicted solar sails and lunar modules that launch from Florida and return to earth as splashdown capsules.

1887 (Edward Bellamy) Looking Backward predicted credit/debit cards and shopping malls.

1898 (Morgan Robertson) The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility predicted the sinking of the Titanic—by iceberg in the month of April—fourteen years before it happened.

1899 (H.G. Wells) When the Sleeper Wakes predicted motion sensing doors.

1903 (H.G. Wells) The Land Ironclads predicted tanks.

1909 (E.M. Forster) The Machine Stops predicted video chatting.

1910 (Edwin Balmer and William MacHarg) The Achievements of Luther Trant predicted the lie detector test.

1913 (H.G. Wells) The World Set Free predicted the atom bomb.

1923 (H.G. Wells) Men Like Gods predicted phones, email and television.

1924 (J.B.S. Haldane) Daedalus; or Science and the Future predicted in vitro fertilization.

1932 (Aldous Huxley) A Brave New World predicted genetic engineering.

1961 (Robert Heinlein) Stranger in a Strange Land predicted water beds.

1968 (Arthur C. Clarke) 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted the iPad and its use to access news media.

1968 (John Brunner) Stand on Zanzibar predicted satellite tv, violence in schools, and, eerily, President Obama (Obomi was the character’s name). Interestingly, it is set in 2010.

1984 (William Gibson) Neuromancer predicted computer hackers.

1990 (David Brin) Earth predicted broken levees in the Deep South and the meltdown of the Fukushima power plant.

1994 (Tom Clancy) Debt of Honor predicted the use of hijacked jet planes to crash into U.S. government buildings.

Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency has been predicted by everyone from The Simpsons to Philip Roth. In Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents, her presidential candidate even used the slogan “Make America Great Again”.

Are these all coincidence? Life imitating art? Possibly, though Stand on Zanzibar and The Wreck of the Titan sound like blatant fortune-telling to me, and how Jonathan Swift could know Mars had two moons in 1726 is beyond me. But what is my point here, anyway? Should Stephen King and J.K. Rowling be allowed to say whatever they want about Donald Trump and the fools who voted for him?

Yeah. Probably. Because true poets have a knack for looking at things a little closer, opening themselves up to the universe a little more, feeling things a little deeper…and seeing things a little clearer than others do. I’m not saying me. I try, but I haven’t gotten there yet. But I do believe we are given poets and prophets and visionaries by a God who wants to help guide us.

And if the overwhelming majority of those poets and prophets and visionaries are saying don’t go there, I suggest we listen.

aged antique book stack books

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com