I have a few principles that I try to embody in my work as a writer, and I take them very seriously. One of them is, as Gandhi said, to "be the change that I wish to see in the world." One change I wish to see in the world is an internet culture in which we rejoice in sharing the things we truly value most, the things that bring us the greatest joy and laughter, that stop us in our tracks with their beauty or poignant vulnerability or deep-rooted truth. I wish more people put as much energy into telling the world what they love and why, as they do complaining about what they dislike. So I try not to complain. When I am drowning in grief or writhing from injustice, I try to own up to it as best I can and turn it into something beautiful, something that has meaning. Or at least something funny. But sometimes it's hard. Really, really hard.
I'm usually somewhat solemn around this time of year, sitting quietly at my desk listening to the quiet rain and even quieter fog outside my window, enjoying the damp quiet day in my own little way as my not-at-all-damp-thank-you cat quietly looks on.... But not this year. This year, something's gotten into me. A bit of trickster spirit, maybe. A bit of fire. Since March, which is when Sir Terry Pratchett died, a part of me has become really, really angry. Another part of me can't stop praying.
Because I'm such a Hipster Pagan that I've come full circle, in recent years I've stopped disparaging New Year's Resolutions for being "too mainstream" and decided to re-embrace the practice. After all, the word resolution is a vast and complex universe in itself. Like words such as integrity, balance and attention, resolution can mean many things, and spending some time considering its nuances bears some surprising (and surprisingly delicious) fruit. So for those of you who might be on the fence about making resolutions for the coming year, here are some thoughts on what resolution means to me.
"One day I am sweet, another day I am sour," says the Irish trickster god Manannan mac Lir in his guise as the disheveled traveling buffoon whose hat is full of holes and whose shoes squish with puddle water when he walks. Manannan appears in folktales sometimes as a buffoon and sometimes as a richly dressed bard of talent and renown. When he is a buffoon, his words are sweet and his music sweeter; when he is a master of his craft, he comes off as a fake and an ass. When he is at home, he is a king whose otherworldly castle is thatched with white birds' wings. But the half-thatched homes of the mortal bards will never be complete. While the poets are away gathering their feathers, the winds have already swept away the last day's work. Which is the real god? The king, the poet, or the wandering buffoon? Which is the real writer? Which is the real me?
What struck me was the absence, how it stretched out in all directions. Indistinguishable. The trees were stunted and small, scraggly things, as flimsy as old paper dried up and twisted and left to the dust of the endless desert landscape. From the ridge, they spotted the ravine's slope here and there all the way down to where it met the empty, mud-cracked stream bed. Out here, they called that a river. They had the nerve to mark it on a map. When I looked down into the ravine from the top of the ridge where I was standing, a sense of vertigo swept through me. The unfamiliar shrunken size of the trees tricked the eye, so that even shrubs which I knew were only a few feet down seemed to stretch the landscape into an odd but persistent sensation of distance. A gradual slope dropped away in an optical illusion of dizzying depth. I blinked. I thought, this was what the Discworld Witches called "gnarly ground."
Google Analytics is fascinating. For instance, this past week and a half, my readership shot up to more than 10 times the average of the previous week (thanks to my inadvertently controversial post, "I am a Conscientious Objector in the Spiritual War"), before dropping back down to pre-bump numbers. The majority of these referrals came from Facebook. Yet when I look at the statistics for time spent actually viewing pages on the website, a shocking 60% of those viewers spent 1 - 10 seconds on the site. Another 20% spent 11 - 180 seconds viewing the site. Which means that about 80% of readers from this past week spent less than three minutes actually reading the contents of the site before navigating away again.