Audio Book Review – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Narrated by Chandler Craig

  A Delightful Treat for the Season

I have never reviewed an audiobook before. I am proud to make Chandler Craig’s narration of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, my first official audiobook review.

Knowing that some may not read the entire review, let me get the most important nugget out up front. Chandler Craig’s Narration is superb! More on that later, but do yourself a favor and pick up this delightful treat for the holiday season. Really. Do it! … Now! … Here’s the link again… Click Here.

Okay, with that important bit of encouragement out of the way, on with the review. As a point of disclosure, I received no monetary or other compensation in exchange for the review. I was offered a link to download the audiobook at no cost, which I appreciate, but which had no bearing on the review content. As always, my responsibility is to readers, and in this case, listeners.

In truth, I approached this review hesitantly at first. Audiobooks are not my customary reading format. I was a bit concerned that my native reticence about audiobooks might intervene and unjustly prejudice the review. Happily, such was not the case. One listen to the Audio Sample was enough to convince me that this was an assignment I could embrace wholeheartedly.

Two Masters Unite

So let’s get to it. First, in reviewing an audiobook there are two elements to consider, the actual book content, and the narrative presentation. In this case, the story is so well-known that an analysis of the plot seems unnecessary.

In the words of the original title published in December 1843, the book is “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas”. In the unlikely event that someone today is not familiar with the plot, here’s a quick summary.

A miserly moneychanger, Ebenezer Scrooge, is visited by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley and then on successive nights by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. As he travels through time visiting Christmases past, present, and future, Scrooge becomes aware of the narrow baseness of his own character. He seizes the opportunity to change himself and avoid the eternal chains of bondage that the ghost of Marley warns him about, and the “ghost” story ends on a positive note with a reformed Scrooge and the terrible events foreshadowed by the Ghost of Christmases to Come, negated by the changes in him.

It’s a wonderful story. There is a reason Charles Dickens is considered a 19th-century master. His ability to combine wry, satirical humor and colloquialisms of the day with elegant prose separates him from the crowd. Few, if any, can rival his ability to place the reader in the shoes of the common man in one paragraph, smoothly transitioning you to the drawing rooms of the rich in the next.

In an audiobook, the telling of the story, the interpretation of the prose into voice is the critical element to its believability. If I were to sit in front of you and read the story, I am certain that the room would empty within seconds of the opening paragraph.

Enter Chandler Craig. He too is a master. The vocal interpretations of each character is superb. There is no lag as he transforms from one instant to the next between, Scrooge, Marley, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Nephew Fred, Sister Fran, Love Interest Belle, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig … and the list goes on.

Craig embraces these characters, becomes these characters, slipping so easily from one to the next in each passage that there are never any moments of doubt. You listen enthralled, smiling at one moment, eyes moist with tears the next.

Chandler Craig Evokes the Poignancy of the Tale

Through Craig’s performance, you feel the warm, strong hand of Christmas Past on young Ebenezer’s shoulder, alone at Christmas, immersed in books with his only friends, Ali Baba and Robinson Crusoe. At these moments, Dickens offers a tender look at the innocent, solitary boy, and we feel the pain of young Ebenezer who later becomes the miser. Our sympathy for his lonely life exposes us to the loneliness we each have felt at times.

Regarding the story itself, Scrooge often is assumed to be an inherently miserly, cold-hearted man, who is forced to repent of his evil ways by the visitation of the ghosts. Personally, I don’t think that was Dickens’ intent.

There is empathy in the story for young Ebenezer, a sad poignant feeling of lost innocence. Through the device of the ghostly visits, Dickens shows us Scrooge not as an evil man, but a fallen one. Despite Marley’s warning, threat even, that Scrooge will walk the earth for eternity bound in the chains of his own forging, we see that the apparitions’ visits are more a reminder of what he could have been and of his lost innocence.

They don’t force him to change his ways. Their visits remind him of his humanity, surrounded by the bitterness he allowed to grow inside and fed by his life experience and loneliness. His evolution during the visits recalls his decency and humanity. The visits do not create something that never existed.

In the end, Scrooge is us and we are him. Dickens reminds us all of our basic humanity and tendency to lose it.

Chandler Craig does more than portray Scrooge in the usual comic book, adapted for animation way, as most do. Craig’s portrayal takes us into his humanity. The story takes on a deeper meaning with the realization that Scrooge and we are ultimately the same, struggling, sometimes failing, to retain what is good in us.

Add to that performance his ability to pull out the humor from the prose as in Dickens’ almost whimsical, tongue in cheek opening paragraphs:

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will, therefore, permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Craig nails this bit of Dickensian anecdotal humor, and there are many others scattered through the book.

You can almost hear and see Dickens chuckling to himself as he points out the inconsistency in the simile and then shrugging it off with a final ironic and self-deprecating remark, pointing to the wisdom of the ancestors standing firm and that Dickens would not disturb it or “the Country’s done for.”

As an aside, Dickens supplemented his income for many years through performance readings of A Christmas Carol. I think he would be proud and gratified by Chandler Craig’s performance.

You might have surmised from this review that I am a fan of Dickens. I am now a fan of Chandler Craig, whose virtuoso performance brought new life to an old Christmas tale and allowed me to look for a short while into and remember my own humanity.

Do yourself a favor this holiday season. Order up this audiobook edition of A Christmas Carol, in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, narrated by Chandler Craig. Then heat up the hot chocolate, pop the corn, and gather the family around.

And my rating in case you haven’t figured it out?

An emphatic 5 Stars 

Hello All,

Thought I’d let you know that the next book in The Blue Eyes Series is about a month or so out, give or take editing days.  Thinking about next projects and I was hoping for a little input from you.

I’m working on the storyline for a new series. Can’t give it away just now, but very different from the Hunters and Blue Eyes. A suspense thriller with a science back story, based on actual science.

Also, have a series planned based on the history of the character Leyland “Lylee“ Torkman from Eyes of the Predator. Have been asked a lot over the years about Lylee’s background, more than the brief chapter included in the book, so the idea came to design a series “prequel” around him, culminating with his entry into the story of Eyes of the Predator.

I’d be grateful if you would Click on the short survey at the bottom and let me know which of these you would be more interested in reading first. Also, if you have any other ideas about sequels based on characters in the books, I’d love to hear about them.

By the way, working title for the next Blue Eyes suspense thriller featuring Alice Trent is Nowhere. 

Thanks much and best wishes to all, as always,

Glenn

http://glenntrust.com/?p=1233

eReader or Print? … Does it Really Matter? Just Read!

Ereader or Print

The controversy continues. Do true readers read eBooks or books printed on paper? From my perspective as a writer, it’s irrelevant. The argument is based on a false premise. That is, that there is some intrinsically superior form of reading, that either readers of eBooks or print books are inferior, or superior, in their reading appetites and comprehension than the other group, depending upon your personal perspective.

It’s a silly argument. The real issue is do we read, and do we teach our children to read in a world that is becoming increasingly illiterate. Perhaps that sounds a bit strong, but the truth is that, while more people may know the alphabet and are able to read words, I maintain that reading comprehension has decreased and continues to do so. In a world of texts, emails, memes, and posts, the art of abbreviated communication has replaced reading and writing.

There are some studies that suggest that reading in print increases comprehension and retention because of the tactile connection between the page and the reader and the ability to envision the entire reading material as a whole. EBooks do not have pages and therefore limit the tactile connection that is a comforting sensation for many.

Personally, I’m not convinced. These days, I read almost exclusively from an eReader. It contains a full library of history, science, biography, politics, economics and fiction, and frankly, when I discuss these issues with others, I am pretty certain that my comprehension is at least as good as theirs.

I will admit that the facility of reading an eBook versus a print book may mean that at times one is simply reading to relax and drift off to sleep. Retention at these times may not be as important as the simple flow of words.

I also admit that the opening of a physical book requires an additional physical effort that enhances the tactile sensory satisfaction of reading, thereby possibly increasing retention for some, but I suggest that this is more a matter of familiarity than of superiority of the printed material.

Don’t get me wrong. I love books. I love holding an old-fashioned book also. I love it because that was how I began reading in life. I’m a sentimental old fool, attached, as we all are to things I know. I have no doubt that had I been brought up reading eBooks exclusively, without any reference to physical books, I would be as attached to them.

The Pew Research Center points out that in 1978 only 8% of Americans had NOT read a book during the previous twelve months. In 2014, that number had increased to 23%. This is a cultural issue and not about which reading medium is best. No doubt, this statistic would impact reading comprehension studies amongst a random sampling, since readers would be more likely to have higher cognition and retention than non-readers, regardless of where or how they were reading.

Like everything, the ebook revolution is in a transitional stage. For me, the bigger issue is the fact that fewer and fewer people actually read. This is not an issue of which reading medium is superior, but of our cultural tendency to seek shallow simplicity rather than depth. Thinking requires effort and effort is not FUN. And, if it is not FUN then it is not worthwhile…right?

I do worry that the ability to read and understand deeper thought and emotion is decreasing. I do not consider the medium of the reading material (print or electronic) to be the issue.

We are the issue. The culture of immediate gratification and self-indulgence has far more influence, in my opinion, on the lack of literacy in our society than whether books are on paper or a screen.

Recently the American Association of Publishers (AAP) conducted a study that determined that Ebook sales are on a decline. The AAP has also been working very hard, filing lawsuits against Amazon to price eBooks artificially high in order to prop up the sales of their very expensive print books.

The result is that THEIR ebook sales are naturally down. The truth is that when you consider all eBooks outside of the AAP, ebook sales continue to rise.

In my case, I sell about a hundred eBooks to one print and sales are rising. Another point of interest is that readers of eBooks tend to read more frequently and in greater variety.

While I understand the love of print books (I love them too) I also love old cars but that doesn’t mean I want to drive one every day. The AAP would like us all to read only their published books. They hate the idea that anyone who has the desire to learn the craft of writing can publish a book and develop an audience without relying in their closed and tightly controlled system to be noticed.

The electronic information age has been revolutionary for the arts. Writers, artists and musicians who would never have been heard or seen under the traditional good old boy systems have found audiences. Some have even achieved stardom.

If the advent of eBooks encourages more people to read, I count that as a positive trend, not a negative. Now, if you will excuse me I must get back to writing my latest book. Oh yes, it will be available in both print and electronic formats if that matters to you.

To Read or Not to Read … Not Much of Debate in My Opinion

Books - Lincoln vs West

No mystery where I come down on this debate.
READ … Teach your children to READ … I firmly believe that much of the tragedy in the human condition would be eliminated through the expansion of the mind and sensibilities that takes place through the simple act of READING BOOKS. Not asking you to read my books, Just set the example and teach your children to READ BOOKS!

Best – Glenn

Mystery Reader’s Circle Selects ‘A Desert View’ as a Pick of the Day

Just wanted to give a quick update and let you know that Mystery Reader’s Circle has included ‘A Desert View’ as a Pick of the Day. Always grateful to James Moushon and his great site at HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle. Click on the link and check it out for recommendations on great books by Independent Authors, including James and myself.

 Hope all is well with everyone. Have a great weekend and do some smiling.

Glenn

 

That’s Us – The Pale Blue Dot

 

Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” …. take a moment to consider. The video is based on images of earth from the Voyager space craft. The entire text below is thought provoking and humbling. No further comment from me required:

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

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How Dumb and Silent Are We?

Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.

~George Bernard Shaw~

My God, the world is a terrible place, abounding with idiots, the profane, the angry, the foul-mouthed, and tyrants who should just shut the hell up. If we could just put a gag in the mouths of those who prattle on with their nonsensical, offensive ideas, or take their keyboards, paper and pens away we would all be better off for it. Our heads would not be filled with unwanted images and temptations. The terrible strain of having to filter and reject or accept ideas and thoughts would be lifted from us. We could live in blissful peace…or stupidity.

I’m sorry. Is stupidity too strong a word? Then let’s call it ignorance. Oh, what the hell. You know, and I know that I’m not sorry. Call it what you will, stupidity, ignorance, witlessness, senselessness, dumbness…as Shakespeare’s Juliet says to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”…or as foul.

You may have surmised that the opening paragraph above is my poor attempt at facetious wittiness. No, I emphatically do not believe in silencing others, even the profoundly stupid and offensive.

Let me begin again, with what I truly believe. The world is a glorious place filled with diverse and competing ideas, opinions, ideologies, humor, sadness, anger, hatred, love, peace, strife, tragedy, hope and my personal favorite…sarcasm. Make no mistake about it, the earth we have hitched a ride upon as it orbits through the universe, and the diverse cultures and thoughts that cover it are the result of diversity of opinion and ideas. The world is what we have made of it, and without humanity’s constant thought and expression of opinions and ideas, it and we would be mere shadows…fleas riding along on the back of a large planetary dog.

Now I am not saying that all ideas and opinions are good or beneficial. In my opinion, The Third Reich and National Socialism were bad ideas. So were, Communism, the genocides that have, and are, occurring around the world, child pornography, slavery of any kind, the political aristocracy that has evolved in most western style democracies (including the one here in the United States), the loss of freedoms, government intervention in personal lives, soap operas, parents who are afraid to teach or discipline their children, and so on and so forth.

Of course, I do like and think a lot of things that many of you may not. I think beer was a fantastic idea. Guitars are works of art, and I stand humbled before them. I am also quite fond of good cigars, although my wife made me stop smoking them. That reminds me, meeting and marrying my wife was one of the best ideas I ever had, although some (the jealous ones) may disagree. I think that I have the right to say and write whatever I want and to protect my family and myself with all of the weapons I wish to own, including firearms if I choose, and I do. (I can just see the heads spinning off of some of my readers, achieving escape velocity and disappearing into space.)

All right, I think I have made my point. Like you, I find many things, ideas, and thoughts to be good and uplifting, beneficial to life on the planet and to us as human beings. There are many others that are just plain wrong, evil, offensive and stupid.

You may not agree with some or any of my thoughts or ideas. Here’s the really cool thing about life. You don’t have to agree, and I don’t have to care, as long as I cause you no harm, I can think and do and believe what I will.

Conversely, I afford you the right to be different, to think great thoughts, or profoundly stupid ones. It’s okay…really. As long as you abide by the same rule of causing me no harm then I am perfectly content for you to think, say, write, sing, draw, paint, sculpt and express whatever you wish. In fact, I may well be interested in what you say or think. I might even find myself agreeing with you. That’s what happens when people freely exchange ideas.

The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.

~Tommy Smothers~

 Now, some of you may say that since I have couched my rejection of censorship of thought and ideas within the concept of “cause no harm”, that we may actually be justified in denying freedom of speech to those with hurtful ideas and which promote violence. To that, I say simply, Hogwash. (You thought I was going to say Bullshit, didn’t you?)

As soon as you and I start deciding what is hurtful and harmful, we begin to erode the rights of others. We also open the door for others to start deciding whether what we say is hurtful or harmful. As Tommy Smothers pointed out, the only valid way to censor others is not to listen, ignore them. Try it; it works.

I do not require the assistance of Big Brother to look over my shoulder and keep me from hearing bad thoughts, ideas, pictures, songs, etc. I can simply choose not to listen. It’s amazing, the power we have when we choose to exercise it.

But, you may ask, what about the children? We must protect them from the terrible ideas and thoughts in the world. My answer is…be a parent. Do your job. You brought them into the world. Stop thinking that it is someone else’s responsibility to see to the well-being of children. As parents, it is ours. If children need protecting, and I agree that they do, protect them. But not at the expense of others’ liberties. Teach them. Control the influences, ideas and media input that they soak into their sponge-like brains. Be a parent. It is not the state’s job to teach your children; it is yours.

 If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

~George Washington~

 There is a reason the founders of the American nation placed freedom of speech in the United States Constitution as the first of the Bill of Rights. All other rights flow from the ability to express oneself freely. Write what you will; say what you will; think what you will. Without that freedom all others are in peril, and as Washington said we may then truly “…be led like sheep to the slaughter.”

A final thought, when the words or thoughts transform into actions that threaten or endanger me, my family, my community, you, I reserve the right to protect us, and I will. Remember. I am armed.

Until then, let’s argue it out. Don’t be “dumb and silent”. Debate me, hate me, agree with me or think I’m the stupidest son of a bitch in the world. It’s okay. Along the way, we might actually exchange a good idea. Bad ideas come and go. The good ideas are what has made our world…and beer, don’t forget beer.

Best – Glenn

Freedom of Speech - Washington

Hell No, We Ain’t Equal!

Ever heard the following?

“Abraham Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal.” Post Civil War Slogan for Colt Revolving Pistols

“All animals are equal. Some animals are more equal than others.” George Orwell, ‘Animal Farm’

It is an interesting concept…equality. The belief that it is true, that all persons are equal, or should be, has been the cause of great turmoil, political posturing and pandering for votes. But here’s an indisputable truth.

Hell no, we ain’t equal! And we, you and I, never will be.

Before you pull out the torches and pitchforks and start knotting the noose to string me up, allow me to explain my position on the matter.

Freedom and equality are not the same thing. All people should be free, completely and unequivocally. We all have natural rights that are a result of being living, breathing human beings. These rights are ours because of our humanity and are not granted to us by the state or some political entity. Whether you believe that God created us and bestowed those rights upon us or that we evolved in some other way to this point, it is undeniable that each person on this earth yearns and claims for themselves these natural rights.

The founders of the American Revolution under the pen of Thomas Jefferson summarized these as “…certain unalienable rights, That among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. They went on to frame a Constitution that protected these natural rights. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, the right to protect yourself and your family, the right to engage in commerce and provide for yourself and your family, and so on.

When you consider these rights, you realize that they are “Natural”. You don’t have to be from the United States or a western democracy to want them…to claim them. You only have to be alive. All persons want these rights, these freedoms…and in a perfect world, they would have them. (For more on the topic of natural rights see the writings of  Andrew Napolitano, John Locke, Voltaire and Friedrich Hayek)

But back to the point of this post. Equality.

Having or yearning for the natural rights that are ours because of our humanity does not make us equal. The American founders also said, “All men are created equal.” They were wrong.

A case in point…

When I was young, there was a boy living across the street with whom my brother and I had an occasional altercation. We’ll call him Billy (not his real name). We were the same age, but Billy was big, and strong. In fact, he was much stronger than my brother and I combined. We found this out one evening when I heard my brother calling my name in the front yard. When I came around the corner of the house, I saw my brother on the ground under Billy who was pounding on him with great enthusiasm.

My first thought was…Shit! It was very likely that my brother deserved the pounding, but he was, after all, my brother. I was bound by the brotherly code to help him and fighting Billy was not high on my list of preferred activities. In fact, I would have walked ten miles out of my way to avoid a confrontation with him. My brother, on the other hand, was a much more adventurous soul and never backed down from anything or anyone.

So, I thought, shit…and then dove on top of Billy. What happened next was a blur. When the dust settled Billy had me in a headlock, my brother in a scissors hold and was pounding on us both. Billy was big, strong, a better fighter and…we were definitely not his equal in that regard.

Get the point? We were all equally free to fight or not fight, but if we chose to engage in fisticuffs with Billy, the result was certain. He would beat our ass. We were not equal.

This holds true in a myriad of ways in life. The lists of talents and things in which I am not the equal of others is formidable. I love painting, but the only thing I can draw and paint are stick figures. I can’t sculpt worth a damn. Wood carving is a skill I have always desired, and will never have. Golf…I suck. Tennis…I suck worse. Hiking…pretty good at that. Photography…average. Singing…I think I’m great, but I am assured by my closest friends and relations that I am only so, so. Guitar…I’m okay. Writing…I work hard but I’ll never be Hemingway or Steinbeck or Faulkner, or Dr. Seuss.

I say it again…Hell no, we ain’t equal. Not even close. Each of us has abilities and talents that others do not possess.

So what’s the point, Glenn, you ask. The point is there are, in fact, some equalizers in life that help us rise above our innate abilities and by rising above them, achieve our own small measure of greatness.

Hard work. I learned years ago that I wasn’t ever going to be the smartest person in the room. I also learned that through a willingness to work harder than others I could overcome that deficiency.

Perseverance. Life is not a sprint. Good thing, because I am not a very good runner. But I’m a hell of a walker. Another life lesson for me was to start walking towards my goal, even if it was just a distant speck on the horizon. If I moved steadily towards it, doing the things that would bring it closer, eventually I would reach it. I know that in a world of instant gratification the idea of walking slowly and steadily towards your goal is not always appealing, but trust an old man when he says that achieving your goal over time is much more satisfying than never trying. In fact, never trying is one of the truly saddest conditions I see in some people. Try!

Technology. Do you realize that because of modern technology I…little old me…boy from Georgia…can be a writer? I can write books and people can read them. Forget literary quality for a moment and consider that in the sense of publishing books in some small way I and my independent author friends are the equal of the Hemingways of the world. How cool is that?

Knowledge. Pay attention. This is important. I love books. Always have. I love the truths that can be discovered, the ability to understand things that were mysteries to me before. And here’s a really cool thing about living in the twenty-first century. If you are book-adverse in your philosophy, you can find as much knowledge as you want through that magical wizardry known as the internet. God I love modern technology.

I repeat…Knowledge is one of the great equalizers. In my mind, the greatest. Learn and never stop learning. Don’t accept what others say because they seem smarter than you. They probably aren’t, but even if they are, you can be as smart as they, or nearly so, if you never stop learning.

We should all be free. That is something for which everyone should be willing to fight.

However, unequal people and things will never be equal. You and I will never be equal in every sense. Nevertheless, we can make use of equal opportunity and work to become equal in some things and more equal in most…if we are willing to put forth the effort.

Best – Glenn

Equality - Aristotle

Get your “New and Improved” Bullshit – It Must Be True, Someone Said So…Really

No statement should be believed because it is made by an authority. ~Robert A. Heinlein~

 Someone important said it, so it must be true. Well, maybe they weren’t so important but they were someone, so it just has to be true. At least they were breathing and they moved their mouths and the words came out with authority, so they must be true. Right?

Sound silly? How about these ‘true statements’ from authoritative sources:

  • Red wine is good for you…red wine is bad for you…oh, wait, red wine is good for you again.
  • Or…the Affordable Care Act (Healthcare Reform) will lower insurance premiums for everyone
  • The Chicago fire of 1871 was caused Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over a lantern
  • The earth is flat…the earth is the center of the universe
  • Whales are fish, not mammals as Herman Melville and a number of other nineteenth century authorities believed
  • Sales of existing homes will rise substantially in 2008, so said the National Association of Realtors
  • Obesity is caused by too many carbs in your diet…obesity is caused by too much fat in your diet
  • Vitamin supplements enhance your health…vitamin supplements are a waste of time
  • God is dead
  • God is a Jew…Christian…Muslim…Hindu…Buddhist…Zoroastrian…none of the above
  • Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Cambodians, Slavs, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Native Americans (pick the ethnicity or group of your choosing) are evil and must be eradicated from the face of the earth.
  • Masturbation will make you go insane, or blind, or both…

Well, let’s leave that last one alone. I think a hundred thousand years of humans trying it out, usually more than once, and most likely way more than they are willing to admit, has proven that pleasuring oneself is a harmless activity that doesn’t make you any crazier than you already were nor does it initiate trips to the optometrist. Don’t ask me how I know.

My point is not that any or all of these statements are true or untrue. The point is that each, at some time, was or is purported by voices of authority to be completely and unquestionably true, the gospel, written in stone. And having been proclaimed as truth by the authorities, they were often, even usually, accepted by people without question.

Now, I am not arguing that any one or all of the above listed purported truths are right or wrong. Some I accept, others I absolutely do not.

No, my question is more basic. Why the hell do we do that? Why do we stand so willing and ready to buy into the latest, greatest, new and improved line of bullshit, as long as it is presented by someone with a soothing voice, charming personality, passion for the topic, list of letters after their name?

Maybe we human beings are still governed by some internal herd instinct that requires us to go along with the leader, the one with the voice, the loudest cowbell around the neck? Maybe.

I choose to believe that we are more than that. We have brains and the ability to reason. We dream, are self-aware, plan for the future, conceive great and marvelous ideas, some very abstract, and then see them through to realization. We write beautiful music, create magnificent works of art, write moving and powerful words that touch the hearts of others. Knowing that we are capable of such individual greatness, I fear there is something more dangerous that infects humanity and saps its, our, moral strength.

We know that throughout history, masses of people have unreasonably been motivated to do the most unspeakable evils and commit the most terrible atrocities against others because they unthinkingly, robotically accepted the words of some authority as truth, and then acted on their accepted truth. Masses have raised their arms screaming “Sic Heil!” before they sent other human beings to gas chambers and crematoriums, or proclaimed that the “Only good Indian is a dead Indian” before bashing in the heads of men, women and children in the name of their “truth”, or screamed “Hang the witch! Burn the witch!” before tightening the noose or lighting the torch.

These are the obvious examples of the evil effects of acceptance of “truth” simply because it has been spoken by some authority. They were evil and obscenely wrong. Most all of us know this. But there is a more insidious effect of the acceptance of the statements of the supposed persons in authority.

Each day, we unquestioningly watch newscasts, listen to pundits and politicians, preachers and teachers who make statements that many of us accept at face value, without question because they were spoken by some person who has been given a platform, who speaks louder than others, who is respected because of position, not because of character.

Here’s a truth for you to consider. The people making those statements are generally no smarter than you, or I. Truth be told, some of them are exceedingly dumb. Scary, huh?

Think wrongly if you please, but in all cases, think for yourself. ~Charles Seymour~

 And so, when I have a discussion with someone whose sole reason for believing something is because so-and so said, I worry. I don’t want to be as dumb as the next person, or the commentator, pundit or politician. It worries me that much of humanity seems perfectly at ease in accepting the truth, as proposed by the “experts” without ever considering, examining and dissecting that truth to determine its validity or falsehood for themselves.

Whether you believe that we were created by some higher intelligence, God, or through the natural process of evolution, it seems to me that there is one thing upon which we may all agree. Humankind has an immense capacity for reason, logic, loving, dreaming, conceiving great ideas and reaching beyond the world we know.

The point that I am trying to make, however awkwardly, is that blind, unreasoning acceptance of anything diminishes our capacity for greatness and compassion. Blind acceptance makes us less human.

I contend that humanity has not thought great thoughts, created great art, loved greatly, or reached for the stars because of blind acceptance. They are the result of individual thought.

I would equally suggest that most, if not all, of the evils of our world are the result of blind acceptance of ideas from those whom we accept as authorities.

The insidious danger I mentioned above? Laziness. Choosing the easy path. Fatigue. Wanting to be part of the crowd. Call it what you will, we are gradually losing the ability to think for ourselves. We are losing our humanity.

As a believer, first and foremost, in freedom and liberty, I want to shake people by the shoulders, look into their eyes, and shout into their faces – “You have a Natural Right to think for yourselves. USE IT!” If we do not, we may all lose it.

Best – Glenn

Thought - Aristotle

A Thought About Creativity – Don’t Think

Short and simple today. A thought from one of the all-time great American authors and a literary hero of mine. I probably learned more about writing from reading Ray Bradbury than from almost any other source.

Writing - Bradbury

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Almost Yoda-esque. Remember his words to Luke Skywalker? “There is no try. Only do.”

Mr. Bradbury was saying it…and doing it…long before Star Wars, and not in a galaxy far, far away. He did it right here. So can you. I know it to be true.

The next time you sit down to create and your brain goes into overdrive considering all of the possibilities, and then self consciously wonders what everyone is going to think about those creative possibilities…STOP THINKING. Start DOING.

Best – Glenn

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