20 March

Meeting Life Head On. Heading Out

by Jon Katz
Feet On The Ground
Feet On The Ground

I was on a website the other day, it was created to support the New York Carriage Horses. I love the passion and commitment there, but am sometimes taken aback by the rage. Some of the people there were upset with some of the words I use to describe that painful controversy. The conversation quickly grew angry and intense, I felt as if these good people have been fighting for so long that rage and frustration had permeated their souls, I felt as if I was traveling through a cloud of toxic air. Suddenly, we were no longer on the same side.

I had become an enemy of sorts. It happens, I do not make a good insider.

I felt badly, first because I had upset them, then because I saw how our modern world, so full of anger, rigidity and judgment, had worn them down, drained their spirits of softness or the ability to listen and compromise. There was no dialogue, just statement after statement, everyone tensing up. I told them I would prefer to leave the group rather than upset them, and that these days, no matter what one writes, somebody gets upset. That is the nature of our world. They did not care to hear it, I withdrew. I am careful about not spending much of my life in argument, especially in the world of social media. It is a one-way ticket to weariness and fury.

I am entitled to my words – they did not like some of them –  they are entitled to their anger. But it was a sad departure, still, it seemed a commentary on our polarized world. Even friends can’t talk to other friends.

I thought of this today, I can’t say I wasn’t upset by it. A friend told me recently she thought that I loved to “stir the pot,” this is something people tell me so often that I think it must be true. Yet from my perspective, it isn’t really true. I believe the job of a writer is to make people feel things and think. I don’t feel my job is to get people to agree with me, or even to like me. I get no pleasure of any kind in upsetting people.

I never set out to be controversial, to upset or provoke people, that is never in my mind, although I am well aware I do it from time to time. I am very happy taking photos of animals and flowers, writing my poems and distant observations, speaking out about the endangered future of animals in our world.

But how, I wonder, do you get people to think in our polarized world, where left talks to left and right talks to right, and even some of my fellow travelers in the carriage wars can’t take yes for an answer? Sometimes you have to poke them in the ribs to get them to pay attention and actually think for themselves. I think sometimes the answer is to withdrawn into myself in a more spiritual way and simply take color photos of Red battling Liam, people never tire of it or get  upset.

And I love doing it, and there is the answer I think. Red and Liam meet life head on, they don’t run from it, are not defeated or discouraged by it, they do not lick wounds or hold grudges. Each morning, they meet on the path and settle their differences, make their decisions. And then, the encounter forgotten, they move on with their lives. The confrontation does not make the world an awful place, or leave them discouraged or embittered. It is nothing personal, it is forgotten the moment it ends.

And then, the next morning, there they are again, ready to do it all over again. It will one day be resolved, or it will never be resolved. And that, I thought, is just the way I think, just the way I am. I seek the meet life head on, every single day, it very rarely goes entirely my way, I am very often at odds with much of the world around me.

This is why Red and I love one another so much, in this way we are alike. Every morning, we face the world and stand our ground. He wins much more than I do, but the true nature of the world does not make it an awful place, it is the heart and soul of life itself.

Saturday, off to Connecticut. 2 p.m. Saturday, the Russell Library in Middletown, 2 p.m. Sunday, the Cheshire Library in Cheshire, Connecticut (check first,  I believe that talk is full up). Back Monday, where Red and Liam will be facing life, and so will I.

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