Daily Prompt: Goals – None are so easily achieved!

I started blogging because people kept telling me I should. All my friends. My husband. My family. I’ve always been a writer, professionally and personally. I’d been sick a lot and for a very long time. A decade of being on the edge of dying is a lot of dying time and I was finally beginning to be a person again. The siege was lifting.

Facebook never did it for me. I never liked the format, the scattershot nature of posting. I have so many connections that aren’t friends, just people with whom I played various games. Even my circle of “friends” wasn’t a natural audience.

I had been following a WordPress blog for some months, ATMTX PHOTOGRAPHY BLOG. Every time I wanted to comment, I had to go through an annoying identification process unless I registered. One day, I registered. I picked a name for a mythical blog I might want to write. I chose Serendipity because I’m a serendipitous kind of gal. I had absolutely no intention of doing anything with it, but it made following other peoples’ blogs and commenting easier.

That was January 2012. In February, I put up an “About Me” page and posted a photograph because as an enthusiastic amateur, I have a great many pictures. Thousands, though many are not good enough to post anywhere but a family album. Still, there were some I thought someone besides my husband might enjoy. It was more than a month before I posted anything else. In March, I posted once, maybe twice. In April, not at all. In May, I found myself posting a couple of times a week. It was like writing letters. I wrote about whatever was on my mind or had caught my interest in the news. The presidential campaign was heating up, though it wasn’t red-hot yet.

Summer was slow. Vacation kept me away a lot. I posted, but it wasn’t particularly interesting or exciting material and my numbers reflected the ho-hum quality of the work.

And then, it rolled into August. Political hell broke loose. America became engulfed in a civil war of words on the Internet. I jumped in too. My numbers soared overnight. When Sandy, the Monster Storm, hit in September, it gave me plenty to write about. October was all-out class warfare. November. Election and aftermath. A tsunami of opinion, violence. Craziness everywhere. It was my biggest month, bringing in numbers I haven’t matched yet.

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By then, I was posting daily, more than once a day. I was reblogging other people’s work. I had found friends and colleagues on the Internet. We used each other as sounding boards and still do. The sense of community was not theoretical. I was part of it and I loved it.

The months have rolled on. I still have no goals. The question keeps coming up and I really think about it, but no matter how long and hard I ponder the question, I can’t find a reason better than my original non-goals. I love to write. I have a lot of opinions. And blogging gives me my own space to post photographs where people other than my immediate family can see them.

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I’ve achieved much more than I ever imagined because I never imagined anything at all. I’ve gotten close to 73,000 hits and although I’ve never been Freshly Pressed, apparently there are people who think I’m interesting enough to follow. I’ve made a difference to a few lives.

To know I’ve actually made a difference is a great feeling. Addictive.

Apple Blossoms

I have a focus for my time, a way to use the words roiling around in my head. In my working years, I always wrote for a defined goal and was paid for it. Now, at last, I can write about anything. I have no boss, no word limit, no corporate guidelines. Sadly, I don’t get the paycheck, but I have freedom. That’s worth a lot. And I’ve got a reason gear up, grab my cameras and go take pictures.

I’ve gotten much more than I ever imagined or expected.

Goals? What more could I need or want? Oh, I know. Send money? Please?

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The Far Arena, by Richard Ben Sapir – Roman Ways In Modern Days

The Far Arena by Richard Ben Sapir

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I just bought a used copy of this long out-of-print book. I first read it when it was released in 1978. I was working at Doubleday as a book club editor. It fell to me to do the write-up for it in the monthly publication that went to book club members.

A large part of my job was to read books. Talk about great jobs, that was the best of the best. I’m not sure I ever fully recovered from my Doubleday years. Not merely was I paid to read and write about books, but I received (as did all the editors and graphic artists in the department) new copies of every book we worked on. We all had very large personal libraries. We also had 2 hour lunches and wonderful co-workers. I looked forward to work the way most folks anticipate the weekend. It was that good. I realize this is a digression, but I wanted to put this in context and maybe brag a little.

The Far Arena is classified as science fiction. It is, sort of, but not in any traditional sense. It doesn’t fall into any of the usual sci fi categories. Time travel? Not exactly, but it has a time travel-ish feel to it.

The story in brief: A Roman gladiator is flash frozen in the arctic ice. He is accidentally discovered by a team drilling for oil and subsequently defrosted and brought back to life. What follows is his story as a Roman married to a Hebrew slave, and his perceptions of the modern world from the point of view of a man whose world disappeared 1600 years ago.

His observations on modern society are priceless. For example, while he is in the hospital, he asks about the slaves who serve him. He is referring of course to the to nurses and other workers who attend his needs.

His new friends explain that they aren’t slaves, that they work for wages and are free to leave or be dismissed by their employers. He thinks this is a fantastic idea. “You mean they do everything you tell them to do, but when they get old and can no longer work, you don’t have to take care of them? What a great idea! Slaves, but without responsibility.”

“They aren’t slaves,” insist his modern friends.

“They are treated like slaves, they act like slaves. They are slaves,” he responds. Who would like to argue the point? Not me.

That is paraphrasing, of course, but is captures the gist of the dialogue. I have never looked at the world quite the same way since I read this book. Modern workers have all the freedom of slaves, but no assurance that anyone will care for them when they are no longer able to work. That’s a pretty good deal from the owners’ … I mean employers’ … point-of-view.

This is a brilliant and unique book. It stands apart from the thousands of books I’ve read over the years. All other time travel stories are about modern people visiting the past. This is the only book I can think of where a man from the past offers a view of the modern world and it’s not a pretty sight.

Richard Ben Sapir wrote other books that are unusual and worth reading. I especially liked The Body, but The Far Arena stands head and shoulders above the rest. He only wrote a few novels. His world was really comic books, or what are now called “graphic novels” … making locating copies of his books more challenging. However you can get your hands on one — beg, steal or borrow — it’s a must-read,even if science fiction is not a genre you normally seek out. Whether “A Far Arena” is science fiction or plain fiction is a matter of opinion. I think it sits just on the edge where genres meet. (Question: When genres meet, do they have coffee together? Just wondering.)

You might check to see if your local library has a copy. I scored a good copy in hard-cover from a second-hand seller on Amazon for $8.50 plus shipping, not bad considering the book’s been out of print for 30+ years.

It would make a great movie. I can see it all in my mind’s eye. I recommend you read it if you can. You can find copies around occasionally and although he was not a prolific writer, he wrote a few other novels, all of which are very good and have unique stories.

Did I mention that it’s exceptionally well written? Highly literate? Well-researched? Convincing? All those things and a great, gripping story too.

You can hunt down used copies. They are available on Amazon (I just bought one  as a gift) and more come up periodically. Sometimes you get lucky and find one of these rare books at yard sales or the Salvation Army. Then you get the book for literally pennies and you  have fun hunting it down, too. On the average, you’ll find it’s less expensive than most new paperbacks and more than worth the price.