Salman Rushdie on the value of the outsider

29 December 2010

The following writing is not my own, except for the fact that I’m typing it into my computer.  But it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read that describes who I am, what I’m about … and that I’m not alone in it, so I thought I’d share it here.

Even if you’ve never read anything by Salman Rushdie, you probably know his name.  He’s the poor bloke whom then-Iranian supreme voobaha Ruhollah Khomeini put out a contract on in 1988 because Khomeini and his band of scowling thugs thought that his book The Satanic Verses was a slam on Islam.  (He managed to outlive both the fatwa and Khomeini himself, which once again proves that living well is the best revenge.  Or something..)  When he’s not busy being the target of Muslim-extremist death threats, he’s one of the world’s great novelists, winning the Booker Prize (the UK equivalent of a National Book Award) in 1981 for Midnight’s Children.  I absolutely love his skill with the English language, and his ability to conjure up stories and worlds that are utterly fantastic while still ringing with the truth, the realism of human life.

So I hope he’ll forgive me for quoting over a page of his work.  The piece below (only slightly edited) is from his novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet, a sprawling epic that starts with the legend of Orpheus; mixes it with alternative universes, tectonic shifts, two truly odd love triangles, and the history of rock & roll; then races it through postwar Bombay/Mumbai, 1960s England, 1970s New York City and what Joni Mitchell once called “the star-maker machinery behind the popular song.”  It’s never been made into a movie and never will be, because you can’t cram the thing into two-and-a-half hours or less, and even if you could the plot would still be so convoluted it would make Inception look like a nursery rhyme.  It’s an E-ticket thrill ride, and in the hands of a lesser writer it would fall to pieces.  That it doesn’t is testimony to Rushdie’s gift.

And my favorite part of it is a soliloquy by the book’s protagonist, an Indian-born American photographer nicknamed “Rai” (coincidence?) on the subject of being an outsider in society.  As you might guess from the name of my blog, that’s a subject near and dear to my heart.  Every so often, I revisit this passage just to remind myself that no, I’m not crazy, this is how God has made me — and because He’s done so, I must therefore be valuable and useful (even when other voices are dissenting).  Anyway, enough preamble; enjoy, and let me know what you think:

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God is with us

27 December 2010

I was planning to write this entry on Christmas Eve.  That didn’t work out because the little kerfuffle with my wife finally came to a head that evening, so I had to spend the time there (and I’m glad I did).  I was too tired after driving the family to San Jose and back for Christmas to accomplish anything else of note over the weekend.  And earlier today we had separate visits from one of Sean’s caseworkers, one of Nina’s friends, and our landlord.  So really, this is the first clear chance I’ve had to write my Christmas blog entry.  On December 27.  Oh well.

But it’s okay, I guess.  Because what really makes Christmas important for me is not something tied down to a calendar …

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Periodic Pingback Double-Dose: Conscientious objection and concussion protection

22 December 2010

It’s Christmastime, after all — the season of giving, yes?  So why not give you, dear reader, a double dip of Periodic Pingback — links to articles on the Web that so intrigued me I couldn’t NOT pass them on?  (You know I’m cranked up when I start dropping double negatives.  This thing is on!)  So, you up for it?  ‘Cause I am.  Here we go …

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My grown-up Christmas (play)list

21 December 2010

One of the most enjoyable things about the Christmas season — for me at least — is the music.  I grew up singing in Christmas pageants and continued to do so into my thirties.  And I stopped not because I no longer liked singing or liking Christmas music, but just because I found flaws in the whole “big-event” mentality of American Christianity (including pageants).  I still love to hear songs about the season, whether church-based or “secular.”  Even today, when I took my daughter to the mall so she could do her Christmas shopping (all done in an hour and a half — I’m so proud of her!), I found myself grooving to the latest versions of the holiday tunes I grew up with.

So it got me to thinking: if I were to put together a Christmas playlist — say, a dozen songs — what would be on it?  Over lunch and later on, I started scribbling down a few seasonal favorites.  Granted, I’m willing to tolerate almost any Christmas tune except “Santa Baby” (the touching ballad of a gold-digging tart asking for all the possessions she can possibly drag off), but I was shooting for the ones that are most special to me, for whatever reason.  And here they are:

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Ever since I gave up control, I feel so much better …

20 December 2010

This is a work in progress, so bear with me …

Granted the last year and a half have been a little bumpy for me.  If you read this space with any regularity, you know the details, so I won’t inundate/bore/depress you with them again.  (If you’re new here, use the search box and type in “Leigh’s disease,” “CMT,” “Mom,” “stress” and “death” and you’ll get caught up fast.  But don’t say you weren’t warned.)  But it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good, and I like to think that I’m learning a few things in the midst of it all.

And probably the most important thing I’m picking up is on letting go.

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It’s beginning to look/smell/taste a lot like Christmas …

13 December 2010

Slowly but surely, things around here are becoming more and more Christmas-y.

We aren’t, by and large, the type to make a huge honking deal out of holidays (see my last post, and all the non-hoopla surrounding my recent birthday).  We like them, make no mistake — but our ardor stays fairly low-key.  In my family, Christmas was never that big an operation — especially after my parents’ divorce, since I was living with Mom and we’d always spent the day with Dad’s family.  (Still did for several years after, until she and I and my brother basically got fed up with them and decided to do something else that day.)  Among Nina’s relatives, it’s usually a quiet family time … with the notable exception of one aunt who I think goes into five figures annually on Yuletide decorations, entertainment, food and a lighting display that I don’t think is actually visible from orbit, but I make no guarantees.  Said aunt has fun doing it, though, and we wouldn’t have her any other way.  But she is the exception.

Still, we do have some things we like to do around this time of year.  And so, if you’re interested, come on in and join us for a few of the Christmas traditions around Chez Anselmo.  Here, have some hot cocoa.  I’d take your coat, but we still don’t have central heating, so you might want to keep it on …

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Just another 41st birthday

10 December 2010

Yesterday was a red-letter day for me … okay, it was more like a normal, black-letter day with maybe some red underlining, or an average day with a couple of red dots on it … aw, forget it, it was just a plain ol’ Thursday.  No big deal whatsoever.

Well, except that it was my forty-first birthday.  That was about it.

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