A million years ago, I used to read a Science Fiction magazine called Starlog. A young writer named David Gerrold, who had written for the original Star Trek TV series, had a monthly column in that magazine called “Rumblings”. The column was frequently curmudgeonly, and always insightful. As a 14-year-old boy, those columns were key in developing my ideas about rhetoric, and to a degree, writing.
A couple of years after I’d begun reading Starlog, he switched the name of the column from “Rumblings” to “Soaring”, as he felt the former had been too much about unburdening himself of negative feelings onto the page, and his intent for the latter was to be more celebratory and… “positive”? At least that’s how I remember it.
It made an impact on me, and here – 33 years later or so – I still think about that change in David Gerrold’s attitude. It was my second lesson from him - that in this world, we tell ourselves a narrative, and that narrative can be a force for either positive or negative. That lesson was key in developing my ideas about how we intersect emotionally and intellectually with the world. It was an important lesson for a 14-year-old to learn, and invaluable for an adult.
The point is that it is better to Soar than to Rumble.
What that means to me is that there is injustice in the world, and we must root it out it where we find it, but Everything is not unjust. There are things worth fighting for, but not everything needs to start a war. And there is Ugliness in the world, but Beauty also, and it is maybe more important to bring Beauty to the world than to point out Ugliness.
I don’t always succeed in this. I can be very negative, getting caught up in the stresses of my daily grind. It’s too easy to forget that I’m a very blessed man living a charmed life. I am earning a living in my chosen artistic field, and I have a roof and 3 squares, people who love me, and good health. Judged against the rest of the planet… well, you know. All of us here in the First World should all really smile more; we have it pretty good. So, yes, I may not always succeed in this, but I remember David Gerrold’s example from 30-odd years ago and try to follow it.
A fun post-script is that our Facebook-powered world made it possible for me to reach out to David Gerrold this week in a way that my 14-year-old self never could have imagined. And I shared those thoughts with him about his change from “Rumblings” to “Soaring”, and the impact it had had on me. As I suspected, he didn’t really remember the change as being all that Earthshattering. But it goes to show you. You never know the impact you are having on other people, even at a distance. Little pitchers have big ears, as the saying goes.