Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"Lord, I was born a ramblin' man..."

Many thoughts, little organization. Welcome to my world.

650 words on WITB today. I hope I can get a better count tomorrow. I just really, really, haven't wanted to work this week. Too much psychic baggage. One of the marks of a true professional, whether writer, librarian, or whatever, is showing up for work even when it's a struggle. I guess I'm making progress.

True professionalism requires commitment. That's a real nasty word, these days. A commitment is serious business. That means that your word is on the line. Do you keep your promises? Do you show up even when you don't want to? Keeping your commitments means that you are maintaining your integrity.

True professionalism requires integrity. All professions have ethics. As a professional librarian, I refuse to violate my ethics, even in the face of anger or scorn from others. Integrity used to be a good thing. These days, it's seen as old-fashioned, out-of-date, and irrelevant. I beg to differ. Ethics are not situational. Morality is not situational. Though my standards of right and wrong may differ from others' in small ways, they will coincide to a great extent.

Integrity means standing up for what's right, even if it's not popular. Integrity may require me to be ridiculed and scorned, mocked, even cursed. That's the price I have to pay. That's the price any person must be willing to pay if they want to remain true to their beliefs. Integrity is a harsh and sometimes cruel master. What's right and good seldom comes easily and is never free.

Integrity used to be worthy of respect. That is no longer true. Today's world is built around the notions of selfishness and disregard for anyone or anything that is not desired by or pleasurable for a particular individual. Anarchy, in other words. Other people are increasingly considered objects that must be shoved aside or climbed over on our way to our goals. That is sad.

Back in my younger days, I fell in love with a novel by Alistair MacLean named H.M.S. Ulysses. Most people consider him a hack, and he really was in his later years, turning out books by the handful, all with the same plot, the same characters, etc. And making tons of money doing it. However, before he sold his soul to the Demon Moolah, MacLean gave the world one extremely unappreciated novel of honor, courage, and redemption.

I consider Alistair MacLean a failure. He wrote a lot of books and made a lot of money, but he lost his integrity. He sold his vision and his talent for a mess of pottage. H.M.S. Ulysses shows that he had important things to say and could say them with passion and beauty. I count it a great loss that he did not maintain his professionalism under pressure.

I got off on this track while thinking (actually brooding) about my wife's family crisis. H.M.S. Ulysses is about the men on an escort vessel on the Artic convoy run to Murmansk during WWII. Referring to an oil tanker that has been torpedoed and set on fire, the author writes: "Tankers die hard. Terribly hard." That statement also applies to families.

Families die hard. Love dies hard. Terribly, awfully, tragically hard. It hurts.

I am also put in mind of a line that sits in my "Ideas" file waiting its turn upon the stage. One day it will provide the lead-in for a really fine story:

"They say time heals all wounds, but sometimes an eternity is barely enough to stop the bleeding."


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