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Don Rogers: A guide for modern living

Don Rogers

A forest of whales surfaces straight up, dwarfing two fishermen in a skiff. Now there’s a moment, awesome even if only an illustration. Imagine being there, saltwater soaked, stunned.

Adele singing “Hello from the other side” to an ex-lover sears a heart through the speakers, calling up memories as she does, her voice cracking just so. How many old friends from the early days before we settled on a pairing for life?

A shiny black Lab-border collie stretches on soft carpet in early sunlight through a window, not bothering to open her eyes, no worries for the heat of the day to come. Let it.

Bacon sizzles in a frying pan. The sound. The smell. Just right. A perfect weekend morning, predawn writing under my belt, last rich roast of coffee under my nose.

I understand what Maya Angelou meant by “You are only free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

Isn’t this what we live for?

CENTURY MARK

The news is the news, my profession these past several decades. Every minute pregnant, don’t forget to check the feeds, to keep an ear keen for the scanner, our anxious addiction, attuned as we are to alarm. Even removed from the newsroom a good decade now, a buzzing endures, a jittery tinnitus. What might we be missing?

But I prefer the deeper currents. What does today mean to 100 years from today? How did we get here from 100 years before? Technology, the economy, governments rising and falling, wars hot and cold, communication, education, the environment, energy, community, health, politics, faith, how we live our lives, how we treat one another, what we think about, everything.

A hundred years, outside our own life spans, offers a cooler perspective on the daily flow of news, lava now.

The pandemic, for instance. Not nearly the toll of 1918, still well short of ’58 if counted by today’s larger population, but beginning to close in on ’68. What can we learn now to apply to the next outbreaks?

A hundred years ago we didn’t know there was such a thing as a virus, though we did know to wear our masks. What might we remember as obvious in 100 years about, say, social contagion that we don’t realize now?

What about a current president’s antics, an election’s turns, a pandemic’s rise, an economy’s fall, rage in the streets, the seething world will stand out in a century? We’ve seen it all before, and will again. What this time will stick?

I think this is how the news should be read: bearing witness to the moment for more timeless lessons. With a deep breath.

STAND UP

My daughter talked up “Braving the Wilderness,” by Brene Brown, a professor who researches such psychological topics as shame, empathy, and for this book, “true belonging and the courage to stand alone.”

I didn’t love the book as my daughter and some of her friends did, enough so to form a sort of book club to talk it through.

It didn’t fully connect, I guess. My fears don’t quite match the author’s, my skin’s maybe not as thin, something. Maybe as simple as the sentences, some points that didn’t resonate, too many quotable experts carrying predictable story lines. I did recognize this was my issue, not hers, my expectations aroused beyond what she could deliver.

Still, I get what my daughter sees in the message, what Brown is saying about true belonging rather than trying to fit in, a sort of settling for less that afflicts teenagers the worst but continues for too many of us through life. I get that the ticket to belonging comes from the courage to stand alone.

And through this book, I understand what Maya Angelou meant by “You are only free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

Or maybe not understand, but to make peace with this truth: You can only belong to yourself.

How should we live? In the moment and in the bigger picture, too, but bravely anyway. Life is a mandala, each of us our own artwork to create or let happen — it’s up to us — but swept away beyond memory in the end.

Our fate is to be forgotten. Sounds like freedom to me.

Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at drogers@sierrasun.com or 530-477-4299.


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