I spent yesterday buried deeply within a legal issue about which I'm writing a brief. I like the way that work sometimes gives me layer upon layer of intellectual challenge, keeping my mind alive. I like the part in the Lord of the Rings books when the wood elf cannot resist the inevitable call of the Sea. The Sea of Ideas always appeals to me. I suppose that's why I thought I would be an academic when I was younger. I thought that I'd live a life filled with nothing but floating in some sea of ideas and reflection. Now, instead, I have a weblog.
I pride myself, somewhat, on having disparate hobbies and yet becoming unduly attached to none of them. But for 2004, I'm half tempted to choose one to focus upon. Perhaps I should get serious about chess again--study and play more often and see if I can get my rating from B level to A or Expert. My on-line ratings seem to be running below C now, so I am not sure if my true strength is even B anymore. Most people have on-line ratings which exceed their over-the-board ratings, but mine is hundreds of points lower. I sometimes suspect this is a middle-age thing, as most on-line players are younger kids, perhaps more adept at moving quickly. In live blitz chess, I perform better, though, so maybe it's just something about the way that on-line chess feels for me.
My advertisement for my chess tournament was in the newest issue of Texas Knights, the official magazine of the Texas Chess Association. Let's hope that my notion of a "fairly low entry fee, but kazoos for prizes, proceeds to charity" works. I calculate that 14 players must attend for it to be a break-even proposition. I'm intrigued to see if people will come even if the most they can win is a kazoo. It's understandable human nature that if people pay a 15 or 20 dollar entry fee into a chess competition, then they wish to have some mathematic chance of winning a prize. Maybe I'll bite the bullet and run a "prizes available" tournament next. At least I amuse myself--I still chuckle when I read my ad's tag line: "Play quickly. Play with fervor. Play to win a kazoo".
Of course, rather than focusing on chess in 2004, I could make it a point to focus on trying to get poetry published.
I enjoyed getting that publication in that on-line magazine in October. It would be fun to try to wrack up a lot of publications, although I feel egotistical writing this sentence. But in some ways, I want to be free of the "I must be a poet because some little mag published me" way of writing. I have a DIY sense that the best publishing is independent publishing--free of the "critical constraints" of other people's constructs. This Sea of Ideas has a lot of sargasso in it. While the notion of being chosen for publication as a useful form of "weeding out" stuff that doesn't get chosen, the aesthetics involved are just too uncertain. I like about "Chess Poems for the Tournament Player" that it sells because it is about something light and fun which people frequently wish to buy. Maybe another chess poem book is in order. I have already had buyers tell me they would buy another, and nothing is better in DIY than when people buy one's DIY.
I grew up fishing, largely because where I grew up, fishing was like breathing and saying "y'all", just an irrepressible biological urge. One year in Los Angeles, when I was short of things to do, I took up pier fishing in a big way. I liked that sense that my skills improved, as I went from endless days catching nothing, to becoming a competent pier fisherman. Ocean fishing is different from freshwater fishing. From a boat in the ocean, one catches fish on all but the most unlucky days. From a pier, it's much more tricky, and one must work to learn how to do it. I remember the first time I caught a fish at Chace Park, the little park in Marina del Rey with a tiny fishing pier. It was a jacksmelt, a silver-sided long fish that shimmered in the moonlight when I caught it one night. I promptly threw it back, but the thrill of finally catching a fish from a pier was really something. Over time, it became less a novelty, and more something I proved proficient at doing. I could, I suppose, spend 2004 trying to fish the local lakes in a big way and become some great bassmaster, but I don't really think that's me.
Maybe 2004 is instead a vocational training time. I could take courses to become a mediator. I could do a graduate degree on-line in something to fall back upon if I tire of law. But that all requires both money and time, and sometimes I feel that I should just work harder at work, and enjoy my time when I'm not working. Inertia--what a drug.
I could also imagine 2004 as a "discover north Texas" time. When I was single and 24 I spent Saturdays and Sundays driving on forgotten country roads and finding the "true Texas" hidden off the farm to market highways. There are so many hamlets and places I've not yet been, though, and that would be a fun way to spend 2004. Already, I have my two Arkanas nephews coming in February. They like to fish, and I'm reflecting on where to take them. The lake near the state park with the dinosaur footprints? The lake which stocks deep sea redfish, although it is a freshwater inland lake? The pond with the sunfish on the prairie? An Oklahoma mountain lake? Merely the local lake, Lavon? I want them to have a trip they'll remember as really cool--it's so great to have those "wow, this is cool!" weekends when you're a kid.
I do feel resolution-ish this year, about exercising and losing weight and being kinder and being more organized. I also want to reconnect with all sorts of inward synapses that sometimes feel a bit stray-wired. I want to spend more time with my parents and siblings, and more time connecting with friends. I thought to myself how I really am a "loner" so much of the time. I don't really have "buddies" with whom I hang out, but spend most of my time with my wife, our mutual friends or my relatives. I don't plan to take any big steps to change that, but I guess I'll be more open to the possibility of making new friends. I'm so good at being self-contained that it's amusing, but I have to make sure it's not limiting, too.
I think I need to get involved with a church again. I loved our little Unitarian/Universalist church in La Crescenta, but both U/U churches in our area are a good bit of drive, and the closest one just did not catch my fancy. If I were a bit more intrepid, I'd try to find kindred spirits to start one here in Allen, but I think that's a fair bit for me to bite off right now. I am having a slow time getting a chess club off the ground, much less a church. But as the idea comes to me often, maybe I'll pursue it. I could also just go to the local Methodist church, just down the street, as I consider myself a kind of Methodist among many other labels, having been raised in that church. I get troubled, though, by the intolerance and "this way only" that can arise in some Methodist churches. I used to feel that Methodist churches were extremely open and tolerant, but some of the "only one way" thinking that calcified the "born again" churches also seeped into some Methodist churches.
Although a church is an important way to express one's spirituality, one's own way is not bounded by church walls. I sometimes imagine that I would benefit from some "communion of saints", but maybe I'd do just as well focusing on getting in touch with what really matters. Of course, I could always start a yahoo group devoted to starting a local church. That's such an odd idea that it suddenly occurs to me that it might work. Maybe I'll make that a 2004 project.
I like U/Us, because my own heterodox Christianity can find a home there, but I find myself more and more attracted to the new thought folks lately. I don't believe in the central tenet of new thought--that one changes physical reality merely by thinking it changed. But I really key into that notion that one must go and dream and do.
In my imagination, a church would have no minister as such.
It would be bounded by moral principles that amount to roughly "be kind to one another, and help when you can". People would bring poems and holy texts and ideas and notions to read or say. Music would always be sung in unison. There would be as little infrastructure and as few committees as possible. People would care about and for one another. One would worry less if someone was Christian or pagan or Buddhist or atheist, and more about a shared experience. I suppose I am describing a U/U church, in many ways, but I would also leave behind the fractiousness and culture clash that can sometimes afflict U/U churches.Sometimes I want to belong to a church where people worry about things less and pray more. Churches are such constructed universes, which may not be a bad thing. But I want my universes to have liberal oceans of ideas, and land masses based on compassion, not dogma.
Maybe one has to just DIY church nowadays. Once something becomes a Thing, perhaps that Thing takes on too much of a life of its own. But I'm still tempted to form a yahoo group for a new thought church, and see what happens. It just appeals to me as an idea, developed in the midst of this post about chess and fishing.
But on less flighty notes, I have six very busy work days ahead. I like that feeling of being busy, but I have much to do and accomplish. I'm very eager to get all my "to do" list done, but I won't be sorry when Christmas gives me the next break. My firm is having a quite good year, in the modest way that we do things, and it's fun to see just how things turn out as the last collections for December trickle in. It was fun to give out Christmas bonuses recently, and it's fun to see us cross our 42nd month in good shape. We're up to four lawyers now, which probably makes us the largest firm in Garland. I have a lot to be thankful for this year.
I must take the time to remember to experience that good fortune and thankfulness. It's so easy to get hung up on the things that are wrong in my life. Of course, I'm still hung up on how it can be a fair universe in which chocolate is fattening.
2004! Sounds like a sci fi novel! Let's hope for less violence, more peace, and a lot of chess players who like to play for kazoos.