Monday, January 17, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Super Bowl

News Items:
The Chicago Bears will play the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship football game.
President Obama begs for more civil discourse among politicians and others who disagree.

I have been a Chicago Bears fan ever since I moved to the Chicago area many years ago. I have accepted and enjoyed the traditional rivalry and buildups before battles between the Bears and the Packers, two teams that consider each other hereditary enemies. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I respect the Packers and their traditions. Over the years, a significant number of Bears players have moved on to the Packers, and the reverse is true also. On occasion, I even root for the Packers when they are playing someone other than the Bears.
In political, religious, and economic matters, why can't we respect the opposition even though we disagree with them? One of the differences and problems is that in football both sides play by the same rules. If one side tries to gain an advantage over the other, it has to work within the framework of those rules. In politics and economics there are too many opportunities for people to go outside the very minimal framework of rules to gain advantages by making false and misleading statements, inciting an emotional population, and branding someone as an enemy. Maybe we need more referees and fact-checkers in our national discourse and our media as well as in our sports. There are many reasons to stick to the facts when debating our future. Too many times we have trouble even sticking to the facts when we discuss our past.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Making Mistakes

In life as in writing mistakes are not necessarily bad things. In most decision situations, you should not be afraid of making a mistake. Mistakes generate experiences from which we learn. The same is true in writing, whether fiction or nonfiction. When you make a mistake in the way you try to communicate a lesson or a story, you have to use creativity to overcome and explain the situation in which you have found yourself. Most mistakes are reversible, and there are many paths to get from here to there. Midcourse corrections are not only acceptable but desirable, because they add precision to your final outcome or destination. In writing, the analog of midcourse corrections is the revision process. It is virtually impossible to author a significant book without going back and making revisions to the manuscript. In life we also have to compensate for our misstatements and misdeeds in order to achieve our goals (which may also require modification) or to get along with other people. Just remember to trust your inner moral compass and make your own mistakes rather than allow yourself to be misled by others. There are always people with little or no stake in your well-being who will try to move you off your intended course.