On Being Freshly Pressed; and, A Preamble of Sorts
As many of you know — but some do not, including those who read the post beforehand — my recent “Is This Failure?” essay was Freshly Pressed by the WordPress.com editors.
I received an email from an editor the day following publication, and was told that it would be Freshly Pressed the following Monday. And, true to her word, it was — literally, just as we were getting into the car to leave Edinburgh for our next house-sitting gig.
We’re now in a lovely town in Fife, caring for two small cats named KiKi and Fudge, sisters from the same litter, though the former is black and white, the latter, tabby. Pussy cat promiscuity the suspected cause.
And, so, having been settled here for exactly one week, I’ve decided, spur-of-the-moment, to do what I didn’t originally intend — to write a post about having been Freshly Pressed.
However, I’m doing so not so much for having been chosen for this honor — for which I’m, indeed, very grateful — as for the engagement which has come from readers. At the time of writing this post, 125 folk have pressed the Like button, many times more, of course, have visited the post, other posts on my site have, likewise, been read and Liked, and 69 comments have thus far been left, including my replies. And my WordPress.com followers have increased fourfold.
But I’m most grateful for the comments, particularly those in which the reader shared so much of their own experience in considering what failure — and “failure” — is, and perhaps, too, what it is not. And so a heartfelt Thank you! to each of you.
Now, what I actually did intend to do tonight was to continue working on the final part of the “My Adventures with Don Quixote” essay series. That essay is long overdue, although it was written on a timely basis following the penultimate part, Part Two. At the time (this past spring), we were still living in Burgos, Spain. However, I continued to work and re-work it before we returned to our life on the road this past April, traveling back through France and, presently, around Britain — continuing the slow travels we began in May 2012. And, so, I’ve been tardy in, finally, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. This is true, in large part, because the essay had grown into a monster which doesn’t want to be tamed, at least not too heavy-handedly.
As I’ve noted in my aforementioned replies to readers’ comments, a refrain in my various creative writing classes is to write, from the heart, the truth of our own experience. This is why I write, what keeps me at the page and putting my work out for others to read. But many of these truths are uncomfortable, to say the least. They reflect my understanding of the world in which we live, a world which is vastly different from the one I thought, a dozen years ago, we occupied.
Back then I was a progressive political activist and budding writer, having worked my way through countless layers of deceit to reach the level of understanding I had at the time.
This despite my having come from a conservative family and having earned a business degree, in finance, before embarking upon my professional career as a financial and marketing analyst, and having, ultimately, become an entrepreneur and principal management consultant, not to mention whistle-blower — only to make a sharp break from business (I was then 34 years old, and earning an extraordinarily good living with particularly good prospects) to live well, simply, if well below the poverty line ever since. That said, even slow-traveling digital nomads need to earn a living. Hence a full-fledged return, now, to my consulting and entrepreneurial roots, focusing on exactly those skills and experience which I’ve been honing and building upon throughout these years.
But the painful peeling off of countless more layers of ingrained societal deceit continued, not only unabated but at an ever greater pace as I delved into the underworld of history and present goings-on as well as into another, post-graduate school career as a writer-journalist. The latter, conjoined part of that pursuit was relatively short-lived once I came to the inconvenient conclusion that journalism, in any meaningful form, doesn’t exist.
Let me qualify or, rather, fine-tune that. I mean, specifically, that the world as it is presented to us through the prism of the media — in all its guises, including very much as it pertains to arts and culture — is a gross distortion of reality.
In short, journalism has become propaganda. Journalists, wittingly or not, have become propagandists. Exceedingly few exceptions exist, and those that do necessitate that the journalist in question earns his money elsewhere.
And this, it turns out, is nothing new, as we’ll see when we take into account the words of American journalist, newspaper publisher, and orator John Swinton, who was also the chief editorial writer of The New York Times in the 1860s. In response to a toast offered to the independent press at a banquet, in 1880, given in his honor by his journalism colleagues, Swinton replied:
There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.
Well, the final essay in the “My Adventures with Don Quixote” series contains a great many home truths of my own, and concerning the world in which we live.
And as I’m especially grateful for the support shown by the readers of my “Is This Failure?” essay, I thought it perhaps wise to offer a sort of preamble as a means to help contextualize, ahead of time, that final essay to come. While written in full this past spring, I’ve continued to work on it at various points in our travels since. It’s not yet ready for publication. But, that said, I hope it will be with you shortly. However, essays — in contrast to certain blog posts — cannot be rushed.
They’re more akin to wine than a cuppa.
And I’d rather keep this particular (Don Quixote) essay corked than to prematurely spring it upon my dear readers. And, so, too, thank you for your patience, and goodwill.
Sean M. Madden is a writer-educator, photographer and slow traveler. A digital nomad, he’s also co-founder of Creative Thunder, helping creative individuals and small businesses to fire up their online presence and prowess. To get a free copy of the inspiring Creative Thunder Manifesto, click here.