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Monday, August 28, 2017

We're Never "Just Saying"

Who knows where this turtle lives?


That is a dangerous subject heading! How can any “always” or “never” statement about human behavior be true? Or, if it’s true, how can it be anything other than trivial? But I’m going out on a limb here, because this is something I’m thinking through for myself as I put my thoughts into words.

Specifically, I’m thinking about Facebook and what I post there and why. To begin with, why post anything at all? Then, why post the things I do? The short answer is that I post for several different reasons, not all reasons applying to every post.

o    To let family and friends know what’s going on my life, how my world looks, and how I feel about it.

o    To gain visibility for my bookstore and for particular books.

o    To acknowledge and share some of the accomplishments and joys of family and friends, authors and other people in the book world.

o    To share news on topics close to my heart.

o    To spread a little sunshine.

o    To ask for friends’ help in thinking through a question or problem.

I’m sure this list is incomplete, but these are some of the reasons that occur to me as I ask myself the question.

Time off!!!
As for reading at this point in a very busy week, I have somehow managed to reach page 316 of a 412-page ARC of a YA novel and am also halfway through a very inspiring nonfiction book. The latter, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (brothers?), is called Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, and, as someone who often finds change difficult in her own life, I am finding this book inspiring and encouraging.

Books, dog, flowers

Okay, this morning I finished both books, the novel and the nonfiction book.

As You Wish, by Chelsea Sedoti, is a YA novel to be released in hardcover in January 2018 ($17.99). The setting is a small town in Nevada (Las Vegas only a day trip away) where each resident, on his or her eighteenth birthday, visits the wishing cave to make a single wish, assured that the wish will come true. There are, however, parameters to the wishing, and many wishers experience heavy pressure from family and friends, as does Eldon, the protagonist of the novel. As the landmark birthday approaches for groups of high school seniors (and all subsequent birthdays are nothing after the eighteenth), they attend a mandatory wishing class to learn the rules and prepare themselves for the big day.

To placate the school principal, who styles himself a psychiatrist and also coaches wishing class, Eldon comes up with a project: he will interview a number of people in town to find out what they wished and how their lives turned out. His own decisions – more than one – ultimately surprised but satisfied me as a reader. The story was engrossing, characters well drawn.

One small matter bothered me off and on through the story, and that has to do with language. I know the words used are familiar to all adolescents and probably used by most, so their use is realistic – and the author does not pepper every page with profanity. Still, I can’t help wondering if it is necessary at all. No doubt this is my age talking.

*  *  *  *  *

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard has me all charged up – excited! – energized! – hopeful! What preconceived ideas to you bring to the possibility of change? Do you think it possible for a person to change, fundamentally, or are character and talents immutable, part of our DNA?

Family visit

This is getting too long. I need to quit, post it, and come back to the Switch book another time. About my subject heading, though: my point was that we never “just” say anything. Even if I don’t have a clearly thought-out reason for an utterance – maybe it just “popped into my head” – I could have kept it to myself. As for the response “Well, it’s true” (to the question of why someone says something), that’s no answer at all, because every time I open my mouth, there are an infinite number of possible truths I might utter.

What I’m getting at specifically here – my reason for writing about this, now – is, as implied near the top of this post, my thinking about why I or my friends or anyone else posts what they do on Facebook, and I’m thinking now especially of the political posts. Do I hope to change someone’s mind? Shine a light in a dark corner? Or am I merely venting frustration, expressing outrage, confident that those who already agree with me will rally to my side? And if they do, what do we, the like-minded group, gain? I ask this because I want us to gain something – and that’s where the Switch book comes in....

More soon, I hope, as we run and bustle and skid toward Labor Day!


Deborah said...

I believe it's possible for a person to change if the person wants to make the change. I do think attitude is important in changing and having a willingness to change is key.

P. J. Grath said...

Deborah, you and I would probably agree that wanting – and willing – are more powerful than mere “wishing,” but Heath & Heath cite studies and tell stories showing that willpower is not necessarily our most effective tool for change. Heretical idea? That will be part of my next post!