Thursday, February 21, 2013

200. 200 opinions that not everybody agreed with

By my unofficial count, this will be my 200th column for the Amherst News Times. It has been nearly a decade since my first column, which ran back in August of 2003. That averages out to a little less than two per month--which is usually what I aim for. I believe I have them all correctly chronicled on my website, I put the first 50 into a small collection and had planned to do so with each subsequent 50, but it is a lot of work and time consuming. Now I have the website and they are just as easily accessed there.

Despite ten years of opinions, many are surprised that I am still sort of quiet. I truly enjoy sitting back and listening, and watching-and then reading and researching column ideas. Inspiration is wide-spread-from things like documentaries, editorials, books, news headlines, displaced or random comments, or cable news. They sometimes originate from personal experiences or just hanging out in public-- and most touch my passions (or my nerves).

No surprise then, I've occasionally touched on the passions of others. Some have responded in agreement; others in adamant opposition. Although my passions sometimes get in the way, I am always rooting for an engaging discussion. My favorite topics are the ones that have good arguments on both sides-and I love the challenge of trying to formulate a unifying theory in my mind. Once I've convinced myself, then I offer them to others-to test them, which also means that sometimes my opinions do change.

The most sensitive of my column topics seems to be religion, and, of course, President Obama. Though I do not think I have ever taken a position on abortion, I have received emails--very passionate emails as you can imagine-- linking the three. Abortion is one of those topics that I still have not landed on with a confident position. To the frustration of some of my liberal friends-I find the merits, and flaws-in the argument made by both sides (though, I certainly do not put the blame of a 1973 Supreme Court decision on President Obama). It is interesting that some people see this issue as clearly as I see the merits of vegetarian/veganism.

I very much still enjoy writing this column, though I realize that some topics get repeated and might bore readers. I have a number of issues I still want to cover, including some topics I have not yet written about. The ones that require research often get pushed back in draft stage; others are written in a matter of minutes--in which I could not stop writing even if I wanted to.

As for other ambitions, I would like to write a book--if I can ever make the time commitment. The book I have in mind is sort of a unifying theory of all my columns. It would be an opportunity to go into considerably more depth than I can in a short essay-and links a common theme. However, what I have in mind will require a lot of time spent researching ideas. I have no illusions of a best seller, or even maybe a publisher, but think the process might offer self-realization--and the product, self-definition. As Henry Miller said, "writing is its own reward."

I have a silly new blog, called Five Roos (, which is about a "retired racer's life." Sky, our retired greyhound, actually "writes" the blog from his perspective. Greyhounds "roo" when they are excited, and Sky rates his experiences on a scale of 1-5 "roos." We'll see if he can keep that going. Blogs are very difficult to sustain.

Either way, I very much appreciate the opportunity to present my ideas in this newspaper. Like most writers, I always appreciate feedback--whether it is positive or negative, or just an opinion. Despite the personal reward, writers do want to be read, just like singers want to be heard and dancers want to be seen. I don't know when this will end-at column 225, 250 or maybe 500--but it continues to be a wonderful experience. Thank you to the Amherst News-Times and those who take a few moments to read my column a couple times each month.

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