Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Forest and trees.. and that voice!

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?

“It’s damn near the end of the month!” Says your man up in Pearl River. “Will you for god’s sake stop twisting the knife!”

Well, it takes me about a week to recover from playing in Times Square every New Year’s Eve, so bear with me. To add fat to the fire it takes me another fortnight to shovel aside the problems I caused the year before.

Truth be told, however, I tend to make the same resolutions year in, year out – one practical, the other more philosophical.

“God be with the days they used to write about boy bands in this paper,” observes my Pearl River conscience.

So, first for the practical – “Never touch the same piece of paper twice!”

In the current digital age, you’d think this old saw would be for the birds. But I’m still bombarded by paper – bills, threats, demands, and advertisements for everything from Andy Cooney cruises to Bronx cemetery plots. I’ve tried fancy filing trays, shredders, bonfires, you name it – but the paper Tsunami keeps rolling at me.

The only thing that inspires a grand clean-up is the memory of the voice that first suggested I never touch the same piece of paper twice – oozing with moral superiority, curried by the pity she felt for this lesser mortal whose workspace looked like the aftermath of a Nor’easter.

That voice – or it’s memory - still catapults me into action, garbage bag at the ready, shredder chomping, until I can glimpse again the scratched surface of the rickety table that serves as my desk.

She was a major figure in my life back when social media meant getting drunk with journalists at the Bells of Hell; still, I can imagine her practical advice for handling the digital age: “Reply instantly to any piece of important email, ignore all but life and death texts. Don’t answer phone calls, especially from family members.”

Yes, she was indeed a woman of fixed tastes and firm opinions; I still feel bad for the poor unfortunate she ran off with! The last time I saw him the little hair he had left was grey as a ghost.

Ah well, no point in crying over spilt milk; let’s deal with my more philosophical resolution - “Don’t miss the forest for the trees.”

There are many ways this can be applied but I always begin by jotting down the myriad problems that have been taxing my brain.

As I gaze wearily down a list of fifty or more pinpricks, I put a mark next to the really important issues. I can only handle one of these at a time so, being an Irish guy, I pick the least thorny and deal with it.

The solution is often easier than I had anticipated so I feel a towering sense of accomplishment and store away the rest for the following year! No point in going over board, Rome wasn’t built in a day and so on and so forth…

Resolutions aside, it’s still easy to get derailed nowadays. I’m of the firm opinion that the reason we daily lurch from fiscal cliff to political crisis is our refusal to distinguish the forest from the trees. Instead of arguing over every little point we need to sit down and figure out just what kind of country we’d really like to live in.

Of course, that takes listening, and who has time for such a pursuit in our very connected universe. It’s so easy to find some media clown (present company excepted) who not only agrees with us but makes us seem moderate by comparison.

Still, despite all the bluster, we’re really not as far apart as we might seem. We all have a vital stake in the forest; it’s just that it’s so easy to get hung up arguing about the color of the bark on our favorite trees!

Ah well, my desk is showing the first signs of clutter, time to sweep it all into the garbage bag and fire up the shredder before that patronizing voice start ricocheting around in my head again!

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