Rules to Live by in 2017…Starting NOW

Author’s Note: I wrote this for myself, but you can adopt it, if you want.

This past year has been sobering for a lot of people. A lot of us, particularly in the United States, have been forced to take a good look at the way we participate in society. Many of us, particularly in creative industries like publishing, have started to rethink the way we do our jobs. All of us, I’m hoping, will take a step back and reevaluate the way we live our lives.

For my part, I hope I can adjust my daily behavior to align more closely with my big picture goals. That I can more clearly define my core values as they relate, not just to my life, but to the lives of those who may be positively or negatively impacted by those values. I’m hoping to make a change, not just to myself, but to the world. A world I may not have helped build, (at least not in any notable historical sense–yet) but am undeniably and inescapably a part of.

On Creativity:

  1. Art is light. Through fiction, satire, poetry and music we can illuminate the world as we see it, in such a way that touches–and hopefully reaches–those who otherwise wouldn’t be swayed by facts.
  2. In this time of questionable authenticity and warring personal/societal ideologies, it’s so important to find new ways to remind people that we are all cut from the same cloth. The world we live in is not a pill box, but a globe. We can’t just partition ourselves away from one sector of humanity and expect that our actions will not impact their lives and vice versa. In this world, there is only one major story: that of life, and its continued survival against all odds (or inevitable demise). Animal, human or vegetable, it doesn’t matter. Life is life.
  3. Regardless of whether you prefer science fiction or fantasy, most fandoms agree that every story must eventually end. Every major struggle has stakes, which always come down to survival in one way or another; moral, physical, societal. As an extension of above, our story’s stakes are Life and Death. Once that third act begins, it’s too late to change course.
  4. Now is the time for us to take a good look at our character arcs, and decide whether we’ve driven our own narratives, or allowed circumstances to manipulate us into acting counter to our goals. If the first, let’s scale it up a notch. If the second, it’s time to revise.
  5. Write what you know, but get to know a little bit more, each day. Use what experience you have, but also seek out new and comfort-zone broadening experiences as often as you can. Level up, and share what you’ve learned with others hoping to do the same.
  6. Whether the world at large seems to notice or care, your existence is valid. You have the ability to impact history. You matter. Your experience is uniquely yours. Somewhere, someone in the world will benefit from hearing your side of the story. Authentic stories, told with courageous intent, will always have value. Even if it takes a while for that value to be recognized. A premise based on a simple human truth, like love, will never expire.
  7. You may never be famous, and that’s okay. All you need to do is change one person’s mind, about one thing. Just look at how much art that was created by long deceased artists is still impacting your life today. Look at how timeless some of these messages have proven themselves to be. Look how fondly we love those pieces of art which have shaped us.

On Politics:

  1. Realize that the only hope a political minority has of unseating a political majority is through unity of purpose and strength of resolve.
  2. Stop tearing each other down over varying degrees of similar values. Infighting and petty squabbling is unproductive, and also beneath us. It’s what those in power are hoping will distract us from the larger fight.
  3. If you believe in equal opportunity and protection of basic human rights for all people, that means all people. Period. Please show your “isms” to the door.
  4. As ridiculous as it may seem, basic human decency now qualifies you as part of the rebellion. How did we get here? So many theories, so little time. That doesn’t matter now. If you’re for treating people like people and against treating some people as “other” and taking away their rights, because they don’t look/think/talk like you, congratulations! You’re a progressive. You’re a member of the resistance! Don’t like labels? Fine. Ignore semantics and embrace action instead. Just treat people the way you want to be treated, act/spend/think/speak/vote accordingly, and everything will work out great.
  5. Pick your battles. If you believe in free speech, that means believing that it should be protected, even if people use it to say stupid things. The more you create provisos to freedom of speech, the easier it is for totalitarians to declare this freedom unnecessary and take it away.
  6. Hate speech is unfortunately a type of free speech. As long as there is hate, there will be those who feel justified putting it into words. Be extremely cautious of those who ignore, excuse, condone or encourage it. The moment it leads to action, to threats of actual harm, to victimization of other people in your space (online or IRL) it is YOUR JOB to provide an equal and opposite amount of free speech, to show the world that you will oppose hatred as loudly and as often as they try to promote it.
  7. If you see something, say something. We can no longer afford to stand, wide-eyed and embarrassed, as those who have practiced emotional terror their entire lives stride confidently forward. From public transit, to the most private domestic setting, to the world stage, those who have no fear of reprisals will continue to be shameless, shocking, successful. They are the ones who should be embarrassed for acting this way. We should not feel embarrassed for witnessing it. And we should be just as shamelessly vocal in condemning this behavior.
  8. Empathy is the ability to understand, even share, the feelings of another. If you’re having a hard time empathizing with someone who is being victimized, try imagining yourself–or better yet, someone you love, a child, someone you would die to protect–in their position. Would you allow someone to scream at your child in public, or drag them away while you watched? Would you stand silently by as someone devalued your entire existence?
  9. If you think you can stay silent and wait until this all blows over, I ask you to consider the childhood bully. In the “old days,” he would demand your lunch money, threatening to physically harm you if you didn’t comply. Rarely did he make good on these threats, except to set an example, and always–strangely–using the weakest possible target. She would stand in a group of like-minded friends, doling out cruel words while helming a tyranny based on public humiliation. Those who threatened to speak out against her would fall victim to the same. And yet, ironically, each of these bullies could be instantly toppled if all the other kids got together and agreed to stop playing along. Refusing fear and demanding respect, or else. Nowadays, of course, we have cyber bullies and school systems who will expel a kid for fighting back sooner than they ever punish a bully. This works great in the bully’s favor, because he or she can now operate with even less fear of consequences than they did before. Now, we’re seeing kids all over the country who would rather die than spend another day being bullied, and that number is growing. Bullies, as you will see, do not go quietly into the night. Left unchallenged, bullies only multiply and recruit. Until finally, no one’s lunch money–or life–is safe.
  10. In case you missed the fiction analogy above…regardless of whether you put your faith in science or theology, the end is nigh. We are the generation which will usher in the final act of our universe. Scientists estimate that human life on earth has a swiftly approaching expiration date. Likewise, most theologies agree that mass extinction (or apocalypse of some kind) is on the horizon. Once that extinction event/apocalypse officially begins, it’s too late to change course. You won’t know it’s officially happening, until it’s too late. Stop waiting for a sign, and start fighting for survival–until you literally, physically cannot.

On Health:

  1. Treat your body like it’s got to last you your whole life.
  2. Your emotions aren’t imaginary. They’re physiological symptoms of your surroundings, fuel for your behavior, and indicators of your internal chemistry. Stop demonizing yourself (or other people) for which emotions you happen to be experiencing in a given moment.
  3. Eat and drink things that make you feel better, not worse.
  4. Don’t forget to sleep.

On Life:

  1. The major thing that separates humanity from all other living things is our ability to consciously evolve.
  2. Conscious evolution refers to the claim that humanity has acquired the ability to choose what the species Homo sapiens becomes in the future, based on recent advancements in science, medicine, technology, psychology, sociology, and spirituality.
  3. When we cease to evolve, we are merely waiting around for extinction.

“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”
By Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.