Yesterday I achieved one of my lifelong goals: I became a newspaper columnist.
Sure, the paper is Salem Weekly -- which actually is published every two weeks, but since this is Salem's alternative newspaper, likely most of the readers are too stoned to notice.
And Salem Weekly is free. So I'm a columnist in a paper which gets grabbed out of boxes, sometimes by people who need a foundation layer for their kitty litter. But like I said in a post on my other blog:
Still, hey, I'm a columnist!
Along with Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman. I'm just one (freaking gigantic) step from being read regularly by readers of this country's most respected newspaper.
Since I have my permission to do so, I'll share another quote from that post about why I'm so enthused about being able to ponder the ins and outs of strangeness bi-weekly.
At the age of 64, it's all becoming very clear to me now. Very clear indeed. I'm homing in on the Secret of the Cosmos, the Theory of Everything, the Key that Unlocks Every Mystery.
It's been right in front of me this whole time: strangeness. I just made the mistake of thinking, "That's so strange; I've got to look somewhere else."
No, it's Strange that we want, need, and long for.
It's Strange that makes everyday life into something mind-blowing. It's Strange that converts ordinary into unique, mundane into special, ignorable into can't-take-my-eyes-off-of-you. I'm going to enjoy explaining to others, and to myself, why I'm not crazy to think this way.
Or, if I am crazy, why this is a fine madness.
Now, it might seem that these thoughts are at odds with my churchlessness.
Aren't agnostic/atheist religious skeptics like me scientific'y rationalists who like their reality all lined up in neat clean boxes filled with boringly factual demonstrable evidence?
No, not at all.
In fact, one of my gripes with religious faiths is that they aren't weird enough.
Theologies, whether of the Western or Eastern variety, usually try to make sense. They aren't content to view reality as the Super Strangeness that I consider it to be. Instead of worshipping at the altar of the Cosmic Question Mark, they conjure up illusory answers in an attempt to dispel mystery.
The universe is strange. Life is strange. You and me... we're strange. Everything is strange.
Just imagine: existence exists. Seemingly always has; always will. That is just so freaking strange! Along with the specifics of what exists within existence.
Look around. Fourteen billion years after the big bang, a mystery in itself, this is what the cosmos has come up with in our little corner of the universe.
The Kardashians. iPhone. The Colbert Report. McDonalds. Lattes. Tiny dogs people carry around with them.
The list is endless. If you look at Earth through eyes attuned to Strange, every single thing on this planet is amazingly unlikely in the cosmic scheme of things.
An alien spaceship visits us. Beings exit the craft. Do you think they will tell us, "We have found other civilizations just like yours in other galaxies."
I don't. I bet they'd gaze upon what we've got going on here and cognize, Wow, this planet is so freaking strange! Never seen anything like it.
Feelings I share. (Not surprisingly, since I made up the alien's feelings.)
Might as well end by quoting my first Salem Weekly column.
At one point in my life I worried about being considered strange. Now, I consider it a compliment. The most interesting people I’ve known, the most fascinating places I’ve been to, the most unforgettable experiences I’ve had — they’ve all been compellingly strange.
...Strange Up Salem has to be a communal happening, a venture into uncharted territory where we all stand on the border between who each of us is now and what our city is now, and boldly keep stepping forward.
Onward, into strangeness.
Which is another way of saying, I have no idea. Of exactly where this column is going. Of precisely how Salem should change for it to be the city we long for.
And that’s a good thing. Strangeness blossoms in the fertile soil of openness. When we’re absolutely certain, the strangling Dogmatic Weed doesn’t allow ooh and ah fruit to ripen.
...Most importantly: be strange. Passionately, confidently, lovingly.
“Beauty always has an element of strangeness.”