Lend me your ears

I try to focus on my personal projects here, rather than shilling for the paper. Don’t get me wrong: I like the paper, and I believe you should read it. But I spend 40+ hours per week dedicated to brainstorming, writing, editing, and promoting content for New Times. So I tend to treat my personal writing time as sacred. This is when and where I promote work that is mine.

So the fact that I’m choosing to dedicate an entire post to New Times content means that it’s particularly special. And whenever the paper does something special it’s because the people putting it together are so incredibly talented and committed to their craft. In this case that special someone is Chris White-Sanborn,8570_10151725953268355_1311059545_n who has been an intern with us since he was 16 or 17 (he’s now 20, and yes, I’m already planning the festivities for his 21st birthday).

Chris has a way with words that I can only envy, a kind of wild genius that is a joy both to edit and read. Every week, we give him a 400-word column titled “Cougars & Mustangs” and every week he turns in something thoughtful and entertaining. And some weeks he turns in columns that make me think about what it means to be alive, to be human, to be an artist. I think most writers would agree with me that this is an incredible feat with a meager 400 words.

There have been a lot of moments, since becoming an adult, that have given me cause to lament the future. I don’t want to know what’s going to come of us humans, what’s going to come of us Americans, what’s going to come of us 20-somethings desperately struggling to make heads or tails of the world we’ve inherited. But I can’t wait to see what Chris White-Sanborn accomplishes with his time here. He gives me something more than hope; the presence of someone so thoughtful, kind, creative, and determined hot on my literary tail fills me with optimism. Not just for what he brings to the proverbial table as a writer, but for who he is as a human being.

And if you’re willing to take the time to listen to something amazing–five podcasts of Chris reading special issues of his Cougars & Mustangs column (edited by me, and I apologize for the poor sound quality)–I think you’ll find yourself feeling just a little more optimistic about our collective future as well. You can follow the link above to the online version of the Student Guide, find page 22 on the guide, and you’ll find the podcasts at the very top of the page, almost hidden. You just click the little blue links at the top. If you only have time for one, I highly recommend the one labeled “Apocalypse” and if you don’t have time for any (for shame, you know you do!), here is the text, originally printed in New Times on Dec. 19, 2012:

As the buildings that stood so high and smug disassembled brick-by-brick, atom-by-atom, to be blown away by an unfeeling wind into a slowly fading sky, mankind will be faced with a final question. Was it worth it? It’s something to consider at any stage of life, and the moment before it ends is no exception. To any beings who read these words after we are all gone, I sadly cannot answer on humanity’s behalf. If there were a prevailing answer—and I am not of the opinion that there is—I would not be confident enough to believe it a “yes.”

My kind readers, you may not believe the world is going to end tonight. You may believe that all will go as planned, with Christmas right around the corner. You may not even believe in Christmas, in Christ Himself, in God! And you know what, that’s OK. I’m not here to make any mob-pressured judgments of you for your beliefs. But I hope that you believe in who you are. And I hope that you believe in what you’re doing.

Another semester of college at Cuesta has come and gone, and I am here to offer you a gift. A Christmas gift, if you will. I am forgoing the usual dates of events this week, as to be honest, you don’t need them. You are occupied already with family, or with the fact that you are dead. My boss cannot dock my pay for this departure, as I’m an intern. That’s not a complaint, though—I do this job because I love to do it. And that’s where my gift comes in.

My gift to you, dear reader, is a simple, pointed echo of the desperate sound reverberating across the halls of our existence—the sound that reaches from Montana to Japan to the International Space Station to the Antarctic to our little town. Was it worth it? Because if you aren’t sure you’re doing what your soul screams to do, if your heart is not in your work, if you aren’t sure you’re pursuing your true calling in life, then do yourself a favor and make a note of that. You aren’t alone. Don’t cage yourself into thinking—into believing—that you’re stuck where you are.

One of the great things about going to college is the opportunity to explore. You take that welding class. You talk to that girl. You ask thought-provoking questions in your youth group. You’re human, and you have to live with yourself and your decisions; for at least as long as your heart is beating—maybe longer! Try not to be your own enemy.

I know it’s unorthodox writing this here, but I’d argue it’s more important than any choir concert—and faithful readers know how highly I value those. Anyway, the world is burning up as I write this, so there’s not a lot that can be done about it now. While the ultimate question trickles into our ears as we are consumed in flames, I hope we can all answer “yes” with a confident smile. For what it’s worth, congratulations on completing your finals, Cougars. For what it’s worth, merry Christmas. And for what it’s worth, thank you for giving me the honor of being alive with you.

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