Someone asked me what I did for a living the other day. I paused for a second. I always pause when people ask me this, because I never really know how to answer. “Journalist”, I could say, which I suppose covers it. “Anchor” or “News presenter” might be more accurate, or even “news host”. In the end I went with “investigative reporter”, because that seems most apt, but still no one really knows what that means. They usually raise their eyebrows and nod, and follow up with, “Oh, wow, is that for a paper, or…?” And then trail off, not really sure where to go from there.
That’s fine, I don’t really know where to go from there either. Because to be honest, I don’t see myself as a journalist. Not really, anyway. I’m a writer, stuck in a journalists body. And whenever I’m asked what I do, it’s kind of hard not to just blurt out “I’m a writer.” But you have to follow that up with what you’re writing or working on, and that’s the problem. I haven’t been writing for myself since I started doing journalism.
In fact, if you check my blog post history, it’s been nearly two years since my last post. Writing is something I do for me, but when I write stories all day long, the wellspring is empty when I come home at the end of the day. And that’s depressing, because writing stories and imagining worlds and creating realities is all I really want to do. I love my job, but not because it’s journalism. I love it because I get to write, and get paid to write, and get paid to travel and explore and do interesting and unusual things. The fact that it has to do with the news is entirely secondary, and if I could excise the news portion of my work, sort of like removing an atrophied limb or unnecessary pancreas, then I would, and be happier for it. Because I’m a writer, not a journalist, and I while I think I’m pretty good at my job, nothing can change the fact that I approach each story with my fingers aching to type, “In a far-off world…”
It may surprise you–especially after magically picking up thousands of Twitter followers overnight after visiting Syria–but one of my biggest struggles is feeling like I don’t really have anything worth saying. Who am I? What do I possibly have to write about or post on a regular basis what would be even remotely interesting to anyone? To even think that I do seems impossibly arrogant to me. But in our age of social media saturation and oversharing, millions of Instagram and YouTube celebrities are popping up seemingly overnight, their feeds bursting at the seams with nothingness. Empty, vapid, self-glorifying posts abound, but as the Bard said, they are “tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Still, I am plagued with the sense that nothing I have to say is worth listening to. And so sitting down and writing a blog post is incredibly daunting. So to hell with it, I’ll write for me, and you can listen if you want to, but I won’t lose sleep over it.
So let’s go back to the beginning.
I like good things. Not good as in “high quality”, but “good”, in the traditional sense of good versus evil. Goodness, purity, light, kindness, sweetness… You would probably say I had a very sheltered childhood. I grew up without a TV, learning my sense of right and wrong from the stories my father read to me. Before I could even understand words, I listened wide-eyed and full of wonder at the beautiful sounds my father made when he read me Shakespeare, and later, I discovered chivalry and nobility from the Tales of the Round Table at King Arthur’s Court in mysterious Avalon by the misty shores of Wales… I learned to appreciate strength and honor from the Greek myths and legends, with Theseus and Perseus showing me what valor meant and how to be brave. I then took these lessons and headed into the forests outside my home in Ohio, brandishing my trusty sword (a sturdy stick), and vanquishing the monsters of the deep woods who threatened my home.
James Herriot, the English veterinarian of the Yorkshire Dales in the 1940s, taught me kindness, as he tenderly cared for the animals in his practice. There was no malice there, no sexual themes or crude behavior or bad language. Just “goodness” and love.
To maybe get a better sense of what I mean, take a listen to this song: Here.
It’s by Mark Isham, and it’s from the story by Hans Christian Andersen, “The Emperor and the Nightingale”. If you’ve never heard of it, I beg you to read it. A short children’s story, but as full of “goodness” as anything else I can bring to mind.
It’s so hard to convey what I mean by “goodness”, but it’s so important to me and what I believe in that I want to try. It’s something without politics, without meanness, without cruelty or baseness. It’s just innocence, I suppose. Pure innocence: No guile or cunning or deceit. Just open, honest, and sincere. It’s pure love, self sacrifice, and kindness. Other examples include the movie, “So Dear to My Heart“, a movie from 1949 about a boy and a black sheep he adopts. Parents, this is what your children should be learning. There are so many good songs in that movie, such as “It’s what you do with what you got”, talking about making the most of your situation, no matter what, and not blaming anyone else. Imagine that! Another perfect example is the poem, “Little Boy Blue“. It breaks my heart every time I read it, but it’s just so “good”.
This was my world, my reality. There were no politics, no gossip, no television, no modern influences. I grew up valuing things that were “good” and “kind”, which seem like alien concepts today. The very notion of “goodness” appears to be totally forgotten, and even scorned as sexist or racist or based in white privilege. Which is why I often feel lost and left behind by what our culture has become today. I don’t relate to any of it.
One of my favorite authors is Charles Bukowski. Which may seem odd, given the previous statements. But his writing is full of honesty in a way that many authors, including myself, can barely aspire to. His life is wracked by hardship, however. A grotesque childhood of abuse and pain and suffering that I could never relate to. The same goes for Stephen King, who’s book “On Writing”, I am currently reading. King details the privations of his young life, his struggling mother, absent father, abusive classmates and later his absolute poverty and despair as he begins his life with his new wife, Tabby.
His language is vulgar, base, crude and disgusting. That’s not a criticism, because I love his writing. But it reveals a character that I have nothing in common with. Someone hurt, who struggled and suffered and was abused. I read it, but I just don’t “get it”. You’d probably call me naive, ignorant, or (I get this a lot) a “sweet summer child.”
I have a very close friend who is constantly shocked, still, about all the movies and TV shows and music that I’ve never heard of. He’s not alone, most people who know me are usually surprised by how little awareness I have of pop culture or this or that “famous” show that “everyone” knows about. It’s kind of surreal to hear them constantly comment on it–even my closest friends who have known me for decades–and makes me wonder just what I’m missing. No, I’ve never seen this popular movie, or heard this popular song, or your favorite TV show. How do I even “live like this”?? I dunno, pretty happily I guess. I don’t watch TV really, except every now and then after dinner with my fiance, and I’ve been introducing her to the wonders of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show that came out over 30 years ago. Not exactly current.
There’s a lot of ugliness in the world that just isn’t part of my reality. I see the world as a thing of beauty. I look for beauty in my surroundings because that’s what I was taught to see. I move away from ugly things, and towards beauty, almost instinctively. My mother is an unbelievably talented artist, and my father plays the most beautiful piano you’ve ever heard. Art is beauty, and life imitates art. That’s why these modern shows, music, and “art” have left me totally at a loss: there’s no beauty anymore. There’s no “goodness”.
To come full circle, this is why I have trouble answering when someone asks me what I do for a living. Because “journalism” has nothing to do with “goodness” or “beauty”, and that’s what I want to focus on. Because wherever you put your focus, that’s where you see results. I want to focus on being a writer, and building beautiful worlds for myself, for my children, and for the world to escape to. Today, reality is less true than it ever has been, and talking heads are always telling you what to think and what is important. But imagine a grassy hillside in the summer, or a gorgeous woman smiling at you, or a snowy French castle in the alps: beauty needs no explanation, it just is. Beauty is truth. And we need more truth in our lives.
Very nice work, “Beauty is truth”
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Thanks Vishal! It’s the highest truth I can think of, and ignores politics, gender or creed. Beauty is universal.
Dear Pearson, I love this text! And I agree, thoughI use probably too much time exposing and fighting the dark forces in our world, I want to dwell more on the good, the wonders you point out here. My son always says: Darkness is best fought with light, focused on the light, mum. Your text inspires me in that direction.
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Thanks very much, I really appreciate it. Unfortunately, you are right, there is a lot of darkness in the world, and some people aren’t able to escape. Some of that is just luck: where you’re born, and when, have a lot to do with it. But as long as there’s hope, there’s light. My family motto is a big inspiration for me: Dum spiro, spero. “While I have breath, I have hope.” Don’t give up!
This speaks to my heart. God created this beautiful planet for us to live & thrive & enjoy this marvelous gift of nature. My siblings & are were sheltered I suppose but so were others growing up in the 1950s. The movies you reference are my movies, often sing songs to the grandkids while pushing them on the swings. God created light & it outshines the darkness, you are reflecting that light in “what you do for a living”. It is a gift from Him & you use it beautifully
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Hi Anne! Thank you very much, I’m so glad you relate to this. I wish more people from my generation did as well. If you look for beauty, you’ll find it. I hope to sing these songs to my grandchildren as well. Our youth needs morals and values more than ever… Thanks again, and keep the old stories and songs alive 🙂
Hello Pearson, I read this just after you wrote it. My first knee jerk reaction was disappointment. I agree with what you’ve said here. We all should focus on positive things or take time to appreciate what is beautiful in this world we live in. I would only add that God is the only reason for any of that and He should be thanked for that beauty. That’s my faith talking. Some people agree or not with that. What I was discouraged about was your tone. It almost sounded like you don’t like what you do at OAN. I don’t know what to say to you or if it matters. I would only want to encourage you at OAN I guess. I listen to too much news. I’m always listening to it on the TV. It is so important to have quality reporting. It is important to receive informative reporting. It is my opinion that of all the people in the news (I think), you stand out tremendously. Every time I hear your voice on OAN I always stop what ever I am doing to pay attention to what ever report you are about to give. Every single one is invaluable. OAN stands out against all of the other networks and your reporting stands out against everyone else on OAN. I’m not trying to minimize anyone else on OAN or on other networks, youtube, or the internet either. I absolutely love the reports or specials you have on the network. I wish OAN would send you everywhere around the globe, if you wanted, so you could provide more outdamnstanding reports. I think everyone of your specials and reports should be on youtube so they can easily be shared. Keep up the great work that you do please.
Hey Dustin, thank you so much for the kind words. Seriously, I’m blown away. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my job here at OAN, because I do–very much. But politics isn’t my passion, it’s too dirty, too angry, too mean. I’d much rather focus on the light and the goodness in life, than the dark and the decay. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job; I just wish I could work on more uplifting stories. Cruelty and ugliness just don’t motivate me.
Thank you Pearson for replying. I feel pretty lucky to just be talking to such an awesome person. I absolutely hear you about the negativity in the world. There’s too much of it by far. I often get discouraged reading about all of those dark news stories or the continual decay of our society. It’s disheartening. However, I am also disheartened when I cannot find many people (sometimes none) saying what needs to be said, informing people with what they need to hear, the straightforward truth. Truth is also good and it is some of the light we need. If something is coming, I think I would want to know it is coming, rather than be surprised about it while tending to my garden or sitting on the lake fishing. I’m sure police also get discouraged in the same fashion as you. They deal with decay and darkness all the time. Proportionately there are probably very little positive interactions they deal with on a day to day basis. Someone’s got to do it though. You are very good at what you do. I can’t think of one report or special you’ve done where I have thought, ‘well I wish he would have also said this…’ You’ve nailed your reporting on the head. Square on the head. I appreciate what you do. I appreciate your focus on more positive things also. It’ll keep you grounded and focused. Thanks again for replying. It is a pleasure talking with you. I can’t wait till your next report.
Your words resonated with my being. I grew up in the rural countryside, and my favorite memories are the treks through the woods, watching the wheat fields blow, or embracing a thunderstorm rolling up the horizon. I prefer to write on the mysteries and the beauty of life — but necessity has me writing on the urgent realities of our world. How I want to separate those two, a clear delineation between our true purpose and our thwarted purpose…
I grew up on books, lost in worlds I wanted desperately to visit. The TV was on in my home, but I didn’t watch it. My upbringing lacked the warmth and security yours appears to have, but nonetheless, I found a reprieve in books, nature and God.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your candor, and your ability to elucidate the beauty — even amidst the dirty theatre of society.
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Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m glad to know there are others out there who feel the same. Our world is timeless, deep, and old. The hoi polloi trundle on around us, but we’re not living in their world. They’re just passersby, momentary distractions from the things that really matter. Man is fleeting, nature is eternal.
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I’ve been watching your new reports on OANN and I’ve told my family and friends because I agree 100% with everything you report on.
Your post made me think of my favorites. I love that you write about James Herriott (aka James Alfred Wight) because he is my favorite author, and it was the title of your post that caught my eye. Over the last 30 or 40 years, I have read all of his books so many times, including All Things Great and Small, that I feel like his stories are my memories. He is one of those rare authors that can make me laugh, cry and feel…well all emotions. His books make me wish I had known him…he was a very special person.
I listened to the music you posted and it made me think of my favorite artist. I have a feeling you would appreciate his music, and since it may touch you as it touched me, I wanted to share this with you. Bill Mlller is a native American Grammy award-winning recording artist and painter that would be known by everyone, but in the world we live in, he isn’t appreciated. He says, “he is sick of record companies telling him what’s hip, what to write, and he refuses to be that type of artist.”
I saw Bill perform where I work at Bergen Community College where I work, and since then, I have seen him perform many times in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. My favorite is “Underneath a Blue Sky” and some of the phones in the video remind me of the photos you share of you in various places in this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNMvvAmJw8w
He won a Grammy for Ghost Dance. On this video, he talks about why he wrote Ghost Dance and performs it live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vdg2sVB0XU8 Another special man
The videos I posted aren’t recorded versions which are even more beautiful but show him as he is. I hope you don’t mind my sharing my favorites with you.
Keep doing what you are doing!
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts and music Catherine, I appreciate it. It’s really gratifying to know there are others out there who feel the same. In our crazy world it seems like us quiet, peace-loving folk are getting pretty few and far between. Glad to know there are others who enjoy Herriott too. I’m introducing him to my wife, and she loves him too. Like you, I wish I could have met him, and he’s inspired a lifelong dream of living in the Yorkshire dales.
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Pearson, I watch every story you do on OAN. I am such a loyaal follower of you investigative journalism, even if you would rather be writting novels!
Rebecca! I really appreciate the support! You’re right, writing novels full time is the dream, but I’m glad you enjoy the reports. Thank you so much for your kind message!