So here’s my guy, Janet, or an exact dupe of Elfie that I found online:
Notice one hand on his heart, one hand at his side in a fist. And the calmly smiling face. Kind of like a battle-ready monk, no?
When I saw him I understood immediately that my new muse represented for me, Courage and Compassion.
And I needed both. Still do.
It takes courage for any writer to put his or her original work out into the world, no matter what the subject. Because now our deep inner feeling place is exposed. Even if you write fiction or fantasy or satire, it is all autobiographical. We’re so damn vulnerable.
That’s why you’ll notice that almost all the trolls on Medium do nothing but troll. They hardly post any original work of their own. They just criticize your original words, and moralize at you for taking the chances you take.
They’re afraid of the dangers that we invariably face as writers. They’re cowards.
That why I often say that they’re sitting safely in their foxholes, shooting at those courageous writers who are out in the field, exposed.
We may be easy for them to shoot, but if we stick together, and watch each other’s backs, we’re very hard to kill.
So, one, Elfie gives me courage.
Two, Elfie reminds me daily that kindness matters.
My satirical posts and political humor have a strong taste, I know that, maybe too harsh, sour, and ribald for many.
But it would be much more acidic and destructive if Elfie wasn’t reminding me daily that compassion matters.
I’m very concerned about our country right now, Janet, and I believe we have someone in the White House who seriously endangers every principal and vision of our forefathers and their “great experiment.” This man is scary because he’s ignorant, egotistical, and easily offended.
He could never understand what President Lyndon Johnson was saying here, speaking about the Smothers Brothers’ very effective satire:
“It is part of the price of leadership of this great and free nation to be the target of clever satirists. You have given the gift of laughter to our people. May we never grow so somber or self-important that we fail to appreciate the humor in our lives.”
I was concerned enough about this new president and his thin skin, that I stopped working as an advertising copywriter last year, at the age of 60, because I felt I was wasting my words. Michael Moore says that satire is a very powerful and valid form of protest and resistance, and I decided I must resist with the gifts I have while I still can. I truly believe that this is the most important work I will do in my life, and if I don’t do it now I will never forgive myself.
But I don’t want to do it with hate in my heart and by burning people at the stake, I want to do it with the blade-blunting forces of humor, seasoned with compassion:
“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” – Mark Twain
My critics, of course, think I have no compassion, no heart, no integrity. And that my humor sucks. Okay, maybe they are right. But when I decided last October to do this political posting daily, seven days a week, even when attacked, and I’m attacked daily, I was determined not to strike back with the sharp end of my tongue.
Elfie told me this: “Do not provoke, just continue the joke.”
And so I’m trying to do that, Janet. I don’t always succeed, but mostly I do.
So that is an awfully long answer to your question about why Elfie became my muse. And that’s just a bit of the story. I’ll tell you more over coffee one day on your coast or mine, because there is more to tell, but that’s enough for now.
Thank you for asking about Elfie. He has saved my life a number of times. By giving me the courage to stay upright and the self-compassion to stay alive.
For a one-foot-tall, 10-pound hunk of cast iron, that’s a pretty good trick.
He’s also smarter than me, by the way, which kind of pisses me off, but what can I do?
Thanks, Janet. Write on.