I still miss Harlan Ellison.
I feel diminished, but that not accurate. Though I never met the man, he enhanced my world. He pointed a way to empowerment with wit and ferocity. On many days, he is my favorite writer. This is one of those days.
Things I learned…
1. “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”
Perhaps Ellison’s most relevant statement since the onslaught of the radio talk shows. It’s a pretty safe bet if you can’t spell your opinion or you’ve cut and pasted your opinion, you haven’t researched your opinion. You’re simply spouting randomly or shouting “ditto” into the chaos. It’s unhelpful at least, certainly a waste of everyone’s time (including your own), and probably destructive of anything that might possibly “make America great.”
2. “Don’t start an argument with somebody who has a microphone when you don’t. They’ll make you look like chopped liver.”
This is so obvious. Just tune in to a Trump rally or any politician’s town meeting. This also applies to getting into a social media debate with a professional writer. Geez…these people write for living! Or suggesting to LeBron James; “Let’s settle this with a game of H-O-R-S-E.”
3. The three most important things in life are sex, violence, and labor relations.
No. I didn’t buy it at first. But his essays on the subject convinced me…or perhaps made me laugh so hard I could no longer think rationally.
4. “No one gets out of childhood alive.”
A grim notion, but I fear its accuracy. I still think artists have a chance, but even they must constantly “beware the little deaths” of which Carl Sandburg warns. As I write this, the strains of Stephen Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t” are snickering through my head.
5. “The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.”
Probably Ellison’s most famous quote. I know it sounds like bumper sticker wisdom, but…duh!
6. “Once one becomes strong or rich or potent or powerful it is the responsibility of the strong to help the weak become strong.”
I know a number of well-meaning, successful people who started out with a two-step plan for their lives; — 1. Make a lot of money, and 2. Help others. — However, after achieving #1, they added a third step; — 3. Forget #2. — I suspect Mr. Trump scoffs at the very existence of #2.
7. If you work at Disney, nobody f#@ks with the Mouse.
Just ponder that a moment. These are words to live by…or at least words to remain employed by.
8. “…love and sex are separate and only vaguely similar. Like the word ‘bear’ and ‘bare.’ You can get in trouble mistaking one for the other.”
In my 60’s… I think… duh.
In my 20’s… I think I probably shoulda listened to Harlan.
9. A number of other very specific things that have been helpful to know;
– “Ignorance is never having seen a film by Akira Kurosawa.”
– Listen to your dog.
– Trophy-hunting is a poor idea, especially on Ristable.
– “…you can fight City Hall…”
10. And finally, if you’ve not read any Harlan Ellison, you have that to look forward to. I suggest starting with my favorite Ellison story; “Jeffty is Five.” Jeffty is always five, another good thing to know.
Thank you, Mr. Ellison, and now that you’re on the other side, please send back messages as you promised. You ain’t a writer for nothing!