original thoughts


There’s a tired old joke or saying that goes: “Opinions are like assholes – everyone has one.”

How many times have you heard that? For me, it seems like ad nauseum.

When I hear that, the subtext for me is, “The person that said that [insert opinion of your choice] is an asshole. We need not consider their – ahem!! – ‘opinion’!” It can be a refutation, a dismissal of whatever was previously said.

It can also be a way of defusing the charged atmosphere when the rhetoric starts coming fast & furious: “Let’s not take this so seriously.”

How often do you really hear an ‘opinion’ expressed that is any different from a thousand others that you’ve already heard? Can you really even consider it an opinion, if you’ve already heard it that many times? Isn’t that more like just repeating something that was picked up somewhere else? Sometimes you hear something different, that way. Sometimes. Where’s the thought in that? Where’s the original idea? An idea is a completely different experience.

What am I getting at, here?

Dictionary.com’s definition is this:

opinion: 1. a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.    2. a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.   3. the formal expression of a professional judgment: to ask for a second medical opinion.  4. Law. the formal statement by a judge or court of the reasoning and the principles of law used in reaching a decision of a case.   5. a judgment or estimate of a person or thing with respect to character, merit, etc.: to forfeit someone’s good opinion.

So I’m using the word in a more ‘formal’ sense, giving it a little more gravitas.

When I hear an idea or concept that is really different – that gets me thinking, gets the wheels turning – then, only then do I truly feel that I have heard an opinion that is worthy of the name. I mean to say – it’s nice when someone can get me to look at something commonplace in a whole new way.

And how often is that? Not very often! That’s my point. Or maybe I’m just not listening very well. Actually, I feel like I hear profound stuff almost every day.

As to the previously mentioned part of the anatomy? Yes, most everyone certainly has one. Something original to say? Maybe that’s not quite as common.

How about this, instead? “Opinions are like warts – not everyone has one!”

Working in the suburbs one day shortly before the second invasion of Iraq (2003), I experienced a feeling of dread. I had been active in the SGI-USA (Buddhist) Victory Over Violence campaign, visiting kids down at the Youth Detention Center. I thought about what the Reverend there had said about the government cutting services. I got to read this poem and a couple others for some of the kids. I think I read “Seattle Rain” and/or “Diggle Rhyme”. They kinda looked at me like I was crazy but you never know what’s going to get through to somebody.

I had been journaling a lot and had gotten so much out of it, including the muse for poetry. I had become more articulate; I thought of new original ideas concepts of my own; and I actually had something to say. Wow. That was a good feeling.

I suggested that they try their hand at journaling, too.

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quiet down at juvy
things are quiet nowdays
down at juvenile hall
“they’re giving ’em more little nice things to do, but even so…
they’re cutting down on the numbers
cutting down on funding”

“you can feel the quiet”
what does it mean?

war;  the horror!
is it locked in
like a laser-guided missile?

Do you have to ask?
All that money!
All those lives!

it’s all about to come down
like heavy dope on the street

people around the world are saying “No!”

and civil disobedience  – people are going to jail
“I don’t agree with your war!”

at the White House, Laura Bush cancels poets
because what’s going on is
“a violation of the most sacred values
of poets through the ages”

out in the suburbs
even a crow chatters its complaint
but things are quiet down in juvy