Ben Russell

Ben Russell
St Paul, Minnesota,
October 02
armed with weapons of mass procrastination.


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MARCH 17, 2011 11:26AM

Reading Between the Lines: A lesson in cyber judgment

Rate: 11 Flag

The following is an excerpt of an email I received from a fellow open-saloner.   Following the snipit is my response to its author. I felt the need to post this because I figured that I am not the only one who has experienced situations like this.  I hope someone else can learn from this as I have.


“That's the way I used to be able to write - once - now I just cant anymore - the mind is numbed and the spirit feels bogged down with murk. I wish someone here would write something that would stir the soul and lift the spirit and we can all be in flight again and range the skies like we used to

but now its all depressing posts about addiction and sickness and mom bashing and Sheen bashing and alchoholics struggles and death and you know, things that pull you down into a hole instead of pulling you out into the open


you are twenty something - you work hard - you are a survivor - heres hoping you can show us a world that only twenty somethings can know about - write about music and big dreams and about your twenty something mind and heart which you would lose in another eight years - you are already growing too fast because of all that's happening to you –“


I've been stewing on this email for a few days now and after re-reading it feel poised to make a response.  I was a bit turned off at first, to be honest.  The sort of jumping back and forth you do between what seems like praising me for my youthful zest and cautioning me of the inevitable plight of adulthood makes me question your true message here.  I can't say that I understand your skepticism.  As you said, I am only twenty-something (23 to be exact).  But saying that I am "already growing too fast because of all that is happening" to me was a statement that I feel crossed the line. 

I respect the fact that I know little to nothing about you.  I can tell through your sentiment that things aren't going great (or at least weren't at the time you wrote this).  That hardly gives you the right to pass judgment on my growth.  I don't know how much of my writing you have read, or scanned over, but I can assure you that while my worldview may come across naively optimistic, it is because over the last year and a half I have been battling some of the darkest demons of my life, and to quote the great Charlie Sheen…”I’m WINNING!” 

I know…that was a bit shameless.

            I totally understand that by putting myself out there on the World Wide Web I am vulnerable to such criticism.  I get it.  In fact, _____, I would like to thank you for binging this to my attention.  I can only hope that you get to a point in your life where you can see the world through those same 20-something goggles that used to look so good on you!  I may be 23, but I am certain that my happiness is not contingent upon how long ago I got my belly button, it revolves around how I choose to enter the world each and every day.

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Hi Ben,
I've been reading your writing since you joined Open Salon. I wish to thank you for sharing this, because I can tell, based on my reading of you, you have been doing nothing but writing through your heart, tempered with the rare wisdom and understanding resulting from your personal battles. I commend you for having the character and steadfastness for your age not get lost in that limbo, where many of your generation do, giving up hope and will. Keep on writing. Good writers must learn to take all kinds of criticism and grow from it. You and your generation is future's hope.
I'd take an educated guess at who wrote that comment, but I know you wouldn't tell me if I got it right or not.

Ahem. Ben, there is nothing I hate more than a person who is older talking down to a person who is younger. I hated it when I was young and I hate it now (I'm 66). You are clearly not some clueless slacker who inserts the word "like" into your conversation every three breaths. You can write better than a significant percentage of the over-30s and the waaaay-over-30s who write here. To assume that a twenty-something has reached that age without experiencing depressing events, bad luck, emotional turmoil, dysfunctional family life, etc. is just bone-headed. I do understand your reaction to this message.

This is hardly a judgment-free zone, though. OS is a microcosm of the global society. Just as it is out there, a thick skin is a useful accessory to wear in this environment.
Your youth makes me happy. Please don't alter your writing in any way. Just write your heart out and I'll keep reading what your write.

Writing sometimes transforms itself into a crucible where words pool and then get pressure applied. Just like life. I applaud you for sharing this and learning how to be a loving witness while still allowing your true voice to be heard.
"how I choose to enter the world each and everyday" Absolutely loved this. Gotta go along with L in the southeast on this one. We can learn volumns from our youth, don't worry, not all of us hold it agaist You have been through alot but good choices got you moving into a positive direction. TX for sharing. Funsun A is a good person to listen to also. :)
Ben, it is now time to add my 2 cents. I have read all of your posts. You are one of the most talented writers here on OS. You remind me so much of my son who also writes wonderfully well. Whoever sent you that post is a lost soul. He/She has obviously not read my posts because I do not write all doom and gloom. :). My husband who is a great writer gave me some great advice. If you write you have to develop the skin of a walrus. That being said; when are you going to read my stuff? LOL -R-
I'm sorry this PM bothered you. I can definitely see your point. My thought is, the person writing it was probably so touched by your posts that they didn't filter or think much about how you'd feel when you read it, and just spontaneously wrote you. I would take it as a compliment - albeit not a purely enjoyable one - about my work's ability to move another person. Keep writing and don't worry about what other people think!
People can misunderstand their time, when they are in their time. I'm 56, and recognize the absolute and stunning miracle my life has been. If I died in the next five minutes, it would be fine, because I've been given an amazing ride, one I am utterly grateful for. This does not mean my ride hasn't had tragic painful stops along the way, but I am grateful for those as well. Why would I want to lead a life that did not have a full plate of every experience? There is so much rich texture and detail in the darkest bits. Just feeling fully how a body weeps; maybe that's another post. There's juice to be sucked out of every moment. Even when the juice is bitter, thank goodness I have the buds to taste it.

Youth was wonderful, but we can't go back, and personally, I would not want to. 56 is pretty darn cool too. Both of us, let's see what happens next.....
None of us would be who we are without each and everyone of our experiences, positive or negative. They are the threads of our existence. By the time I was 23 I had been in 12 different elementary schools, two different middleschools, two different high schools, been homeless and recovered, put myself through college and nursing school, supporting my mother at the same time, bailed my father out of jail on several occasions, met and subsequently broke up with the "love of my life", and picked myself up and dusted myself so many times I felt like a yoyo. I would not give up a single one of these experiences. They are me. I am now 60. Just imagine how much more "me" I have become!!! Keep writing, and thank you!

come read if you will :) o and by the way when someone writes, every bit of the punctuation is deigned to communicate something. For instance if a letter is divided by these dashed lines it means break of para and change of subject as in: "Ok aside from and not connected with the topic of the letter proper here is something else I would like to share with you" .
oops sorry abt the typos in that one:
1) deigned = designed

2) a letter is divided by these dashed lines it means break of para and = a letter is divided by these dashed lines DOES NOT mean break of para BUT...(indicates a change of subject)

3) when you quote people, if you quote them completely, the readers would understand better and be in a position to decide what they think. Otherwise readers might misunderstand the context - and in communication CONTEXT is the primary thing that drives meaning. Out of context what might seem unseemly, might seem appropriate with its given context :)

Unsuccessful and desperate Politicians often use this "quote out of context to malign" deliberately, as a strategy.

If you follow good orators however, you would see that when they quote and before they quote, they take time to explain the context of the original and then they go on to explain how they are using it in the present context.
Ben, whoever that was screw them. They have a right to an opinion, but you don't have to agree with it. Stay focused on your work, develop your craft, and always remember first to write for yourself. That is how you stay true. I think you are learning this much earlier than I did, which will be a huge gift and blessing to you over time. You have an amazing talent, have a great ride!