The feed that sustains

I write a weekly column to celebrate military veterans and share my perspective on a host of social issues. I realize there are diverse opinions in the latter arena, and I hope that my opinions make those of like minds feel they are not alone. My hope also is that perhaps those who disagree with me will reconsider their perspectives even as I know that still others will feel they need to send me a hateful email.

I know that social media features commentaries that are unsettling. I’ve worked in Kentucky (floods), California (fires), and Texas (droughts), so my Facebook friends from these locales can share with me the inconvenience or pain or horror they are feeling now, and I can let them know I’m aware of these challenges and losses and am expressing my caring. I hope this might provide some comfort. Also, with these disasters I can acknowledge the importance of first responders, both paid and unpaid. Finally, I can determine if I want to donate goods or cash to the causes that mesh with my sense of the need and the resources I have to give.

There are, of course, postings on Facebook that spew ill will, suspicion, discontent, or outright lies. And I have the option to ignore them as I remind myself that I don’t control the universe, not even my small part of it. I scroll through them.

As I check Facebook several times a day, I know that I have the option of using it to keep in touch with friends and relatives, to educate myself as I review certain postings, and to be inspired.

For this week’s column, I scrolled through postings two days ago and made a catalog of postings that sustain me. How many readers of today’s column agree with Kentucky poet and filmmaker Lee Pennington’s position? I texted him recently that I admire the ways in which he juxtaposes images of joy with disturbing ones. He responded, “The balance is important to me- the dark and the light. I sense they are both needed. In order to know one, we must know the other. I perceive the universe as opposites. Only by understanding both can we understand either. To know what something is, we must also know what it is not.”

My partial list of recent Facebook postings focuses on the light, the postings that bring back positive memories, enable me to see into the important parts of the lives of friends, educate me, and allow me to tell myself, “It’s going to be all right, Vivian. You can handle the dark as a part of what it is to be human, and it’s important not to stay mired in the negatives.”

• Food: Southern comfort food that I’ve eaten since childhood and exotic dishes that let me know my palate is unsophisticated.

• Cats: As a child, I read and reread “Millions of Cats” by Wanda Gag, so I’ve always been enchanted by cats even though I’ve never owned one.

• Dogs: Of every breed, they snuggle with their owners or run over, under, on and through a variety of obstacles as they seek recognition for their value, their intellect, their roles as they do everything from seeking IEDs in war zones to serving folks who need them as companions. And the names of the dogs I have most loved and love bring a smile to my face: Ginger, Mauve, Moreover, Lucy, and Cash.

• Antique Cars: These seem not so old from the viewpoint of those of us who lusted after them back when we were teens and didn’t have the $3,000 to buy one.

• Photos: They take us back to when we graduated or danced or served as a member of a wedding party or went off to camp or were a cheerleader/ball player/homecoming queen or sat at a table with our parents and grandparents;

• Babies: We capture their innocence and glory and love them with no thoughts to their crying or having a dirty diaper. In a blink, I can find my sons’ (Lance and Quentin) and grandchildren’s (Hailey and Tyler) photos on my desktop, always available.

• Art: We recognize a painting or sculpture we studied in college or we encourage our friends who share their latest works and remember our own.

• Birds: How were our Facebook friends able to get that close and in that second capture such beauty in terms of colors and postures? We have bird feeders and a birdbath in our front yard, but capture such beauty to share? No way. So I thank those with the talent.

• Plants and Flowers: Some of my Facebook friends have the greenest of thumbs and can nurture such beauty and share it with others. I thank them.

• Fish: I smile as I see the “catch of the day” of friends and can envision that fish providing a nourishing dinner.

The unusual surfaced that day as I scrolled: big butter sculptures at the Ohio State Fair and a map of Native American tribes and a notice that we in Ohio can renew our drivers licenses online.

The absolute wildest, however, was a posting of Lee Pennington holding a large fake pig and smiling at Ron Whitehead, poet and activist, who was sporting a really strange beard.

Vivian B. Blevins, past CEO of colleges in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri, holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. She currently writes a weekly column for Aim Media Midwest, teaches at Edison State Community College, and volunteers with veterans. Her email is [email protected] Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Miami Valley Today does not endorse these viewpoints nor the independent activities of the author.