The Loudest Voices and Binary Choices

Not that anyone asked, but I'm not buying it...

People who know me well also know I have a pet peeve or two. And when triggered, I’m inclined to rant. I’m working on resisting the (at times) irresistible temptation, but if I’m brutally honest with myself, it’s an uphill battle.

Occasionally, I try to make a virtue of it, by observing that my rant means I care. I do, by the way…but that’s not the point. As I said, I’m working on it. This month, however, I have to cop to acquiring a new pet peeve — or perhaps just finally becoming aware of it. Either way, bear with me, please.

Binary Choice in the fog
Nobody asked me, but intuitively, my answer is no. Few things are that simple.

Pernicious Certainty

It has become a cliché to observe we are an increasingly polarized nation. Thoughtful men and women are quick to point out it isn’t just here in the United States. True, as far as it goes, but I am guilty of caring most about my home.

So as the United States crawls tentatively toward the 2024 elections, we are reminded of how our stove piped, for-profit media serves to narrow our vision, encouraging us to see our choices as binary. Yeah…I know. With only two practical alternatives by way of political parties, they are binary, for all practical purposes. And if we’re getting our news from Fox or MSNBC, it’s hard to imagine an alternative, today. But an August 2022 Gallup poll suggests more Americans (40%) identify as Independents, than identify as Democrats (30%), or as Republicans (24%).

And if my casual conversations on the street are an indicator, I’m by no means the only one with a distaste for the hyperbolic rhetoric of the extremes. Yet the de-facto model of a divided, (and essentially binary) America persists.

Occam’s Razor and Reductive Simplicity

Most of us are familiar with the popularized version of Occam’s Razor, to wit: “the simplest explanation is usually the right one.” And on the surface of things, this feels intuitively true. And after all…who wants needlessly complex explanations or solutions? KISSKeep it simple, stupid! Right?

And that’s not an entirely naïve of silly notion. Occam’s Razor can be used to pare down conundrums to cognizable (and theoretically manageable) dimensions. But does that make sense, in all cases, or do we do it simply because we’re more comfortable thinking in those terms? Is it possible that our habits of thought are at odds with how our world functions? Let’s wonder together for a few minutes and see…

In a Maelstrom of Uncertainty

Most of us have (at least) a nodding acquaintance with independent and dependent variables from our science, mathematics, or philosophy studies. And are not many of us inclined to think of variables in those terms?

But in the “real” world, most complex systems are driven by a constellation of interdependent variables. Variables that affect each other, in a muddy confusion of conflicting and interrelated outcomes. And the clues we can glean from observation are often in conflict — both with regard to causation, and the range of remedies available. As Donella “Dana” Meadows, author of The Global Citizen and Beyond the Limits once observed:

“Words and sentences must, by necessity, come only one at a time in a linear, logical order. [But] Systems happen all at once. Their elements are connected not just in one direction, but also in many directions simultaneously.” As quoted in Systems Thinking, 3rd Edition, Managing Chaos and Complexity,” Jamshid Gharajedaghi, © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.

If there was ever a time when reductive thinking was counterproductive, surely it's today!

As readers of some of my other posts know, I view our time as a paroxysm of transition. A transition at least as profound as the one accompanying the Industrial Revolution. Between 1760 and 1900 (+/-), industrialization swept away the medieval system. In the process, it demolished many of the prevailing political, economic and social myths of the Middle Ages.

The social, economic, and political churn of the Industrial Revolution feels eerily familiar, today. Then as now, the changes of the period erased old norms, along with many of the rigid social strata that until then, had been taken for granted. Are we now on another historical cusp, similar to the Industrial Revolution?

If so, perhaps part of our problem tracks back to some of the conventions of thought and communication derived during that period. Perhaps the linear thought processes and the communication skills learned then serve to channel our thought processes along binary lines. Much as water tends to seek the easiest path downhill. Perhaps we humans remain an odd mixture of logic and magical thinking, resorting to whichever works in the moment, all to conjure up certainty and security, soothing our anxiety.

Complications and Courage

But in today’s environment, both certainty and the resultant sense of security may be more illusive than real. That said, since binary thought is tidy and easier to grasp, we’re still inclined to think in terms of binary alternatives — without regard to whether the inferences drawn and decisions made using that model are in our best interests.

In our multi-variate future, our ability to hold several thoughts in our head at once, some of which feel intuitively contradictory, may be necessary. It’s a spooky proposition, insofar as interdependent variables and multi-variate analysis are both fraught with uncertainty. It has always been so in the past, whenever the paradigms are shifting. How much more so must it be today, when all the paradigms seem to be shifting all at once?

But like it or not, we’re all going to have to get more comfortable with unaccustomed levels of uncertainty. The age of cocksure certainty and loud voices, haranguing “the other side” over binary choices must end. The age of Uncertainty awaits — for which kinship, humility and optimistic courage seem to be the only antidotes.

D.B. Sayers is the author of six thoughtfu and thought-provoking  books with two more on the way. You can subscribe to Smoke Signals, his newsletter at the top right of this page.

We’re the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For

Trump was right about the problem, but wrong about the solution

Woman in the desert looking for something
In Search of (Photo courtesy of Katerina Kerdi on Unsplash)

It's not working...

“Why the hell did so many Americans buy Trump’s lies?” one member of my author’s group wondered obliquely, just before the 2016 election. It was a common question to which many self-appointed thought leaders have since trotted out an almost bewildering range of answers.

As his administration was wracked by scandal after scandal, the inevitable follow-up questions were, “How is he getting away with it?” along with the sotto voce observations, “If Obama did this…” And “Why are Republicans” going along?” Especially now in 2023, with Trump gone, why are the likes of MTG and Lauren  Bobert apparently trying to outdo Mr. Trump?

Theories abounded and still do. A few explanations most of us have heard include demographics, Dems’ rhetoric alienating the working class, too many “Hillary haters,” gerrymandering, etc. All true — up to a point. But I wonder: Are we and the pundits overlooking an uncomfortable truth? One that few seem willing to consider?  Maybe Trump was right!

Truths Hiding in Plain Sight

End-stage capitalism and decaying democracy are real things, and don’t most thoughtful humans recognize this painfully apparent truth? Washington is a swamp of double-dealing, cronies — all lobbying perpetually money-starved legislators. Many of those legislators then “misrepresent their actions to constituents, to phrase it more politely than their actions merit. All the while, way too many gerrymandered districts immunize the hypothetical stewards of the public trust from the consequences of their corruption.

That Trump was clearly the last one likely to drain the swamp does not invalidate the truth dribbling from his frequently lying lips. The swamp most definitely needs draining. But is there another dirty little secret most of us are ignoring? We—the people—are encouraging this pattern of behavior by permitting it. We uncritically allow ourselves to be seduced by corporate America’s deceptive messages bombarding us on television, in print, social media — or all the above.

We all know lobbyists have woven themselves so inextricably into the fabric of our government, that even well-meaning legislators struggle to implement the changes we (and they) all know are needed. And many if not most of us have shrugged our shoulders, muttering under our breath that it’s hopeless.

In so doing, we perpetuate the tyranny of a minority. We’re allowing the privileged few to leverage bottomless advertising budgets, while the for-profit news media consciously shapes opinion to artificially divide us.

So, yeah. Trump was right about the decay in the system. He was just wrong about the solution. Not only can he not fix it, he would actually make it immeasurably worse. And now that he plans to run in 2024, we need to resist the temptation to underestimate him again.

"Through a glass, and darkly..."

In a sense, Putin’s war on Ukraine is a salutary reminder of where the journey to the dark side leads. The tyranny of a strong man or even the quasi-democratic dominance of kleptocratic billionaires rarely works out for most of us. As seductive as the notion of “getting things done” may seem in our age of partisan gridlock, it often reads better than it lives.

Bombed out Homs, Syria
Homs, Syria another of Putin's Playgrounds (Image under license from Big Stock Photo)

When the perpetuation of power becomes our decisionmakers’ principal focus, detachment from reality often follows. Arrogance, fear or both increase distance from reality. And there are way more toxic examples of “populist” leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, and Putin than historically benevolent autocrats like Marcus Aurelius.

Inevitably, necking down decisions to a few “best and brightest” plagues decisions with the limitations of the few deciders. Putin’s decisions leading to the morass in Ukraine is a case in point. If he felt answerable to the Russian people writ large, would he have invaded? I think his silencing of the independent news outlets in Russia is an eloquent answer. We must not permit ourselves the self-delusion of believing it can’t happen here, where Republicans now suggest “Ukraine is not our friend and Russia is not our enemy.”

Disruption as a Catalyst

Returning to the U.S. as it is today, Trump may ultimately prove to be the necessary disruptive force we need to re-energize our representative democracy. But as Professor Mastrovik cautions in West of Tomorrow, “never confuse the necessary with the good.”

The damage done not only by Trump but the many taken in by Fox Noise’s reinforcement of his falsehoods will require our concerted and collective effort to repair. Some on this platform have opined we may already be too far gone. Too dysfunctional to get back to a place where renascence is even possible.

And in the interests of honesty, I have doubts of my own. But my doubts, however well founded, do not relieve me of my duties as a citizen to work toward what I think is right. And the self-appointed realists notwithstanding, who has had the greatest impact on our world? Is it the pessimistic realists or the dreamers persevering in the face of “hopeless” odds?

Surely most of us will acknowledge it’s the latter. The Spartans’ defense of Thermopylae; the soviet defense of Stalingrad in 1942; Martin Luther King and so many others’ epic struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. Or the Ukrainians’ courageous defense of their way of life, at immense and continuing cost all come to mind. These are the stories that fire our soul with renewed hope.

Nobody asked me, but...

As painful as these uncertain times are, we’ve been here before. The nearest recent analog for what we’re going through today seems to me to be the Industrial Revolution. The confluence of the Enlightenment and rapid technological advancement swept away what was left of the Middle Ages, giving rise to the modern world as we know it.

Today we enjoy the benefits. But history reports that the benefits weren’t — and even today still aren’t — equitably shared. For generations, angst, despair, and excruciating pain were the lived experience of the majority.

Fast forward to the third decade of the 21st Century. In the throes of multiple, mutually reinforcing paradigm shifts, we find ourselves in a place where — like the Industrial Revolution — the familiar frames of reference have been swept away.

Trump’s backward-looking message — to the extent we can dignify his words with the term — rely on uncertainty and fear to work. And because there are (as yet) few if any obvious landmarks to replace them, doomsayers once more herald the looming apocalypse.

Most of us sense “The System,” is failing us. Whether we’re talking about politics, the mechanics of daily life, or our daily interactions with each other, divisiveness and discord seem woven into our lives. In a comment I read on a post here on Medium recently, someone commented that the leaders aren’t proposing any solutions to the problems we can all see.

Really? What movie are you watching? It’s not that the problems are going unnoticed or that solutions aren’t being proposed. It’s that they can’t get through a congress too divided to even honestly consider them on their merits, never mind work out compromises.

This is true not because it must be, but because we have allowed it. If we don’t like the outcome, shall we not get off our tuckus and be part of the solution?

The journey we must take is signposted above all by both a sense of personal and shared responsibility for outcomes. Shrugging our shoulders and blaming some mythical “they” while trying to monetize doom is the coward’s way out. In the final analysis, whatever happens nationally and globally, we are responsible. Are we not all part of an interconnected, mutually dependent world? Few of our individual or collective decisions, however hypothetically trivial, are without consequences.

Considering a Shift in Thought

We are the answer to most of the problems we have, as potentially scary as that is. I’m neither wise enough nor eloquent enough to sell a prescriptive solution applicable to all. But are not most of us at least half-right, and in consequence, a potential part of the solution?

As citizens of this world, cannot all of us offer some small portion of ourselves for the benefit of all? Some tiny sliver, if you will, of the solution? Angst aside (and I feel it too), shall we not act in a way congruent with our conscience and an awareness of our neighbors,’ our nation’s or our world’s needs?

As surely as I’m gazing with my slowly failing, bespectacled eyes into this LCD, I am certain everyone reading this can do something that will make our world just a little better. If you haven’t already, I urge you to find it and take it up. Forget the angst and move on, with or without hope. Someone on this site has some of the answers. We are the ones for whom we have been waiting.

D.B. Sayers is the author of six  books with two more in the works. You can subscribe to Smoke Signals to stay up to date on his work.

The Whisper of Somewhere Else

The Other Day in the Gym

The other day at the gym, I was on the leg press machine when someone sauntered into the squat rack next to me. He nodded and smiled, before grabbing a couple 45-pound plates to load up the bar. His Iowa State t-shirt caught my eye. “Cy,” the familiar Cardinal with his caricature grimace of determination marched across the front of his t-shirt, emblazoned above with “Iowa State Cyclones.” It took me back to my days as a student there.

Iowa State T-Shirt
Used with Permission

In between sets, I asked him when he went to Iowa State. He hadn’t, it turned out. His daughter a Veterinary Medicine student was in her third year, there.

     “Why Iowa State?” I asked.

     He shrugged. “Beats me. She had several scholarship offers, but…” He left his sentence unfinished and returned to the squat rack for his next set. “It is a beautiful campus, though,” he admitted, before shouldering the bar.

     “I’ll sign that.” I agreed.

And it’s true. Despite being flat as a tabletop, Iowa has its own special beauty. And that was the end of our conversation. The gentleman finished his squats and moved on.

Later in the day, I was sitting at my laptop, working on the next chapter of my science fiction novel when my college years at Iowa State crept back into my head. I’m sure my conversation earlier that day in the gym was the catalyst.

The Influences of Environment

If you didn’t grow up in the Midwest, it might be difficult to fully appreciate the nuanced feelings that might lurk in the back of the mind of someone who grew up in a part of the country prone to wild swings of weather. The Great Central Plain is home to some unpredictable and occasionally violent weather. In Through the Windshield, Drive-by Lives, the environment and the weather is almost another character in the stories.

In Sinbad’s Sofa, a cat seeking shelter from a blizzard at the gas station where the author worked teaches him something about himself and the nature of human’s connection with critters. In The Last House in Town, one human’s unexpected kindness leads the author to a deeper understanding of life and other’s pain.

In Heartland, the author invites readers to confront the pull of horizons and the how the limitations of where we are can awaken the restless spirit living in all of us. And it was this latter thought I found myself focusing on, as I reflected on my conversation earlier in the day at the gym with the Dad whose daughter was attending my Alma Mater.

Wide Open Western Spaces
From Unsplash-Used with Permission. The Influence of Envrionment is undeniable, if imperfectly understood.

People who know me well also know that I’m drawn to wide open spaces, and that I am (occasionally) afflicted with an almost irresistible wander lust. How much of this has to do with the tantalizing lure of open horizons, whispering to me of new sights, sounds and scents? How much influence (if any), did growing up on the plains have on my decision to join the Corps or to spend the first 20 plus years of my adult life in the nomadic world that is the life of a professional warrior?

The influence of environment is generally an accepted concept, even if the details of how/how much influence they have. I’m convinced the wander lust that frequently calls me to head off for parts unknown is at least partially a function of growing up in a place where open horizons beckoned.

Through the Windshield

Which brings us to Through the Windshield. Day or night, whether it was a vanishing point on the horizon or the cold, distant glitter of lights in the distance on a winter’s night, the plains tend to remind you that there are other places to be. That there are other things to see and experiences to be had for those willing to stray from the familiar in pursuit of a different level of knowing.

Even though few of the stories in this anthology are true absent embellishment, they are all self-reflective, at some level. In common with many authors, the original impetus to write was for me, all about self-expression. These days, however, I seek to balance self-expression with the broader observations about humans in general and who we are stripped of the masks behind which most of us hide.

Cover of Through the Windshield an anthology of short stories
Through the Windshield is the perfect introduction to Dirk's writings...

Through the Windshield, Drive-by Lives is the perfect introduction to my longer fiction. If you would like to read the stories, you can get your free copy here. If you’ve never read anything by D.B. Sayers, before, you can snag your free copy of this anthology, here.

How Marriage Works-Or Doesn’t Time to Rethink?

Traditional Cathedral Wedding

Medium, one of the online magazines for whom I write, regularly publishes articles about marriage and relationships. The takes on marriage and relationships run the gamut, from what could only be described as “traditional,” to a proposed socio-political-financial re-think of what we have come to think of as marriage.

One take particular stuck in my mind. Written by Matt Sweetwood, the article was entitled,  “It’s Time to Change the Way Marriage Works.” It’s still there and I don’t think it’s behind the paywall, so you can read the whole post yourself. But summarizing imperfectly, Mr. Sweetwood opined that marriage as currently practiced was a failed institution, to which failure he proposed the following remedies.

  1. Marriage should have a two-year expiration date with an “automatic renewal option, provided both parties agreed within 60 days.
  2. The marriage contract should specify the division of assets and custody (as applicable). If you can’t agree, Mr. Sweetwood suggested, you shouldn’t get married in the first place.

This approach, Mr. Sweetwood concluded, would: “fix the fundamental issue with marriage, to wit: “…a lifetime contract that requires no performance.”

His post elicited comments and for anyone who knows me well, they will be equally unsurprised I was one of them. To my surprise, a gentleman commented on my comment, suggesting I should share some of my thoughts under a post of my own. Having more guts than brains, I took his suggestion. Here it is.

Marriage…what is it today?

Can we start by agreeing on what we mean by marriage? Because like so many other things, in the the 21st Century, it has become something of a moving target. To illustrate what I mean, consider the following definitions from my “go-to” dictionary.

Merriam-Webster’s Online dictionary defines marriage as: “The state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship as recognized by law.”

Alternatively, my older, hardbound Merriam-Webster dictionary (circa 1998) defines marriage as: “1 a: the state of being married. b: the mutual relation of husband and wife. c: the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding & maintaining a family.”

Traditionalists & free thinkers alike recognize the needle has moved with respect to marriage. After reflecting on both Mr. Sweetwood’s post and the responses it elicited, I caught myself wondering if we aren’t collectively chasing the butterflies while all the elephants get away? Is there maybe a deeper embedment at work that most of us miss with respect to habits of thought? 


Marriage and Myth.

Even if you’re not an anthropologist or historian, it the thought experiment of how partnered couples (and groupings of partnered couples) might have formed isn’t much of a struggle. procreation and protection. Given our relative individual frailty as a species & unusually long maturation process, procreation and protection seem like blinding flashes of the obvious, even setting aside any emotional component. But many of us can’t resist coloring the bunny.

Quote attributed to Plato on Love with hearts in the background

Plato seems an unlikely source for this flowery quote, but it serves to illustrate how deeply myth and magical thinking have become embedded in our notions of marriage. As empathetic humans, the foregoing quote, whoever was responsible carries a lot of truth in it, despite how ephemeral that truth proves in the harsh realities of life. Isn’t there more going on besides attachment? To a former organizational man, the answer seems obvious.

As societies grew more complex and we settled down around fixed crops rather than simply following game and gathering as we went, it’s easy to puzzle out how our fondness for stories and myth might have become interwoven with our pragmatic relationship options. Nor is it much of a reach to see how a relationship we now call “marriage” might become first expected, then codified to protect the social fabric.

Marriage...Fortress of the Establishment

Are not those myths (including the religious myths to which many of us fearfully cling) so ingrained in us now that we are simply blind to them? Or (alternatively) did priesthoods and “divine emperors” weaponize our vulnerabilities, exploiting until we began to believe our own propaganda? As a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer, and sometime Board member, that’s been my experience.

Organizations irrespective of size are self-protective, not unlike the individuals who gave rise to them. Organized behavior almost certainly arose out of the notion of safety in numbers. But I’ve come to believe that over time, organized behavior evolved to serve a broader social purpose. Do we not now join organizations to leverage the power of many to ncrease our own?

Is this rather cynical interpretation open to alternative spin? Perhaps. But in many of our socio-religious, economic & political traditions, it’s hard to miss reason and change are amending our view of many of our most time-honored traditions and habits of thought. Habits at least in part responsible for the internecine strife of America’s culture wars. Maybe it’s time, as Mr. Sweetwood suggests in his post, to re-examine what we mean by marriage.

Marriage and Shifting Paradigms

The simpler societies in which our antecedents lived and died (often within walking distance of where they were born) were radically different than the society we have now. And if you’re anything like me, you may already be muttering under your breath, suggesting we really don’t have to go back very far to make that case.

And arguably, it not just the contextual realities of our times that have morphed. It’s both the paradigms that gave rise to marriage as we’ve traditionally thought of it and marriage itself. So in defense of the question Mr. Sweetwood raised, might we be better off acknowledging the validity of the author’s question, while also recognizing that traditional marriage still has a place?

Someone commented in response to Mr. Sweetwood’s post that social expectations have led us  to see marriage as what mature, productive members of society do, encouraging many to marry who (maybe) shouldn’t. If you’re one of those who have been single “too long,” I’m sure you can relate. Marriage has become a kind of default, and many those opting out will invariably characterized as “commitment-phobes,” irrespective of how well-reasoned their decision to opt out may be.

Marriage and the Ecosystem

With 7+ billion humans on this planet, with many, if not most apparently doing everything they can to render it uninhabitable, might not some of the reasons we used to marry now be counterproductive?

Yes, we need children, and yes, they tend to do best immersed in the love and nurturing traditional marriage often but not unfailingly facilitates. That said, if with fewer children overall, might we be (collectively) better at loving and nurturing them?

But if we remove children from the marriage context, what is the pivotal argument for marriage as we’re inclined to practice it? Perhaps marriage for the childless becomes an aesthetic choice with profound practical implications. Perhaps there’s valid place for Mr. Sweetwood’s modest proposal in some form.

Room, if you will, for more than one paradigm of love/passion/marriage - if we can all get over our own prejudices. And maybe taking the pressures of financial ruin and (in my opinion) misguided notion that marriage necessarily should be forever, maybe we can save a lot of unnecessary angst and heartbreak. Just speculating out loud…

D.B. Sayers is a decorated Marine officer, former corporate trainer/manager, and unredacted multi-genre author of thought-provoking contemporary fiction, whose characters are all dealing with the maelstrom of change that is our age.

The Year of Maybe-Act II of Nyra’s Journey

Tai's nothing like her hopeful dream-and everything she wants...

Nyra’s transition from college grad scrambling for her first career job to full independence is as on track as it can be, these days. With her new marketing job is going well, even if she’s still living at home,Nyra’s pretty sure the light at the end of the tunnel is not an onrushing train.

Still, she gets bored, sometimes. A whimsical decision to take up surfing brings her together with Tai Abrega, a professional surfer and shaper so delicious Nyra’s imagination hasn’t even gotten around to fantasizing about a man like him, yet. Surfing awakens a latent, mystical connection with the sea along with a driven passion for the man himself.

But embracing one possibility often demands abandoning another. How can Nyra fit Tai and the seductive siren song of freedom into her “safer” vision of perfect? Can she blend her conventional world with his freespirited lifestyle, or is she doomed to disappointment and heartbreak? New Adult fans of It Ends with Us and Finding Perfect are sure to enjoy this upbeat tale of hope.

The Year of Maybe Act II of Nyra’s Journey continues the story begun in Best-Case Scenario. For a limited time, get your free copy of Best-Case Scenario, and be up to date on Nyra’s story when The Year of Maybe is released in November. Then go to Amazon and pre-order your copy.

This is D.B. Sayers’ sixth book and the second in the Nyra Westensee series. If you haven’t already, subscribe to Smoke Signals, his newsletter by adding your email address in the subscription box in the upper right corner of this page.

Isn’t Hope in Some Form Our Best-Case Scenario?

Relentless Hope.

Sometimes you can sense it, even from a distance. The down-cast eye, an aimlessness in their gait. Something—or someone—has extinguished that flickering flame of hope that elevates existence to vitality. At some point in time or another, most of us have been there. But not Nyra.

After a college career in which Nyra’s sincere desire for connection and her driven sexuality has been frustrated by an almost impossible series of bad luck, she could be forgiven is she thinks being alone and disappointed is her fate. Living but not not quite alive. Wishing, but not really hopeful.

On the surface, that’s the Nyra readers think they’re  meeting in chapter one of Best-Case Scenario. But entitled Relentless Hope, nothing characterizes Nyra’s most persistent state of mind. Despite disappointments that haunt lesser souls for years—even a lifetime,

Nyra still believes in her future. The possibilities she senses, even if the tangible evidence of hope still elude her are at the driving centrality of her soul.


But hope is one thing. What continues to feed it? Is it that faint tickle of apparent interest radiating from someone we know and secretly desire? For Nyra, there are two. Toni, at work, a lovely woman of color whose kindness directed to a younger woman leaks soft sensuality. Is she interested in me? Nyra wonders more than once. What will she do if she is? Nyra isn’t sure. But she would like to find out.

And then there’s her more conventional “love interest.” Kevin, the night manager at the Blue Macaw. Handsome, confident without being an ass, Nyra sometimes catches him looking and wishing he’d do more than look. Surely one or the other of her two potential playmates will make a move.

But what will she do if they both make a move? With no experience with either gender and aware she’s attracted to both, how does she even decide? And then there’s the continued frustration of somehow being unable to snag her first professional level career job.

In the final analysis, doesn’t maintaining her positive outlook depend on a catalyst, either romantic or professional—preferably both? Nyra guesses it might. In the meantime, she keeps trying. After all. Isn’t hope in some form everyone’s best-case scenario?

A Plea for Sanity…

Can we stop monetizing social poison?

The day started well...

I got back from the House of Pain, a few mornings ago, still riding the uplifting burn of the morning’s weight workout and cardio. I opened my laptop, as I do every morning and went to my Medium feed to scroll through the day’s offerings.

The day always starts better with a little well-modulated pain... photo courtesy of Luis Vidal on Unsplash

As an unapologetic eclectic, I tend to think of myself as conversant with a lot of stuff and a master of nothing. Politically and philosophically, I’m an independent progressive with conservative leanings. Or perhaps, an independent thinking conservative with progressive leanings. It’s a matter of emphasis and perspective, I guess.

My point being, I read a lot of different takes on many topics, and the offerings in my feed reflect that. I expect—even seek—opinions at odds with mine and I try to keep an open, (if skeptical) mind. But on the day in question, the morning’s feed was overly supplied with some of the Downer’s who make Medium their home. And I’m seeing that, more and more, these days. Just two examples follow.

Movin', shootin' and communicatin' Photo courtesy of Kevin Schmid on Unsplashh

The War on Ukraine...

“Putin Really Could Nuke Us,” one writer opined. My best efforts notwithstanding, the crotchety old Marine officer bubbled to the surface. “Oh, ya think?” I muttered under my breath. “Congratulations, you just blew the lid off the previously unreported threat of nuclear annihilation.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s maybe a helpful reminder, lest those prone to complacency may have forgotten. And there probably are a few out there who’ve forgotten Russia has nukes. A LOT of nukes…

But I didn’t see much in the post that hadn’t already been said on CNN, MSNBC et al. And his closing? I’m sorry, but not especially helpful. One needs not, if he/she has been paying attention resort to the doomsday scenario to remind readers of the fragility of life.

And at the rate we’re going, we may not need nukes to write finis to life as we know it. What if he doesn’t launch? What if (instead) his oligarchs come to the same conclusion the author reached, grow a pair and decide to “off” him, for reasons of their own? Wouldn’t be the first palace coup in Russia. In that case, might we be better advised to be working toward a better tomorrow—however we define it, irrespective of the murky goings on in Putin’s Russia?

The Demise of Sex...

“We are in the middle of the Great (Sex) Resignation,” another writer assures us. “Yeah?” I muttered under my breath. “Speak for yourself.” To be fair, maybe I’m the one who’s “out of step.” It wouldn’t be the first time. But based on the feed I get most days; I seem to be in pretty active company in that department.

The Great Sexual Resignation...REALLY? Photo courtesy of Maddie Bazzocco on Unsplash

And even if some of us aren’t “getting any” right now (or as much as we would like) this instant, I’m convinced it’s less a resignation than a drought. Are there studies out there suggesting that a statistically significant number of men and women are opting out, for now? Sure.

But barring the unforeseen, it’s a long life for many of us, with our sexual rhythms fluctuating for a number of independent variables all subject to change without notice. So I’m not moved, as yet, to herald the decline as a resignation—never mind a “great” one. It’s just as likely to be a pause.

And perhaps that’s not all bad, insofar as we’ve done a bang-up job (pun intended) of overpopulating the planet. In the end, however, I’m betting on libido reasserting itself. Maybe it’s too early for dramatic headlines, nevermind statistical inferences.

Nobody asked me, but...

Added to the mix are the steady drumbeats of an impending second civil war, dissolution of “The Great American Democratic Experiment” or the demise of the republic due to voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering.

The foregoing are all valid topics for consideration, and I should probably apologize for appearing to pick on the two foregoing examples above. They’re hardly alone, either here or in the “Mainstream Media.” My problem with these speculative doom saying stories isn’t that they’re wrong, or devoid of merit, it’s that they’re often premature leaps to conclusions. At the same time, they erode hope, obscuring possibilities we might other recognize, and further divide us.

To be fair, they’re not simply monetizing angst, though they’re most certainly doing that. There’s research validating their observations, even if we may disagree about the proximal causes for that division. A 2019, Pew Research study found two-thirds of adults in the U.S. believed “other” Americans had little or no confidence in the government at any level. This is an observation that would surprise few, these days.

But there’s an insidious side effect that oozes into our relationships with each other. The same study reported distrust of each other (as individuals) stood at 64%. And the Freedman Consulting Group’s joint study with The Partnership for Public Service   (Paul Hitlin & Nadzeya Shava) wasn’t much more flattering, finding fewer than 30% of Americans believe the government listens to them, or is transparent.

Not an encouraging statistic in any society that literally lives or dies based on cooperation. As the narrative accompanying the study results opines:

“Trust is the elixir for (both) public life and neighborly relations…”

As I have suggested in previous posts, we are the answer to most of the riddles. Blaming “government” for how things are going is counterproductive if we’re not actively working toward solutions. And blaming government especially if we didn’t vote is irresponsible. To be clear…I don’t have unqualified faith in either of the two dominant parties in the U.S, today. They have at best become part of the problem, in their current forms, for different reasons.

We Are More Than Our Organizations

It’s the nature of organizations to develop agenda of their own. Agenda that inevitably leak out in ways that often bear little resemblance to how most of us feel. Which explains why there’s so much attitudinal spread in both political parties today. Most of us recognize the collective majority American consciousness isn’t well represented by either party.

Statistics on many of the seminal issues we hear/read about in the news bear that out. By way of illustration, Only 19% of all America is anti-abortion in all cases. Almost 80% believe it should be legal in some cases, at least. So what does the decades-long assault by fundamentalist Christian and Republicans on abortion rights and Roe V. Wade say about our politicians’ responsiveness to us?

How many believe the election was rigged? Even on the eve of 1/6, more than 55% of Americans believed Biden won. And why is it only 55%? We all know the answer. We have a polarized news media that caters to their stove piped viewers, many of whom have abandoned anything but the hyper-editorialized, for-profit news media. Have we become addicted to outrage? I’m just asking the question.

Taking Back Our Lives

The foregoing wasn’t meant as a political screed. As I’ve said before, I’m not especially fond of how either party is conducting itself. But one is generally better than the other and I’m not going to tell anyone hear who it is. Any reader of normal intelligence in possession of an internet connection can arrive at a thoughtful conclusion with a little unbiased research.

The point I’m making is we all need to spin back down from our hyper-partisan distaste our stove piped media are trying to fob off on us and do a little independent thinking. If you’re getting more mileage out of your outrage than the still moments of your life, is it maybe time to ask why? If you don’t like the answer, then maybe it’s time for a change.

It’s not just the life of our nation riding on it. It’s all of our lives, as well. We have important issues to deal with. But dealing effectively with them demands a clear eye, a touch of humility and the open willingness to work together to fix what truly matters.

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer turned full-time author with five books in print and three more on the way and the facilitator of the OC Writers’ Space. Pick up your free copy Through the Windshield, Dirk’s anthology of short fiction today.

Are We Not One?

Book Cover for Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula

Readers who know me well also know that in my previous incarnation, I was a Marine officer, serving from the Vietnam era through Somalia. During that time I served multiple gigs in Asia, the Med, the Middle East, Africa with one foray down south to Columbia during Pappy Bush’s (George Herbert Walker Bush) administration for an operation we don’t talk about.

In both Tier Zero, Vol I of the Knolan Cycle and Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula, Hāthar Tahk, formerly Marty Tellus of Earth has learned many of the same lessons. In his short career as an officer in the Knolan Shock Forces, he has served with warriors from several systems in the Knolan Concordant.

His closest comrades in arms have include Kareitha, his platoon sergeant a battle-hardened and efficient Valiskaari woman, Ranyia, a Mennaran woman and heavy-weapons employment specialist, Kuristäal one of his wiry, sardonic squad leaders and the seven-foot Oörana, a Haãrapuri woman and heir to the the Umatôk’s throne. His shared hardships with them and reliance on them in battle has taught him honor and courage is not confined to just the Knolans who are first among equals in the Concordant.

In Eryinath-5, the Dancer Nebula, Hāthar’s story (and his education) continues. Gravely wounded and captured by the Valdrōsians, the Knolans’ implacable enemy, Hāthar learns that neither courage nor nobility is confined to the Knolan Concordant. Ironically, he learns this as a captive slave on Eryinath-5, a hybriding colony at the outer reaches of the Valdrōsian empire.

At the hands of the lovely Rexsylia, Hāthar’s Valdrōsian handler/trainer, he begins to sense the limits of his courage and heroism, along with an appreciation—if not acceptance—of alternative philosophies and universal viewpoints. As his limitations and his own vulnerabilities become more evident to him, he inevitably begins to question much of what he has taken for granted from his mentoring in the Knolan Way.

Given his value to the Knolan Concordant, it is inevitable that both the Guardian and the Oracle would seek to extricate him if they can find him and if they can locate him. Therein lies the problem. Where is he? A recovery force is on standby if only they can locate him. In the meantime, the Concordant has other problems, including the Valdrosians’ apparent growing interest in Kurrithäal, the Knolan name of Earth and the indigenes that call it home.

Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula continues the story of first contact between Earth and Knola, and the ancient war that has been raging for over a thousand years, for this little corner of our little galaxy. The story continues…

The Special Bond of Comrades in Arms

Hāthar, Oörana and Strius

Readers of Tier Zero, Vol. I of the Knolan Cycle have already met Paul Tillotson (renamed Strius by the Knolans). But it is not until chapter 7 in Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula that Hāthar and Strius meet. Strius already knows of Hāthar by reputation. The first half-Knolan, half-human Seed trained in the Tower and installed into the elite order of the Kurálli is almost larger than life, in the Academy where Strius is trained for duty in the Knolan Shock Forces (KSF).

And it’s clear that of the two, Hāthar has the most powerful mind and a foresight that’s almost otherworldly. It’s not that Strius is deficient. Hāthar is, after all, a Tier Zero, with (as yet) untapped and unmeasurable reserves of power.

But as they work together for the first time, they clearly complement each other. As they first plan and then execute the raid on a research facility on Trenyarmätt, a planet in the Valdrōsian controlled Punahir system, readers sense their fit as comrades in arms goes beyond their skills. Their respective temperaments and an almost symbiotic sensing of what the other is thinking make them a uniquely formidable duo. It’s clear that they are destined to become significant fixtures in each others’ lives. Assuming they survive this mission and its aftermath. Going in, they both knew it was a long shot.

When the misson goes sideways, Hāthar is gravely wounded in the final stages of a battle to steal needed Valdrōsian technology, Strius is forced by circumstances to leave Hāthar, knowing odds are that he will be killed. But sometimes odds don’t play out as planned.

Unknown to Strius, Hāthar survives—barely. When Strius learns Hāthar is indeed alive, but a prisoner on Eryinath-5, a Valdrōsian slave world, he vows to free him and exact revenge on the Valdrosians.

Though Eryinath-5 can be appreciated as a standalone tale, most readers of Tier Zero will welcome the return of Oörana, Hathar’s old friend and comrade in arms from Tier Zero. Now Umatôk of the Haärapuri, she offers herself and Tushar, Captain of her Guard to assist in Hāthar’s rescue attempt.

We also learn a lot more about the Knolans’ enemy, the Valdrōsians and realize not only is the a fight to the death, we learn that as is often the case in war, things are not as cut and dried as they seemed. What is always true, we realize, is that comrades in arms remain comrades in life and in death.

Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula

Volume II of the Knolan Cycle

Book Cover for Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula

Hāthar-Tahk, (formerly Marty Tellus of Earth) has just returned from a successful mission with the Knolan Shock Forces (KSF). In common with most successful combat missions, Hāthar returns with his share of ghosts. The mission cost him and his platoon dearly. Casualties were high. But in the variable operational calculus by which Knolans evaluate success, it was “worth it.”

Hāthar, on the other hand, is less sanguine about the men and women he’s lost than the strategic planners who advise the Guardian, responsible for the safety of the twenty-three systems (or sectars that form the Knolan Concordant. He understands and respects their perspective. But for Hāthar, the loss of men and women following his orders is deeply personal.

On the upside, Arra, Hāthar’s partner is carrying their first child and both mother and unborn are in good health. For reasons that should be obvious, Hathar wants to be around for the birth and Arra is looking forward to having him there to share the experience.

Unfortunately the Knolans’ Valdrōsian enemy rarely sleeps. The Knolan fleet protecting the Orothon Sectar has ambushed by Valdrōsians using advanced stealth technology the Knolans have yet to decipher. And they have no countermeasures. While not decisive in itself, the Knolans are rattled by the ease with which they were ambushed. A counter must be found.

So when an accidental misstep by the Valdrōsians reveals where the new stealth technology has been developed, Hāthar-Tahk is called to help plan the raid. Sensitive to Hāthar’s extended absence and Arra’s approaching delivery, the Guardian wants to limit his help in planning only.

Specifically, the Guardian wants the benefit of his unique ability to formulate creative and unpredictable approaches to seemingly insoluable problems. The Guardian isn’t disappointed.

Together with Zukinar, a Knolan Intelligence planner, they come up with a plan that may work. But it’s so risky that Hāthar cannot in good conscience leave this mission to anyone else.

Designated Mission Commander, Hathar begins mission-specific training for Operation Night Flower, a mission with so many uncontrollable variables, top-level leadership has profound doubts about anyone returning from it. But Sa ́ang Kurinth, the Knolan call to duty is a compelling principal in Hāthar’s mind. Once he can’t ignore, personal desires notwithstanding.

Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula takes the reader on a journey of convoluted twists of fate and gives them an upclose and personal look at Knola’s implacable enemy, the Valdrōsians and the perilously beautiful region that is Knola’s corner of our galaxy. Eryinath-5 is available in Kindle and paperback from Amazon and in paperback and epub from Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

What Reviewers Are Saying About Eryinath-5

“A great second book that takes up from the first book where it should and how it should. A throughly enjoyable read that, like the first book, is hard to put down. D.B. Sayers has a knack for developing characters that appeal to the reader while entwining them in a story line that has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Sprinkled throughout is thoughtful dialog that gives the reader a moment to pause and go back and reread a particularly insightful moment in the story.”

Semper Fi on Amazon

“I find it rare to read a book where the imagination shines so much and is so vivid. This one did it for me. Sci-Fi is one of those where you really need to be able to picture things and I was able to get a clear picture in my head.”

“This is an exciting read with wonderfully engaging characters that are passionate and compelling. Add to that the action and you will be engrossed.”

The Texas Book Nook

“I really enjoyed this read! I thought it was very engaging once it got started, I couldn’t put it down. I liked how the writer made me feel like I was part of this new world and a part of the story. The characters became real, the world became real! Vivid.”

The Indie Express

About the Author

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer turned corporate trainer and district manager, turned full-time author. Other books by Sayers include:

Other Books by D.B. Sayers

West of Tomorrow, a contemporary novel of corporate intrigue, betrayal, misplaced love and the phoenix in all of us.

Best-Case Scenario, Act I of Nyra’s Journey is a thoughtful and often racy New Adult novella following the development of Nyra Westensee, from a young college graduate with more questions than answers to a young woman of dawning sophistication.

Through the Windshield is an anthology of thought-provoking short stories.

Tier Zero, Vol. I of the Knolan Cycle is the first book in the Knolan series, a tale of first contact between Earth and the Knolan Concordant. Eryinath-5 above-mentioned is the second book in the series.

The Year of Maybe, Act II of Nyra’s Journey, the sequel to Best-Case Scenario is due out this year.