Finding focus

Seeing the world through new eyes is a powerful metaphor. And in my case, there’s also some literal truth to it as I gaze out upon San Francisco with 20-15 vision unaided by glasses or contact lenses. Last Friday, lasers zapped away the bit of corneal tissue that was blurring my vision, bringing the world sharply into focus. But my outlook was already undergoing some nonsurgical adjustments.

The decision to break up with my sweetie has been more painful and drawn out than the one to get LASIK surgery, which was an unexpected Christmas gift from my mother. Compared with the intense contemplation of whether to leave a wonderfully sustaining four-year relationship to pursue uncertain adventures, letting someone shave my eyeballs was no big deal.

Alix and I have been doomed for months, maybe even years, but we loved each other too much to face it. Love doesn’t really conquer all, as we all eventually realize, often around the time when couples talk about whether to have babies. I love my daughters, who are now 18 and almost 14 years old, but as I approach my 40th birthday, I can clearly see that my child rearing days are nearing their sunset.

We’re doing a good job of loving and supporting each other as we untangle our lives, but the future is a blur. The horizon ends at the end of the month when Alix flies to Bali for a six-week trip to southeast Asia and I move out, couch-surfing with friends until I fly to South America 12 days later and worrying about where to live next after my return.

My five-week trip to Peru and Bolivia will be part vacation and part journalistic exploration, as I’ve discussed in some earlier posts. It’s by far the most time I’ve had off from 17 years worth of daily and weekly newspaper deadlines, a chance to really reflect on my life, gaze upon the world, and just be.

Yet there’s really no respite for a restless soul. I’m brimming with writing projects right now, all of which exhibit serendipitous cross currents and flashes of interconnection that seem to be painting a picture that I can’t yet see.

As the war started five years ago, I was arrested for helping block the intersection in front of Bechtel, our homegrown multinational corporation that helped spark Bolivia’s latest revolutionary cycle by privatizing the water system in Cochabamba. And for some reason, I feel compelled to fly down there and learn more.

I regularly cover San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s well-packaged yet hollow approach to politics and civic governance, often recalling his stylistic mentor Bill Clinton as I watch Newsom in action, using the right liberal rhetoric (and even some of the same hand gestures and intonation) but selling out those values to maintain his personal popularity, over and over. So now I cover the presidential race, and the upcoming Democratic National Convention, where we’ll see whether we’re really ready to turn a new political page or whether it’s back to that soulless Clintonian triangulation.

Are Americans ready to see with new eyes?

Barack Obama’s campaign has tapped into a deep well of unfocused human energy, those who have been so disconnected from corrupted and ineffectual political systems that they choose to create new worlds, from Black Rock City to Second Life to untold other deliberately created communities. But I believe they yearn to apply their energies to the real challenges our country and the world faces, if they can only see how to do so. 

“There’s a real idealism out there, but they haven’t had an outlet,” Burning Man founder Larry Harvey told me on Monday as we chatted in his apartment, speaking simultaneously about Obama supporters and the burners that are branching out into the world, from Pisco to Gerlach (soon I’ll do a post focused on my conversation with Larry and his American Dreams).

I’m also inspired and idealistic, and I too am looking for an outlet for my energies. For now, that’s how I intend to use this blog, to explore the connections among my many current writing projects. And just maybe, at some key moment, it will all snap into clear focus.


  1. […] SF Scribe // Writing Truth to Power wrote an interesting post today on Finding focusHere’s a quick excerptBarack Obama’s campaign has tapped into a deep well of unfocused human energy, those who have been so disconnected from corrupted and ineffectual political s… […]


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