Two years passed. One summer evening Caryssa, George, and Tyler took a catamaran cruise on the bay. As the cat sailed into the sunset towards the Golden Gate Bridge, a group of twenty-somethings sitting near them began discussing the Santa Barbara and UCLA mass shootings.
Subtle fingers of fog began to creep over the headland. The air was full of the aromas of cruise delicacies—barbecue and Mediterranean finger foods— and the fresh bay breeze. Despite the topic in the group behind her, Caryssa was deeply at peace.
In the background, she heard, in her point of view, a rather elementary and clichéd response to the University tragedies. It came from a lively, well-dressed man about seventy in a separate group. He and his wife had brought caviar and champagne with them and were sipping and snacking. “Well, we can’t blame society. Individuals need to take ownership of their actions.”
Caryssa chimed in “Yes, in a perfect world that makes perfect sense. But guess what? America is not ‘society’…there is a big wide world out there. We need to address American culture. Our Capitol needs to take responsibility. What kind of human goodness is being represented by the violence in our media and pop culture? The vice we call virtue of our foreign policy? How are our young people supposed to learn right from wrong in a context like that?”
Mr. Caviar took a sip of champagne, his Jaeger-LeCoultre watch glistening in the sunshine, and glanced out at the bay. They sailed on in silence for a few minutes, each enjoying the fresh air and beauty surrounding them.
One of the college students behind Caryssa turned to her and said “I know, right? What is causing all this violence? How about an emotional disconnect between human beings due to being ruled by an oligarchy? How about a subjugated set of people losing any sense of moral conscience due to a culture of bullying the world at gunpoint, and seeing the fallout of bullying here?”
“Exactly!” Caryssa breathed a sigh of relief.
The young woman reached a hand over the seat back. “My name’s Lori.”
“Great to meet you,” Caryssa responded, taking her hand and shaking it. “Caryssa.”
Lori continued her rationale about our common violence “A disenfranchised people so hell-bent on revenge, angry and full of hate for all those ‘bad guys.’ A zombie apocalypse of smart bomb obsession, with this echo chamber of twisted ideas and perpetual glory of violence!”
“Yes!” Caryssa said loud enough so Mr. Caviar heard her. “No other modern country endures mass shootings so frequently. We can’t just change the laws and do criminal background checks. These kids have no criminal backgrounds. The criminal background check needs to be done with respect to the global military system itself. We need a cultural health reform.”
Lori nodded. “Damn straight.”
George interrupted. “Honey…If you’re going to be having this conversation, I’m taking Tyler somewhere else. He doesn’t need to hear this doom and gloom stuff about the world he’s growing up in.”
Caryssa waved her hand in assent and George took Tyler’s hand and led him away from the conversation. “Come on buddy, let’s see if we can see any harbor seals out there. Or better yet, dolphins!”
She turned back to Lori. “It’s the darkening of the soul. We have effectively commoditized everything—land, air, water, people, and animals. All shackled with price tags, enslaved within what we call ‘civilization’. Much of the violence in this country is happening due to a culture, ours, that mindlessly consumes all that is near and dear to each and every one of us, right down to the beautiful families that love us the most, finding fault with each other, rather than seeing the cultural culprits tearing people apart.”
“Violence sells,” agreed Lori. “That dystopian future we as students might be asked to write about in a creative essay on a future America where certain technological advances and climate change lead to something evil? It’s happening. It’s no sci-fi novel. It’s reality! We are not the ones talking ‘doom and gloom’, it’s those that think violence is necessary because…well, the world sucks!”
Both women glanced over at Mr. Caviar, oblivious in his overdressed-for-a-sail white Armani shorts and polished shoes. Likely thinking they were misfits living on the edge of society. Then one of Lori’s companions got her attention, and she turned back to her group.
Caryssa was glad for the break. She was loving the sail. They were passing by Alcatraz, and she captured a picture. The gorgeous palm trees swaying against the rolling hills, the Golden Gate Bridge with the mystic lines of fog intertwined in its fiery orange structure, Alcatraz with its harsh history and astounding beauty. Just like America, she thought. The California sunshine glistened off the water like diamonds, against the dramatic shapes of the Marin headlands.
She sipped a glass of Pinot Grigio while tasting the hors-d’oeuvres, and enjoying the sunshine. Wow! Twenty-one years I’ve lived in California. And the breathtaking beauty of San Francisco Bay still utterly amazes me.
As the catamaran soared under full sail, she thought how she had journeyed full sail from corporate professional to advocating corporate accountability for social abuse. Twenty-one-plus years ago she played the corporate game that had brought her here. How much had changed, and how beautifully. She knew she would never go back, but would always treasure it in her heart. And she would never again regret her decision or beat herself up because she was a “tech dinosaur.”
As she sat on the catamaran speeding across the waters of the bay, she was at home in her own soul. Her new livelihood would come to her, and it would be in line with her values and all that she had learned in the past twenty years. She felt a kind of closure.
Soon the catamaran docked at the Embarcadero in San Francisco, and everybody disembarked. George, Caryssa, and Tyler joined hands and wandered the city streets. At the harbor, there were booths set up with jewelry, paintings, and delicious foods. Quintessential San Francisco sights and smells.
Caryssa was surprised to bump into a group of girlfriends and hung out with them at a tiny French bistro, while Tyler and George played the games set up on the street. She sat and chatted over escargot, a warm goat cheese salad with arugula and some mussels with leeks, paired with a glass of wine.
“So has anyone seen Stan lately?” Carla, one of Caryssa’s ski pals who met Stan at a rocking happy hour at her house asked.
Caryssa answered “Not in a while, our play-dates seem to have ceased with the kids getting older. But I heard he finished studying Environmental Law and works bringing social responsibility into the corporate world. Each legal campaign he works on deals with human rights with respect to toxic chemicals used in the workplace or schools.”
"That's great to hear, he and his lovely wife are nice people," Carla offered. "I'd love to see them again sometime."
After the ladies rendezvous was over, Caryssa met up with her little family. It was great getting Tyler out of the house and away from a computer, socializing with real people rather than some digital Pokémon.
The next day, she signed up for a writer’s conference in the city about becoming a change agent through writing a book— “Changing the World through Words.” What convinced her to sign up was the blurb on the brochure: “A book that changes the United States will change the world, because America is leading the world into the future.”
When she read that, something clicked on inside her. This was it. This was the final piece in her puzzle. She knew it. And she had to follow that inspiration.
All those words on paper! Her tech writing had made an impact on the networked world before. Now she is trying her hand at being a novelist while doing marketing for the greater good. Her voice on paper could be amplified to the world through technology. A Mom’s heart with a voice …”mum’s the word”!
She didn’t have to be a digital marketing guru for any company, a puppet master to the corporatocracy. She could do digital-age e-books. Sell her words online and offline. This can be her “online presence.”
“This is who I am,” she thought, with deep satisfaction. “It’s all good!”
With this new goal, …she might not be sipping the finest champagne in a first class cabin on her way to climb the high tech corporate ladder of Silicon Valley, yet she felt she was sipping from a sustainable soul.
A few days ago, as shared her excitement about the conference with girlfriends, one of them had asked “Can a book really change the world? There seems so many that have tried. Yet the games go on.”
“I know, girlfriend,” Caryssa had said. “I know. But we have to at least try. Anyway, I do. It’s who I am.”
She had reached a place of final acceptance. The digital craze that brought her to California was at least in part—the same thing keeping her high-tech career at a standstill today.
Tech Marketing had gone to the robots, buried under too much technology. Until she realized she could set her words on fire globally over that world of big data…words to try to shift culture and transform society. While at it, she found more fun part-time marketing outreach gigs connecting and building communities. Utilizing the digital marketing trend after all.
And those annoying “Breaking News” headlines flashing on TV screens blaring out the shill of our Capital’s blind vengeance? She had learned to not only see through their deceitful masks but laugh at them.
The world is a beautiful place. Despite the monster behind the masks.
THE END (for now!) Watch for the sequel, MONSTER behind the MASKS