It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: TREE OF SMOKE by Denis Johnson, a Review (of sorts)

As I sit and watch the surreal press conference between Trump and Putin after their so-called historic summit, where, after recently treating our allies like dog shit, Trump behaves like a sycophantic lapdog to a murderous dictator who wants nothing more than to destroy and subjugate the U.S. of America in retribution for how the U.S. of America destroyed and subjugated his beloved U.S.S.R., I am reminded of how I felt, or better yet, how my fuzzy, nightmarish memories leave me feeling from the surreal and tumultuous times in the U.S. of America during the late-Sixties through the mid-Seventies, you know, the era of national madness beginning with the Tet Offensive through the Watergate break-ins and subsequent hearings to Nixon’s humiliating yet palliative resignation and ending with America’s humiliating yet palliative retreat from South Vietnam.

Continue reading “It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: TREE OF SMOKE by Denis Johnson, a Review (of sorts)”

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Love is the answer?

There’s a rather talkative pigheaded brute of a character in my WIP whose name is Rick, Happy, Henderson. Happy loves to philosophize and pontificate to…at?… his work partner about whatever the latest topic is he’s studying during night school as if he’s now a subject matter expert. He’s not of course and he always manages to maneuver whatever it is he’s rambling on about toward a general diatribe of how the weak with their Rule of Law and “societal norms” have managed to upend the universal natural order of might makes right, which, in the end, as he sees it, limits his ability to pick up chicks.

Continue reading “Love is the answer?”

The Lullaby Effect of Carter & Lovecraft versus When Nietzsche Wept

I’m only a so-so fan of HP Lovecraft. I guess I’ve read as much of him as I have more out of a sense of allegiance to the horror genre than a sense of loyalty to his literary acuity.

Which is why I was somewhat surprised when I found myself selecting Jonathan L. Howard’s CARTER & LOVECRAFT the other night when cruising my Overdrive app looking for an audiobook fix for which to fall asleep to…

Which, to me, is the primary purpose of audiobooks – literary lullabies.

And most of the audiobooks I listen to do a great job of it.

In fact, they do such a great job of it that most audiobooks I listen to, I don’t finish because each night I always have to go back to the last point in the book I can remember before drifting off to sleep the night before, which is, more often than not, only a minute or two after I started listening.

And the books I do manage to get through before the loan ends I often only remember in sketchy patches…

Continue reading “The Lullaby Effect of Carter & Lovecraft versus When Nietzsche Wept”

What’s My Name, Again?

And here I thought it was going to be such a dramatic hassle to change the name of my novel from The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor to Inside the Skin.

I mean, I’ve been wanting to change it for quite a while now but kept putting it off thinking it would take a grand act of our dysfunctional Congress for it to happen.

But guess what?

Yup, you guessed it… it was a delicious piece of cake.

Seriously, for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), all I had to do was go in and edit the book details to reflect the new name. Same for Smashwords, the service I use to distribute my books beyond Amazon.

For the paperback, there was a bit more work involved…

Continue reading “What’s My Name, Again?”

What is Gotham Trying to Say about Interracial Marriages?

The Mad Hatter, courtesy of modernmythmedia.com

Even though I grew up a comic book nerd, I’m pretty much over all the Marvel/DC Comics superhero movies. I used to watch them religiously at the movie theater – because if one must watch a big budgeted bloated bonanza of bombastic visual proportions, then it must be watched while on the big screen – however, I’m trying very hard to wean myself off of them. Key word: trying.

Despite the fact that I know without a doubt I’m going to be hugely disappointed at the movie’s end, I still find it hard to resist them. For instance, the buzz around the Black Panther movie is phenomenal so chances are pretty good I’ll make the trek to my local Frank’s Theatre and hope for the best… while still expecting the worst.

Fortunately, thanks to the likes of HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the… like, the superhero genre has not been left behind during this amazing renaissance of television we’re happily going through.

As for there being any good content on broadcast television, I wouldn’t know. I haven’t watched anything on any of the broadcast channels, other than sports, since Happy Days went off the air… what has it been? a year or two ago?

Except for one broadcast show, that is.

Gotham.

I am off on a hardcore wide-eyed binge on that show, which should tell you that I don’t actually watch it when it’s broadcasted on Fox. No way. Never again will I be a slave to a network time slot.

I watch Gotham as any discerning 21st Century viewer would, at my leisure on that amazing little channel of an app called Netflix.

With all its dark, demented, hyper-violence, let me tell ya… Gotham is good. Real good. It actually feels like a comic book has been brought to life, making it exactly what a discerning 21st Century television viewer like yours truly wants…

And deserves.

Anyway, onward to the point of this overly prolific post…
Continue reading “What is Gotham Trying to Say about Interracial Marriages?”

The Irrepressible Nature of Irony*

Or, Nothing Is As It Appears To Be

If you were to do a search on my site for the word “irony” — and why would you? — but, if you were to, of the ten results you would receive, the first three would have the word “irony” in their heading, so it’s easy to see why they would be pulled up in the search; but as far as the other seven, it’s been so long since they were written that I have no clue why they were pulled in with the results, except for maybe the eighth one: it’s a post about Radiohead allowing fans to pay whatever they want for their latest release at the time. There’s probably a decent amount of irony to be found in that one.

Anyway, of the first three positively ironic posts pulled in the search, they are:
Continue reading “The Irrepressible Nature of Irony*”

The Absurdity That Isn’t

An Existential Moment
 

I’m not a philosopher despite the fact that it is my belief that everyone with a thinking brain, and especially those without, is one, whether it be as a witting one or not.

No, I’m not a Philosopher, despite my occasional philosophizing about philosophical stuff, in the same regard that I’m not a Poet, despite the fact that I occasionally write poetic-like stuff.

Philosophy as a studied discipline is way too confounding for my confounded brain.

However, practicing a philosophy as a means for navigating life comes as natural to me as the act of breathing or as the desire to include unnecessary descriptive and expounding words, especially those oh so delightful words of the adverbial persuasion, into as much of my writing as possible.

For instance, I have no idea how many times other than a lot that I’ve attempted to read and understand such profound Philosophers as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and Heidegger and Sartre and Camus and, regardless how many times it’s been, without fail and after only a few pages I have to put their books down in angry frustration and embarrassment from my inability to read the words that they have carefully and thoughtfully written for me with any sustained comprehension. It is maddening to me that, while I can read and understand just about any individual sentence of theirs, when moving on to a succeeding sentence, of which I can also read and understand, I invariably lose comprehension of the sentence which had just preceded it and which only seconds before I had understood.

If hell is other people, then a deeper hell is other people other than the people I can understand…

Continue reading “The Absurdity That Isn’t”

Transgender Community* Trumped by the Arc and Bent of Autocratic Politics

My fury throughout the whole last campaign to and through the election until now has never been much about politics.

Politics in this country, while they have been expanding outward toward the wacky fringes leaving the mostly moderate radicals (the rarity of moderates these days makes us rather radical) like myself quite lonely, have always, and hopefully will continue to, arc this way and that.

Because if our politics are not forever fluid and free to flow this way and that depending upon the tides of our national temperament, then it must mean that someone must have dammed up our river of democracy.

Metaphors… sigh.

Anyway, I don’t know if you’ve read my about page but there you will see in one sentence how I feel about politics and politicians…

To me, politics is simply acting for ugly people. Pretty actors go to Hollywood; ugly actors go to Washington DC.

Consequently, as our politics arc to and fro in this country, our politicians arc right along with them…only always just slightly behind the arc as they forever fail in their efforts to try to predict its toing and froing.

No, my fury for the most part has been directed solely at Trump and his bent towards authoritarianism; which means then that the more he contorts himself into a true to life autocrat, the more he is strengthening his power at the expense of my freedoms…

Continue reading “Transgender Community* Trumped by the Arc and Bent of Autocratic Politics”

The Purpose of Pain

When it comes to physical pain, it’s purpose is hardly in question: It focuses us to where our immediate attention and action is required.

We accidentally rest our hand on a hot stove top burner and, without our sense of pain, our hand, if it weren’t for our sense of smell, would become cooked well enough to serve up at the next meal.

We could laugh at this, but sadly and horrifically there are some who do not experience the sense of physical pain due to a rare condition known as congenital analgesia.

Continue reading “The Purpose of Pain”

The Power of About

I may be mistaken, but it is my belief that we’ve all been to that dark, lonely place at least once or twice in our lives where we, and the lives we have led, seem…

Insignificant.

Less than.

Pointless.

power-of-about

It’s a scary place and one which I suspect, and hope, the majority of us visit only infrequently and fleetingly because our lives are fulfilling and rewarding enough to steer us clear from the depression that can lead us there.

However, I also suspect that there is a significant minority of us who visit this dark, lonely place more often and for longer periods than most since, according to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 19% of the United States’ adult population experience some degree of mental illness throughout the year [1]. And, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States [2].

I, myself, became a frequent visitor of this dark, lonely place not long after I began taking high doses of the steroid prednisone to combat a deadly disease that was destroying my lungs, and one which I was given little chance of surviving.

It was a hard enough to mentally process that my life may soon be ended by an aggressively fatal disease — pretty tough for anyone to process, I would imagine — but couple that bummer news with a steroid that induces psychosis-like side-effects and, yeah… double bummer.

Consequently, it wasn’t long before I found myself spending nearly as much time in that dark, lonely place as I was out of it.

It’s hard to explain what I and my mind were going through whenever I visited there. I’m not sure there is a way to describe it wholly in just a few words. It is both a tangible and intangible feeling. A cold feeling sometimes. A heavy feeling other times. But it was almost always a feeling of pointlessness. A feeling of… Why bother?

I was dying. My body had failed me and I had failed my family. The only thing I felt I was good for now were my less than adequate disability checks. Were I gone, my life insurance payout would have been much more rewarding and helpful for those whom my absence would release from the burdens my illness had placed upon them.

Yeah… I was down there in that indelible darkness of depression pretty deep.

Fortunately for me I had a saving grace — several of them, in fact.

One, the primary one, was a support network of family and friends who loved me, cared for me, and prayed for me.

Another, was that I like to write.

The Writing Hand
The Writing Hand

I began blogging shortly after my leukemia diagnosis. Nothing too deep or introspective — though scared, I was completely confident I was going survive — just updates to keep my friends and family informed of my health and happenings during my treatment.

But months later after learning my lungs were slowly dying away as a side-effect result from my bone marrow transplant, and having to begin a hefty prednisone regiment in an effort to slow the dying process down, my positive perspective on things changed significantly.

Though the drug-induced and drastic mood swings made it difficult to focus, I began to blog more often and about more personal matters. And while I regard my blogging experience during this difficult time as a very beneficial, therapeutic activity — an activity I presume many others regard beneficial as well, for a simple Google search of the term “writing therapy” resulted in around 259,000,000 results — it wasn’t helping me to shake the persistent feeling of irrelevance; of feeling that I others would better off if I were dead.

Fortunately for me, since I was spending more time thinking deeply about my life for my blog, I eventually began tinkering with my blog’s “About” page.

And this tinkering proved to be yet one more saving grace; for it led me on a path to try to discover things about myself that others might find interesting enough to inspire them to read more of my writing.

And once I began thinking in more of a self-promotional, third-person kind of way about my life, I began realizing and rediscovering things about myself that I found to be very special and unique.

For the next week or so, I stopped blogging altogether and, like a gold digger after finding his first valuable nugget, I worked passionately on mining through my past to dig up and write down all the meaningful nuggets I could find.

And when I was finally satisfied that my life was properly represented on the page, I began to craft the long, meaningful list of me into a voice that, when others read it, would be heard distinctly as mine.

When I was finished*, my “About” page was more than just being about me… it was me.

And even now when reading this long and winding written documentary of me, I am filled with a sense of gratitude and purpose so powerful that, even if I were to once again visit that dark, lonely place, I could never do so feeling as if my life were pointless and without meaning.



1. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers
2. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml


*As I live and grow, so too does my “About” page. It will never be finished completely… until I am.

My Uncolorful* Character(s)

I don’t know about you, but as for me – unless it is absolutely critical to the movement of a story – I don’t need to always know every item in each room, or the style and brand of every shoe in the protagonist’s closet… and I especially do not need to know about the mole on the back of the least minor character’s left ear.

pexels-photo-316681.jpeg

Now, the genius of authors such as Balzac, Dickens, and Twain cannot be denied by me; however, I often find their attention to detail excessive and rather tedious for my overly sensitive reading sensibilities.

Especially Balzac.

I know, I know… It’s me not them.

But I’m the kind of reader dude** who enjoys employing as much as possible of my own personal image making machine, aka, my imagination, along with my thought processing gyrator, against a story’s plot, or lack thereof; and when it comes to a character and his or her physical appearance and personality traits, I prefer for them, through the details found in the story’s showing, to slowly emerge within that enveloping zen-like midst of verisimilitude (that I hopefully find myself in) until he or she can be seen standing clearly before my mind’s unblinking eye, fully developed and fleshed out.

So it should come as no surprise then when I tell all you other reader dudes*** that I try to write my stories in the way that I prefer to read them: with limited and only absolutely necessary descriptive telling.

The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailore

For example, you will find that the book description for The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor reads in part:

Written with a narrative starkness, it leaves us with only our own prejudices and stereotypes to draw from and forces us to make assumptions about character and identity, and, in the end, determine not just who did it but if it was even done at all.

Admittedly, this book was written intentionally with a “narrative starkness,” not so much because starkly written books are the kind I like to read most, but because its starkness is used as a device to make a sad but painful point about the military’s failed and former Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

I was navy Equal Opportunity Advisor during DADT’s salad days and the crux of my job at the time was to travel around the Western Pacific to facilitate training seminars and focus groups in an effort to educate sailors on how to legally administer and execute the confusing and harmful policy.

As you probably already know, prior to the implementation of DADT, homosexuals were prohibited from serving in the military. With DADT – which was a compromise between Bill Clinton, who wanted to allow homosexuals to serve with no restrictions, and the military’s top brass, who wanted to continue barring homosexuals from service – homosexuals were allowed to serve in the military… provided they did not discuss their sexual orientation with anyone nor have any homosexual relations whatsoever. Additionally, no service member was allowed to ask any other service member what his or her sexual orientation was… hence the infamous moniker don’t ask, don’t tell.

A pretty cruel policy, to say the least. However, it was rather cut and dry. Not so much confusion with it on the surface.

The problems that came about with the policy was a result of when service members started taking action based on their homophobic perceptions and stereotypes.

For instance, some sailors were harassed, abused, and, sadly, even killed because they were perceived to be a homosexual based on the way he or she talked, or walked, or, while in civilian attire, dressed.

And while that’s tragic in and of itself, additional problems were often caused when these illegally and harmfully harassed sailors attempted to tell their chains-of-command about the harassment and the COC, instead of seeing these attempts as pleas for help, saw them instead as admissions of homosexuality. As a result, many sailors were wrongfully kicked out of the navy because of the ignorance and bigotry of those who were supposed to protect them.

It was very distressing to me whenever I heard of any instance of it happening. However, it was highly rewarding for me whenever I had the opportunity to get in front of a group of senior leaders and help/make them see the light as to how to effectively execute and administer DADT and to warn them about the problems they could get into for wrongly processing a sailor out of the service.

While I am very happy that DADT was finally axed and homosexuals are now allowed serve without any restrictions to their being, it was all of that nasty DADT stuff that became the impetus for me writing my novel.

And my goal in writing it was to force the reader to have to apply his or her own values, via perceptions and stereotypes, upon the characters in and events of the story. Consequently, it was important for me as a writer to not tell the reader what I wanted them to think by way of character description, but to allow them to draw their own conclusions.

I hope the story does this effectively. I guess the results can be found in the book’s reviews.

Anyway…

I was reminded about all this the other day when I read an article by The Atlantic entitled “The Case Against Colorblind Casting.” It is a very well-written and informative piece about the challenges Hollywood has casting non-white actors and how “colorblind casting,” while admirable in its goals, is not a sustainable means to diversify the films we watch. The article highlights as an example, the recent success of Oscar Isaac, Hollywood’s current It and Everywhere Man, who, just so he would have a better chance at not being type-cast and at being able to land “ethnically flexible” roles, chose to drop his last name of Hernández.

Sure, performers have and probably always will “alter” their names to one that they feel is best received by their fans; however, having to do it just to appear “less ethnic,” reminds me of the movie “La Bamba,” where it shows how the singer Richard Valenzuela was compelled to assume the less ethnic-sounding stage name of Ritchie Valens so that he could better appeal to his white audience.

That was sixty years ago and I’m sad to report, as is evidenced by our latest Hollywood star Oscar Isaac, that it’s still happening.

Man, oh man***…

This equality stuff sure is a difficult nut to crack – witness the all-white Oscar nominees for this year’s Best and Supporting Actors/Actresses – and I’m not about to attempt to try and crack it here.

Except to say that screenwriters can certainly have a hand in keeping an open playing field for actors of all races and ethnicity by – you guessed it – laying off the descriptive details in their screenplays and leaving it up to the director to cast the best actor for the role based on the story’s content and need and not on the screenwriter’s biases.

Of course, a more diverse field of screenwriters would be most beneficial to making a crack in that nut…

You may not have noticed, but I am a very white dude**… pasty even. Even still, for what it’s worth, when I adapted my short story “Leave” into a screenplay, I wrote it so the only true limitations in casting should be because of gender – and there’s just no getting around it – there are distinct male and female roles that are critical to the story’s telling, as it is a story about the bigotry faced by the first women allowed to serve on navy combatant ships.

But as far as casting for the roles for the screenplay’s mostly bigoted and sexist male characters and a few exemplary female characters… race nor any other physical trait, apart from one that would prevent someone from being accepted into the military, should not matter to the director who will be doing the casting.

Now, I doubt my starkly written, diminutive screenplay will go far in the effort to crack Hollywood’s White Nut problem… but that’s all I got for now.

Still, I’m really looking forward to beginning the process of creating this film. And, while things are a long way from definite right now, you may just be surprised by the talented actors who already have expressed an interest in being part of the production.

I can’t wait until we reach the point where I can share it all with you.

Until then, as we say in the business…

Stay tuned!


*Yeah, I know “uncolorful” is not a real word, whatever a real word may be, but I it sounds less negative to me than “colorless” so, for what it’s worth, I’m going with it.

**gender specific

***non-gender specific

HOW NOT TO DIE: In 13 Easy Steps

On this day five years ago, I received the news that a recent lung biopsy showed that my lungs were inflicted with a severe form of graft versus host disease (GVHD) called bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS). BOS, I came to find out, was a known but uncommon side-effect resulting from a bone marrow transplant (for leukemia) that I had had earlier in the year. And by severe I was told it meant the BOS was incurable, non-reversible, and, in most cases, aggressively fatal. I was also told — because I had asked and insisted on an answer — that, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of the time, BOS had only a 13%, five-year survival rate. In other words, there was an 87% chance that within five years I would be dead.

Well, it’s been five years and here I am – a newly minted Thirteen Percenter.

Can a brother get a “Hell yeah?”

Hell yeah!

Anyway… at my most recent appointment with my oncologist, in addition to his standard declaration whenever he sees me of, “So, I see you’re still alive,” he also declared that my present condition may just be a miracle of sorts because it appears that my incurable BOS may have actually been cured… somehow.

I don’t think I would be overstating if I said that, because of all my goings on these past five years – goings on such as leukemia, GVHD (and not just of the lungs, but also of the eyes, liver, and intestines), prednisone side-effects, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and heart failure to name a few – I think I’ve learned a thing or two about life in general and living it in particular.

Now, if you search around this site, I’m pretty sure you will find that much of my writing, mostly encapsulated in my haiku, reflects a lot of the insights and learning I’ve garnered from these goings on. However, just because I like you all so much and don’t want you to have try to sift through this site for days on end in an effort to discover these insights and learning, and because short, pithy lists are all the rage these days, I will identify for you the top thirteen things I learned about how to not only not die, but mostly about how to best live your life filled with happiness and meaning, regardless whether death is looking you directly in the face or not.

Cool?

Okay, so here we go…

Continue reading “HOW NOT TO DIE: In 13 Easy Steps”

No Gun, No Respect…

Smith & Wesson Model 60 .38 Special revolver with a 3-inch barrel
The most common type of gun confiscated by police and traced by the ATF are .38 special revolvers, such as this Smith & Wesson Model 60 .38 Special revolver with a 3-inch barrel. (“S&W 60 3in“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.)

First off, I’m not anti-Second Amendment (if you’re an American (of the U.S. persuasion) and you don’t know what the Second Amendment is then that’s a problem)…

See, I live out in the sticks and I had to call 911 once because I thought there was a gas leak somewhere in my house and all I got to say about that experience is that our military overran countries faster than it took the emergency responders to get to my house.

It’s not their fault – I just live out in the sticks.

Heck, I found out then that I can’t even call my 911 operator direct. My 911 call goes to somewhere across the border and that operator has to re-direct it back into my state to a different operator.

I can only wonder what would have happened if that 911 call wasn’t for a gas leak (a false alarm, fortunately) but for a home invasion instead?!

You can feel me, right?

So yeah, I’m all about owning a gun as a means of protection of last resort.

But then again, I’m a nice guy.

I can be trusted with a gun.

When I say I am a not a gun-slingin’, trigger-happy nutjob with “adequacy issues” you can take my word for it…

But as for the rest of you all…

I’m beginning to wonder.

What the heck is going on out there?

Unfortunately, it has become my unfortunate belief that we, as a nation, are now just too mean and too rude and too disrespectful and, most dangerously, too short-tempered (what’s up with all the road rage?) to have so many guns – both legal and illegal – locked and loaded and at the ready out there, just itchin’ to mediate our every issue and altercation, however slight.

Something has got to change.

I mean, come on… There were over 11,000 murders committed with a gun in 2013 (according to the Centers for Disease Control (via Wikipedia)).

That’s a lot of humans made dead from mean assholes with guns.

So if we, as a citizenry, are so danged mean and so danged armed, just think what it must be like to have to try to police all of us in an effort to maintain good order and discipline in a society where that kind of anachronistic, Mayberry-like behavior is now shat upon.

Nowadays, it must be pretty darned scary to be a cop.

No wonder they all jack themselves up like Special Forces operators gone wild.

Have you seen some of these Rambo cops?

In-f’n-tense, they are…

It’s hard to believe – and even sadder – that it takes so much firepower to patrol our streets.

Seriously, we have an Intra-Arms Race going on between we angry civilians and the feeling-threatened-and-under-fire Po po, you know, the overly-aggressive-stoppin’-and-friskin’, tank-drivin’ Five-Oh.

Geez…

And then when you throw race into the mix of a messy situation where the police are a majority of the time of a majority skin tone and the citizenry they are bringing their good order and discipline to are of a minority skin tone…

These days someone usually ends up shot.

Just like last night at the protests in response to the first anniversary of the Michael Brown killing.

Look, I’ve written about these things here before and, like then, I don’t have any answers.

But when it comes to race and racism, I do know, despite what my Merriam-Webster dictionary app says, racism is all about power and who has it.

And the fact is, White male Anglo-Saxon Protestants have and, for the foreseeable future, will continue to have the power in this country.

For the record, here is what my app says racism is:

1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2: racial prejudice or discrimination

Now, I don’t disagree with what the app says, but in the national grand scheme of things, whose racism is going to hurt more – a WASPy dude’s* or a Black female’s?

Sure it may hurt our WASPy dude feelings that others not like us don’t like us just because they don’t look like us because they are racists of the first or second order, or both. But overall that’s all their racism will do to us – hurt our Privileged and Guilt-ridden White feelings.

Unlike our racism, theirs won’t keep us out of a job.

Or out of a loan.

Or out of a home…

Their racism just doesn’t have the power to do all that harm like ours does.

And sorry to burst your bubbles white racist females, you may think you’re superior to others because of your skin tone, but thanks to our historically patriarchal and sexist society (a subject worthy of a post of its own), you just don’t have as much “clout” to harm as we WASPy dudes have.

Man**, this is depressing.

What is most depressing about it all is how it all feeds off of each other…

The racism increases anger.

The anger increases violence.

The violence increases fear.

The fear increases gun sales.

The gun sales increase death rates.

The increasing death rates increase police presence.

And on and on…

Like I said, I have no answers.

But I do have a voice…

And, for what it’s worth, here I am using it to, if not provide solutions, at least discuss the problems.

Anyway…

This entire unfortunate, depressing post reminds me of that intense scene from the movie Grand Canyon, starring Danny Glover and Kevin Kline, where Glover’s character, a tow truck driver, comes to the aid of…

Ah, what am I trying to explain it for? Just go ahead and watch it…

Peace, y’all…

And remember, Being Nice is a skill that, to be effectively employed, must be continually practiced.

*gender specific
**non-gender specific

A Meditation on a Title and an Introductory Poem as found in “Nature” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

A subtle chain of countless rings
The next unto the farthest brings;
The eye reads omens where it goes;
And speaks all languages of the rose;
And, striving to be man, the worm
Mounts through all the spires of form

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Too often I’ll show little regard to introductions and read through them with hardly reading them at all, my eyes skimming dismissively over the words in an effort to get to “the true essence” of the work. However, as I have resolved to not just read, but to read deeply the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, I have to remember, then, that care needs to be given to each of the words that Emerson had specifically chosen to pen, as he had entrusted each chosen word to convey its part of a broader message that he had, himself, intended to convey. So it is with care and attention that I proceed.

~~~~

Other than the title, the above poem is our first encounter with the essay “Nature,” the first piece presented in The Complete Essays and Other Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson; and, consequently, the first commitment to that which I have resolved myself. But before considering the poem, we mustn’t overlook the essay’s title; for, from it, we can focus more clearly on the meaning of the poem specifically, as well as the body of work writ large.

Hardly can there be a title broader in meaning than “Nature,” for the word encompasses so much: the essence of the Natural Environment – all within the world and all the worlds within the universe; the essence of the Human Environment – all that which the mind thinks and the body feels; as well as the Environment of the Animal, which may or may not include humans, depending on one’s belief. Though broad and ambiguous, it is full of meaning, as any title should be, as it prepares our minds for all the largesse and grandeur that both Nature, Herself, and the mind and poetic ambition of Emerson can account for. The title, therefore, helps us greatly in our discovery, in that it prepares us to read both the poem and the essay with a universal and open mind, where metaphors and allusions are to be found with meaning, and meaning more.

The poem, itself an introduction to the introduction, is both untitled and unattributed. Often we find authors will select poems and quotes from others, mostly those recognized by history as being of the elite authorial class, as a preface or opening to his or her work. These introductions in brief are generally an attempt to provide a broad look into the author’s mind and, hopefully, to the direction that his or her writing will be taking us. However, as it is untitled, and as Emerson’s reputation precedes his work, for he, himself, is regarded by many to be an elite author, it is easy enough to assume that the poem is an original piece by him. Still, the poem remains untitled, which only means that we will have to rely more heavily on its content, looking closely at each sentence and the words within for us to gain of it our fullest appreciation. So with the poem, let us begin.
 

A subtle chain of countless rings / The next unto the farthest brings;

Right away, the poem’s “subtle chain” announces that in the essay, as in Nature, we should expect revelations of mysteries linked yet boundless; simple in form, perhaps, yet complex and profound in meaning. For the “subtle” or simple chain, a common yet powerful metaphorical device, enlightens us with its “countless rings” – its circles of life – by alluding to the eternal fact that Nature in all her majesty enjoins all together in common constituency within her universal realm, from the most diminutive to the most grand, “unto the farthest brings” – to the infinite’s endless end.

The eye reads omens where it goes;

Sad would be the soul who hasn’t walked even the shortest way into the wood or out into the empty, expansive field, to where everything slows down to quiet and allows one to hear Nature’s call, be it through the creaking sway of the trees or the hum of the wind upon the grass. For once where She Her presence reveals, so, too, will Her omens, signs signalling the nature of our Collective and Universal Soul through the mundane: acorns scattered on the wooded floor signals life’s endless cycle of birth and death, as the mist of the passing clouds signals the transformative and transient nature of life itself.

And speaks all languages of the rose;

While not all of us speak the same language, we all can look at the rose and equally understand its beauty. And, regardless of all the many different ways we may express it in words, we all have that same feeling of awe and humility as we arrive at that deep and soulful understanding of just how small our presence is when looking up towards that grand vastness above filled with its countless twinkling diamonds of light.

And, striving to be man, the worm / Mounts through all the spires of form

The line suggests that the worm in its striving is emulating our behavior; however, I read it as further suggesting that from the worm’s behavior we have learned to strive, from the worm we have evolved, and as the worm forever works through all forms of nature – be it the soil, the wood, the apple – to realize its true nature, we, too, forever work “through all spires of form” – be they the physical or metaphysical – continuous “unto the farthest brings,” as do links of an endless “subtle chain,” in a most noble and enduring of effort to realize our own true nature.

~~~~

With this meditation on a one-word title and one-sentence poem we discover that, while both may appear simple in form, both hold complex and profound messages that are, we must assume, a herald’s call as to the further complexities and profundities that await us.


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Edition 003-15 is germane

 
 

A Story For the Misaligned, Sailor Or Otherwise

[UPDATE: The title of this novel has been changed to INSIDE THE SKIN]

The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor
A story for us all

 
From the Dedication Page:

This book is dedicated to anyone — regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender and all its breathless facets, sexual orientation, non-sexual orientation, sexual non-orientation, spirituality or lack thereof, religion or lack thereof, nationality or lack thereof, political affiliation or lack thereof, occupation or lack thereof, education or lack thereof, good looks or lack thereof, height, weight, shoe size, or any other ways we have identified and implemented as means to compare and contrast and separate and segregate and relegate and rank ourselves as humans — who has ever once regretted his or her or their identity.

This book, then, is for us, all of us.

You can learn more here.

 
 

National Nervous Breakdown

Maybe it’s just because I’m off work recovering from cancer and have more time to pay attention to current events, but it seems to me that insane violent crimes are happening almost daily. Just this week, a doctor at Johns Hopkins hospital was shot by the son of a patient. The son ended up also shooting the patient, his mother, and then himself. The week before that, there was the Discovery building hostage situation, and several weeks before that there was the mother who drowned her children. I could go on and on with all the insanity that has been happening in the past year or two but this post has already depressed me enough so I won’t.

Instinctively, I want to say that it is the bad economy and the stress that it has been inflicting on our nation as a whole that is responsible for all these insane violent crimes; however, after a quick search of the topic, I’ve found that, according to the FBI, violent crime has actually been decreasing, even during the economic crisis.

I’m no expert, but after thinking about it for a bit, it seems to me that violent crimes—murders, rapes, assaults—which are tragic enough, are not the same as these insane violent crimes—shooting a doctor and then your mother in a hospital, taking hostages because you hate people for killing the earth, drowning your children and then making it look like an accident, or dressing up as Santa Claus and going on a killing rampage—so maybe the FBI statistics don’t really apply here. Maybe, but I really don’t know.

What I do know is that as long as we have a significant portion of our population raised and socialized in violent, abusive, poverty-ridden environments, then we’re going to continue to have a portion of our population suffering from the violent crimes that are committed as a result of this environment and socialization. And as long as these violent crimes are isolated to just a portion of our population, then the majority of the population will, unfortunately, be able to easily turn a blind eye to most of it.

But when the entire population is suffering under economic stress, debt, ineffectual national leaders, divisive, vindictive politics, perpetual war, nuclear brinkmanship, excessive military buildup, constant threat of terrorism, and an increasing feeling of no hope of change for the better, like it is now, then we all are going to suffer from it, no one is going to be able to turn a blind eye toward it, and, if things don’t change soon, the entire population will eventually have a national nervous breakdown from it.

Perhaps all of these insane violent crimes that have been happening recently are the first cracks in our national psyche.