Sunday, April 22, 2018

The world is more than black or white

This whole madness of "either or" in life is crazy. The political turmoil brings it to the forefront. Right vs. Left. Republican vs. Democrat. Conservative vs. Progressive. Everything is just more 'us vs them.'

Is this any way to live? Any way to run America? Where it's not a question of working together to improve things. It's "destroying" the other side. Demonizing them. And whatever little contact transpires between opposing sides, it is only to convert the other side to one's own opinion.

If aliens invaded earth and start killing people, we would very quickly realize that we're all the same down here. But aliens invading being unlikely, we better figure out a way to get along on our own.

Yes, differences will occur, but differences can be respected, rather than demonized. I may not like what you have to say or how you live, but I respect your right to say it and to live the way you want.

Both sides are guilty of intolerance. Wingnuts are at both extremes.

What's the answer? Think. Be conscious. Realize that other opinions are just as valid as your own. Look to build up, rather than tear down. Respect, don't revile. Help, don't hurt.

And it all starts with you.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

What makes for great writing?

What makes for great writing?

There are endless theories.

One theory is only pain makes for great writing. (The cliché of the author locked in a garret, writing till he drops dead.)

Another theory is only health makes for great writing.

Then there's the clichés about if the writer's not having fun writing, the reader's not having fun reading.

My experience is that most of my good writing has to be born somehow. It has to gestate or percolate for a while before it comes out. And yeah, I think there has to be a good deal of pain (just like in childbirth) before something amazing comes out.

It's almost like you give everything you've got—and come up with nothing. Then something takes over and gives you the ideas to write what you should be writing.

And yet, some writers write tons no matter what. That cliché is "write every day."

Maybe that's like the saying from Edward Bulwer-Lytton:
Talent does what it can. Genius does what it must.
And please, don't think I'm saying I'm a genius, but I think there's a lot in that saying.

For me, I have to get to the end of myself to be creative. Or perhaps, as Gay Hendricks writes, you could call it "going over the edge."
Self-esteem is living in such a state of creative expansion that you go over your edge every day. You are always living in wonder about whether you can do it or not. More creativity means more doubt. Yet you keep breathing, keep moving, keep creating. You breathe through the doubt and ride a bigger wave of creativity.
And for me that means going over my emotional edge every day. And that doesn't always involve writing.

To get anywhere creatively, I have to give it everything I've got. To put a spiritual angle on it, consider this from Teilhard de Chardin:
There is only one possible place for each one of us at any given moment, the one we are led to by unflagging fidelity to the natural and supernatural duties of life. At this point, which we can reach at the right moment only if we exert the maximum effort on every plane, God will reveal himself in all his plenitude.
Pretty high-falutin language, but the children's prayer gets across the same idea.
God only asks us to do our best. He will take over and finish the rest.
But the thing is, sometimes you gotta go through hell to do your best.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Is lying the new normal?

Almost fifty years ago, the U.S. landed a man on the moon. Or did they? Former President Obama was born in Hawaii. Or was he? John Kerry was a war hero in Vietnam? You sure about that?

And on and on and on. It's to the point where you just don't know what to believe anymore.

Years ago, I was in a car accident. I was driving in the left lane of a four-lane road, and the cars in the right lane were backed up. From out of nowhere (I never once saw it) a car pulled out of a parking lot and smashed my car in the right rear fender, sending my car spinning in a 180.

I was pretty rocked. The police came and documented things. And I was very surprised when the insurance company for the person who hit me wasn't going to pay for the damage.

I had to go to court. (I was only twenty and pretty naive.), thinking it was just some technicality that needed to be set right. Well, the woman who hit me, on the witness stand under oath, read a very detailed statement saying that I hit her! That I swerved my car into hers.

Talk about your jaw dropping open. I was so surprised I could barely think, let alone speak. But I fumbled through what actually happened, the police backed me up, and the judge forced the woman's insurance company to pay for the damage.

But it was a life lesson: people lie. And now it seems like lying is the new normal.

I remember this one guy I knew, who worked for the city of Chicago, told me about "The Chicago Way." It was simply: "As long as I get mine, I don't care about anything else." And it seems more than ever, that's become the way most people think.

So as long as the economy is good and we have money in our pockets, we don't care about anything else. Politicians, media outlets, anybody at all can lie to us as much as they want as long as we get ours.

What in the world has happened to us?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Does waiting on God work?

I used to live next to this great guy named Genaro. Genaro worked so hard and he loved it! He'd work all day at his factory job, and as soon as he came home, he'd be in his back yard, sawing or pounding, making something, cleaning something, always working working working! (I told him: "Genaro, your version of hell is going to be lying in an inflatable lounge chair in a pool drinking pina coladas.")

I'm a novelist. I usually have ideas lining up, just waiting to be written. Until now, that is. I haven't had a good idea for a book in months. So what did I do? I pressed. I'd bludgeon an idea up from my soul. Life was too short to wait for inspiration, and I wanted to work. I needed to work.

And what were the results of my whirlwind effort? Nothing were the results. All I did was frustrate myself. I'd racked my brain for ideas. I'd read what other writers were writing. I'd Googled it, for Pete's sake. And all I got was more nothing.

Being a hard-head I naturally decided to triple up on getting an idea. I got an idea to search for a book on my bookshelves about achievement via living consciously. For sure that held my answer! Oddly enough, instead, I came across a book I wasn't looking for. Although, in hindsight, it may have been looking for me.

It's called Beyond Failure: Discovering Grace and Hope in the Hard Times of Life by James A. Scudder. But honestly I didn't even read the title, I just randomly cracked open the book and saw that I'd underlined the following:

We have all been guilty of taking matters into our own hands when it comes to dealing with a difficult situation, thinking that if we sit back and wait on God, nothing is going to happen. (pg 25 in the paperback)

Huh. That certainly got my attention. For I was supremely guilty of what it accused. I had taken matters into my own hands in this difficult situation all right, and I was thinking that if I sat back (ugh, just the thought of sitting back, even now, makes my skin crawl) and waited on God, nothing was going to happen.

So where to go from there?

You got it. Sitting back and waiting on God. I gave it a try. The results?

I'm still not writing, so it didn't work, right? Well, in a way yes, but in a bigger way, it did work, because I'm relaxed again. I'm myself again. I'm no longer frantic.

Will I ever find an idea for my next novel? I don't know. But I had no guarantee I'd find one before, and at least this way I am living my life at peace with myself and God. And that is so much better than how I'd been living.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

When you're stuck in life

I'm writing this post for myself. I'm a writer and I'm stuck. I've tried everything to get unstuck and none of what I've tried has worked. I've tried everything from little mental tricks (sit in the chair for an hour and the writing will come) to sheer force of willpower. And nothing, nada, nyet, stugots has worked. But I think I found something that's promising. It's from the author Vernon Howard:

When you grow tired of a certain activity, it merely means you have temporarily used up that particular pool of energy. When this happens, you should simply go along with nature to a different activity which calls upon another pool, permitting the previous pool to refresh itself. When tired of mental work, do something physical. You won't need to think about changing an activity; it happens by itself whenever a pool is exhausted. Just be aware of the signal and follow it. (italics mine)

Simple, right? Not for me it isn't. I just keep banging my head against the same wall over and over again. I have to write my novel. To do anything else feels like a failure or a cop-out or a waste of time. My mind says, "This is what I should be doing. (And anything else won't do.)"

What's helped me is to see that what Howard suggests is a natural process. The pool of a particular activity gets used up. It make no sense trying to find water in that dry pool. Go on to a new pool. As Howard says, in the meantime, the previous pool will refresh itself.

Doing this blogpost was my first attempt at following Howard's advice, and honestly as of right now it feels pretty terrible. But at least I'm not banging my head against the wall anymore, so in that sense it's real progress right there.

I think the key for me is recognizing the signal that the pool is dry. Doing so is tricky because sometimes I am able to force my way into writing. It's just now I know if it's time and time again I can't write, I need to find something else to do.

After that, the writing will come. And I imagine the process isn't any different for any other life situation where I find myself stuck.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Will God bless cheapskates?

I attended a church service for the first time in six years and it reminded me very quickly why I stopped attending in the first place. The service started with good heartfelt worship music, which was great. Then the pastor took the stage. And went on a twenty minute rant about how the congregation should give more money. He said that "tithes (giving 10% of your pre-tax income) and offerings" should just be "the starting place" for giving. He said it was "okay" if you "just" gave the 10%, but really you should pray to see "if God wants you to give more." He said, "Did you ever notice that God really takes care of the people that give a lot?" Which is a thinly veiled way of preaching "the prosperity gospel," where you "give to get." (The prosperity gospel goes back all the way to Oral Roberts' "seed faith" ministry, which has you "planting the seed (money) of faith in the ground and when you do, God will grow it." Of course you're giving the money to Oral Roberts, not God. Which reminds me of the saying 'If someone is preaching about the joy of giving, you can be sure he wants to be on the receiving end.')

Years ago when I went to church regularly I was just scraping by financially. And I can't tell you how many services I sat through where the preaching was on giving. The most quoted Bible verse was 2 Corinthians 9:7 and it was "...for God loves a cheerful giver." The thing is the preachers always leave off the first part of the verse which is: "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion..." (italics mine) And the compulsion was abundant in those church services. If the "God loves a cheerful giver" verse didn't work, it would progress to verses like you were "robbing God" (Malachi 3:8). Specifically the verse says: "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings." And that verse was often used in variations like "That's God's (tithes) money!" 

So I sat there, a financial sinking ship, listening to all this, thinking, This isn't right. And, amongst other reasons, I haven't gone back until recently. Now, I never stopped believing, but yeah, I didn't need to hear this money grubbing preaching either. 

I was warned I'd never make it without being in a church. That the Devil works by isolating people and then he tears them apart. 

They didn't scare me. Maybe they were right; maybe they were wrong. I figured I'd find out for myself. 

And God blessed me. Financially and otherwise.

What a lousy God He would be if He only blessed the big bucks givers of the world. Or this notion of "robbing God." How utterly ridiculous. Like God needs to get better anti-virus software. 

Nope, God will bless you if you can't give, and He'll bless you even if you can and don't. 

He blesses everybody who sincerely seeks him. Everybody.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What's with all the 111111111s?

I'm seeing 111111s everywhere. Yesterday I looked at the number of downloads I had for one of my books and it was 1111. I went upstairs into my apartment and looked at the kitchen stove digital clock. It was 11:11 a.m. I got back to work for a couple of hours and the very next time I looked at a clock it was 1:11 p.m. Then after a long trying day I was writing in my journal in my bedroom and I looked at the clock there and, you guessed it, it was 11:11 p.m. Then I went into the kitchen (the clock in my bedroom is fast) and it was 11:11 p.m. on the kitchen stove clock and on an atomic wall clock.

And I'm writing this post on 11/1. (November First)

I've been seeing these ones for years. Once driving in my car, just driving, watching the road, I suddenly looked at the odometer. And at that exact moment it turned 11,111 and 1 block. 111111.

A friend of mine calls such things "God winks." I searched online and there are new age articles about vibrations and such. I'm not sure what they mean but they must mean something, right?