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Archive for the ‘Explanation’ Category

So the funny thing is, my book was supposed to be non-fiction: half-memoir, half-philosophy, half-childrearing.  (Yes, it was supposed to be three halves.)  It actually started off that way, with me starting to talk about having recently become a parent who had a pretty good bead on how to really pay attention to the kid’s tiny wants and needs.  I started talking about some of my past and how I felt it had helped me get my head situated, thinking maybe I could convey some idea of what worked for me in a way that might help out somebody else.

I think I got about a page or so in before the story got away from me, having been claimed by Liz Franklin.  I even had to go back and completely redo what I’d written, because it was her past I needed to write, not mine.  Before I knew it, she had introduced me to her Incorporated States of America, and had begun dictating her life story as quickly as I could type.

And I had to type pretty fast to keep up.  She had a lot to say, this fictional activist for a more Christlike community, and I felt like this figment wanted it said right, and right away.  Whenever I took too long to get a chapter down, I started to feel the crushing weight of an arbitrary deadline.  I actually had trouble getting to sleep at times, unless I promised myself I’d put extra time to writing the following day.

I don’t know how that sounds to you, but to me it was pretty odd, and at times incredibly annoying.  As I told a friend of mine, I felt less like an author and more like a fictitious medium.  It was more Ghost than Ghost Whisperer, though, with me feeling more like Whoopi Goldberg than Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Not to say it was all a six-month episode of automatic writing 500+ pages.  A lot of my own understanding of social, economic, community and even spiritual justice went into When Atlas Shirked.  I gave up much of my Thanksgiving vacation heavily researching income distribution and tax structures, struggling to ascertain a relatively simple representation of the system in my own America, and how to convey its ridiculous unfairness in a remotely engaging form.  (See Chapter 8: We used to think, but now we know.)  My entire Christmas/New Years Break was spent trying to disentangle the vast spaghetti-bowl of the global agribusiness-energies-tradewars Unholy Pact, and what this could mean to Liz and the hazardous state of her world.  First Quarter 2012 was a struggle to keep up with an incredibly stressful push at my day job, give my little guy loving attention until his bedtime, and then research and describe what it could take for an Interfaith community to lead the charge against a final push by the Totalitarian Kleptocracy that was claiming their country.  But as draining as it all was, the pushing from the story matched the pull I felt from things in my own world that deserve greater attention, that need so much to be heard.

So yeah, while I can’t fully explain why I felt so driven to push through a Christian-perspective narrative of fighting for Social Justice, it’s no mystery where it came from.  Though Liz Franklin’s America is not our America, it could be — for bad or for good, depending on how well we connect with one another to find solutions to the crises we’re facing.

What does surprise me is that my story is so very religiously Christian, since I’ve always considered religious details to be a rather personal matter.  (You’ll note that the Archives in this blog are rather Omnidenominational.)  I guess it makes sense though, since the current narratives in the American discourse are dominated by a Christian perspective that’s so at odds with the one I grew up believing.  It actually rather hurts to see such divisiveness and judgmentalism pushed forward as the only possible Christian perspective, and I kept waiting for folks to understand that there is another way.  I figured it was really important for the world to understand this, so I waited patiently for that understanding to come.

Though as very patient as I can be, I can be even more relentlessly persistent once that point of patience has passed.  I guess part of me figured it was done waiting, and had to give a shot at helping that message be spread.

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Wow, so I’m trying to share some thoughts about When Atlas Shirked, and I find I’m not sure where to begin!  So I figure I’ll start at the beginning.

As you can tell from the archives, I’m pretty free with my thoughts once they get going, but haven’t been that good at sharing them consistently.  I absolutely never saw myself able to hold a train of thought long enough to write a book.  In fact, that’s the one thing I always swore I’d never be able to do.

So then one day I was sitting in a coffee shop that was hosting a regional job fair, supporting the friend who needed a ride.  While she was going through the rounds of interviews, I helped keep track of other applicants’ seats and watched their stuff.  Between their own interviews, I chatted with them and generally tried to help them feel more relaxed at the prospect of competing for the limited jobs that are out there.

I ended up speaking alone with this guy named Dean.  The topic had turned to “where we’re from”, and I talk about coming from a relatively fundamentalist Christian background, and how I learned much from that to carry with me in all the other ways I’ve learned to learn, and so on.  I then said something like, “You know, the usual.”

He then politely informed me that he didn’t see that as usual, at all.  Rather, whenever talk turns to things like religion or Christianity especially, it’s generally fairly divisive in an All or Nothing kind of way.  That either one is completely, doggedly pro-their-own-religion and anti-all-else, or one has renounced one’s old religion with quite some unkind things to say about where they’ve been.  And that he never has seen someone so casually respectful of all people and their hopes and beliefs, certainly not sitting chatting in a coffee shop.  Those weren’t his exact words, but that’s generally what I took away from what he said.

Though I resisted it at first, I soon realized he was right, which was so very wrong.  Cause I think most people are somewhat aware of that interconnectedness among us, and all it would take is some decent examples to help us share it.

So, on Dean’s advice/request, I went home and started to try writing some decent examples.  Within a day or so the project had taken on a life of its own, somewhat taking over mine.  For months, I struggled to keep up with it as well as the rest of my full-time life, barely making it through.  I wasn’t even sure just where I was going with it, just that it had somewhere it wanted to go.  And that I felt pretty strongly that I had to help it get there.

And that led me to letting a book come into being, without much thought to where it was going to go once it got here.  Which is not at all the way I’d recommend writing and releasing a novel, especially one you’d like folks to find and read.  I definitely would have planned out target audiences, and researched how to write what they would seek out, and so on and so forth.  It feels really a backwards way of doing things, now that I stop to think about it.

But if I’d ever stopped to think about it, I would have been paralyzed from moving forward.  I certainly never would have written half of what went into that book.  So I wouldn’t even be here, wondering what just happened.

I guess, out of all those 594 words I just wrote, that’s the lesson from this whole post.  Something I’m going to go brew a hot cup of tea and have a nice, long think about.

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As mentioned in my last post, I am in the process of finishing up a project.  I have just finished a book, When Atlas Shirked.  It has just been launched as an eBook via an experimental publishing house, Nexus of Now Media.  It can be purchased at the site (though the immediate download isn’t working, due to issues with the server), or also at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

To save resources (ours and the earth’s), it has been launched as a Digital First Edition.  I’m planning to have it available via print, so since our funding’s pretty low, we’ve launched a Kickstarter Pledge Drive.  We’ve set a relatively ambitious goal of $2,500 to be raised in the next 28 days, ambitious because we’re charging ahead with getting stuff out there before advertising, etc.  That’s what’s making this “experimental”.

Why are we pushing so hard, so fast?  Because we want to get the message out.  This book is the culmination of so many of my hopes and dreams and concerns and fears for my fellow human beings, and that has made it equal parts philosophy, religion, politics, community, relationship, science fiction, and even psychology.  It’s told in first-person retrospective from a young Christian woman, whose understanding is opened up through Love to other ways of seeing the world.  And most of all, it’s a book of Love, at a time when I feel our world needs Love more than ever.

Because you see, I feel we’re at a bit of a crossroads.  Especially in America, we’ve got folks all at each others’ throats, treating one another like enemies even though we’re all really on the same team.  In life on this planet, there’s no Us versus Them, since we all sink or swim together.  So the hope is that through When Atlas Shirked, we could spread the message of how we could stop dragging each other down, so we can save ourselves together.

I’ll be writing more over the next while about what I’m trying to share in When Atlas Shirked.  In the meantime, you can read the first three chapters here.

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I didn’t exactly miss writing for the New Year this time, I just didn’t happen to think to write something here, too!  I’m wrapping up a project that’s been taking up quite a bit of my evenings and weekends for the past several months.  After that, I will start sharing my thoughts here a little more regularly.

Hope you’ve been well, and that the year has been getting you toward where you need to be!

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I’ve never been Catholic, but I observe Lent every year. I figure I’m not too good for a good idea, whatever the source.

Each year, I try to think of something I should be working on anyway. Then once I’ve decided, I commit to trying for a long-term commitment, not just until Easter.

So this year I gave up something I’m allergic to as a “deliberate shopping choice”. I won’t be ‘freaky’ about it if there’s a little in something that’s my best option.  Also, if I’m feeling good and I’m offered food containing it, I’ll probably indulge.

Why the prewritten exceptions?  I know I’m not ready to give it up for long-term serious, so why pretend, even to myself?

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I was talking the other day about the difference between Hermit Zen versus Living Zen, I think I’ll call them. While the latter is about trying to better live our lives in this world, the former is more about escaping the world entirely. After all, one might say, if the world is such a grand scam of an illusion, the best thing one could do is to ignore it and not get caught up.

That’s all on my mind again, and I truly do understand the draw of Hermit Zen. The idea of chucking it all and going to live in the mountains can be very appealing. So much of the philosophical and mystical texts focus on the ‘unreality’ of our reality that it can get to seeming like there’s no point to any of it. So yeah, I do get where Hermit Zenners come from. Except for the fact that the world remains so very fun and beautiful that it’d be a real shame to waste it.

So I’m more of the approach of Ikkyu, our old wild-spirited zen poet friend. He saw the dangers of getting so wrapped up in the idea of enlightenment that you lose sight of the great, fun-filled life of enjoying enlightenment. See through the fleetingness of it all, yeah, but lifting those gloom-tinted glasses shows me not a graveyard of crumbling dust, but a garden of blooming beauty.

So here’s a poem by Ikkyu about a kind of study meditation I can enjoy…

A Fisherman

Studying texts and stiff meditation can make you lose your Original Mind.
A solitary tune by a fisherman, though, can be an invaluable treasure.
Dusk rain on the river, the moon peeking in and out of the clouds;
Elegant beyond words, he chants his songs night after night.

Ikkyu (1394-1481)

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Speed Bump 8/21/2009
Speed Bump 9/21/09

I saw today’s Speed Bump cartoon and had to use it for today’s thought. I think it’s kinda funny, but it also illustrates for me the dangers of studying any kind of religious or philosophical path. It can be so easy to get sidetracked with the over-arcing insights and generalities that it becomes hard to apply them to the everyday choices of living. They can be a great guide, but they’re not exactly cut out to act as specific instructions.

That’s why I’ve set out to keep up my agreement to do a ‘daily zen’ thought, and end up talking about very mundane things. The zen is the compass, but it’s the mundane that is the actual journey. The more we learn how to live each day with a pretty clear perspective, making pretty honest choices and feeling pretty much at peace with them, the more we’re living zen.

An active sense of humor helps, too. 😉

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So what is Zen, anyway, and why is there so much hype about reaching it? Or Tao, for that matter? What do all my little ramblings have to do with them?

I think these questions are rhetorical here, cause I think you all know what I’m talking about. But I post these up on WordPress with the Zen and Taoism tags and I’ve been nudged over whether my random thoughts about living in this world really belong with those tags. So that’s what’s on my mind today (and also that I haven’t had a thought in days!)

I personally think that if you really experience Zen and Taoism in the way that I understand it, the question’s rather ridiculous; the whole point of studying Zen and the Tao is to realize how it’s all just a matter of expressing Inner Nature. Outer Harmony. As best we can. And my natural harmonic is less sitting zen and more working zen. Not so much silent zen, as laughing zen. There’s little room for dust in my Tao.

Not like there’s any one Way to the Way, and also not like all the most celebrated old poets are more stodgy than we are. Today’s quote on my calendar:

How boring to sit idly on the floor,
not meditating, not breaking through.
Look at the horses racing along the Kamo River!
That’s zazen!

– Daito

(I’m not positive, but I think it might be this Daito:
Jan 21: A religous debate between Tendai and Shingon priests on the one hand and Zen priests, led by Daito Kokushi (1282-1337) on the other, was held in Kyoto in 1324. The debate, which was judged by emperor Godaigo and assisted by ex-emperor Hanazono was won by Daito. )

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I’m perhaps repeating topics here, but this is a week where change is filling the air, so it’s important we keep our focus on the changes we want, so we don’t muddy the things up with what we don’t want. So today’s thought is a copy/paste from an email I recently sent to a friend:

It’s a good time for change. When you catch a spare moment, frame in your mind the life you’d like to jump over to right now if you could reality-teleport. Don’t think of what you want to be free of, think of the places and activities you’d like to be free IN. Just for a couple moments. Give the world a good direction to take you. Then let it happen.

Yes, there can be more to it than that — situations you need to face and handle, concrete tasks and thoughts you’ll need to process — but that really is the gist. Change is in the air, so as you breathe it in and out, point it in the direction that you need it to go. Let the rest just fall away.

P.S. ~ If the title of this one sounds extra silly to you, think about it as you’re going to sleep for a few nights, and write down what you dream about the next day. Maybe it’ll make more sense … or even a different kind of nonsense entirely.

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Today’s thought comes with a visual aid, a comic that I felt illustrates the danger of overly identifying with a prescribed role.  See, I was thinking this morning about titles and labels and how they can mislead somebody into thinking they know what you’re about (maybe even you!), in a way that isn’t quite accurate.  Hm.  That was a complex way of putting it.  I’ll just jump to the visual which you probably read first anyway:

Rubes comic 2/26/09

Rubes 2/26/09

THAT is what I’m talking about.  We can’t put too much weight into titles, positions, etc., because that can lead us into mistaking an ordinary everyday moment for something of eternally monumental cosmos-changing action (and vice versa).  Mistaking another ordinary person like us for someone who is supernaturally different in every way.

This is on my mind because I was thinking about how I don’t especially call myself Zen or Taoist, but I will use those as adjectives to describe my flavors of thought.  They influence me, but I don’t want to be mistaken for those being my only flavors.  Just like I don’t call myself Buddhist or Sikh or Hindu or Shinto or even Christian, even though those can be part of me from a little to a lot in very personal ways.

It seems it can be really good for people who DO use those descriptors for themselves, if they really do identify as being part of those very large and diverse groups.  That is, except where somebody thinks they know exactly what every, say, Muslim should think and do and mis-identify you and your thoughts and actions based on that prejudgement.

I’m rambling again.  I give myself only 5-7 minutes to do these, so I’d better just sum up.

One of my favorite ice creams is the Tagalong ice cream (as in the Girl Scout cookies).  I’m mostly-vegan and allergic to animal protein, but sometimes it’s exactly what brings me joy, so there you go.

Tagalong ice cream is a peanut butter chocolate vanilla ice cream.  It’s not completely peanut butter, but it has this really yum rich ribbon of it all throughout.  Same for the chocolate/fudge stripe all through it.  The main ice cream itself is vanilla, but it’s not really just vanilla because every bite has those other stripes in it.  So while it’s peanut butter chocolate vanilla ice cream, it’s not really peanut butter.  Or chocolate.  Or even vanilla.  Those are all different things, they just join together to flavor the ice cream.

And then I can put it on top of this incredibly thick and rich chocolate mud cake and drizzle chocolate and caramel sauce over it, which transforms it up to an even nummier dish entirely…

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