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Archive for the ‘Explanation’ Category

Take a look at my archive.  Not very impressive, is it?  Oh, I’ll get to some points where I get really dedicated to keep coming back here and updating.  I’ll be super engaged for a while… and then disappear again.  I’ll swing back now and again for a little note, but the tide has gone out.

I’m a little oceanic like that, I guess.  A lot, actually.  I’m sure you have ways you can relate.

So, the first step is admitting it.  I’ll see about some further steps over the next week.

Thanks for listening.

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As I’ve mentioned, I don’t tend to like talking religious specifics, but that’s only because I tend to view them as rather personal.  It’s absolutely not a matter of not being familiar with them.  Though I will admit I tended to see the specifics differently from how many would say I was supposed to view them.

I was raised in the Mormon tradition by a very traditional Mormon family, and studied some of the religion at the very traditional Brigham Young University.  I grew up reading the Book of Mormon and other Mormon scripture as well as the Bible, every single day.  Read all of them cover-to-cover a few times, and came away with a very loving, giving and forgiving message.

To me, the Word of God was all about treating one another with unconditional love and compassion, answering every need with charity and every hurt with tenderness.  It was not our place to judge what others would choose, merely to offer what we felt was a wise example through our kindness and support of their troubles in life.  We were expected to keep only what we needed for ourselves, sharing the rest so that all may be cared for, in body as well as in spirit.  All were our brothers and sisters, to be sustained through the bonds of community without judgment of who (or what) others would call them.

Yeah, like I said, some would say I wasn’t getting the message.  However, I came across an article the other day that reflected my own thoughts back to me:

Ironically, while Romney would prefer to discuss wealth inequality in “quiet rooms,” the topic consumed both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young’s sermons and writings. For a short time in the Book of Mormon, the Nephites abandoned their love of riches and established “Zion” — a classless utopia that “had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, but they were all made free.”

The Nephite story provided the template for Smith and Young’s social experiments with communalism. They would both try repeatedly to replicate the mythic Zion. Smith repeatedly told his followers, “if you are not equal in earthly things you cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things.” Young also championed wealth redistribution, “We have plenty here. No person is going to starve, or suffer, if there is an equal distribution of the necessaries of life.”

When Mormons Were Socialists: Why the Mormon Church’s Founders Would be Very Disappointed in Mitt Romney by Troy Williams

I remembered seeing a church musical all about a young pioneer woman who resented the communal economy of the early city of Zion, only to become disillusioned with the soulless materialism of the world outside.  She returned to find them throwing out their communal values to chase the American Dream, and imploringly sang to them the same chorus they had sung to her about the shininess of materialistic wants: “It doesn’t matter!  It doesn’t matter!”

I found it pretty goofy and overblown for what I figured was an old message that went without saying.  I was pretty disappointed when I realized that it still needed to be said, and to people who continue to profess more public Mormon piety than I ever felt I should.

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You know how when you’ve got something new in your life, it’s like suddenly reminders of it are showing up all around you?  Somehow you know that they always had to be there, it’s just that now you’re noticing them.  At the same time though, it absolutely feels like they’re there simply because you’re looking for them.

That’s how I felt once I started really getting into the theology and politics of When Atlas Shirked.  When I started writing about…

  • The difficulties faced by pregnant women and especially teens, news started really hitting me about so-called Personhood Initiatives were leading to the criminalization of and punishment for difficulties with pregnancy, or even accidents.
  • Toxic economic and ecological conditions in factory towns, Revered David Bouie invited the Koch brothers to visit his home in the cancer-plagued neighborhood of a town I visited family in just over a decade ago.
  • Efforts to prevent “those people” from voting, Voter ID and other disenfranchisement efforts were hitting the news full-swing.
  • A sinister national firewall used to silence criticism and dissent, then the next say SOPA comes out so much worse that I actually have to rewrite that section
  • Puppeteering of public opinion through manipulating peoples’ emotions of fear and disgust, science starts reporting again on the primal nature of disgust and how disgust shapes politics
  • Sexual abuse and assault in the workplace and the military, a wave of articles reference statistics on incidents and reporting, particularly in the military.
  • Religious freedom in the military, and I start finding the infiltration of the American military by extremist sectarians that are so relentlessly aggressive in turning the armed forces into their taxpayer-funded missionary force, a group of soldiers have to struggle to fight for their right to serve under the American Constitution, not these sectarians.  (And 96% of those soldiers are Christian, just not the same kind as the extremist sectarians.)
  • The labyrinthine mishmash of the industrial food business and start seeing folks talk about the effects of GMO on public health (despite some GMOs starting to fail), and states tried to pass laws that would make it illegal to document abuses by the agricultural industry
  • The importance of sharing a non-reactionary, Christlike perspective on Christianity, and the news out there seems to push more and more the idea that Christianity = Extremist Judgmentalism, making it harder for people of faith to connect those around them with their story.
  • Oh right, and the day after I started writing, a group of folks had a little get-together in Zuccotti Park.

Anyway, I know none of these are new issues.  But in a crash-course of just a few months, they all started hitting me over the head in wave after wave of new perspectives.  Things that I thought I understood, I found myself questioning and re-evaluating, growing alongside Liz as I explored through my own experiences what she might be trying to say about her own, alternate world.

I do realize that most of what I linked up there is pretty depressing.  It’s a bunch of mega-downers, a cavalcade of all that’s going wrong in our world.  But note that most of the links are from groups that are working on solutions to these issues.  I didn’t feel surrounded by gloomy problems, but by courageous people staring straight into the void, and rather than blinking, start lighting up their candles to fight the darkness.   I haven’t even touched all the beautifully wonderful examples of positive change from Yes Magazine alone!

And that’s what continued to drive me to write.  It’s what helped me feel so electrically engaged, despite all the heartaches of peoples’ tragedies, despite the downward trajectory of national trends, and despite being sick with a sequence of colds and flus from the last two weeks of December through much of February.

I felt the passionate optimism of all those out there, working hard in their own ways to help our world overcome our crises, calling to their communities to join them in building a better future.  This inspiration carried through into Liz Franklin’s ceaseless faith in the power of Love in her own world, giving me greater hope for how it can transform ours.

That’s why I kept my eyes and ears open to the cavalcade of coincidental news, working almost obsessively to help it shape what I was trying to share.  That’s why I let myself feel driven to push this out so hard, so fast, getting Liz Franklin’s story into written form.

Of course, now that means I need to find a way to take this message of hers, and get it to folks in a way that someone else out there can actually read it, maybe even benefit.  Funny how that works, huh?

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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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