A World of Illusions

I’m a big fan of a well done illusion. The magician takes out a deck of cards, shuffles it, and does something that totally stuns everyone watching. It’s unexpected. It’s a fantastic illusion. It looks like magic. It’s just well placed science and art, we know this intellectually, but our eyes deceive our brains. Sometimes an illusion is so craftily put together, so outrageous in composition, that we simply are not capable of figuring out how it was done. It defies all our attempts to explain it.

It’s still an illusion and not magic.

We fall into a similar hypnotic trance if we read a particularly engaging novel. We’re transported from wherever we actually are into a fictitious world that feels almost as real as the one we normally occupy. And it’s no different when we watch a good TV program or movie.

It’s still just an illusion.

When we create scenarios in our minds about upcoming events based on trajectories we’re keen on, we can become embroiled in fights long before they would even occur. We are often adept at creating the very inner-illusion of our problem externally when we meet with the circumstances we foresaw. In fact we do this kind of thing habitually and repeatedly to the point we don’t even notice that we make many of our illusions into an unnecessary and painful reality. 

Being mindful means shedding light on this strange illusion-making habit we have. Maybe we can stop it, and maybe we can’t. Maybe we can change it.

It’s a matter of great curiosity why we continually perform these self-sabotaging ‘magic tricks’ on ourselves. I don’t have any answers or pointers about this. I just find it curious.

I too create these illusions, but then I put them into novel format (whenever I can). I purposefully create the illusion on the page. This achieves a couple of things. One, it often (definitely not always) puts a stop to the outer discord I would otherwise sow. It also helps me release any unrecognized emotions floating around under the surface. Or at least see that they’re there. Sometimes those emotions are too strong and they trip me up as predictably as you’d imagine. 

The idea of using the creative power of inner illusion and putting it on the page is it traps some of the energetic investment there. It doesn’t escape as easily from your projection to the page and out to the people around you because as you review it, you can begin to see the absurdity of it.

Illusions are powerful. We need to be conscious of them because they really can negatively impact our daily lives. Our phones and computers can be a major contributing factor to this–especially social media.

Think about this just a moment: you are reading words on a screen right now. And you’re reading words on a screen when you look at your social media feed. The difference is in what those words evoke or provoke in you as you read them. Now, they could just be words on a screen if you wanted to be all Spock about it. That might even be preferable. But words illicit and influence what we think, how we think about something, and our actions or reactions. 

If you really think about it, our words are programming ourselves and others in a way that has never before in history been possible. Our words are programming a very large audience all at once. Whether that’s through social media, or blogs, or tweets–our words can create powerful and even dangerous illusions that can actually harm others. Or help them. Or really powerfully and radically help and change someone’s life. It’s up to us. 

The amazing thing is that it’s up to us how we want to program and condition ourselves to change our words, create better illusions, and make better realities and conditions as a result. It’s up to us.

With these same hands we can create tools of construction or destruction. That’s on us. It’s up to us. It’s not a ‘one person job’. It’s a collective humanitarian effort. 

Inexplicably Disquieting

It went like that sometimes, laying there in the dark, a soft thud from another room. A room you know is empty. The thud so soft but so distinct you can only guess it’s gravity pulling on clothes. But what clothes? You didn’t leave any clothes in there to fall. So what was that noise? The world is otherwise quiet, and your mind is noisy, playing back music to you from sometime in the day, or from sometime in your life, thoughts about what you’ll do when your alarm goes off. Will it be different when you wake up? Another thud, just a little louder, but this time against the wall. What falls on the wall? That doesn’t make sense. Heart beating faster now, body otherwise warm and cozy under the covers, you debate with yourself about getting up. A tentative sounding bump on the ceiling. Your eyes are drawn in that direction, but it’s pitch black. Nothing to see here. Just noises. Does the house settle in ways you don’t even understand? Do the laws of physics even apply here? It’s not windy outside…so…There, did you hear that? Another sound outside your bedroom door. Like a shuffle. Now you know you need to get up, and also your bladder is full, and this isn’t as funny anymore. You sneak your arm and hand out of the covers, turn on the light, and get out of bed, your heart hammering, your mouth and tongue dry, and open your bedroom door. You turn on the hall light, walk down and into the darkened living room. Nothing. No clothes fell. There’s nothing there to make these noises you know you heard. Sighing, you use the restroom, and then make your way back to bed.

Next morning you open your phone and read a report about a thief who was shot dead three streets down from you. It happened about an hour before you would have got home that night to go to bed. You look around your apartment. Nothing is out of place except…that Christmas nutcracker on your coffee table has fallen on its side. It was not like that before you went to bed. You begin to see other things moved as well.

You chalk it up to absent mindedness on your part and go about your day. You leave everything as it is right now, intentionally. You even take a picture of your living room. Then consciously lock the door before leaving for work.

Later

You get home, walk in, and see the nutcracker is on the floor in front of the computer. Your heart stops. What else has moved? Your bedspread is pulled all the way off and laying on the floor. While you’re wondering how this happened you hear something in the living room. You race out to see what it is but no one is there. You feel something, a shiver move through you, caressing your spine briefly. Suddenly you don’t feel so good. It’s time to go out for a while, maybe to a Starbucks to put all of this out of your mind.

You go and have a cup of hot chocolate. The people at the Starbucks seem to be enjoying themselves. You know you’ll go home and this will all be just some bizarre paranoia of your mind and nothing will have happened. Not again. No one could get in your apartment just to move a Christmas nutcracker and pull the sheets off your bed. You dig out your phone and read more about that story, a much more thorough read.

By the end of the news report you’re shaking. It’s your cousin who was shot and killed because he was trying to steal something from one of your friends who lives on that street. You have some guesses about what was to be stolen. What disturbs you most is that your cousin had a falling out with you a few years ago.

You get back home, opening your door wearily and step in. The nutcracker is is righted. You go into your bedroom, the bedclothes are fine. Breathing a sigh of relief, and chalking it up to your over active imagination (you shouldn’t have watched that silly horror movie two nights ago!) you go and sit at your computer.

The screen shows a Word document open. On the Word document it shows a name.

Bill Anderson

Your recently deceased cousin’s name.

Why we don’t know what we want anymore.

How often have you pined for ‘the golden days’ or ‘the good old days’ only to think back and realize how badly you wanted to be somewhere else: preferably the future? If you think about it, even during ‘the good old days’ you were looking for something else–another when. Now you’re in a radically different place and chances are things haven’t gotten better as a result of moving forward. The good old days were when you dreamed of the future you’re now living, only your dream didn’t exactly go as you mapped it out in your head. Instead, it’s the way it is exactly at this point in time.
So here you are and here it is too. Life on life’s terms without your consent or permission. Is it what you wanted? Are you looking for the golden days again? You probably can’t recreate them if you tried. Because not only did they never exist, they only existed in your imagination of hindsight. The past always has a charming glow, a thin chimera of ‘better experiences’. But it wasn’t so. And to think it was is dishonest.

And what do you want for your future now? We’ll perpetually fall into this trap, so let’s not kid ourselves otherwise. We want a future bright and certain and filled with happiness. Happiness is an idea when all the causes and conditions come into alignment to support our desires and needs in an effortless and harmonious way. In other words: brief, and unreliable from an external point of view. Happiness, as it is said, is ‘an inside job’. It’s also an idea. Joy on the other hand is something you can bring into your awareness by taking a step back, a breath, recognizing what you already have and filling yourself up with gratitude. Your friends, your family, your accomplishments, your possessions–all these can bring you joy if you allow yourself to revel in them. Happiness is more akin to a giddy sensation and almost always fleeting. Again, it’s just a concept. Move past the clinginess you feel toward your pursuit of happiness. Instead recognize that life is full of strife, suffering, with bouts of needless and senseless destruction. Entropy, good people getting the raw deal. Sane people losing their minds. Also recognize that life is full of amazing people who bring inspiration, education, erudition, illumination and groundbreaking changes to those who suffer right along with them.

In other words: the opposites of life are side by side, clasping hands and batting hands away from each other. You’re not going to have a great life without opposition, and if you think that’s the case you’re delusional. You will not have all your desires and wishes come true. No one does. Thinking it’s possible or likely is worse than a pointless endeavor: it’s dangerous. We don’t grow without strife, without struggle. We can’t even comprehend purpose without strife and struggle because without those elements a person is grown in a vacuum–like a carrot grown without dirt, in some kind of tube.

You don’t know what you want anymore in life because either you have everything (and are still suffering/unhappy etc.) or you have nothing you actually want (in the end it amounts to the same), or you have just enough to know you want more but can never attain it. If you’re reading this you’re not likely to be starving. You have a computer in front of you–even if you’re at a public library, you’re still better off than so much of the population of earth.

You can’t know what you want anymore because, if you’re living in the Western World (North America) you are constantly told what you need in order to be happy, successful, liked, approved of and everything else. You don’t know what you want because you want everything or you’re turned off by all the incessant media suggestions. This leaves an ever widening gap in your psyche, does it not?

And to fill that gap, that black hole of uncertainty and desire, you’ll do anything. Well, almost anything. You’ll climb the highest mountain, read the most books, paint the best pictures, watch the most Netflix, eat the best food, run the fastest 5K, bench the most weight at the gym, be the best at your job, and so on and so forth. And when you tally up all your accomplishments you’ll still be you, no different than when you embarked on the journey to do it all, see it all, experience every pleasure…and at some point you’ll have to recognize that death is staring you down. Either from what seems like afar or from a’near. Who knows? It’s the only thing you don’t know. And with so much stuff available in this world, how can you possibly truly know what it is you want?

Even if you practice joy each day, looking around and calling forth joy, you’ll look at that as an attainment, as a possession. Will you not? And then you have to ask yourself how valuable is it to experience joy every day?

Suggestion

I submit to you that you already have more than you could ever want right now, and that the only thing you haven’t got yet is true recognition. Just recognizing all you have. Take some time each day to really look at what’s available to you. Look at who is available to you. Recognize that there’s a monumental, gargantuan, hunger roiling away inside you. Recognize that the hunger doesn’t want to be fed all the shit from the world. It doesn’t need that. The hunger you have inside only wants you. All of you. You and you and nothing but you. You are the only answer to the eternal question; ‘what do I want?’ You are the only water in the desert of your own mind to slake your thirst and the only meal prepared right enough to fill the gap. You right now as you are, with all your endless thoughts and feelings and memories and experiences and quirks–you’re enough. When you take some time to be with your hunger and feed your attention and presence back on yourself, the flame of hungry desire submits and grows weak until its died out.

I sit in meditation just to feed my never ending hunger. It quiets the less palatable demons that drive me.

This is a temporary affect, however. It requires constant application until you’re dead. Because all hunger is cyclical, all thirst comes back again.

There’s No End

Nobody gets a pass at desire. We’re born with it and will die with it. The only element I’ve found that stabilizes that hunger is vigilant meditation, pouring myself back into myself. And from it arise major insights about how to be and apply myself in this world. Not just for the sake of doing good and being accepted in society, but for the sake of evolution, art, and providing something perhaps less tangible to those I’m surrounded by. The joy of meditation is absolutely not an escape route: it’s a way back into this world, where I can also be with you. Where I can be with myself. Where you can be with you.

Healing —The Early Days

I haven’t spoken about this topic in a while. There’s a story to our personal healing, and whatever that is or looks like for you, I think there are quite a lot of commonalities between the stories. Common threads, elements, and experiences. Most people know me as the guy who came back to life from all those heart attacks.  The man who survived the odds. Prayers from all over the world, from people I never met and never knew all helped make the difference.
Long before the heart attacks, however, there was a young man who grew up all over the place. You might say I was a ‘mixed bag’ of upbringing. This mixture of places and times, a childhood uprooted and moved all around, led to a lot of adventures, character building, and sheltering. My parents were protective of me, and I know they were for good reasons. On the other hand, I also got to experience the latchkey childhood for a time. I don’t know anyone in the early ’90’s who didn’t have some exposure to that themselves, and if not them–their friends.

From 6th to 8th grade I attended grade school on Roosevelt Island, PS/IS 217. Here’s some pictures if you want to see what I mean. PS stands for Public School, and it’s unclear what ‘IS’ stands for to me. Maybe industry standard? It wasn’t the best or worst school, I liked my art and music teachers, and most of the rest of the time they stuck us in front of computers or had our heads lowered to text books while the teachers droned on. I don’t know what learning there is like anymore. They had an adequate gymnasium and it’s a very contemporary styled building–the architecture seemed very futuristic to me back then. In class one day we watched Bill Clinton get sworn in as our 42nd President of these United States. I remember thinking, man, what a trip!

Those were good years to myself and my family. Living in NYC was pretty amazing. Roosevelt Island, while it had its unwelcoming side effects, was otherwise pretty cool. There was a local pool that the islanders could enjoy during the summer, for a fee of course, but who cares, right? It was a pool by the riverside! I loved it.

By the time I was 15 and going to high school in Manhattan it became apparent that I was much too tired to be attentive in class. I would try to sit up and write notes and do my work, but I just could not for the life of me keep my eyes open at all. A whole year of very poor grades began to draw a circle around a deeper and more disturbing issue. Finally my father had me checked out by a chiropractor who specialized in determining whether someone had chronic fatigue syndrome. I failed all the good tests and passed all the bad ones. I was diagnosed with CFS and I had a new choice to make.

Home Schooling

It didn’t take me long to decide on myself. I was now 15 and realizing that it took all my energy each day just to make it to school. By the time I’d climbed 3 flights of steps just to sit down in science class, or five flights just to attend gym, I was so exhausted I could hardly focus for wanting to fall asleep. Choosing to take school at home wasn’t just a no-brainer, it was my only option. I think my parents must have known that too, but I remember the talk I had with them pretty clearly. There was no pushback from them. They agreed that a program where I stayed at home, made my own schedule, communicated with my teachers directly and applied myself at my own pace was the best of all words. This was 1995, and the Internet was just beginning to be used for more than AOL and later on CompuServe. It was still dial-up connections and speeds, but my mom and dad researched which homeschooling options made sense and finally settled on Oak Meadow High School for me. There website now is nothing like what I remember from back in the day. The curriculum was sent to me via syllabi and that’s what I had to go on. My parents got me all the text books, enrolled me, paid for tuition etc, and off I went on a solo journey through the rest of high school from 10th through 12th. I completed my journey by the time I was 17, and by that time I’d completely reversed and healed myself from CFS.

But how did I do that? Well, it was not easy, that’s for sure. It took a lot of effort on my part. There were 3 primary areas that I had to bend my will and concentration to in order to achieve full healing. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome knocks you on your ass–and that’s a polite way of putting it. No matter how hard you try to get through it, you still feel tired at the end of the day most days, but each new day offers a new promise for the intrepid healer. Here are the 3 areas I worked diligently in without any compromises or letup. It was a militant lifestyle.

#1 Food & Supplements

I was on a bevy of supplementation. I don’t recall all of them, unfortunately, and there’s no way to track down a list of what I was on. The supplements had to do with establishing metabolizing minerals, especially trace minerals into my body. There were multi-vitamins, and other metabolic styled supplements that were tailored to my specific needs. I was also taking a lot of herbs, which helped tremendously, and you can check this website out for more information (NOT an endorsement of these products, by the way, you need to be tested for what will work best for you, if you are someone dealing with CFS!)

I was strictly vegetarian. I would eat eggs, and cheese, but I drastically limited or completely (in some cases) eliminated all soy from my diet. No red meat, no fish, no chicken or pork either, in case it’s not clear. Dairy was limited considerably. Also, and this is extremely important: almost no sugar in the diet. Very little salt either. All of that was crucial to getting better. And as torturous as that seems to a 15 year old, I was able to get over my tastebuds and cravings pretty quickly and not look back with longing, or drool over a loved one’s dinner plate. Oh, and I had a super strict policy about not watching more than an hour or two of TV per week back then. I mostly read or slept or did home-school work.

#2 Meditation

Yes, back in 1995, yours truly was an every day meditator. I read a book that changed my life forever. I got really into doing the daily practice exactly as it was detailed in the book. By the time I was 15 and a half years old, (or 6 months after being diagnosed, entering home-school, and being militant about my diet and rest routine) I was meditating earlier and earlier each morning, and my energy was increasing day by day. This sounds counterintuitive, but try and remember that I was 15. I was going through puberty, growth spurts, and all kinds of hormonal sequences were all kicking in around the same time. I was experiencing rather profound insights about everything. One day in meditation in 1995, I had an insight about our universe and that there were multiple universes. This kind of stuff was not covered in any of my syllabi from school and I had not been watching television either. Actually, at that precise time, scientists were not speaking about this publicly yet anyway. It was more than a theory in my estimation–it was a dead certainty I had. Only a year or two later did I actually learn that my insight was proven by science, and this bolstered my faith in meditation immensely.

Meditation, along with diet, no television, and plenty of rest and supplementation were my life savers.

#3 Writing As Therapy

At that time, my other resort was writing. I wrote poems, short stories and class related essays. I wrote to myself and then deleted what I wrote. Sometimes I even used the computer to write my thoughts, and after a while I taught myself how to type on the keyboard with blinding speed. I discovered that writing was a form of therapy I could always count on. It soothed my agitated mind and heart when meditation seemed to push stuff up to the fore. It helped me articulate the deeper questions I had (think existential) for which no answers ever seemed (or seem to this day) to be adequate enough. I discovered I had a powerful mind and because of this powerful mind I could use it to help my body and nervous system to heal. Writing was where I began to develop my voice. When my voice got stale, I’d read books and I’d try again. When my voice sounded like other authors, I’d stop reading and practice just writing and listening to how my own actual voice sounded in my head as I wrote. It was a form of exquisite torture, because no matter what I put down on the page, it never sounded right or felt quite right.

I still write every single day, and it still saves my life every single day. I also still meditate nearly every day, with the idea that writing is just another form of meditation for me.

By the time I was 19 I was fully recovered from CFS, an almost unheard of feat. By the time I was 26 I wrote and self-published my first book on a unique aspect of healing.

I’ll continue the journey of healing every day, and I know so many of you will too.

Child or Children

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Davis was watching TV in the den, the Flinstones were on and he loved the Flinstones. Often his mom would make him a steak he could enjoy while he watched it. Today his parents were busy, like most every day. Only today wasn’t exactly like every other day because a new kid came in and introduced himself to Davis. The kid wasn’t someone he’d ever seen before. Davis’s parents had a home practice, which meant clients and patients came to see Davis’s father for health work stuff. That’s how Davis thought of it. Davis figured this poor kid got dragged in with his parents and then sent out to play with Davis while he waited for his mom or dad. Made sense.

Tommy sat in the rocking chair Davis’s mom always sat in but Davis could hear his mom scolding the new kid saying he wasn’t sitting, he was slouching. Once the show was over and the commercials came back on, Davis turned to look at the new kid and see what was going on and what he wanted to do.

Tommy straightened up and looked at Davis, pale freckled cheeks, blonde hair, blue eyes, and an absent quality that Davis couldn’t articulate to himself, but that he could certainly feel.

“I think we should go play upstairs. Have any good beds in this house?”

Davis thought about this a moment cocking his head to the side and sticking his thumb in his mouth, then it came to him and he grinned and nodded.

“My mom’s bed is the bestest bed in the whole wide world!”

Tommy grinned and stood, signaling that that was the best news he’d ever heard.

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The two of them climbed onto Davis’s mother and father’s bed and began to jump on it like all little kids do. At some point, Tommy put out his hands and Davis took them in his. Tommy’s hands were rough and strong, almost splintered. Again there was that absent or vacant feeling that Davis felt deep inside his gut but that he didn’t understand.

The world looked like it was bouncing up and down while him and Tommy stayed still and that made Davis laugh. After a few moments of wild laughter, Tommy joined him and the two of them were laughing together, then Tommy made goggly eyes at Davis and that got them both laughing even harder.

At some point, as all kids do, Davis decided to try some new moves on the bed. When he launched into the air on one of his jumps, he twisted his body around and came down looking the other direction. He let out an exultant cry then did it again. Then Tommy began doing the same thing. Each time, Davis thought of a new idea and tried it out and then Tommy would copy him. They were still both laughing when Davis made one last move and miscalculated where he would land. His right foot came down on the wooden frame beneath the mattress near the edge and it sent him tumbling forward, his chin catching his father’s nightstand on the corner and gashing open with searing pain and blood dripping in fresh patters all over the cream colored carpet. Davis rolled over onto his back, dazed and the world blurring through unbidden tears.

Then the pain exploded in his awareness.

Davis howled so loudly the window pane by the bed trembled ever so slightly.

Finally his mother came rushing into the room and scooped him up with practiced arms.

“Shhh, oh my God, honey, what happened?”

Davis could only continue to yell and cry. His mother, Janelle, took him into the bathroom and tried to staunch the bleeding with cotton swabs and then treated it with rubbing alcohol which invoked fresh anger and mistrust and outraged crying from Davis.

She bandaged his chin as best she could and waited on him hand and foot until he calmed down. It wasn’t until evening when Davis asked where Tommy went and what happened to him. This question arose with apparent reluctance and unhappiness. His parents exchanged a look and Janelle shrugged her shoulders to indicate she had no idea what Davis was asking.

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That evening was spent watching television after dishes were washed and put away and Davis’s father, Stanley, had finished wrapping up last minute business details with his patients and could join them in the den. The same den where earlier that day, Davis insisted Tommy had showed up.

“I’m sorry honey, but there was no little boy by the name of Tommy who visited with his parents. And your daddy just confirmed with his patient calendar that no one came in with a child. None of us saw one here the whole day.”

“But mah-ahm! He was there! I swear it!”

“Sweetie, I just don’t know what to say. I guess you made him up because you were really bored?”

“NO!” Davis’s eyes widened at the thought that you could make up an imaginary friend as real as Tommy had clearly been. It just didn’t make sense. How could his parents not have seen the kid?

The evening wore on in similar fashion until Davis fell asleep.

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“Hey Mom, Dad, do you guys remember when I busted my chin?”

They were driving to go see a movie about a lawyer who took a deal with the devil and it looked really good from the preview.

“I remember,” Janelle said.

“Can’t say as I recall,” Stanley said.

“There was a kid that day. He and I were jumping up and down on the bed. Whatever happened to him?”

His parents exchanged a glance at each other.

Janelle turned in her seat and looked at her son, Davis who was now 17, with as much compassion as she could find and said, “There wasn’t a little boy playing with you, sweetie. You must have imagined him.”

“Oh,” Davis said. He didn’t imagine Tommy, and either his parents were blind or weren’t paying attention to who came and went from their house, or he had played with a ghost. Or you had one hell of a hallucination. To that last thought he quietly doubted it very much.

“Anyway, why?”

“Why what?”

Such a teen, his mom thought. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, I don’t know, we’re going to see this movie and something about it jogged my memory.”

“Well, memory is a funny thing. That was a long time ago and who knows what you’ve told yourself over and over about it since then,” Stanley said, ever the doctor, rarely the father.

Davis nodded his head, “Yeah, I know. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing this movie, aren’t you guys?”

Janelle shifted slowly back to a front facing position in the passenger seat and said she was looking forward to it and how she always liked Al Pacino in almost anything. Except for Scarface, she wouldn’t watch that if you paid her.

Davis thought to himself quietly as his father guided the car along toward their destination: child, or children, was it me and him or just me and myself?

Child or childrenChild or childrenChild or children?

A cry in the dark

They’re in the apartment together, she’s folding clothes on the bed, he’s watching her, his arms crossed over his chest. Her long hair spills over her face with every bend, fold, and tuck. Now she looks up at him, her eyes glistening.
“We’re done right?”

“What?”

She looks away, then looks at the laundry, neatly folded on their bed, which is too low because it has no frame to support it. They may as well be sleeping on the ground.

“I think we’re through, you and I,” she says.

He can’t muster a coherent reply, so he groans. The groan is so loud he hears it somewhere else, somewhere outside of himself.

She watches him, her dark hair now pulled back in a ponytail. When had she done that? How long has he been groaning?

“It’s going to rain, I think. It’s going to rain, right?” She leaves him in the room before he can answer and he turns toward the door, the overhead light is bright but also dark, so dark. He picks up his phone. He’s tried to forget what she just said about being done, over with, no longer a couple, married or otherwise, how unfathomable that sentiment even is!

He begins to look at his phone when the whole room, the whole house starts to shake and cough and make him lose balance. He falls on his butt, the world and the house trembling. He now knows there’s a cyclone or a hurricane and a tornado all outside his house, their tiny apartment at the same time.

His groan is increasing, he can’t see what’s on his phone, the whole world is getting shaky, it’s rumbling, and he has a sad revelation that they’ll die together in this mess before he can say how much he loves her, regardless if she thinks they’re done or not.

The quaking intensifies so much that everything goes dark.

Lyle rolls over in his bed, next to his wife whom he knows wouldn’t leave him for anyone, nor he for anyone else. The world is still, silent, blessedly dark.

A bad dream. His groaning was like a cry in the dark.

He’ll analyze this dream later.

The Short & Long of It

7 Years ago today, my mom departed from this world and left me behind. I feel happy to know that she got to see one of my books published when I was much younger. I know she would be proud to know what I’ve been up to lately. I miss her, but I know she looks on in approval at what I’m doing these days…speaking of, let’s talk about that a moment.

I’ve been a busy guy lately, and as a result my presence on Facebook has been mostly absent, with brief peek ins. I don’t say this because I think many people care one way or the other, but because I have some fun things I wanted to share with you that might be cared about.

Like…?

There are some entertaining short stories I plan to release here on my blog for free. Stay tuned for more information (I suggest the newsletter signup on the right side of this blog ===>)

Aside from that I’m waiting on PLIGHT, the 3rd and final installment in the Owen Hunter Trilogy of books to get the finishing touches, last minute edits, beta read, and then out to whoever wants to read it.

More exciting news is: I’m writing a novel about a wizard. Not your standard run of the mill wizard either, and this definitely has an intriguing plot twist even I wasn’t expecting! I’m hooked and don’t want it to end. That being said, the first rough draft will be finished by December 31st.

That’s the long and short of it. Stay tuned for more!

Hodgepodge

The struggle is real.

That’s the meme everyone likes to repeat, isn’t it? I hear people saying it for silly shit, ‘issues’ that aren’t, you know, in actuality, issues. Our language is devolving into something I hardly recognize, and my soul laments! I need to read more books, all kinds of them. When I’m done reading Stephen King’s Wolves of the Calla, in the Dark Tower Series (number 5), I plan to read Moby Dick. When I’m done that I swear I’ll finish reading the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Why? Well because it’s important to expose my brain to as many words and ideas as possible. Because I’m a writer, and that’s one thing us writers need to be able to do: expose by reading.

Today’s the eclipse, the big solar one everyone’s been talking about. 8/21/2017. A lot of co-workers plan to go out and see it. A lot of friends I know plan to watch it as well. I won’t be bothering with that. My opinion: it’s a good time to be inward drawn and paying attention to what’s important in my life. For me that’s writing the next thing. For others, well I don’t know exactly.

I’ve been writing several different pieces of fiction lately. All this while waiting for my wife to start editing the (almost) final draft of the Owen Hunter Series. The last book in this trilogy, and (, fingers crossed!) three out of many in the actual series. Most of the rest after this point will be standalone novels, and threaded back to the world of Owen Hunter. That’s the plan for that. And I also intend to write a great deal more stories that aren’t related at all.

Writing and reading. Someday I’ll know my audience well. I’ll write to them, knowing it won’t be guess work. No easy task, that. Yet it’s what’s needed nowadays. More art. More creativity, more of everything related to constructiveness.

I do worry though. I’m not sure I’ll ever make a career from my habit. I’m not convinced that I must make it a career. It’s what I’d like. What I am convinced of is that I have to tell the stories in my head to whomever will listen, or read. That’s how this works. Painters have to paint, dancers have to dance, and writer’s gotta write.

The struggle is, as always, about timing. When do we write? When do we read? When do we publish? When do we have the time to do the things we’re compelled to do?

I can’t answer these questions, and I challenge you to try.

Here’s a list of my TO-BE-READ list (not in any particular order). It’s pretty long.

  • Moby Dick
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Sand (Hugh Howey)
  • Hillbilly Elegy (Vance)
  • The Complete Jules Verne Collection
  • The Complete H.G. Wells collection
  • The Complete Charles Dickens collection
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Doyle)
  • Afterlife (Sakey)
  • 1984 (Wells) This is my 2nd time.

There will be many more, but if I can get through the above before I’m 45, that’ll be quite a feat. Not to mention I have a lot of stories I want to write and, when they’re polished enough, share.

I began this blog post on the day of the eclipse and have finished it at the end of the week on Friday the 25th, August.

To borrow an idea from a famous writer; finishing what you start is successful.

The Stirred Social Pot

The social pot has been deeply stirred and disturbed. We all have good reasons to be unhappy and upset. Thing is, you can’t live well by just raging. We can face the storm with peace and with humor and skill. The skill part is developing a space of peace and humor and yes even love in the face of tremendous hatred. Let’s remember that the stuff we are seeing now isn’t new. It’s just more readily available with the internet. Our “president” is a money (amongst other things, aherm ) grabbing nazi approver.

That’s a terrible realization. The only uptick of this administration is that it has forced us awake from our doze and brought us together moving towards more unity. Let’s make sure our voices aren’t panicky and inane. But as I was saying, let’s also be sure that we can still be decent normal, funny and creative. Without peace we can’t really focus our resistance. Without humor life is a bleak place with little point. Without recognition of love that holds all this together then we would already be lost.

Let’s hear some great jokes then!
I’ll start with a lame one and then you go.

“Boycott shampoo! Demand the real ‘poo!” -Steven Wright

Personal Excellence

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why we strive for personal excellence. I’ve also been thinking that personal excellence is often confused with perfectionism. Because we’re a curious species, I’ve been wondering why we bother striving for personal excellence (or perfection.)
Obviously there’s a mythos around personal excellence. Your religion tells you to be excellent in all your actions, deeds, and thoughts. Your philosophy likewise inspires you to it. Societal pressures us into being the best we can as well. These are all indicators that we need to go in a certain direction in order to be better/best/great/awesome (fill in your adjective here) human beings.

Now if you turn the question of ‘why’ on its head and ask, how does my personal excellence change the world? Does it change the world? Does it even matter? Time and perspective play into this. In a hundred years from now, in two hundred years from now, all our actions and excellence probably won’t amount to very much. That would depend on the type of legacy you leave behind when your body dies. In a thousand years from now, if there are still human beings on this planet, all your personal excellence and or perfectionism won’t amount to anything.

However, what you do now, today, and for the next year, the next five years, the next ten or twenty years, all your actions of personal excellence does influence your sphere of people. You might be thinking, well, that’s great for my sphere of people, but what about the larger world around me? If you think about it, all your friends and acquaintances also have friends and acquaintances that you don’t know and so on and so forth. So there is a ripple effect. The more personal excellence you strive for every day, the more love and compassion you show others, the more of your time and attention you’re willing to sacrifice away from your own small concerns to give your time and attention instead to your friends and acquaintances, the more of a direct impact you’ll have on your sphere of influence. This impact is whatever you decide to make it each day. People and circumstances rarely ever have the true power to dictate how you act, think, and speak during your day. You are the only one in control. Yet so often we give away our power, our personal responsibility to personal excellence, by outer circumstances and other people’s words. We may even give in to our own inner state of mind, the way our bodies feel (which may be uncomfortable for numbers of reasons.)

So personal excellence requires some tools for the sake of clarity and practice. You can decide to be personally excellent all you like, but if you have no framework or tools to deal not just with what the world offers you, but with your own inner state, you can’t truly hope to be all that effective.
This is why people turn to philosophy, religion, a spiritual path like Buddhism, or self-help books by accomplished self-help teachers (like Tony Robbins or Carol Dweck). The point here is that none of us ever learns how to effectively be great at anything without turning to people and or ideas (lifestyles even) that support and have a framework off which you can use tools to actually become personally excellent. It takes a great deal of effort at first, and then like using muscles, it becomes easier to sustain, and then push it even further.

What does all this personal excellence actually end up doing?

At least for the interim your personal excellence becomes an inspiration for those in your community, your workplace, and has an enormous (if at first subtle) impact on the world at large. These will all be positive gains to the world. Because we are social creatures everyone likes to talk about something that inspired them. People also like to talk about things that made them upset, turned them off, or made them feel unhappy. And because this is such a prevalent and pervasive issue already, with bad news the norm on television and social media, you might consider it your duty to aspire to personal excellence to begin to turn the tide.

Happy 4th! May Freedom of Speech Reign!

One of the greatest qualities of our country, America, is the right to free speech that we all have. I can write a novel, or a short story, or a blog article, and it’s not an illegal act to do so. I can say whatever I want to anyone I want…of course, there are consequences. We have the right to choose our words and our deeds, but not what happens as a result.
Today I celebrate this freedom, even though too many have abused it for so long. We can use words to create, or destroy. We can use words to heal and bring union, or poison and divide people. Words are our choice and they are our freely given right as human beings.

I choose to use words in a way that create diplomacy and delight. I choose to use words that bring honor and careful consideration.

I choose to use words that can uplift and entertain the spirits and minds of everyone who reads them or hears them from me.

Happy Indipendence Day!

Emotional Terrorism and the Right of Free Speech

At the end of the day, we’re all human. I think about the hippocratic oath doctors take. I think about how, in this day and age especially, they must be careful to keep all political discussion out of their wheelhouse and keep the focus on their patients and their patient’s health. They cannot be too outspoken on public social media platforms without the risk of judgment and a potential loss of business, but more than that, I think they may be forced into a total acceptance of where anyone stands; and despite their potential misgivings about anyone’s viewpoints or affiliations or even if they happen to be terrible criminals or despots, they still have to view the humanity in anyone and treat accordingly. Can we regular every day people treat everyone we meet, regardless of political affiliation, religious belief, sexual orientation, social or economic status with civility and dignity?
Unfortunately, I believe the answer to be ‘no’, as evidenced by the sheer volume of people who lack the capacity to see past their own desires and conditioning in stupidity.

““I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:…

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can but I will always look for a path to a cure for all diseases.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.””

When you see young people on street corners openly punching disabled persons in the face, and then proceeding to further beat him, because they think its funny…when you see an angry white man on the beach accusing a family of people from the Middle East of being the problem with the world and being connected to ISIL (false accusations) and screaming at them to leave…when you see an older white woman in a major shopping store cursing out a woman and telling her to go back to her country, mistaking her ethnicity, and saying how we’d be better off without them, and when the woman being accused fires back with, “you’re an immigrant too, you’re not Native American”…

What is lost on the people who live in “Flyover Country” is that emotional reactions like this, without real education, without compassion, IS terrorism. It’s emotional terrorism. Terrorism in any form is something we as a world populace need to see as cancer. It’s a cancer to fill ourselves with hatred for what is perceived as ‘the other’. We’re all human beings, and at the end of the day, we all need the basics to survive. And that includes healthy emotional support and responses.

“I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

Warmth, sympathy, and understanding are doctors tools. More than that, they are human tools. Tools which rarely in this country ever get explained, learned in school, or even taught in life. These are, in fact, the antidotes to emotional imbalance, and these are all innately within us. Yet again, I point to capacity. Some people can change if they are willing to do so. Not all people can change; primarily because they have no interest. It can be addicting to stay stuck in one’s point of view, to never see it another way. It feeds itself and becomes a sickness. We have a president whose only real viewpoint is that life is a business, and that to be number one means making sure that everything goes one way: his way. Which does not include OUR way.

The president is very adept at bullying. Fire the guy who’s investigating your potential ties to Russia. Threaten to fire the guy who wants to see your tax returns. Call news reputable news outlets fake, and make fun of people less fortunate (materially) than you are. Those are schoolyard bully tactics. And so you can guess who voted this emotional terrorist into office: schoolyard bullies and their parents who support them (or were/are themselves bullies.)

This post isn’t a plea for people to wake up. If people were going to wake up, they would have done so by now. This is just a post to illustrate a point of view I have, because I live in the land of a free press: the digital land. I can post this here, and I mean no disrespect to anyone in particular. Exercising my right to free speech. Let’s hope that doesn’t go away. Because if it does, we’re ALL in bigger trouble than anyone can imagine.

I hear some people’s argument already: “If you can write all this about the president and emotional terrorism, then other people have the right to say whatever they want to other people in stores or wherever about where they belong.”

True, we do have the right. Look, Trump used words to put himself where he is. People voiced (via ballots) their opinions that Trump belonged where he does. I may have misgivings and disagreements with that fact, but its still a fact I can’t refute. A totalitarian regime is usually how wars are started, by the way. But here’s the problem. If our voices get taken away, if we no longer have the first amendment right, the freedom of speech, then we couldn’t say what we did or didn’t want anymore. At all. We would be told what we could or couldn’t have and when to shut up and how high to jump. It would be a prison country. We already know what that’s like. We’re investigating whether or not right now a corrupt government regime (the people of Russia are amazing and beautiful, the government…not so much, in this writer’s opinion) is overtly dictating the US governments next steps and maneuvers…I don’t think we want to end up that way.

People want their phones, their internet, their television, and to be left alone. They want the right to practice free speech, they want the right to a good lifestyle, and they want to be left alone. If we’re suddenly under a regime in which the government dictates your every move, all our freedoms in the pursuit of happiness evaporate.