"We must learn to live by inspiration. That means that we should let the spiritual depths of our being flow through our conversations and into our acts. Living by inspiration does not mean living chaotically. Our whole purpose is to make the intellect an instrument for the Spirit. We must become artists in living. To live by inspiration means to sense the divine touch in everything; to enter into the spirit of things; to enter into the joy of living."
~ Ernest Holmes/Science of Mind, Art of Life (p. 34.4)
I found peace in a short passage tonight from the writing of Fred Rogers. Not at all surprising of course... To find peace (or at least calm) in the presence of his work -for those of us who grew up watching his television show- is something I suppose that is automatically assumed. And yet the particular passage to which I'm referring may in fact not be the first one to come to mind.
Here, Mr. Rogers poses the antonym of 'justice' as being 'greed.' Not unfairness. Not a lack of righteousness or even a lack of peace. He says it simply: Greed.
There have been many moments in my life when I have struggled with how to psychologically respond to greed. Greed for money, greed for power, greed for control. In so many situations, I don't understand how those ideals can motivate an individual beyond a certain point. In recent days, this is a concept I've found myself yet again faced with, particularly when listening to headlines both here in the USA and certainly around the globe.
And tonight, perusing Fred Rogers' important keepsake book (for as it happens a seemingly unrelated reason) "The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember," I am brought to these vital and heartfelt words...
"You don't ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you. When I say, "It's you I like," I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch... that deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive: love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed. So in all that you do in all of your life, I wish you the strength and the grace to make those choices which will allow you and your neighbor to become the best of whoever you are."
I share his words, in case you too may need to read them this day. Or any other day. The opposite of greed? Not selflessness. Not compassion. Not generosity. Or perhaps the most obvious to me: temperance. Not any of those captures the meaning in entirety: I believe Mr. Rogers is right.
The opposite of greed? Justice.
What is a fable??
Many people think of fables as short stories, with a moral lesson, in which the characters are animals with anthropomorphic qualities.
But the definition of the word "fable" has other aspects too. For instance, the story does not have to include animals. It can be more of a short tale of a legendary person or circumstance.
And for me, the word "fable" encapsulates an idea of context: the word itself evokes a sense that the story is going to be set in a time or place that is not modern.
That's how I describe my own fables: most are set in a small village that exists out-of-time, but for reference's sake, resembles a somewhat mystical community of the medieval period. :Quaint huts with thatched roofs, mossy hillsides, farmland marked by stone walls, cobbled pathways and hand-hewn wooden fenceposts... the color green everywhere that is of a hue that kindles an earthen wonder; a return to the organic basics. Lyrical sentences that flow with a dynamic rhythm, setting an underlying tone that adds to the depth of the story. The tales are about the common people of that village, and include insights and life-lessons, of a sort, as the characters journey through the scope of the adventures. Of course many of my fables include plots that are action-oriented or mysteries, but character growth is the primary vehicle of getting the storyline from start to finish.
One of the taglines I think of when it comes to my works is that "We Are All Heroes." If you read many of my stories, or my novels, you'll find this theme holds true: I prefer to write about average and somewhat common experiences, and throughout the pages I expand the piece (with sublety, intrigue and complexity, I daresay) to point out the extraordinary within... My characters are, typically, quite average on the exterior, but I like to illuminate and unravel from the inside-out in order to bring new understanding to the reader of each character's unique traits and heroic qualities. Each of us is endowed with such things. As an author I find it my place to bring light to those oftentimes overlooked facets of ourselves. As one reader told me, "Reading your words is like looking in a mirror. It's terrifying. It's revealing. It's vulnerablity and authenticity, lain bare before me. At times it brought me to tears."
When I was younger, I was told time and again that character growth was not supposed to be the main point of a work of literature. I disagreed then, I disagree now. :Character growth is the only point of a work of literature. The plot and the theme and even the setting should only play supportive roles in leading up to what the growth of the characters ultimately reveals for those of us who care to bear witness... and those of us who care to join in their journey.
As I write this blog post, it is early 2022. I plan to publish one of my fables very soon, and my goal is to publish at least two others this year. And then continue that trend year after year. When I was younger, I did not enjoy writing short stories, but a counselor of mine -when I was in my early 20's- pointed out that whether I knew it or not, I am a fable writer. I'm not sure how she pegged that, but she did. Well, I've been writing them ever since. I invite you to click on the Fables page here on my website for a little more info about them. I'll post another blog entry when my first fable this year is published. And if you'd like to stay more closely in touch, in order to receive regular updates about my publications, sign up for my newsletter. -Wishing you well...
Living on the surface interests me little. That facet of myself frustrates many in my orbit. And yet I have managed to find few others who are willing to delve deeper with me, despite my knowing. This, I sense, is one of my very great flaws.
In my youth, I committed. I refused to spend much time at all with anyone who dallied with the superficial.
But it wasn't long before I caved in on that commitment. Out of sheer loneliness, and malnourishment in my faith.
Such has gone on a very long time. I brush shoulders with others who dabble with me at fishing midst the depths... but for the most part, I too have become one who settles for fumbling my way through the daily routine.
Sure, I have heroic moments. I am a giving person; an honest one; a kind person. A seeker of fulfillment. My days have meaning. But they are not profound. They are not unwaveringly authentic... because the superficiality is prevalent.
Note that I write 'superficiality' and not 'mediocrity.' Very different words. I can laze here in superficiality without living in mediocrity. And some people -many others I know, in fact- find great satisfaction living in superficiality... and therefore they are missing perhaps nothing. And their lives are by no means mediocre.
But me? As I remain here, tiptoeing on the surface, I am starving myself. And I know better. And therefore it is a sin.
...Is it my codependence that keeps me here? Is it fear of being alone? Is it lethargy? Desperation? Weariness?
I must coax myself to recall who I am; I must again reach for the courage and determination to be myself fully. To plumb those depths; to quest for the truths and silences and complexities and simplicities that meet me there. I hunger for it. I must away again to that sacred quest, that is my own.
I have been enjoying a sense of anticipation lately... Made a decision not long ago about one of my novels. This is a book I wrote when I was in my early twenties. The back story is kind of interesting, I suppose... but maybe another time. Anyway, just out of college, I worked full time and during my breaks and off-hours, I wrote this novel. I don't want to share details of it yet, until its publication... and yes believe it or not I haven't yet published it. Back when I was 23, I did re-work the novel into screenplay form, and changed it to a dramatic satire...and I remember pitching it to agents and producers, and how exciting it was once when an agent on the other end of the phone line did have in fact a very solid interest. But I did not secure any contract, and the book went unseen. It hearkened back to a high school literature teacher I had, who told the class that when we wrote our Great American Novel, we should tuck it in a drawer for ten or twenty years... and that when we re-read it after dusting it off that decade or two later, if it still had merit, then and only then should we consider it worth publishing. Well, that was never my intention. But sobeit, here we are. Three full decades later. (insert emoji) Anyway, I will self-publish it soon. Yet my anticipation lately is not in that, per se, but instead in the fact that I've decided not to edit it to bring it up to the current timeframe. Instead, I'm going to leave this novel set back in the mid 1980's. And I think that very minor choice will add to the nuances of this work.
Hence, my anticipation. Little moments and little decisions like that are of note, indeed. (insert another emoji... hopefully not the same one...)
I am not a manufactured writer. I'm not someone who chose to write because I have some specific point I want to make, or even because I have some particular story I want to tell. I am a writer simply because it's who I am. It's my nature. In fact, it's one of the most important facets about me.
((I urgently needed to share this tonight.))
As I wrote on the "Novels" page of this website...
'I am like a scribe, most of the time. A navigator perhaps, directing the course as a tale weaves its way through my heart, my thoughts, my pen. Rarely do I liken myself to the one in charge... Stories, it seems, already exist somewhere -swirling out there in the ether, just beyond. My place as the writer is simply to listen, to be aware enough to tune in. And then to have the strength and the willingness (and the courage) to translate authentically & jot it all down.'
More on the subject to come... Meanwhile, see one of my recent poems below...
and the rains came down
as had been foretold
and I took heed as I knew
for there were messages
in the raindrops
and syllables in the wind
if only I took moments to listen
and fair time to learn the language
I had a quick few minutes just now, between work and minding my toddler. Told myself, "Hey, it's not ideal, but pop in your earplugs and let fingers loose over the keyboard." I didn't take time to find the earplugs, btw. But three minutes later, here it is...
And what is there to say except that Life is found in grains of sand...
Life is found in snowy footprints washed away by springtime rains...
LIfe is found in forgotten laughter and undiscovered tears...
Life is found in the letters we spin to share stories, to chant poetry, to thread the needles of those finely tended words we tell each other on the darkest of nights and in those sacred moments of high passion...
Life is what happens when we notice and when we do not,
when we are hopeful and when we despair,
when we reach hands and when we pocket our generosity,
when we poise ourselves on the brink of our own deliverance --- and turn and walk away.
This haven called Earth is a playground.
And a prison.
And a temple.
And an inferno.
And a paradise.
And all possibility lain before us like a dreamscape, open and unending.
Walk with care. Walk without. But walk. You don't want to miss this.
The theme of my novel "The Locket" is simple and complex, all at the same time. There are layers to it, and I believe different readers discover and savor it in varying ways. That's wonderful to me, as the author... because I believe a dynamic theme is integral to a well-written work of literature.
Have you read "The Locket"? What would you identify as the theme? (Always feel free to email me btw, with any comments you may have!)
My interpretation is that the theme of this novel is the unraveling of Grief. The idea that Grief can be passed along, and passed down, is an important facet of this. -That it can be passed down silently, and insidiously, magnifies its force and the consequences it may have.
Sometimes, Grief is an underlying theme in our lives that we remain unaware of; sometimes it meets us head-on with the snarl of an angry monster. I believe that more often than not, it is in fact quietly lurking... maybe even in our ancestral memory; in our DNA...
The story of "The Locket" touches on this, but of course the book only covers the span of three generations. That was a choice I made, in keeping the novel to a particular length and providing the opportunity for us, as readers, to focus in keenly without the distractions of a broader storyline.
I don't mean to say that Grief is either a silent menace or a monstrous one. To the contrary, I believe Grief is a companion. One we usually do not beckon, but one we all must learn to acquaint ourselves with. Befriending Grief, I think, is ultimately a more fulfilling experience than to combat it. Making peace with Grief, though not easy, is for me the way to greater self-awareness, higher calm and often a re-emergence of Purposefulness and Love.
I am writing another novel with a theme similar to that of "The Locket." It is not the second book in a series, per se, but the two works are related at their core. This next novel takes a peek at the web of Shame. Again, insidious, and usually quite silent. I have come to know Shame intimately throughout my life. In fact I have a Shame Dragon who visits me from time to time. I used to try and smash through that feeling -with desperate swinging punches and try my damndest to threaten or con it away. But it always came back. Always. It took a while but eventually I found that my Shame Dragon needed to be witnessed and to be tenderly acknowledged. After sitting with him a long while I found that, after embracing and befriending him, only then could he be transformed into a new emotion. (and yes, my Shame Dragon does seem like a 'he.' Read into that what you will. But don't.)
And my new novel, thematically, is based on Shame. The way it has tentacle-like reach through our own lives and can wriggle its way from person to person... It can be contagious, like a disease. It can be passed down, like a gene. It can be ignored, and so grow bigger, like a cyst. And it can be whispered, like a sacred call, into the darkness. It can, if we so allow it, lead us Home.
These days, I don't find myself able to create much time to write. Hopefully I'll figure out how to manifest a shift with that soon. Very soon. And when this next novel is published, I'll certainly share its title and links. Be well, Kindred Spirits-