Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

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Short Stories: What makes a good story?

The following are my reactions to each of the twenty short stories in “The Best American Short Stories – 2014,” in order of appearance.

Loved. Meh. Anticlimactic. Painful. Eek. Oh, my heart. Interesting. O.K.… Did I miss something? Wow. Felt like that went nowhere. Nice. Made me feel something but why? Beautiful. Eek. Ouch. Nope. Oh man. A dog’s point of view. Again…I have no idea why you told me this story.

short stories

I think that what makes a good story is subjective. We might be able to put our finger on what really makes a bad story, but a good one? I think it’s an impossible task. These weren’t bad stories, but most of them just didn’t speak to me. I felt lost as to why they were telling me these things. Then again, I’m not much of a deep reader. I like things spelled out for me, the same way I like reality to be spelled out. Don’t beat around the bush! What are you trying to say? I don’t have time to decipher what you’re thinking.

Someone else may have loved every single one. What is a good story? Depends on how you view the world, what you want, and how you think.

I did enjoy the book though. It was not a waste of nearly twelve hours of my life. There were some amazing scenes. Some were heart breaking and some lifted my spirits. I also learned something; I could write things like this. It’s not my style, my talent, or my subject matter holding me back. It’s my fear of rejection.

I’ve pulled out a few of my favorite quotes for you. Enjoy!

“Wildflowers bloom without worry.” Long Tom Lookout by Nicole Cullen

“He kept this dangerous knowledge inside him where it tightened and squeezed, but where it couldn’t menace the greater world.” At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners by Lauren Groff

“The eyes of other people distracted her; the way those eyes begged for an instant intimacy wasn’t just an imposition, it was an affront. An assault, even.” This is Not a Love Song by Brendan Mathews

“What makes you so sure that what I ‘just know’ is any less reliable than what you ‘just know’?” Next to Nothing by Stephen O’Connor

“…’herd dreaming,’ which refers to a mass of people begin possessed by the same delusion: fainting epidemics, or nationalism, or the craze for teeth whitening.” Next to Nothing by Stephen O’Connor

“Do you have any secrets?” Antarctica by Laura Van Den Berg

I have another one of these collections of short stories and I’ll be reading it soon but reading this one has inspired me to submit some of my stories to magazines. I think I’ll make that a year end goal, make myself a post it and give myself a nice reward if I reach it.

Go back to my first post “The Best American Short Stores 2014: A New Read” to see where I started.

The Little Prince: New Read

Feeling a little down this week, so I decided to read a childhood favorite. I’ve read Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s memoir, “Earth, Sand, and Stars,” a few years ago and loved it so much that I still talk about it and recommend it as one of my favorite books. But I’ve never read “The Little Prince”. Crazy, huh?

the little prince
I tried to tell her I was highlighting her, that she’s beautiful even prickly, but she bit me anyway.

I didn’t know about it when I was a child, but I’d see “The Little Prince” on children’s bookshelves when my boys were younger and ask them if we should read it. They refused, already past the age that the cover and description would entice them. I wish I had discovered it earlier, but I’m sure they’ll come around again and read it eventually, maybe to their own children.

Each time I have a few minutes, I pick this book up and read a page and find myself transported back to “Earth, Sand, and Stars.” I love it so far, and I believe I’ll just keep this book with me all the time, ready on stand-by just in case I need a dose of joy and wonder.

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again.”

That’s the truth. Maybe that’s why I have such a hard time talking to people sometimes. I’ve never grown up and explaining what I’m imagining and how it connects becomes exhausting. I’m left wondering if anyone will ever let their mind wander a little and meet me along the path to Neverland, or in the Tulgey Wood.

The page I read last night inspires me to start drawing again. I used to love to draw, but I’ve lost the imagination and the patience. I’ve felt rather lost to try anything new, to let go. I feel held back by something, fear and possibly, yes, most likely, ego. I’m afraid I have grown up or begun to get old. Terrifying thought.

Where do you run to when you get that feeling? Is it a book or an activity? Do you have friends there? Are they waiting for you to return?

Undaunted Courage: New Read

Recently, I was reading a book about writing that mentioned “Undaunted Courage” as one of the best historical narrative books ever written, and when I saw it in a pile of free books last December, I snatched up in glee. It was fate that we found each other.

Undaunted Courage
Reading In Bed with Peanut Butter Pretzels – Love

How does one get choked up over a history book? When the author makes it personal. The introduction got me right in the feels. They had taken an extended trip along the route Lewis & Clark took with friends, students, and their children. Driving, hiking, camping, and canoeing.

“We canoed the river at every stop. Each night, around the campfire, we would read aloud from the journals.”

“Around the campfire we took turns enumerating the reasons we loved our country (not so easy to do with young people in 1976, in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation and the fall of Saigon, but we did it with great success).”

That…sniff… Stuff like this makes me feel better about out current time. Yes, things have always sucked for someone somewhere at some time. But there are always reasons to be happy and proud.

I’ve been in the area with my own family a few times. On our first trip to Montana, we stumbled across the Lewis & Clark Caverns and found many museums and trails that commemorate the exploration. We’ve sat around the campfire reading from books we found at the museums. My personal favorite was a kid’s craft book we found someplace that helped kids make small canoes, build fire starters, and make maps while we hiked trails, pretending we were explorers.

On the back cover I read, “Ambrose follows the Lewis and Clark Expedition from Thomas Jefferson’s hope of finding a waterway to the Pacific, through the heart-stopping moments of the actual trip, to Lewis’ lonely demise on the Natchez Trace.”

The first thing I thought was, “He should have just checked Google Earth.” I’m hilarious. But think about that. When planning any trip, we don’t think twice about the best way to get there or how long it will take, how much food and water we’ll need. We just type in the location and the phone gives you the route, timeline, and alternatives. So much easier and leaves us with all this extra time to argue about where we will stop for lunch and whether we will get to see that roadside attraction before dark.

This book is LONG, nearly 500 pages, so I’ll be in it awhile. Have you read “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen E. Ambrose? I saw that he’s written several other books that look interesting. Let me know if you read him in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Read more of my thoughts on this book at:
Keelboats & Trees: Craving Adventure
Taking Pictures to Trigger Memories
You Gotta Fight for Your Right
History Book Brings Me to Tears: Breaking News

Isaac Asimov: Robots and Space Travel

I finished reading “The Roving Mind” by Isaac Asimov over the weekend. 348 pages in 13.92 hours. But who’s counting?!

isaac asimov

The man invented the word “robots,” but he’d never used a computer. He knows that the word is only attributed to him, but he knows he heard it somewhere before. He used a typewriter and when told a newfangled word processor would at least speed up his writing, he scoffed. He wrote a book a month and so many essays. “Prolific” doesn’t begin to describe him.

I enjoyed reading some of these essays more than others. My favorites being the last few that he wrote about himself. I was encouraged to hear that he often wrote “off the cuff” and only went back to clean up some mistakes and maybe rearrange a bit. That’s typically my style as well. I’m not saying I’m a genius, but what I write is usually what I’m thinking as I think it. It may not be brilliant but it’s honest, real.

There was one bit about space exploration that I found inspiring. Imagine space colonies, people living in space, children growing up on a space station. They’d be the people that went on the long journeys into space, the ones that got on that light speed vehicle and headed into the vast unknown. They would be used to that life and not as likely to be unnerved by the confinement.

Also, reading Isaac Asimov describe how big the universe really is, not to mention our own dang solar system. Amazing.

I’m not big sci-fi fan. Hell, I’m not even a big science fan. I’d rather delve into relational human issues, spirituality and imagination, than ponder the secrets only meticulous science can unravel. But space travel is fascinating to me. The prospect of it. What’s out there? Who’s out there? I’m not concerned with how we get there or if there will be metals to mine or an atmosphere on that distant planet. What I want to know is, how we will talk to them. Will we even be able recognize a sentient lifeform from an entirely different galaxy?

It’s probably why I love Star Trek so much. The exploration of space. “This is a science vessel!” How would we even begin to communicate and interact with a species that developed completely outside our own system? How will they be different? How will they be similar? It boggles my mind.

The only drawback to this book for me was that, because it was written in 1983, it felt a little dated. Many of the things we thought were going to destroy the world in the next decade never came to fruition. Don’t get me wrong, some of them still could, eventually. But, like a lot of predictions and panics, we’re assuming that technology will remain the same when we look forward to a grim future. These days, with the rapid development of technology, anything can happen.

When I look to the future, I wonder what crazy new thing will have been invented and embraced that will change how my grandchildren live. I’m curious and optimistic, unless I’ve just been to the grocery store, and they’ve put my spaghetti sauce on top of my loaf of bread…again. Then I’m afraid that I am convinced there is no hope for us a species.

Are you a sci-fi fan? Do you read Isaac Asimov fiction? What’s your favorite?

Go back and read my first post, “The Roving Mind: New Read” to see where I came from.

The Best American Short Stories – 2014

Like all books in my collection, The Best American Short Stories – 2014 has an origin story. All books have their own origin story, of course. The question here is, “How did this book find its way to me?” I’ll tell you: from a used bookstore in Lake Elsinore that I had been jonesing to check out for over a year.

the best American short stories

Last year, on one of my epic “visiting friends” adventures, I saw a billboard on the side of the freeway that advertised a HUGE used bookstore inside the outlet mall at Lake Elsinore. I’d never been to this so-called outlet mall. I didn’t even know it existed. The only outlet mall I regularly peruse (because it’s close and has some great stores and food…glorious food) is the Cabazon one on the I10 freeway. If you’re ever out this way, stop. It’s an experience if you have time to really walk the whole thing, and I’m not talking about shopping.

What kind of an outlet mall has a used bookstore?! That’s what I was thinking as I passed the sign by. It stuck with me though. I must check this out, I thought to myself, but I didn’t until a year later. I was in the area visiting a friend and we were looking for something to do. It was hot…as the area typically is over the summer…oppressively hot. Where could we go to walk around?

“That mall has a used bookstore.” I suggested.

“Have you ever been there?”

Neither of us had, so we decided to go see what we could find.

Let’s just say it was…anti-climactic, much like this blog post. The mall itself is old, like it’s stuck in 1991, and it is outdoors with very little shade at all, not exactly what I had hoped for at these temperatures. I really don’t understand the lack of shade trees in Southern California. BUT there’s a used bookstore!

A quick look around, past the kettle corn tent and directions to the Covid testing site, and there it was. My heart sunk when I approached the corner building. A few shabby old shelves were dwarfed by the large expanse of glass windows they were displayed in. It looked more like a half-empty thrift store. This was not what I was expecting at all. Where was the romance? Where was the dark corner with an easy chair, the smell of old paper and cardboard, the fat cat lounging between shelves bulging with hidden treasures, the sexy bookworm boy I might find stocking shelves? There wasn’t even coffee.

Maybe I read too much. Well…we were already here. We might as well go inside and see what we can find.

One positive – it was easy to find things. The shelves were labeled well. One could easily thumb through all the titles, nothing double stacked or hidden. Not much adventure in that, but you never know, there could be a gem or two hidden away. Another positive: they were cheap! $1 or $2 a piece. I could buy whatever I want. Even if I decided not to read it later, I wouldn’t have wasted much money.

I walked away with ten books that day. Yep. Ten. I paid $16 and was very happy. I found a few interesting memoirs, three anthologies like The Best American Short Stories, and two historical fiction books that looked promising.

Another bonus, there was Dairy Queen across the way from the bookstore where I promptly ordered a Banana Split Blizzard, only to find they don’t have them anymore. “Do you still sell banana splits?” I asked. She nodded. “Can’t you just put one in the Blizzard machine?” She just stared at me. I got a Thin Mint Blizzard instead.

When I went to my TBR shelf last night (can’t pick a new book right when I wake up), my eye was drawn to this book. I need something a little lighter, maybe a tad more fun than what I’ve been reading lately. I think this will fit the bill nicely.

I started the morning by reading the Forward and Introduction from the editors, curious to know a little about the process of collecting twenty short stories and calling them “best.” I woke up late this morning and had planned on only reading through one cup of coffee, but once I started reading the first story I couldn’t just walk away. It ended up taking two cups of coffee and a few minutes of reflection. That’s the glory of short stories. You know the resolution will come soon, no need to pause and finish later. It’s a quickie.

Do you like short stories? Where do you find yours? Online, blogs? Magazines? I’ve written a few of my own and you can find them on Short Stories: My Attempt at Emulating my Heroes.

H.G. Wells, You Old So-And-So!

H.G. Wells drawing
Inside Cover of my Ace Edition

I’m not sure why this drawing is printed on the inside cover of my H.G. Wells book. It looks like strange tank my sons would have drawn when they were kids. The weapons vehicle that he described most in this book was a helicopter like thing.

In the immortal words of “Men on Books,” hated it!

“Hated it” is too much, really. I just never got into it. I’m not a big fan of H.G. Wells at all. His books are filled with descriptions that never capture my imagination. His narrative follows the action and scene more than the feelings and motives of the character. I’m not saying they’re bad books. My boys and my husband love them. They just aren’t my cup of tea, I guess.

The part I found so strange was that Graham never seemed to understand that he was being used by both sides. He had slept for two-hundred years and by some strange sequence of events he actually hadn’t set in motion, he awoke to be the “owner” of more than half the world. Money had been invested in his name while he slept and had multiplied. Since he never died, only slept, when he awoke all that money went to him.

But how would anyone expect him to manage things after being out of the loop that long. He didn’t know anything. So much had changed. You could say that human nature hadn’t changed in that amount of time. He could have used his knowledge of humanity to get up to speed and manage well, but he didn’t have much when he went to sleep. He was just your average Joe, not a leader of men. I just didn’t get it.

Maybe I’m missing something. This is one of those times that I’d love to hear other people’s take on this book. I did a quick search for commentary but didn’t find much.

There were things I did enjoy in the book, though.

He described television, in 1899. “It was exactly like the reality viewed through an inverted opera glass and heard through a long tube.”

And “He clung to his anger – because he was afraid of Fear.”

Ah, yes, I know the feeling and I’m sure it’s what drives many people throughout the ages. It’s also something others use to gather crowds of followers and start wars. Charismatic leaders use people’s fear and say things like, “Those are the people that are ruining things! We must destroy them!” I used to think that didn’t happen often but I’m starting to see I was very wrong. It’s happening again, right now.

“You will be expected to say something,” said Ostrog. “Not what you used to call a Speech, but what our people call a Word – just one sentence, six or seven words. Something formal. If I might suggest – ‘I have awakened and my heart is with you.’ That is the sort of thing they want.”

You mean a Tweet? That seems to be all anyone wants to hear from our leaders these days. Don’t give me whole ideas and thoughts. A simple one liner that I can interpret to mean whatever I want and can easily re-tweet or share.

“Thence, too, flashed the world-wide messages, the falsehoods of the news-tellers, the chargers of the telephonic machines that had replaced the newspapers of the past.”

He called them “babble machines.” We call it tv news and social media.

“I want reality not realism.”

Reality: The quality or state of being actual or true.

And

Realism: An inclination toward literal truth and pragmatism.

Reality is the physical world you live in. Realism is the book or movie about it. I agree with Graham. I’d like more reality and less realism. I’d like to live and breathe in the actual world, not see it on tv or read about in in books. Sometimes, that is. If I could see reality through my screen or in print, instead of someone else’s interpretation of reality, that would be nice.

By the way, I love this old, mass-produced book by Ace Books, probably published in the early 70’s. It has an ad for cigarettes in the middle, and originally sold for 75 cents.

When was the last time you saw an ad for cigarettes in your book?

Yes, there were some archaic and racist ways of thinking in this book. There were references to the “yellow peril” and “negros.” Socialism was a main theme, or really the lack of socialism. Graham had hopes for bright Socialist future, one that Marx promised moving through Capitalism would bring, but he found something very different. I’m sure someone out there has written much about that.

Old sci-fi and dystopian fiction is interesting because it sheds light on where creative people believed the world was headed. Sometimes they get so close and then so far away from where history takes us. This one wasn’t one of my favorites, but it wasn’t a waste of time. If I had infinite time, I’d go back and read it again after I read a few other books. A better grasp on H.G. Well’s politics would be helpful.

Go back to my first post about this book, “When the Sleeper Wakes: New Read” You’ll find links to my other posts there as well.

Media B.S. and Scientific…ahh, who am I kidding?!

Two quotes about media b.s. and scientific challenges from the essay “The Role of the Heretic” in the chapter “Other Aberrations” in The Roving Mind by Isaac Asimov.

“Supply the public with something amusing, that sounds scholarly, and that supports something it wants to believe, and surely you need nothing more.”

Sounds familiar. This is what we get from today’s “news,” social media, and politicians. When you ask anyone where they are getting their data, or what study or finding they are paraphrasing, you are accused of either not having an “open mind” or being “anti-science.”

“I hope scientific orthodoxies never remain unchallenged. Science is in far greater danger from an absence of challenge than from the coming of any number of even absurd challenges. Science, unchallenged, can become arthritic and senile, whereas the most absurd challenge may help to stir the blood and tone the muscles of the body of science.”

Unchallenged scientific orthodoxies are the same as religions. They both only wish to keep their power and control the masses so that things continue the way they want them to.

And…that’s all I’ve got today. Not very inspiring, I know.

The trouble this morning is that I promised myself I’d write SOMETHING every day and then post SOMETHING, even if it’s not worth posting. Do you think that’s too much? I’m talking about an hours’ worth of work each day. I really don’t think that is too much to ask of myself. But here we are…struggling to keep up.

And what about tomorrow? One day a week I leave the house at 7am to drive down the hill and visit friends. I don’t have time to write before I go. No big deal, right? I mean, it’s only one day and I have a legitimate reason. But I’ll have another this weekend when we leave on our mini vacation for our anniversary. That’s two days, maybe three.

My initial solution was to write two posts today and schedule one to come out tomorrow morning, but then I woke up angry and tired from a bad dream and just couldn’t get into writing anything at all. I decided what I really needed to get my brain off the dream and into work mode was some breakfast and coffee. Then I started texting a friend about that stupid dream. My mother-in-law called and asked me to pick something up at the store for her later. Then I thought, “Screw this. I’ll read some more and then write while my son needs the livingroom silent for his class.”

I showered, started the laundry, chatted with a friend, ate more tasty things (still thinking about a tasty lunch), sat down to my computer, and decided I needed to clean up some photo files first…

Yeah. You see where this is going.

But here I am now. FINALLY. At the laptop. Sitting in my bed instead of my office because it’s not comfy at all. My husband is working at his desk on the other side of the room. Luckily, he’s not on the phone right now.

My head hurts. I need more coffee. How long is that kid going to be in class?! The laundry will be done soon. It’s hot again today. I’m starting to think summer won’t end this year. First Covid bullshit and now infinite summer.

All of this angst is because I had a bad dream, a few of them in a row actually. I woke up tired and cranky. What I need is a nap and there is no room to hide in today.

But that’s ok because I DID write SOMETHING, and I am going to post it. For posterity, of course. And I believe I’m hilarious, especially when I’m being pissy. Win!

Go back to my first post, “The Roving Mind: New Read” to read more about this book.

To Sleep Like the Dead and Be Reborn Each Day

Ah…to sleep like the dead. Wouldn’t that be nice? But don’t we? Isn’t laying in bed, surrounding yourself in a comfort cocoon, and closing your eyes, a lot like death? Your breathing and heartrate slow, you cease movement, and your consciousness creeps closer to the other side. And then a few hours later, when we wake, and we are reborn into a whole new world of possibilities.

To sleep like the dead
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

“What a wonderfully complex thing! This simple seeming unity – the self! Who can trace its reintegration as morning after morning after morning we awaken, the flux and confluence of its countless factors interweaving, rebuilding, the dim first stirrings of the soul, the growth and synthesis of the unconscious to the sub-conscious, the sub-conscious to the dawning consciousness, until at last we recognize ourselves again. And as it happens to most of us after the night’s sleep, so it was with Graham at the end of his vast slumber. A dim cloud of sensation taking shape, a cloudy dreariness, and he found himself vaguely somewhere, recumbent, faint, but alive.”

When the sleeper wakes by Hg wells

A lot of “When the Sleeper Wakes” has been detailed descriptions of his surroundings and I have been getting a little weary of it to be honest, but then there are paragraphs like this. The connection between me and the author over 122 years, nearly as long as Graham had slept in the book, is why I love reading old books. Our civilization and culture may change, but what it means to be human doesn’t.

I don’t sleep well. I never have. I’ve always woken up a lot at night, even as child. I dream a lot, vivid and sometimes very frightful dreams, filled with anxiety and fear, longing, attempting to get things done or trying to connect with someone and failing. I do all the things you’re supposed to do to get a better night’s sleep: no alcohol, sleepy tea, no phones, reading or meditating before bed, winding down…everything.

I got one of those Fitbit things that monitors your heartrate and movement while you sleep. This is a typical evening for me.

I started wearing earplugs about two years ago. The smallest noises wake me up, and even though I did have to fight through the worry that not being able to hear while I sleep would be the death of me, I did get used to it and sleep a little better with them in. I’ve also taken to moving to the guest room if my husband’s snoring wakes me up. I don’t want to hurt his feelings and I do love being close to him, but I need to sleep.

The biggest help though, was acceptance (and naps). My body apparently knows how to sleep. No matter what the news articles say, everyone is different. My body rests this way. That realization was the game-changer. Suddenly, a bit of stress was released. I put less emphasis on the outcome of sleep and more on creating a relaxing evening routine, allowing myself to wake up and change my situation if I need to, and then letting the rest go. I feel more rested and that’s all that matters.

But naps, now THERE’S a whole different game! The paragraph that I quoted above is a perfect description of how I wake up from a short nap. It’s wild.

The best naps are on my bed (not in it), in the daytime, with a pillow over my eyes and the fan on. I put in my earplugs and then settle in. I lay there thinking, “There’s no way I’ll fall asleep. I’m not even tired and I’ve had SO much coffee this morning.” And then I’m off dreaming about not being in the right place, trying to send a text, calling 911, or trying to get the car started and not being able to.

Then I start to feel heavy, like I can’t move but want to, that swimming through thick water towards the surface feeling. I can feel the thick bed under me, my warm pillow on my eyes, the throw blanket over my shoulder. I’m trapped beneath them because they’re so heavy.

Then I start to hear the world moving around me, I lighten up and can feel my fingers move, the cat at my feet, hear the dog snoring beside me. Where am I? What time is it? What DAY is it?

And then I’m awake. I’m me again. I sit up, stretch, throw my feet over the side of the bed and sit up. I left this world for an hour and now I’m back. And it’s so bright and warm. Life feels good.

What if I woke up and the whole world was different to me, but to my family it wasn’t? What if they called me by a different name? What if I didn’t recognize them? What if they thought I’d gone insane and had me locked up?

Sleeping is so strange.

If you’d like to go back and start from the beginning, click back to my first post, “When the Sleeper Wakes: New Read.”

Not Blind Faith and Obedience: Nietzsche

From the front cover flap of my Barnes & Noble edition, “…Nietzsche, a despiser of mass movements both political and religious, did not ask his readers for blind faith and obedience, but rather for critical reflection, courage, and independence.”

Apparently, Nietzsche and I have more in common than I thought.

blind faith and obedience

I only was able to spend thirty minutes in this book so far and, like my son, decided to read the introduction pages to get a feel for the significance of it. I’m about half-way through and the margins are filled with “yes” and “shit” and “well, crap” already.

Why? Because the book was published in 1883 and much of what he’s saying about the evolution of mankind…well, it just hits a little close to home. It probably always has and always will.

 “…life is assumed to be valuable just as it is.”

Tragic or comic, suffering or happiness, this is all of life and is not only to be endured but lived to fullest extent. We aren’t here waiting at this moment for the next to be better. We aren’t suffering through one period of life to enjoy happiness in the next. We are, simply, here, right now, living.

Years ago, I read that Nietzsche’s statement that “God is dead,” wasn’t a metaphysical thing. It’s not that the actual God died or that we killed him somehow. He was “referring instead to people’s belief in the Judeo-Christian God. His claim is that many people who think they believe in God really do not believe. That is, their “belief” makes no difference in their lives, a fact they betray through their actions and feelings.”

This struck right to the middle of my heart because it’s something I’ve brought up so many times over the years. I started watching “Messiah” on Netflix this past week. I’m not done yet, so no spoilers, please! While watching, I’ve paused so many times to rail about their reaction to this man. It’s exactly my problem with religious people. You say one thing and then behave another. You say, “God’s will be done.” And then act to change it. You say, “Turn the other cheek.” And then fight. You say, “Thou shalt not kill.” And then contract to murder. And it’s not just Christians.

Those who have turned our government into a religion are doing the same. We say, “For the greater good.” And then get angry when we’re in the minority. We say, “The authority knows best.” And get angry when it’s used against us. We say, “This is what the voters want. Democracy decides best.” And then avoid following the laws the majority voted for.

I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with it. It’s the natural outcome of denying reality because it’s easier. I believe we should acknowledge that our society has changed. We don’t need “blind faith and obedience.” We need “critical reflection, courage, and independence.” But that involves personal responsibility, and most of us aren’t willing to take that on. It’s far easier to be told what we are supposed to do, make others do it, and blame others when things go badly. It’s easier to take the welfare or the tax break, send our kids to public schools, vote for someone else, or force the medical care, than to provide for ourselves and live with the consequences.

Any time I’ve heard Nietzsche discussed, it’s usually negative. I’ve heard him equated with Nazi’s, which now I’m reading was a misunderstanding based on his sisters editing after his death. I’ve heard that his philosophy leads to nihilism and that was his goal. Nihilism isn’t a goal, it’s a crisis, a turning point. At first, we think, “What’s the damn point if we have nothing to work towards, no afterlife or reward at the end?” We struggle through the change, cocoon ourselves and consider the options. Once we begin to think critically, we take courage and emerge independent. We accept this world right here as it is, the people around us as they are, and we live our lives to the fullest, suffering and peace in same space. Reality is far more exciting.

My thinking is that, just as we protect our children with myths about the wider world as they grow, just as we train our children how to take care of themselves in the comparative safety of our homes, only to allow them to grow up, move out into the world, and take on responsibility for their own lives, so humanity does the same. Humanity will move through this crisis, it will struggle and fight its way out of the protective cocoon of myth and belief, to finally emerge in a new and beautiful form. This is what is meant as “God’s Will.” We aren’t meant for blind faith and obedience forever. If it doesn’t, then so be it. Evolution is a relentless bitch.

Now I know what my son was so excited about. I can’t wait to read more, but I don’t want to rush through just so that I can add it to my “Autobibliography.” I need to slow down, read, write, and reflect more. This may take a while, but I think it will be worth it.

Want to start at the beginning? Pop back to my initial post “Thus Spoke Zarathustra: New Read”

Chaos & Peace: The Roving Mind #1

The first of a few posts on The Roving Mind. There’s a lot in this book. Its essays go just about everywhere and I’m enjoying every page. Well, maybe not EVERY page. There are some moments that I think, “You know, Asimov, for a smart guy but you’re kinda being an ass.” Everyone can get that way about things they believe they know a lot about, things they have been well trained in, etc. We think, “Dammit, I’ve spent a lot of time in this subject. I know things. People should listen to me!” I get that way myself. Often. But then I remember chaos.

You remember chaos theory? “Life, uh, finds a way.” You know, Jurassic Park?

chaos

I know what I’m thinking isn’t exactly chaos theory, but it gets me in the direction I want to go.

Even though we think we know what’s best, we can’t know what’s best for every individual. Even if we did know what was best for someone else, we have their best interests at heart and we have a outside vantage point that they would benefit from seeing, we can’t force people to adopt our way of thinking. We’d be violating their very essence. Everyone is entitled to live their lives however they see fit, even if we can see their choices are doing them a disservice. It’s their life.

When Asimov gets all snarky about people who choose to believe in creationism or a flat earth, I wonder. What does it really matter? Why not simply leave people to their beliefs?

I didn’t realize it, but the title is so appropriate for this blog and my style of learning. “The Roving Mind” sums up my whole lifestyle really. You can’t tell me that a lack of focus is a disability! It’s been serving me well for 48 years and I’ll happily (hopefully) be humming along for at least another 40 at this rate.

In his introduction, right there on page one, I read, “…there is that phrase about doing ‘whatever it is I would do if I weren’t being prodded.’ Actually, I haven’t figured out what that might be. … The only thing I really want to do is to sit at a typewriter (or word-processor) and unreel my thoughts.”

My thoughts exactly, Mr. Asimov.

I’m recently retired. Yes, retired. Even though I have not had a job outside my home for the last 18 years, I have indeed been working. I have had responsibilities that prod me daily into doing things I would not be doing if I were alone with a situation that kept me fed and housed without effort. I’ve been a housewife and a homeschool (rather unschool) mom.

That last sentence proves I’ve been reading and watching too much “British” lately.

Now that I’m not hourly prodded by one child or another, no housework NEEDS to be done each day, and all my husband needs is something to microwave for lunch, I have found myself with a lot of time on my hands. “Get a job!” is the suggestion I hear from friends most. There are other things I could do: sew, knit, gardening, visit friends, volunteer. The list goes on and on. But what I really want to do is read and write.

And that is what I’ve been doing. There are times when I begin to get antsy and look for things to fill more of my time, but then I sit back and think. I have an amazing opportunity here. I can spend my days completely as I see fit. It’s like Star Trek. With an infinite source of energy, the whole community can spend it’s days pursuing whatever they like. I choose to spend mine using my own Roving Mind.

Maybe things will change. Chaos does assert itself. I’m sure some responsibilities will present themselves in the future, but for now I’ll be enjoying the peace, reading, meditating, practicing yoga, making my favorite things to eat from scratch, hiking, watching the birds, and then writing about it. Who knows where I’ll end up.

I laughed outloud when I read that last bit back to myself. I know a lot of people that would go completely crazy with the amount of quiet reflection that goes on around here lately. And here I am sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee, watching a bird pick through my plants, for over thirty minutes and calling it “adventure.” In the past I would not been able to enjoy that moment. I’d have felt like I was wasting precious time. Only lately have I changed my thinking. Time is only wasted when you let is rush by unnoticed.

What would you do with your time if you could spend it however you like? Do you think it would evolve over time if you gave yourself permission to pursue your own roving mind?

It turns out that I’ve written about chaos a few times before! See? Things come back around. Check out Violence and Chaos of the Natural World is What Grendel Represents and Social Anxiety and Chaos Theory.

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