Monday, August 31, 2015

My Novel, Seven Stones Available (Sort Of)

My new novel, Seven Stones, is now available for pre-order for Kindle. So what’s it all about and why should you care? Because I’ve made a very conscious decision to bring you action from the get go while providing a portrait of life a century ago. The story begins a year before the start of World War I, touching upon many of the events and people of the day. It will take you to a Louisiana plantation where the owner still believes he has the right to own his workers, not only in life but also in death. The main character, Doug Slattery, encounters séances and acquaintances of Harry Houdini. Sister ships Mauretania and Lusitania cross The Atlantic with speed and in style, while The Trans Siberian Railway brings prisoners East to populate a bleak and ungiving land, where Joseph Stalin sits in exile. The South Pole has just been reached, and in the process, evidence is found in The Antarctic of a time when all the continents were united in a single Urcontinent. Physician Max Planck and novelist Jack London are using science to reinterpret the world in which they live. And through it all, the status quo is being threatened by those who would hurl bombs in order to advance their agenda. The old world is dying. What will survive, and what will come from the ashes? And what happens when mankind plays with powers beyond its reckoning?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Magic And Science Part 2

     As I’ve mentioned in my last post, magic is a major theme in the four books I have written. And like yesterday’s post, I hope to be able describe exactly what I mean by magic. At least that is the aim, to attempt once again to point at a target that is allusive and multi-faceted.
     The word magic is simply a label I put on an idea that is a little too abstract for easy understanding. Perhaps religion or spirituality might fit better, but any word is apt to be misunderstood. Please bear with me as I try to explain some of the ideas without getting hung up on the words that are used. As Chuang Tzu said, “The Tao that can be described is not the real Tao.” In other words, don’t worship the statue that represents God, don’t stare at the finger that points at the moon, they are merely ways of getting one to see the unseeable.
     Magic is the ability to cook a perfect steak without knowing the scientific principles involved. It is knowing that certain actions can produce a given result without knowing why. Science is a wonderful thing, no doubt, but so is magic. Jimi Hendrix did not have to know the science behind sound in order to make music.
     Sometimes in searching for explanations we end up killing the magic. Not because truths disprove magic but an insufficient understanding of it does. We never are really able to understand the deeper truths, it is too much for our little minds, but quite often we convince ourselves that we actually do know something. And in believing ourselves capable of understanding in any real sense, we permit our delusions of knowledge to destroy something wonderful.
     Magic is the sizzle of the steak: you could explain it, but why? Magic is elusive and should be. Magic is that thing that resides in the soul of the scientist that makes him question in the first place. It flits at the edge of our consciousness but is never clearly seen.
     Magic does not always jibe with our intellect, and so the intellect attempts to deny it. But if we keep our intellect humble, we can admit something exists without understanding why. After all, if a certain ritual permits a pitcher to pitch a perfect game, or a certain belief enables a forty year old boxer to become the heavyweight champion of the world, who are we to ridicule? It worked! Perhaps the reasoning they used does not fit in with reality as we perceived it, but IT WORKED. And the fact that such beliefs are passed on to others with similar results, it is not unreasonable to assume there is something to it.

     There are truths our intellects will never grasp, the intellect is simply not made for some things. The intellect is akin to a sixth sense, another way for the human animal to perceive the outside world. It is quite good at a great many things, but it has its own blind spots, a great many of them, I would say. Even our sense of smell is better equipped to judge the outside world than our intellect, but the intellect is better at convincing us it is right. Think about it, if something does not seem right but our mind cannot find a reason against it, we say that “something smells rotten” or “it doesn’t pass the smell test”. And if we allow our reason to veto what our nose is telling us, we usually end up paying the price for it. For one day, abandon reason for scent and see if it does not make you happier. And in experiencing the world without believing you understand it, then perhaps you will gain some appreciation of what I allude to when I use the word magic. It is something not to be understood, merely experienced. And in experience, you will find understanding deeper and truer than anything the human intellect can ever hope to attain.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Magic And Science

     Magic is a theme that has played a dominant role in all four of my novels. I’m not sure how the idea of magic has woven its way into my thinking but it has, and I continue to find new ways to interpret it. I’ve seen many of my favorite artists latch upon a single idea and go back to it again and again. A good idea, a unique paradigm, is worthy of being mined again and again.
     My main characters are magicians but my books aren’t so much about the performing of tricks on stage. Nor are they the kind of magicians that go to Hogwarts and turn people into animals. No, they are quite human people without any special powers. Except, perhaps, perception. They are able to see life in a way few people take the time to, are able to see beyond the accepted realities that have been built by a sort of group think. They walk paths off the beaten trail and so are able to see the things other people are too busy, too herded, to see. After all, being a magician is not a normal profession. It is perhaps something we think of doing when we’re young, but eventually we grow up and get real jobs.
     But there is something to the illusion, the sleight of hand. We want to know how the trick is done but we also want to believe that there’s something more than a trick involved. Sure, we know it’s not real, but it’s not really about reality, is it? There is something beyond the reality, or something that is real but not conforming to what we generally agree upon as “real”. What is truly magical, miraculous, is what takes place within us as we observe a trick being performed. That is where magic exists, within us, in our hearts and in our minds when we are able to observe things with un-jaded eyes. And that area where magic exists is an area quite foreign from science or objective observation. It has its own reality that can run concurrent to what we can quantify but exists slightly apart from it. It is a world of belief and faith just as it is a place that permits doubt and questioning of what the rest of the world accepts as solid fact. You see, when we believe, when we have faith, we are able to achieve many things that the outside world may say is impossible. And when we doubt what is accepted fact, we are able to overcome barriers that others never try to overcome. Indeed, many of us are never even aware that the barriers are there. I have noticed a growing idea that there is no such thing as free will. And for those who do not believe in free will it truly does not exist. You have to be able to see beyond the existing paradigms in order to overcome them.
     Hundreds of years ago religion was misused in order to restrict people’s reality. All of the advances of science would have then been considered impossible given the limits that were placed upon free thought. But scientists pushed bravely onwards and built an entirely new world beyond the imagining of anyone living a few centuries ago.

     But now ironically science itself is often used as a bludgeon to try to prevent us from seeing beyond the walls that have been constructed around us. Science has constructed rules and laws in the same fashion as religion once did. You see, no matter how enlightened we may believe ourselves to be, we cannot remove humans from the equation, their imperfections and unpredictability. Which is bad as far as science is concerned, but it’s where magic is able to flourish.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Random Thoughts Part 12

If you are afraid to discuss your beliefs, they are not beliefs but prejudices.

How did we end up a society that pays someone to walk our dogs so we can drive our SUVs to the gym to hit the treadmill for an hour?

When I was growing up in the 70's we didn't have things like Facebook and Texting. If you wanted to send a message back then you had to knock on ceilings or pipes or tie ribbons to trees.

Give a man genetically modified food and he will eat for a day. Teach him to grow genetically modified crops and you will own his food supply for life.

Isn't blaming government for the abuses it sometimes enables kind of the same thing as blaming guns for the uses criminals put them to?

Life is like a box of chocolates: You get through what little actual good stuff there is right away, then you constantly fool yourself into believing there's still something good in whatever's left.

My dog has never done a useful thing in her 14 years on this planet, and yet I would jump in front of a car without a second's hesitation to try to save her. What can I learn from this? Perhaps that while being useful may help us and others to continue to live, to bring joy into other's lives makes life worth living. While she has never put food on the table, she is always happy to see me and in all the years I have known her, she has never once passed judgment on me, never once made me feel bad about who I am. But more than anything she has helped me to see through her eyes, to see the joy and soon forget the pain. Perhaps the ones we most appreciate, the ones we are willing to do the most for, are those who enable us to see the most of the miraculous in life.
Who you are and what you do today is most likely who you will be and what you will do tomorrow. You have it within your grasp now to be the person you wish to be, do the things you wish to do.

With all the money the government keeps taking from rich people, how come they keep getting richer?

The fact that the media is overwhelmingly liberal is proof the free market doesn't work.

The thing is, once the word liberal or conservative is mentioned, once the name of a certain person you don’t like is used, your mind rebels and rejects out of hand whatever is said, whether it is true or not. In choosing a side you automatically reject half the world, can no longer see colors but only black and white.

 We are not raising children to be free but to conform. When they are told rather than asked they are taught to obey rather than question. What kind of freedom can come from such teaching?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Random Thoughts Part 11

You will be a better human being if you spend some time gnawing on these bones for a while:

Fire is no doubt a wonderful thing, but it would be foolish to call for the unrestrained use of it. Mankind has learned, at some cost, the proper place for it and the danger that results in letting it go its own way. When will we learn the same about the free market?

We do not support firefighters by supporting fire, let alone arson. Why then do we pretend that it is a good idea to support war for the sake of the soldiers?

Those with the greatest faith are the ones who are willing to let go of simplistic answers in search of deeper truths. Score one for those who put their faith in science, but let us hope they do not become too comfortable with the truths they have discovered. 

When man compares himself to other of God's creatures, he likes to think of himself as a lion, standing alone and proud. But in fact, he is much closer in nature to a sheep. That is the only explanation for fashions. The only real difference between sheep and humans is that no one has ever been able to talk a sheep into killing his fellow sheep in the name of God and country.

If political ads cause people to turn off their TVs, then they have done some good.

Believing in an idea before one has the words for it or the evidence of its truth is a matter of faith. No creation can exist without faith. Without faith in the unseen, nothing new can come into this world.

The flower of peace shall never blossom by being watered with blood, except, perhaps, the blood of martyrs.

Eat only food that is made by God or made with love. Good food feeds both body and soul.

There are two theories of life: one believes there is an “us” and a “them”, the other is that there is only “us”. But just because I believe there is only us does not mean that some people don’t think of me as “them”. In fact, all those who do not believe in a “them” are seen as such by those who do.

Teachers would have the easiest job in the world if only parents did theirs adequately.

All art boils down to sex and death, and let’s face it, the sex is there to keep our minds off death.

A writer does not fully experience something until he has written about it.

Give that which, in giving, makes you richer. Give of your physical labor, which makes you strong. Give of your knowledge, and in doing so you will learn. Give love, and you will be more filled with love.

Don’t be excited about one aspect of life, be excited about life and have it shine through everything you do.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Random Thoughts Part 10

Group Think: a disease with obvious symptoms, for which each of us is thankfully immune.

Everything you do and say is being recorded and observed. But as long as you remain ignorant and compliant, you’ll be fine.

You know you’re getting old when your pride permits you to use “I’m getting old” as an excuse.

If you are insane and utterly certain of your beliefs you will acquire a following of otherwise sane followers. People are attracted to certainty even more than sanity.

The places of quiet are going away, the churches, the woods, the libraries. And it is only in silence we can hear the voice inside of us which gives us true peace.

Our era is one where we have truly discovered our freedom and it scares us to death.

Forget scientists. The next space launch we should send up painters, poets and musicians. I’d be more interested in what they discover than anything that takes place in a test tube.

Honest men discuss morals, dishonest ones, law.

Here is the paradox of it: the more of an individual you become the more you realize we are interrelated, that success of one requires the success of all.

People toy with deep thought nowadays, but they need to add humor so they can dance away from it when it gets too deep. When a line of reasoning becomes uncomfortable, a quick joke can take us out of it without ever worrying about the consequences.

All the science in the world is powerless against the force of willful ignorance. When facing it, it is best to employ other tools.

There is nothing special about me except that I have within me the same potential all humans have. To achieve that potential, to come even remotely close, is special indeed.

The mind can no more understand the heart than science can ever understand nature.

Whether you believe in God or not, it is folly to argue with him.

If you are looking for a way, earnestly looking, you will find it, and it will likely be found behind a stack of excuses.

Above the entrance to the free market is a sign that reads: “Abandon all morality, ye who enter.”

Time and age often lend a veneer of dignity even to those who don’t deserve it.

Cleverness is the death of wisdom.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Random Thoughts Part 9

It will take you less time to read this than it did to write it. Sounds like you're on the winning end of things:

You can either feel you are insignificant or feel you are part of something immense. These are two different interpretations you can make from a basic truth. For every basic truth, we can choose to see the dispiriting or the profound.

Great societies are maintained by great ideas, not great might. History is replete with powerful nations falling to lesser struggles.

A deeper understanding means letting go of what we thought we knew, which is frightening, because we must admit what we had lived before was fake.

We fear nothing as much as being humbled, yet feel relief upon reaching true humility.

It is a shame that the only resistance to a slavish obedience to a new world order is by those with a slavish obedience to an old world order.

Intelligence is merely a tolerance for ambiguity and a reticence for judgment. Both of these can be acquired through practice.

When you can no longer see the humanity of the other, it is you yourself that has become inhuman.

When we are afraid, we hide in our houses, our communities, our nations. Fear constricts, love expands. Love brings us out of our shells, out from behind our weapons and shields. Fear breads fear, love breads love. No person is a victim once he is made aware of this. It is only when one is unaware of this that one is a victim. When one is fearful, all of one’s actions are dictated by fear. The mind is shut down and the human acts as an animal. But once a person is made to realize that love brings freedom, he is his own agent, has no one to blame should he choose fear over love.

The only lesson we can teach our children, and perhaps anyone, is how to be happy. All messages we send them are suffused with neurosis or joy. It is this more than any advice we pass on that is absorbed and learned.

What separates man from the animals is the illusion of purpose.

Whenever reality must conform to simplistic models, the human is warped and twisted.

Mental diseases can be spread as easily as physical ones. Those in contact with others with a serious case of denial develop the same ailment. A loved one who is sick in the head is not easy to deal with.
Mental plagues are quite able to sweep through a nation, infecting minds with an idea or an attitude.

Freedom, to a capitalist, means nothing more than the freedom to make money. To them, the sound the Liberty Bell makes is “cha-ching”.

Nature or nurture? Cannot alcoholism be passed on through environment just as easily as through genes?

Love is the enjoyment one experiences by looking at the world through the eyes of another.

The idea of God is to see through eyes immensely larger than your own.

Old books are like seeds lying dormant in the ground. Though seemingly forgotten, they await the proper conditions, at which time roses and great trees can grow from them.

It will be the same tomorrow and the next day: you will always have as many reasons to hate as to love. Choose now which side you are on and commit to it.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Random Thoughts Part 8

I have stopped holding doors open for women. I have found that it only makes them dependent upon others and unable to open doors themselves.

Once art served to educate and edify, now it distracts and amuses.

What is wisdom? It is the result of multiple paradigms brought to their intellectual furthest reaches and balanced and merged together. It is something the fundamentalist, the person who only sees life through a single lens, can never hope to achieve.

All deeper understanding starts with admitting you do not know. It is the letting go of the simple in order to chase the complex.

It is a bias of our age to believe that if we were to show the technological advances of our time to our forefathers that they would be amazed and not horrified.

Government, like guns, should not be demonized but kept from being owned by criminals.

The difference between a whore and a politician is that a whore sells what belongs to her whereas the politician sells what has been entrusted to him.

It’s hard for us to see as a problem what has been for so long a solution. But balance is everything and yesterday’s good can become tomorrow’s ill if not in proper proportion.

Expand what you imagine is possible and you will expand what you are able accomplish.

People eventually come to the realization that their perception of life is not the truth. But most prefer fantasy to reality and retreat from what they have learned.

Fear simplifies everything. The more you fear, the clearer things seem to you.

The more paradigms you can hold in your mind at the same time, the closer to the truth your vision will be. But you are limited. Never forget that.

We live our lives blindly—even the best of us—not seeing to any great degree causes and effects. Remember bravery and kindness as they will help to offset the ignorance that we will never overcome.

Sometimes you come to realize you understand something but you can’t explain it to anyone, not even yourself. This is perhaps the most sacred kind of understanding.

Never stray too long or too far from the real, never invest too much in a single paradigm to the exclusion of all others.

The whole essence of life is to push forward, like plants reaching towards the sun. All life is the same in this regard, and it is only our matter, not our energy, that makes us different.

To find happiness later in life means that you have faced life’s trials and over come them. It means that you have never given in to the thoughts of your darker half, never stopped believing, never stopped searching. There is a sweetness to this unlike any other. How many have listened to despair when they were mere yards from the finish line?

Contrary to popular belief, you can make people think, but they will hate you for it.

We try to turn what is into what we think it is. This is a mistake. Unless we succeed, in which case it is a miracle. Miracles do happen.

Just remember when the world around you starts looking crazier and crazier, it is just your imperfect paradigm dying.

Misunderstandings are seldom accidental. Either the listener wishes to take offence or else the perceived slight was indeed intended.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Perchance To Dream (A Brief Sample With Explanation)

I had to drag out an already published book of mine tonight to make sure the measurements of my newest book were the same. And having it out, I read a little bit of it, which I now share with you. Looking back I see how much magic is a metaphor for writing to me. Seeing someone escape from a straight jacket on stage is not the most compelling thing for most people, but it is usually the most authentic. If a magician is just looking to impress, he will have compatriots strap him in so that the trick can go quickly. But an honest magician will pick strangers out of the audience in order to test his skill, even if most of the audience won't appreciate it. I think an artist, be it an escape artist or an author, feels compelled to include those parts that are truly authentic, even if they won't draw in the largest audiences. I think an artist wants to give his audience not only an experience but a genuine experience. 

Eventually, Dave needed to drop to the ground in order to proceed further in his deliverance. To his knees, and then flat on the ground, like a Shaker in religious rhapsody. And for Dave, there was some element of the religious to it. He was fighting with his personal demon, fighting the very thing that had held him back. It was not merely a physical struggle, but an existential one. While his body was in a battle with canvas and leather, his mind was confronting the very limitations of his existence. It was a battle that, should he choose not to confront it, would limit his soul as well as his potentiality. He was acting out before an audience a personal struggle that defined him as a human being. All else was deception and deceit, but not this. Everything else was show business, no matter how much of himself he invested into it. Here was something raw and pure, and he would present this before an audience, even if they would prefer to see spectacle. Freed from his restraints, he could then feel justified in performing tricks, sleight of hand and misdirection. This, this made everything else real.
He had no time for fear, no worries about failure. He was fully involved in the escape, purely doing the task at hand. Even the audience was forgotten as he fought for liberation as if it were an affirmation of life. Each inch of movement was for him a marathon, each step closer was a foreshadowing of triumph.

Each success became easier the more it became obvious. The first quarter inch was easier than the sixteenth inch that had come before, which led to a half inch that was easier still. Struggle again peaked as he was required to get his hands, still bound behind him, to squeeze below his feet and so release the loop that constrained his movements. From there it was simple. A few more movements, and he was holding the straightjacket out before him like an ancient gladiator might have held out the severed head of his slain opponent for the spectacle of the crowd. This was the triumph of his existence, an affirmation of life that he played out again and again. With this feat accomplished, he felt worthy of playing before his audience. He felt like a man unconquered by the outside world, like a tree that would not permit the pruning of its branches to the shapes designed by others. And he dearly hoped that some of this might somehow be transferred onto the audience.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Random Thoughts Part 7

Yet another group of ideas that have sprung to mind in the last week or so:

Facts, like living things, have a value in and of themselves and demand respect. Beware those people who use them as means to an end and dismiss them as soon as they are done using them.

They say it is not the destination but the journey. And yet we struggle through traffic to wait in lines at the airport, only to go through demeaning searches and then be shoved into undersized seats. We have compromised too much, and so are unable to enjoy what it is we get.

This is the sum total of the knowledge I have obtained in my thirty years of work experience: The ranting of an idiot, overheard by an intern and reported to his superior, will always spell trouble for the honest worker.

Only the very stupid are ever certain of anything.

Most animals sleep in a hole in the ground or hanging from a tree. Man alone has made for himself an elaborate resting place. And yet he is the only one to have developed the alarm clock to rouse himself from it, the only species to spend sixteen or more hours of each day away from it.

In the same way that youth is wasted on the young, retirement is wasted on the old. We should not grow old but young, to gradually increase into a naïve idealism rather than calcify into cynicism and disillusionment, to end our lives in the womb rather than the tomb. Our eyesight slowly growing keener, our skin becoming more sensitive, our appetite increasing as we rush to feel experience, keen in the knowledge that we truly must seize the day.

The world belongs to those with a single idea who are able to repeat it unendingly. You may charitably call them single-minded, but they are in truth simple minded.

Where does alienation most manifest itself in our society? Whenever science, government, or business develops a really bad idea and we just shrug and say: “That is progress. It is unavoidable.”

Man has always sought to be a part of something larger and so has tried to change himself in order to fit that larger thing. What he seldom realizes is that he is a part of all that is merely by being uncompromisingly himself.

It takes a brave man to go to war, but it takes a nation of cowards to send him.

We tend to want to remake the world in our own image which why it is best to seek our own happiness. The best gift we can give others is to be happy.

The big events of our youth have profound influences on the rest of our lives. Similarly, the earliest events of our history (e.g. Troy or the American Revolution) play a major role in our society.

We build elaborate theories on a single narrow idea, like a pyramid balanced on a tin can.

In a sick society, no institution is untouched. No psychiatrist can diagnose the disease without being disbarred, no politician can point to the truth without being shouted down or gunned down. The poet, musician, filmmaker, or artist who attempts to define the problem will be ignored, without a source of income to have his work reach the masses.