Saturday, November 19, 2016

Random Thoughts Part 22

Perhaps it is not so much the pointing of guns but the pointing of fingers that is most to blame for many of the tragedies in the world today. After all, where the finger points, the gun inevitably follows.

I do not fear guns so much as I fear weak arguments. I have never been threatened by a gun but am assailed by weak arguments on a daily basis. Strong arguments stand on their own, guns cannot operate on their own. But weak arguments require guns in order to prop them up.

If you are unable to understand why other people can be so damned stupid, then you yourself have room for improvement.

It is impossible for both sides in a war to be right, but it is quite likely for them both to be wrong.

People are scrambling to find something safe they can hold onto, and they have chosen gold as the safest investment. As for me, I choose faith in my fellow man, in humanity.

To work within the system is to support the system.

You may never live long enough to discover who you are, but by the time you reach middle age you will hopefully realize who you are not.

People who wish to control your behavior give you only one option. People who wish to control your thoughts give you two choices and the illusion of choice. However many choices you are given, if you do not feel that you are in control, you must find one more.

When we have pushed our intellectual pursuits to their furthest, we find ourselves ultimately lacking in our ability to finish the quest. The human mind, regardless of whether that person is a genius or simpleton, sooner or later must hit this point. It is then that we find we have nothing to rely on except our core values.

Sometimes not having a choice is the most liberating feeling of all.

I can’t wait for the day when computers take over the jobs of computer programmers.

Hope. A hundred years ago the poor worked their lives away in the slim hope that they might become part of the 1%. For those who realized it was an impossible dream, still they worked for those same 1% in the hopes that their efforts would entitle them to a reward in the afterlife. But the religion that exists now gives humanity a different sort of hope. Now the workers are taught that if we all do our part, we can perpetuate the human species by advancing our technology enough that we can enable our 1% to travel to some other planet capable of sustaining life before we have destroyed the one we were given.

If you value a flag more than the values it symbolizes, you are no different than those who worship statues rather than the god they represent.

Abandon the systems that seek to rule you. Seriously, walk away from them, give them no more of your attention. Turn off corporate television. Avoid corporate media. Do your best to avoid eating corporate crops, drinking corporate beer, or reading books published by the big publishing companies.

I cannot change people. Even the greatest of artists cannot hope to do so. But perhaps I can get them to stretch a little, grow so that they are larger than they were, their reach a little further than it was, so that they are able to connect with others more than they otherwise might have.

How can we find stupid to be amusing when it is exercised by dogs but so frustrating when humans exhibited the same stupidity?

Art is the medium through which new thoughts, perspectives, and attitudes are brought into the world.

I grew up in the 70’s, an era where the media—books, comics, television shows, movies—had a great amount of sympathetic villains. The generation that followed not only had unlikeable villains, even the heroes were little better.

Nothing would be so informative or contrary to nationalism as reading the history books of other nations.

Countless people have demonstrated that it is possible to achieve incredible success through visualization, positivity, and unwavering belief in their dream. It is time for us now to work together using these principles to advance shared goals. We must envision a healthy, working, happy, viable future and we must not allow any negativity to prevent us from achieving it.

Never place a flag ahead of the ideas it is supposed to represent, nor put ideas before the people they are supposed to serve.

There are so many ways of looking at the world that you have never considered. Don’t look negatively at those who have views different from your own, especially if they are willing to consider your point of view.

You have no idea how many people will reach out to you once you leave yourself open to them.

Let us constantly ignore the things that divide us and rather optimistically reach out in terms of the things that our important to ourselves.

Core values tell us not to kill. Cleverness provides us with exceptions. The more clever we become, the less principled we are.

My greatest fear is that we will permit our worst human attributes to play themselves out with the assistance of our greatest technological achievements.

I am on the side of those without weapons facing those who are armed, I am on the side of those without against those who have, and I am on the side of those who obey what their heart tells them over those who do what authority tells them.

The further you set your sights, the less turbulent the way will seem.

God saves a lot of people from self-destructive behavior and I’m glad for that. I just wish He could save them from being self-righteous assholes as well.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

An Explanation For The Way The World Is (An Excerpt From The Association)

If you're like a lot of people right now, you may be asking yourself what the hell is going on, how can the world be so messed up? This little section from my book The Association which I wrote a few years ago may help you understand:

“But I don’t get—“

“There is a lot you won’t get right now.” The voice came from the television screen, which had been positioned so that everyone in the room could see the image of Russell, and he, them. “That is the very essence of seeing beyond the collective consciousness, to be made aware of just how much you do not know. The artificial world that surrounds us is filled with answers we believe we possess. It is important that you hear what is being said now. Understanding will come later.”

Russell continued, his voice sounding thin through the television speaker, “What you need to understand now is this: every era, every culture, suffers under the delusion that it, and it alone, has a correct understanding of the world around it. They are, all of them—to a great extent—wrong. Generally, a society clings to the simplest narrative it can find to explain the world outside and its relationship to it. It stumbles upon it rather clumsily, each of its members working more or less blindly, unaware that they are working towards a common purpose, cells oblivious to the organism they are part of. As long as this narrative works, it doesn’t matter how accurate it is. Life went on for those who believed the earth to be flat. Newtonian physics explained the universe quite well for centuries. The problem is that no story adequately explains reality. Eventually, the differences between perception and fact tear apart the perception. Eventually, every society is undone by its inability to correctly grasp life as it truly is. Like a building that sooner or later crumbles due to some weakness in its infrastructure, every society collapses by the sheer weight of its own incomplete understanding of itself.”

As Russell spoke, Dave noticed that Doug was quite willing to let him speak for the group. While Doug was in some way the leader of this group, he deferred to Russell as one who had the greater understanding.

“What you are witnessing now are glimpses of the larger world beyond the smaller dome that encapsulates our current cultural understanding. The cracks in our imperfect little bubble reveal things we cannot even comprehend, things we have sought to protect ourselves from. We have built for ourselves a little ark where we are safe from the storms of a great ocean, but the ark is not capable of protecting us forever.”

Sensing Russell had said what he wished to say, Doug continued: “When a certain manner of thought is working for a group, those within it are quite willing to see the world through the parameters of the existing narrative. Thus a successful paradigm tends towards a sameness of thought, for who can argue with success? In the last century or so, our society has achieved unprecedented success. Never in the history of the world has a paradigm led to such advancement of the human race. And success, as it always does, leads to an unwillingness to have a different opinion. We begin to accept as fact what we once realized was only a perspective. Why mess with or question what is working so well?”

“More than an unwillingness for different opinions,” it was Johnny’s turn to have a say. “An intolerance for opinions that differ is more like it.”

“At any rate,” said Russell, “the very success of our present generation has led to its inability to perceive of different ways of looking at things. In past ages, in other cultures, people that perceived reality differently than the rest were often persecuted, martyred.”

“And now?” asked Mindy.

“Now? Now they simply do not exist.”

“Don’t exist?”

“There is no place for alternate views to exist. Who can argue with success.?”

“What you describe sounds like what could have happened in the Soviet Union,” said Dave. He was not trying to argue, didn’t believe he was in a position to argue. But he did seek to understand, and so was unafraid to question. “Or Europe under the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. But life isn’t like that now. Nobody can control the information we receive, nobody can control the way news is reported. We’re free, in our country, at least. I mean, more free than most.”

“You tend to overestimate the role of force in such matters,” said Doug. “Or will, for that matter, or even awareness. People assume that since there is no dictator that sits over us that we are all free to be individuals. But we’re not. Maybe we don’t realize it, but we’re not.”

“We’re sheep in wolves’ clothing,” laughed Johnny. “All products of a Madison Avenue campaign that makes us think we’re acting in our own best interests when all the while we’re part of the machine.”

Doug was about to continue, but Johnny was just starting. It seemed as though, while they were all speaking from a shared pool of knowledge, each of them had their own interpretation of things. Dave was curious what Izzy might have added to the conversation.

“A century ago, all houses were made individually,” Johnny continued, taking his turn at attempting to explain. “Then someone standardized the process in order to make them easier to build, and suddenly we all end up living in cookie cutter houses. And with modern automation came mass-produced goods. To produce such goods, tasks were broken up into simplistic little blocks so that the people who were put into their roles could be interchangeable. Of course, to buy the standardized products made by standardized workers, the system needed standardized consumers. It didn’t do any good to mass-produce an item when you had many people desiring many different things. So you needed to market to the masses, create a common desire for everyone. And since the whole concept was predicated on the idea that mass production called for mass consumption, material goods were sold as the cure for all our ills. Have a headache? Take an aspirin. Insecure about your place in the world? Buy a fancy car. Tired from working too much? Take a pill or buy a comfy chair to relax in.

“And since manufactured goods were what our paradigm did well,” again inserting his own perspective, Johnny added, “questions of spirituality were of little use. What good was meditation or contemplation or prayer when the real problems of the world were halitosis and waxy yellow build up?”

“So you’re suggesting the industrial revolution created monsters?” asked Dave, incredulously.

“No, he’s saying that it caused us to forget them, for a time.” It was Russell who answered. “If we did not wholly forget them—because, after all, not seeing something does not make it go away—if we did not forget them then we did not perceive them as clearly as we once did. But if we were distracted from such monsters, it was only for a time. The walls of our perception kept them from us, but the cracks are already beginning to show.”

“Don’t forget, Dave,” said Doug, “that what other times may have called spirits, demons, ghosts, are merely their description of what they perceived through their own perspectives. In truth, they may have seen such things more clearly than our generation does, but they are inexact descriptions that show the bias of their times. The past had numerous absurd notions. They’re just a lot easier to see when one is not in the midst of them.”

“So you’re saying the paradigm that our age has been built on has seen better days, is that it?” asked Dave.
 “You think we’ve built as high an edifice as we’re going to build on an imperfect foundation. So what are we supposed to do about it? What do you expect from me?”

Doug was in charge, once again. While Russell and Johnny had knowledge and opinions, it appeared that Doug was the one with a vision. “Dave, you know what it feels like to be free, do you not? In order for you to have developed the ability to see in your dreams, you must have transcended your personal biases, the calcified thought processes that adulthood gradually builds around our life force the way a shell forms around a snail. You know the feeling, of emerging from the protective cocoon, and the fear of a world outside that is so much larger than your little mind could ever understand. You have experienced the joy and fear of the fall as you’ve leapt from the perch of safety of your paradigm, prison, home, shell, rut…whatever you want to call it. Imagine an entire society, an entire world experiencing such a feeling at the same time. Imagine a world where all the belief systems break down at once. The dangers are twofold. One, that people will stare into the depths of things their minds aren’t prepared to comprehend and their deepest fears will walk around in broad daylight. You two have witnessed this, to a small degree. You have seen a group of people summoning powers beyond their ability to control. But this is nothing compared to what large groups of people could do.

“The second concern is that you will have the true believers, those who cling to outmoded forms of belief for fear of what lies beyond. Their lack of vision will be just as dangerous. They will close their minds to even the most obvious of truths because they cannot allow their simple beliefs to be challenged. In calmer times, believers are willing to admit somewhat to a lack of certainty, but in times such as are to come, the rigidity of their cages will be unyielding. But their very beliefs, devoid of the spirit of believing, will make them victims of malevolent forces. Again, you’ve witnessed such circumstances, though only on the smallest scale. Imagine a nation of true believers.”

Dave cringed at the remembrance of the events on Devil’s Island. If such nightmares could be produced by a mere hundred people, he could not conceive of the evil that could be done by an entire country.

“You speak as if such things happen with the rise and fall of every society,” said Mindy. “I don’t recall reading about any of that in my history book.”

“Many things are lost in the passing of a people’s belief system. They are lost and fallen to the wayside, sometimes to be rediscovered centuries later by people looking to plug the gaps in their own imperfect models. But mankind has always had an answer to such times as we are now approaching: kill. Kill to the best of your ability. Kill until the stress is relieved, until the energy is spent and new societies are able to build themselves up.”

“But our world cannot accept that answer.” It was Johnny. “In times past, it was horrible enough. Now we have such weapons that humanity would not survive such bloodletting.”

“A new world is coming,” said Doug, “but we must first survive the dissolution of the current one. With the breakdown of all our current paradigms, where all our assumptions are tossed aside, we will need to find touchstones independent of logic and even knowledge. In the sleep of reason, we will not be able to have beliefs or even convictions until some sort of framework exists.”

“And what the hell do you expect we can do about all of this?” Dave couldn’t begin to fathom the implications of such knowledge, if such things were true.

“We must contain what we can of it, as you and Mindy have already successfully done twice now. We must lessen the shock for society as best we can so that people do not retreat from one another, or a total breakdown will occur. We must be able to allow people to see what lies beyond their present perceptions in a way that doesn’t cause them to contract. They must be led to open their eyes, to see what is rather than what their prejudices and misconceptions lead them to believe.”

“We need to understand the world as it is,” said Russell. His meekness seemed to momentarily vanish. “As much as possible, we need to expand our understanding of reality in order to begin to build the next paradigm on as solid a structure as possible.”

“And why us?” asked Dave. “Why you? Who elected you to do anything about this? What makes you think you’ve got answers?”

“Because we can see, just as you can see, in our limited ways,” said Doug.

“Because nobody else is doing anything,” added Johnny.

“Because if we don’t, someone else will decide for us,” said Russell.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Book Of Ashavan on Amazon Kindle

I did a lot of research and included a lot of historical facts in the writing of Seven Stones. Believe me, I will never attempt to correlate the timeline of a novel with historical events again. One such piece of history I came across was a book written around that time that played a somewhat important part in the novel and the Seven Stones series. At the time I wrote it, I had merely come across rumors about a book written by the Magician named Ashavan, but was unable to locate a copy of it or even find proof that actually existed. Today I chanced upon this on Amazon:

 I have no idea whether the contents are real or not, but if anyone has Amazon Prime and can read it without having to pay for it I’d appreciate some feedback on what they think of it. I’m guessing it is a mix between The Tao Te Ching and maybe something written by Madame Blavatsky, but I have no way of knowing for sure. The things that are written about it are intriguing enough that I shall no doubt cave and spend the money on it, though I am skeptical of what I will find inside.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Random Thoughts Part 21: The All-Donald Trump Edition

Great minds inspire us. By basking in the light of genius, we are able to lift ourselves from the mundane existence we have been living and aspire to something greater. We are all warmed by the fire and in turn are able to light our own candle from it. Donald Trump is one such person, and has been the inspiration for a sudden flourishing ideas and observations for this, the 21st installment of Random Thoughts:

What toxic environment do we live in that Donald Trump seems to some like a breath of fresh air?

The media is fond of calling Trump a genius for his ability to get their attention. But it has nothing to do with Trump’s genius—which weighs about as much as Kardashian talent—and everything to do with the media being morally and intellectually bankrupt. You might as well speak of the genius of Honey Boo Boo or the genius of a Jerry Springer show guest.

The absurd reality that Donald Trump might actually be the next president of the United States makes the idea of a third party candidate being elected seem not that far-fetched.

If presidential candidates were required to pass a junior high civics exam, Donald Trump would have been eliminated by now.

Obama has caused divisions among the races, but if we vote for Trump he’ll take care of them.

I feel I’ve never censored myself. Sure, I’ve shown a certain amount of tact and compassion, but I don’t think I’ve shied away from speaking the truth when necessary. I’ve even said a few things that could have been taken the wrong way in my eager desire to speak the truth when it was unpopular. But I’ve never called Mexicans rapists and murderers. I never disrespected prisoners of war or the parents of soldiers who were killed in the service of their country.

Not even in Sodom or Gomorrah did they revere people who forcibly evicted widows in order to build gambling dens.

Donald Trump is not Hitler but that doesn’t mean we can’t draw comparisons where appropriate.

If Trump is not as dumb as he appears, then he is even more evil than he seems.

Should Trump become president we may grow to appreciate just how useful an obstructionist congress can be.

Donald Trump has announced his intention to build a wall against reality and have the elves pay for it.

The media has been so busy reporting that Hillary Clinton is the first female presidential candidate of a major party they have forgotten to mention the Republicans are the first major party to nominate a monkey.

The difference between Donald Trump and Jerry Springer is that Springer has experience in governing.

Donald Trump will never go too far on anything in the eyes of his supporters because lemmings have no concept of what "too far" means.

Vote for Donald Trump or else he’ll go back to contributing to the Clintons.

Imagine for a moment just how unliked Trump is that many Republicans are actually saying they are going to vote for Hillary.

Donald Trump is the William Hung of presidential candidates.

Remember when we thought Dan Quayle was too dumb to be vice-president?

I give it 3 months after Trump is elected before we see his mug up on Mt. Rushmore.

I wouldn’t have believed it possible to have less respect for Scotty Baio than I already had.

What, wasn’t Charlie Sheen available?

Those who think people like Donald Trump shouldn’t be permitted to run the government should really question why we permit people like Donald Trump to run our economy.

Donald Trump is the flower on the plant the Clintons have dutifully watered for decades.

When my son was growing he would often try to justify his bad behavior on the actions of others. I had to constantly tell him there was no excuse for bad behavior. I’m glad I didn’t have to raise him in the era of Donald Trump.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Novel Seven Stones Is Free On Kindle And Elsewhere

If you're one of those people who enjoys reading novels on electronic devices, my book, Seven Stones is available for free. I must confess I have a hard time reading on my Kindle, but perhaps if there were more books such as this one out there I might adapt to it more readily :) Anyway, here are links to my FREE book on Kindle and Barnes and Noble. If you have some other device, I urge you to look for it, because it is out there. I really believe in its message. It's not preachy, but it is honest, despite my best attempts to entertain and amuse.

Kindle Version:

Nook Version: 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

I Did It And I'm Doing It Again (How I wrote a novel: grandiose thoughts and perhaps some guidance from one who has gone before)

A little over a year ago I wrote a blog on what my next book would be about and how I wanted to begin it. You can check it out here:

I only had the barest of ideas, but seeing as how I had already written 4 books before, I felt confident enough to share what little I had with the faith that it would grow to become a full-length novel. It was an act of bravado, a writer’s equivalent to pointing to right field and telling you I’m going to hit one out of the park. It has taken a little time, but I have delivered on my promise. Weighing in at over 100,000 words, it is my largest novel to date. The name of it is Shell Shock, and you can check it out by clicking on the image of the cover somewhere to the right of the screen.

I share this with you for two reasons 1) To plug my new book, both because I am very proud of it and also because writers have to promote themselves if they expect to sell any books and 2) I thought it might be instructive on how a novel is started from modest beginnings and grows to become something one can be proud of and (hopefully) sell many copies of. You see, before I had written my first novel, I viewed the process as both mysterious and miraculous. So hard and rare had it been for me to actually complete a short story, I never really believed myself capable of writing a novel, could never visualize how it was done.

I know the answer now, or at least an answer that works for me. And the answer is to trust in the process and work on what is in front of you without worrying unduly about the questions you don’t presently have answers for. Work and trust. It’s pretty basic, and I’m willing to bet it works on a whole lot of things besides writing.

In my earlier attempts at writing I would write when the muse was upon me, only to become thoroughly frustrated when the flow suddenly ceased. I had no idea she could be prompted, enticed to continue onward when she appeared reluctant. I did not realize that a first draft could have holes in it, that a character could change names halfway through or become different people or change their motivations in order to fit with the narrative when the narrative had changed. I had always quit a story the moment that a problem arose I could not immediately solve.

But you see, some problems are more difficult to solve than others. Some problems you have to think about for a while and you can’t afford to stop the whole process just because of some small snag. Move along to the next thing, leave a question mark (?) in the text to remind you on your next look-through that you have a continuity problem, and eventually an answer to those insoluble problems will come to you. It may come when you are in the shower, mulling over your book while listening to the radio. It may come while you are walking the dog, or when you are half asleep in bed. The point is, it will come. It will pop into your consciousness, and instantly you’ll realize there was some tremendous answer to the question you had been asking.

It’s weird, but that’s how it works, for me at any rate. I know some people who outline their whole novel before they start to write it, but I’m pretty sure they’re aliens or liars. Perhaps they are lying aliens, the point is I cannot even conceive of doing such a thing. My attempts at doing so have only made the work more difficult. It might work for you, but since my way works for me, I’m just going to assume it is the best way possible since it is my way and it works.

So having briefly discussed how I have gone from a want-to-be writer of books to an actual writer of books, let me once again offer an opening scene for my next novel, which will be the third and quite probably last in the Seven Stones series, of which Seven Stones was the first and Shell Shock the second. The first 2 books dealt with World War 1, so my third (Sudden Storms is a working title, one I hope to God won’t be the actual title) book will deal with post-war Germany, which as we all know, is also pre-war Germany since the events of that era led to World War 2.

I envision a passing train with car after car filled with paper money, all but worthless. The post-war inflation in Germany was greater than was ever seen before or since. I’m not sure exactly why this scene grabbed me, it just popped into my head and immediately I said “this is it”. It speaks to the mass-insanity that societies are susceptible to. It demonstrates how we build our civilizations not on solid and real objects or ideas but so often we build our entire world around something as valueless as money printed on paper. Such a concept requires buy-in from society at large or else it all just goes to hell. It ties into the first chapter of my book The Association, which you can check out for free on Amazon (just click on the book cover, again to your right).

There is something about the idea of having to bring a wheelbarrow full of paper money to the store to buy a loaf of bread that terrifies me more than fire-breathing dragons and I don’t know why. Perhaps because it signifies the breakdown of the rational world as we know it, that however much we believe we can construct a sane world that works according to scientifically observable laws, there are forces beyond that we do not understand nor control.

Of course, it will not be too long afterwards that those same railcars will be used to transport human beings to labor camps and extermination camps. There is that somewhere in the background of everything. But I’m determined not to focus on the Holocaust: there’s been too much written and said about that by now. In fact, I intend to sidestep the war itself, except in passing. Instead, I want to explore the ideas and the spiritual yearnings that somehow led to the events of World War 2. Because no matter how incredibly horrible things ended up, I believe that evil is merely the twisting of normal and healthy desires. That for me is horror, something that was intended to be good becoming something very bad.

So I will avoid the darkest aspects, the events from 1941-45, those events that most people are already aware of. But that doesn’t mean the book will not stare into some incredibly dark places, nor will it seek to deny the reality of the evil of which humanity is capable. But I seek to find answers to such evil, hope even in the darkest of places. Because if I can’t, what is the point of dredging up such awfulness?

I’m worried I’ve set myself one hell of a task on this one, but it’s one I look forward to tackling. I seek answers, or else I seek hope, in which case I’ll have to create my own answers. I’ll see you in a year and we can discuss what I’ve come up with.