Out of the Mouths of Babes

Our three year old granddaughter, Ariadne, is a gem and a consistent user of amazingly appropriate expressions.  In this she shows a remarkable resemblance to her mother, my oldest daughter, Tamryn.

The latest tale of Ariadne is of her desperately wanting a beanbag cat with oversized eyes.

Ariadne saw it while in a fabric store with her mom and fell in love with it.  After a few days she finally talked her mom into acquiring it.  They arrive at the store, only to find the beanbag cat is now accompanied by a beanbag dragon.

After examining both, Ariadne changes her mind and chooses the beanbag dragon.  They take it home, where Ariadne diligently proceeds to take off all its price stickers and attached labels.  After all, aren’t Dragons priceless creatures that don’t deserve to be labeled?

The next day Ariadne tells her mom, “I’ve changed my mind, I really want the cat.”
Tamryn responds, “No, you chose the dragon.”
Ariadne, “But the cat will be lonely without us.”
Tamryn, “Too bad.  You picked the dragon, so now you have to stick with it.”
Ariadne, “I want the cat as well!”
Tamryn, “Not going to happen!  You’re not getting the cat.”
Ariadne, “Oh, but I think I will…”

On another occasion, when her mom denied her something she wanted, Ariadne issued the ominous warning, “You’re going to regret this…”  Remember, Ariadne is barely three years old 🙂

I’m sure there are morals to this story but I’m too tired to find them, so instead I’ll leave you with some trivia…
When in dire financial straits one of the last things parents stop buying is toys for their children.
If you want to learn more about Tamryn, you can find her in Malmaxa.  She is both an extraordinary person in my life, and an extraordinary character in my alternate world.
To find the origins of the name Ariadne, you might refer to this google search.  No, Ariadne doesn’t yet appear in Malmaxa, but she does hold an extraordinarily special place in my heart.

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The little joys in Life

There is little that gives me more joy than watching the actions of baby animals. It is both mentally fascinating and emotionally rewarding – a combination that is pretty hard to beat.

Back in the early 1960’s we lived in a tiny little town called Melsetter in Southern Rhodesia.  We had to be mostly self-sufficient so every year we’d get day old chicks, which we’d raise for meat or eggs.  Anyway one year my dad decided to change things up a little and got day old ducklings instead.  He brought them home, safe and secure in a large box lined with straw, laid the box on the kitchen counter-top, gathered us kids around, opened the box and asked, “What are these?”

My younger sister Sarah, who must have been about four years old at the time, looked into the box with wide eyes.  Somehow she knew they weren’t day old chickens, but they sure looked like them!  So she said “Chockens!”  My dad didn’t correct her 🙂.

On the lawn in the front yard we had a wire mesh enclosure that we’d always used for the chickens.  In fact, for reasons I’ve never understood, we called it the chicken-run. The ducklings were placed in this and were perfectly happy, after all if it was good enough for chickens surely it was good enough for chockens?

The chockens may have been content, but my dad wasn’t.  As he explained things, ducks were water creatures, and as such they needed a pond in which to swim.  So we marked an extension of the chicken-run on the ground, dug a decent sized pond, sealed it with cement, filled it with water, and let it sit to ensure it didn’t leak.  This effort took days, during which the chockens watched with interest, their little bodies pressed up against the fence so they could gain a better view.  The last thing we did was extend the chicken mesh fence to include the pond, leaving the separating fence still intact.

The big day came.  We herded the ducklings… no, I should make an effort to get this right – we herded the chockens up to the far end of the chicken-run then my dad pulled out the separating mesh wall, thereby converting the smallish chicken-run into a spacious chocken-run, complete with built-in pond.  We all stood back and waited for the ducklings to make the much anticipated dash for the pond.

It didn’t happen, they just stayed in the area to which they had been herded.  After a while my mom decided to get things moving and shooed them toward the pond.

And that is when something really interesting happened…

When the ducklings got to the line where the fence had been they all stopped dead, little bodies pressed up against the now imaginary fence.  They were quite unable to cross it, no matter how many times we tried to urge them past it.  Eventually we resolved the problem of the invisible fence by carrying them over it and plopping them into the water, where their instincts took over and their webbed feet kicked into action.  I’m pretty sure they thoroughly enjoyed their first ever swim.

In many ways we humans are just like those little duckings, or those little chockens if you prefer 🙂.  How?  We become so used to the boundaries of our existence that we are quite unable to realize they are self-imposed, artificial, and that we can step over them any time we want.  The next time you reach the walls of your chocken-run I encourage you to simply open your mind and fly over them – I think you’ll love the pond you find when you do.

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on What Matters Most

The thing that matters most in life is love…

However here in the first world we are taught that the things that matter most in life are things.  That is so untrue and so shallow, it distresses me to even think about it.  However I do, and thus this post.

If you have nobody, then no matter what you possess you have nothing of true value.  Don’t believe me?

What good is a massive house on a huge estate if it is empty?  How joyful is that expensive new car if there is no one to share it with or to see your delight at how it drives?  Would you choose to own the entire world if it was devoid of all life, save yourself?

Without someone to love, possessions are worse than nothing.  Still think you love certain things?  When did a thing love you back?  Living creatures, pets and people, are not things, yet they are the things that matter most.  They are that which loves us back.

Perhaps the reason that seeing our our grown children occasionally reverting to being children touches us so deeply is because revealing their inner child allows them to be vulnerable again.  What surer sign of love is there than to open your heart and say, “Here, this is the real me.”

Think hard, then tell me… if you don’t give love, should you expect love in return?

Love matters… it matters when we have it, and it matters even more when we lack it.

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Lest We Forget, ICU.

This post covers the surgery to debulk the tumor infringing on my Pituitary gland and the first week thereafter, which I spent in the Intensive Care Unit at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.  If you haven’t read the first installment of this post I recommend you do so before proceeding.

Tuesday, February the 7th, the day of my surgery arrived.  My wife, Suzanne, and I woke up early and set off for the hospital.  During the drive she asked if I was worried about any aspect of the surgery.  After a moment’s stoic, manly silence I gathered my courage and admitted that the prospect of memory loss concerned me.  {Why are we men so stupid and stubborn we think it is better to hide our fears from our loved ones?}  She reassured me it was unlikely and carried on driving.

I sat silently and tried to relax while my mind played havoc with my emotions.  Yes, I am one of the stupid, stubborn men I just mentioned.  The reality is that a fear of memory loss more than concerned me, it terrified me.  Why?  Because over thirty years previously I suffered a Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis that saw me hospitalized for three months.  I recovered remarkably well and returned to normal… except for one thing.  It took me a long time to realize, but virtually all my childhood memories were simply no longer there.  It was like I jumped straight from age five to age sixteen.  Occasionally a memory would surface, but most of my childhood memories were lost.  Extrapolating that time to the present left me fearful of what I might lose this time around.  What if I didn’t recognize my children, or my wife, or my friends, or what I’d done and who I was?  Instead of conveying these fears to Suzanne I kept silent and pretended I was fine.  Yes, I am a stupid, stubborn man.

We arrived at the hospital around 5:30am.  Suzanne dropped me at the main entrance, allegedly to save me the walk from the parking garage but I’m sure it was so she could have a cigarette to help calm her own nerves.  Major surgery tends to make people nervous, with good reason.  I walked in, identified myself at the desk I’d been told to, and was escorted upstairs into the secured surgical area, where I was instructed to change into that unflattering hospital garb we know and love.  After doing so I sent a text message to Suzanne explaining where I was and how to get to me.

And that is where everything went blank.  Lest we forget… more days of my life, forgotten.

Please note that most of the remainder of this post are not my recollections, they are pieced together from what my wife and children have told me about those days, how they felt, and what they did during them.  In the eloquent words of my favorite youngest daughter, Julia, “I was so worried I bombed out in a psych exam.

Bear with me as I relate a particularly difficult week of my life, mostly from how my family told me it went.

Dannielle, my favorite middle daughter, joined my wife to sit and wait for surgery to complete.  They comforted each other as the estimated two-hour surgery dragged on to three hours.  They watched as names on the In-Surgery roster went up, then came down as their surgeries were completed.  My name didn’t move.  Four hours passed with no word, then five.  I imagine my wife comforted Dannielle, who is quite sensitive, however this is just what I imagine… the truth is likely to be that they comforted each other equally.

Over five hours after I went into surgery, it was finally over.  Dr. Brett came out and explained complications had unavoidably extended the procedure.  The tumor was pressing on the frontal lobes of my brain, my hypothalamus, my pituitary gland, and my optic nerves.  Apart from the direct impact of the tumor itself, the surgeons had been unable to place a lumbar drain – this resulted in spinal fluid escaping through the wound into my nasal cavity by which the endoscope had been inserted and operated.  Post-surgery they sent me to the Intensive Care Unit, where staff would keep a close watch on my condition.  Hope was expressed that the wound would heal and seal itself.  At time hope pays dividends, at others it does not.

Wednesday, the day after surgery I was exhibiting signs of Diabetes Insipidus and dumped alarming amounts of fluid via a catheter.  {I suspect urinary catheters are normal practice after this type of surgery as they allow the patient to rest and hospital staff to measure and watch for DI.}  Suzanne and Dannielle came to visit me and stayed most of the day.  They were given a huge, clear plastic one liter capacity hospital mug, which I still have, and were told to encourage me to drink, which I refused to do.  In the words of my wife “The day was an emotional roller-coaster as we saw bits of you, then saw you crash.”  I was acting like a child, clamping my mouth shut and refusing food and drink.

To get me to drink at least some fluids Dannielle took to sucking up a straw full of water, which she’d leak into the corner of my mouth and I’d then swallow.  My wife told me this after I left hospital, Dannielle confirmed it when I asked her.  Dannielle said she’d managed to get me to drink about half the mug of water.

At the end of the day Suzanne and Dannielle left to attend to the duties of life that wait for nobody, the ill included.  The nursing staff thought my copious urine production was a result of my drinking too much.  Dannielle had managed to feed me about 500ml of water, but they thought I’d drunk several liters so they cut off my Intravenous fluids.  The lack of hydration caused my sodium levels to drop and brought on Sinus Tachycardia.  As if this wasn’t enough for the ICU staff to worry about, the spinal fluid that had continued to leak into my sinus cavities started pouring from my nose.

Thursday, Suzanne and Dannielle arrived early to visit again.  Suzanne, who had been my nurse when I was in hospital for the Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis {every cloud does have a silver lining}, discussed overnight events with the staff.  They immediately placed back me on IV Fluids once they realized I wasn’t actually drinking.

To address to the continued leaking of spinal fluid they sent me to Interventional Radiology to have a spinal drain installed.  Thursday passed with me out cold.

Friday arrived, so did Suzanne and Dannielle.  They sat bedside as a reasonably normal day unfolded.  From their perspective I seemed to be myself again.  Throughout the day a constant stream of nurses and doctors visited to discuss and examine my spinal drain, which is apparently seldom used or seen nowadays. {Please note this as it will be revisited in the next post.}

Saturday came.  Per Suzanne, things were going reasonably well, however she had a premonition something was not right but shrugged it off and left for the night.   Strange how often those feelings we’re so eager to shrug off prove accurate…

Saturday night I completely lost my memory, didn’t know who or where I was, became hostile, and proceeded to rip out my IV, my catheter, and my spinal drain.  A psychology consult was requested, the doctor on duty diagnosed me with ICU Psychosis and administered Haldol.  Hospital security staff forcibly subdued me, after which I was sent down to Radiology to have a CAT scan for a suspected brain bleed.  Multiple CAT scans were performed, apparently the Radiologist thought he had found a bleed.  My Neurosurgeon did not agree.

On Sunday I was still subdued and suffering from total memory loss.  Blood tests showed my Cortisol levels were dangerously low, so I was given a massive dose of Cortisol.

An Instagram post by my daughter, Dannielle

By Monday I was returning to myself and starting to recognize my wife and daughter.  Or so I’ve been told, in my own memory that particular Monday simply doesn’t exist.

Tuesday, from the perspective of Suzanne and Dannielle, was a reasonably normal day in the ICU.

By the end of Wednesday I was actually aware once more and had been approved for transfer to a step-down ward, where I’d spend another week struggling to recover.

Memory Loss…

For those of you who’ve seen memory loss depicted on television serials, it isn’t like that at all.  You see, memory loss isn’t as precise as a surgeon’s scalpel – it doesn’t neatly excise specific bits.  Memory loss is administered with a heavy, blunt instrument that does collateral damage to adjoining events and time to the where and when it strikes.  Memory loss doesn’t just conk you on the head, then let you sit up in bed, bemused, but regal as ever while you talk politely to your admirers, and magically regain the memory you’ve lost through a series of black and white flashbacks.

Memory loss doesn’t work like that at all, at least it did not for me.

From the account above you’ll note that Saturday night, four days after my surgery, was the night I suffered from a total memory loss.  It socked me a real sucker-punch that stole everything from before I went into surgery until about a week afterward.  Those days aren’t gradually returning.  It is now three months later and they remain a blank, no matter how long and hard I struggle to recall them.  Apart from a couple of strange dream-like fragments totaling a few minutes of real time, those days are gone.  I don’t know why those fragments were spared, but I’m glad they were, you see they restore some faith in my own sanity.

Memory-wise, it is as if those missing days didn’t even happen.  Only they did.

And the worst was yet to come…

{P.S. I am particularly grateful to my wife Suzanne, and my daughters Tamryn and Dannielle for putting their normal lives on the back-burner to tend me, even though I didn’t know who they were or why they were there.  To my son Gareth, and my youngest daughter Julia, whom I believe my wife protected by keeping from my bedside – I lost you for days, but I am so glad to have you back.}

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Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget – Part One

In late January 2016 I was diagnosed with a very large pituitary tumor.  For those who don’t know what this is, it is a tumor inside the cranial cavity.  I hope you never need a brain surgeon, but if you suffer from one of these surprisingly common afflictions you’ll find you have no choice.  So, to protect yourself and your loved ones you need to know more about them – this series of posts might serve that purpose.  It details the events and circumstances that built up to and surrounded mine, please read on.

My past treatment at various doctor’s hand ensures a deeply defined suspicion of them.  Thanks to the encouragement of a close friend, I managed to overcome my resentment and found a wonderful personal physician, Dr. Shelley Blackburn, early in 2015.  I have no doubt she is the reason I still have my eyesight.

In 2015 the vision in my left eye began deteriorating.  I noticed it soon after it began because it started as a blurred spot directly on the focal point of my left eye.  I visited an optometrist for an examination and discussed it with her, but she couldn’t find any optical reason for it – my eyes seemed healthy.  She prescribed new glasses and asked if I’d like to visit an Ophthalmologist for a follow-up exam.  I asked if they’d be able to fix the problem, to which she replied “Probably not, but at least you’ll know what is wrong.” Since I was on a very high deductible insurance plan I decided not to spend a large chunk of my own money for no results.  Big mistake.

Over the remainder of 2015 I watched the blurry spot in my left eye expand until over seventy percent of its vision, from the left edge to well past the center, was severally compromised.  Foolishly, I shrugged it off as the likely result of a Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis suffered over thirty years previously.  {Yes, that incident was a major contributing factor to my distrust of doctors.}  How could I be so stupid?  Easy.  The Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis pinched the optic nerve of my left eye until I lost control over it and could no longer distend it to the left.  Some time afterwards I was prescribed spectacles because my left eye was significantly weaker that my right.  This blurry vision was simply another ramification of that old injury, right?  Wrong.

The way things appear at first glance is not necessarily the way they are…

In early January 2016 I noticed a blurry spot beginning to form in my right eye.  My old injury had not affected my right eye in any discernible way, so I realized I needed to act.  Since the optometrist had no idea regarding the cause of the vision loss in my left eye it became clear I needed to see an Ophthalmologist.  Ophthalmologists are specialists, in the USA to see one you must have a referral. I made an appointment with my GP.  Fortunately, my company’s insurance provider changed for 2016 and I had opted for a lower deductible insurance plan.  On the old high deductible plan I would probably have delayed, a hesitation that may well have resulted in me being clinically blind today.

During the visit with my GP I asked for a referral to an Ophthalmologist.  Fate stepped in.  It turned out Dr. Blackburn is blind in one eye.  I described my symptoms and she immediately set to work.  Here in the USA most specialists are booked up for months in advance.  Dr. Blackburn called in a personal favor and secured an appointment for me with an Ophthalmologist associate of hers for the next day.

The Ophthalmologist, Dr. Richard (*), proved to be extremely thorough.  Test after test showed no cause for my vision loss – both my eyes were healthy.  Eventually he called for a Visual Acuity test.  Bingo.  As soon as he read the results, which define clear borders for our peripheral vision, he explained what he’d found.  In his opinion I was displaying classic symptoms of a large pituitary tumor.  This type of tumor stretches both optic nerves and results in loss of peripheral vision.  I needed an MRI performed immediately.

Dr. Richard called Dr. Blackburn, she arranged the MRI, immediately.  At 8pm that night I went into hospital where I lay inside the Magnetic Resonance Imaging chamber for half an hour, listening to the loud clicking, banging, and crashing of extremely technical and precise machinery mapping out my brain and skull.  A word to the wise… if you ever need an MRI accept the option of loud music to both pass the time and deaden the noise.

The next morning Dr. Blackburn called me to confirm that I did indeed have a pituitary tumor.  A very large pituitary tumor.  How large?  Mine was 24 millimeters.  Imagine a one inch diameter marble sitting right inside your skull, pushing against the Frontal Lobes of your brain, distending and crushing your pituitary gland, and stretching both optic nerves.  That is essentially what I had – it turns out I never lost my marbles, the doctors found mine…  {Actually, I did lose my marbles, but that came later, when I was in hospital recovering from the surgery.  I’ll be writing about that in a later installment of this article.}

Again Dr. Blackburn jumped into action to secure an appointment with a Neurologist she knew.  Unfortunately Dr. Blackburn’s acquaintance was fully booked, however in turn she took the time to call a Neurosurgeon associate.  Once again, instead of having to wait months for an appointment with a specialist, I had one in a couple of days.  And what a wonderful person Dr. Brett (*) turned out to be.  Calm, measured, thoughtful, and willing to take as long as necessary to explain everything to our satisfaction.  Also, though significantly younger than me, Dr. Brett’s temperment strongly reminded me of my deceased oldest brother – these little things matter.

Dr. Brett explained that before a course of treatment could be determined we had to find out if the tumor was productive or non-productive and whether it was cancerous.  A productive tumor produces hormones that generally play havoc, a non-productive tumor doesn’t produce hormones, and a cancerous tumor is bad news of another ilk.  To determine the tumor’s type I had to see an Endocrinologist.

Yet another specialist, yet another potentially months long wait…

This time it was Dr. Brett who called in a favor by securing an appointment for me.  Oh, and in case you doubt this chain of remarkable good fortune, I personally overheard him calling and speaking with the Endocrinologist to explain the urgency of the situation and how much he’d appreciate her seeing me ASAP.  This was midway through a Friday afternoon.

The Endocrinologist, Dr. Michelle (*), agreed to see me early the following Tuesday afternoon, but warned I might have to wait as she was scheduling me during her lunch break. She also instructed Dr. Brett as to the specific bloodwork she would need to make a diagnosis.  She needed a lot of tests performed.  Dr. Brett had his assistant make an appointment for me with him the following Wednesday, then called the bloodwork department and sent me down to have the bloods for a copious number of tests drawn.

How fast was this happening?  So fast that when I arrived to have my blood drawn they hadn’t yet received the written orders.  I waited the short time necessary, then had multiple vials of blood drawn.  The phlebotomist told me I needed to come in first thing on Monday to have another draw made, to test my hormone levels after a night’s sleep.  That particular draw took a day to process, its results would be delivered to Dr. Michelle by noon on Tuesday.  She would see me in the early afternoon, so there was no time wasted.

Things were rapidly falling into place.  Everything was progressing incredibly smoothly, surely this was a good omen and an indication of things to come?  Unfortunately it was not.

Tuesday afternoon Dr. Michelle gave me the good news.  My tumor was both non-cancerous and non-producing.  My hormone levels were all within their normal ranges, and she now had a baseline of what we would have to aim for after treatment.  She also warned me of likely outcomes and what she would be looking for after the treatment performed by Dr. Brett.

Wednesday came.  I saw Dr. Brett, who went over the results he’d already received from Dr. Michelle to confirm her prognosis.  He explained that surgery to de-bulk the tumor was the best option, possibly followed by some chemotherapy or radiological treatments, should they prove necessary.  He went over how he performed the surgery, answered all our questions, and we scheduled surgery.  A quick skim through his appointment diary showed no openings for weeks, except for a single blank spot on Tuesday, 7th February, which happened to be the following week.  I made a joke about spoiling his golf outing to cover my relief at not having weeks to fret over the tumor growing in my skull.

I would be his first case of the day and would have to be checked in, ready for surgery preparation by 6am.  The method Dr. Brett uses for this surgery is a transsphenoidal pituitary resection.  This procedure involves using an Endoscope, inserted and operated via one of the nostrils to enter the cranium and de-bulk the tumor.  He explained that this type of surgery normally takes about two hours, along with an hour’s preparation and another hour post op to wind down.  Most patients are released after a one or two-day recovery period in hospital.

In my case this was not to be.

Due to complications, the surgery itself took five hours.  My recovery time in hospital wasn’t two days, it was a little over two weeks – the first six days of which were spent in the Intensive Care Unit, and of which I have only fragmentary recollection.

How do we prepare for a total memory loss?  Lest you think we cannot, we can – though not in ways that easily spring to mind.  Since I have firsthand experience of the phenomenon I’ll be addressing this in a following post of this article.  For now, let me assure you total memory loss is nothing like it is portrayed in the movies.  Nothing at all.

How is our damaged faith restored?  Through the efforts of those who care.  Everyone involved in my case cared.  From the many nurses who looked after me to the doctors who treated me, everyone involved made extraordinary efforts to ensure the best possible outcome for me – someone of whom they had no personal knowledge.  I am humbled and grateful to them all for tending me during this frightening ordeal, and believe me when I say it was frightening.

The end of part one.

I hesitate to refer to this post as “my story” as that indicates fiction, and this is not a fictional account.

Please accept my apologies for not completing this article in a single post.  I am unable to do so for several reasons.  First, I am still recovering and lack the mental and physical endurance to write it all in a single article.  Next, just the introduction is already over 1500 words, which is much longer than a blog post should be.  Next, it is not yet over, I am still recovering and have a long way to go till I am back to normal, if indeed I ever get there.

(*) Name obscured to protect individual privacy.

The article continues in Lest We Forget – ICU.

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on Busyness

True wisdom is ageless understanding.

My daughter Julia, @Chibichiree, wrote this essay for school.  She is seventeen.

If I Had a Nickel for Every Time I was Busy…

Tim Kreider’s, The “Busy” Trap, dwells upon his opinions on busyness.  He believes that busyness is an addiction, is a coping mechanism to help people not have to face what might just be there when they have nothing to do.  Kreider talks about two of his friends, two completely different circumstances.  One of his friends is too busy to notice that an invitation to spend time together is such.  His other friend has left behind a very busy world to one more relaxed and calming, only to find what she thought was her personality was a side effect of the stress of being busy.

I believe busyness drains us of who we are to give us false personalities and lives filled with self-obtained stress.   I agree wholeheartedly we as people, as a human race, tend to fill our life with a void of nothingness disguised as fulfillment.

I believe that to be busy fills life with a certain nothingness, a daily rush to do everything you possibly can, only to be rewarded with the stress that it gives back to you.  I do not think there is any value in stuffing the day with activities.

Kreider says, “Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half hour with classes and extracurricular activities” (381).  This is true.  There is a woman who lives in my neighborhood, I babysit her youngest child, she goes to dance, gymnastics, yoga, a math tutor, she eats dinner, has thirty minutes of reading time, and then it is bed time.  My family never did this, we never could have – we lived out of town.  My ‘extracurricular’ was running around the woods getting poison ivy and chasing after chickens until my mother called me in for dinner.  Now I would like to believe this is just as important as learning a new language, or perfecting your times table because I learned a lot while doing all of these things… how to differentiate between leaves and the importance of being gentle.  Do people not see the fundamental mistake they have made in giving children so much to do?  We have given them no time to find out who they are and no time to explore the world around them.  If a child never has time to just be, and by that I mean have no activities they must go to and no responsibilities, then how are they ever to learn to enjoy themselves, learn to just be?  In filling a child’s life with seven different things every day of the week we are teaching them that they must always have something to do, for if they do not have something, some activity or class to do, they are not doing anything of importance, so they are no longer important…

Human beings tend to feel the need to feel important.  To feel as if they are somehow doing something of great importance.  When the matter of the fact is that in two hundred, three hundred, four hundred years for now no one is going to know your name or that you worked three hours of overtime on Thursday.  There will be no shadow of a thought about ordinary people and their ordinary lives.  When someone is lying on their deathbed I sincerely doubt that they will be thinking, “Oh god I should have worked more.”  They will be thinking, “If only I could enjoy the sun one last time, kiss Mary goodbye, and have held my children a bit longer”(384).  Kreider said something similar to that.

I have always been like water.  I float along with the plan.  I can change without resistance.  If they need twenty minutes, I can sit in the sun and enjoy the breeze.  I feel no need to throw myself into a tizzy because my perfect to the second schedule has been thrown to space.  I have often thought on the subject of last thoughts, I have wondered what mine will be, what regrets I will have, what are the things I will truly miss at the end of it all…  Most likely the things that cannot be replaced, interaction with a certain human being, and their idiosyncrasies.  It seems to me that people have forgotten how to stop, take a moment, how to think about everything that is around them without thinking about what needs to be done.  If one cannot take a single moment to breath, to stop and look at the sky and realize its crisp blue beauty, does it still exist in their world, or has it simply disappeared, maybe it has become the forgotten background to an ever bleak and monotonous existence?   What is the point in being alive if one cannot enjoy the things that are around them every day, the spectacular display that seems to go unnoticed, washed out in a rainstorm of ‘productivity’?

Despite my opinions, busyness can also be an important escape from something a person needs to stop and face.  If I keep busy, that dark shadow cannot catch up to me, it cannot get me.  I know this all too well.  When I was younger I had something terrible happen to me and instead of facing it, instead of talking about it, I took up running.  Quite literally.  I would run and run trying to get away, I would run until I threw up.  Honestly I think that in that time, that is what I needed.  Busyness is okay sometimes – it is an escape, but a necessary one.  Victims of trauma and assault often take up a hobby – piano, reading, binge watching all of a television show just so they do not have to face the dark, so that they do not have to face what has happened to them.  I have been there, I have seen that side of the world, and I think it is an important argument, but eventually you will run out of places to run, shows to watch, books to read, and you will be alone, left to face what happened.

There will always be two sides to a single coin, always people on different sides of the fence.  If we flip over said fence there will be people who believe being busy is a good thing, and they are entitled to that opinion, just as I am entitled to my own.  One reason someone might say keeping your children busy is a great thing to do, is that it keeps them out of trouble.  There are countless youth groups dedicated just to keeping kids away from drugs, which must mean that plenty of people go to them, because how would they stay open if people did not?  I am positive plenty of people enjoy them as well.  Here is the argument in a whole: If a child has countless activities or clubs to go to, they will have no time to act out, they will have no time to experiment with drugs or commit crimes.  I can agree it is a good thing to keep the world’s youth safe from the dangers that hide around the corner.  But I can also argue that it is not a good thing to keep children and teenagers so busy they never know about the hard parts of life, because they will then be left with a blank mind that doesn’t know what to do when someone approaches them with these options they have never had to face.

Another argument for keeping busy with work and overtime and volunteering is that it builds character.  When a person works hard they are a hard worker.  Simple, right?  And since everyone loves a hard worker, employers are more likely to hire a hard worker who is well rounded and takes on just enough extra work and overtime, not too much because that will interfere with their busyness at work.  Everything is a well calculated move, life becomes like a well-oiled machine.  Everyone is a perfectly fitting cog when they are busy, and if they are not busy they are sure the machine will fall to pieces.  But that is not true.  As Kreider says about his friend who left her busy New York life for one the French countryside, “She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain.” (382).  This woman does not let work fill her entire day and that is just fine, she still gets everything she needs done and also has time to spend with friends, she no longer lets the curse of busy cover her in a dark mist. And that well-oiled machine?  Well it looks to me like it did not fall apart.

No matter where people go in life there will always be pros and cons of being busy.  There will always be two sides of the fence, one seemingly greener than the other depending on the light in which you are looking at it.  I believe there is nothing more important than to be free to hold onto every moment of your life.  Every single second the clock ticks down another stroke, every grain of sand in that hourglass of our lifetimes.  We do not know how much time we have, how many grains of sand, I could live to be eighty years old, or just barely make it to my twenties.  So I am determined to spend my time doing what pleases me, take naps in the glow of the warm sun, walk slowly in the cool fall air, do whatever it takes to make me feel fulfilled.

I slept in the other day, something I almost never do.  Something engrained into my mind made me say to my mother, “Being lazy.”  To which she replied, “Relaxing is just as important as getting things done.”  I believe that busyness is an escape from yourself, it is a way of tiptoeing the tightrope over the abyss of self-awareness.  The only way people will ever be able to take the plunge, to let go and fall back into themselves, is to take a moment and realize it is okay to just be.

{P.S. You can find more of Julia here.}

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on Alternative Facts

I abhor politics.  donald trump {capitalization intended} brings home why.

trump, a small-minded vindictive bigot with a vastly oversized ego, has assumed a very big office, which he is using as a bully-pulpit as he proceeds to blatantly disregard various core foundations of the US Constitution.

The U.S.A is supposed to be a country in which Freedom of Speech is a constitutionally guaranteed right.  Not according to trump, who has already issued executive orders that attempt to remove this right from crucial governmental agencies and their officials whose findings are at odds with his desires.  trump has just attempted to gag the EPA and the USDA.   He has also attempted to have the FDA gag the press by denying press passes to reporters who air undesirable views.  Yes, another constitutional foundation toppled, namely infringing on the Freedom of the Press.

Welcome to censorship, a system of governmental control with which I already have firsthand knowledge.  Do you think censorship is about saving children from seeing things you don’t want them to see?  If you do, you are wrong on a myriad levels.  Censorship is about controlling access to information.  trump doesn’t want the citizens of this country to be well-informed, he wants them to see only what he wants them to see.  And what trump wants them to see has very little to do with fact.  Unless of course that fact is an “alternative fact” of his manufacture. “In leveling this attack, the president and Mr. Spicer made a series of false statements.” – New York Times.  Read the New York Time article, it presents clear, indisputable evidence of the actual facts, and of the false statements.

In case you don’t know what a “false statement” is, I will tell you – it is a LIE.

trump is a liar.  Period.  Full-Stop.  The End.  And that is not an alternative fact, it is an indisputable one.

In light of the fact that trump lost the democratic vote by around 2.9 million votes I will never acknowledge him as a legitimately elected president.  Another term comes to mind for trump…  our new führer has further violated the constitution by refusing to place his personal holdings into a blind trust during his tenure in office.  Indeed he went on a spending spree after becoming president-elect, establishing multiple companies in various foreign countries.  The conflict of interests this creates is so self-evident I see no point in further investigating it – indeed, it is already obvious trump supporters are incapable of countenancing the truth about their führer.

Führer, I use that term intentionally.  As I stated in a post written almost a year ago, the similarities between trump and Hitler are frighteningly obvious.  My youngest daughter and I were discussing the Nazi regime, in particular how such unbelievable cruelty could go unchecked.  I suspect the majority of Germans knew nothing about the Holocaust until long after the war ended.  I suspect they were  victims of rampant unchecked governmental censorship, along with a steady diet of alternative facts. I suspect the fascists controlled everything the German people thought they knew.

What is a “fascism“?  As defined by Wikipedia, “Fascism /ˈfæʃɪzəm/ is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism…”  Sound eerily familiar?  It should,  since a radical authoritarian nationalist supported by vehement nationalists currently occupies the White House.  Lest you think trump’s supporters are patriots, let me dissuade you by giving you my personal definition of what a true patriot is.

A patriot is one who cares enough about their country to ensure it does good, not one who does what their country says without caring if it is good.

trump will do no good for the United States therefor he is no patriot, nor has he ever been one.  trump may make himself a lot of money by ignoring constitutional safeguards against obvious conflicts of interest, but he won’t enrich America.  There is only one thing trump has ever put first, and that is trump.

Until the trump administration is terminated, prepare to watch catastrophic events unfold.  Unfortunately, no matter how soon trump’s administration ends, irreparable damage has already been done to US prestige throughout the world.  Under a trump administration enormous damage will be done to civil liberty, our viability as a world leader, our wealth as independent citizens, and our environment.  That last sentence is not a statement of facts, it is my predictions of our future.  We need to change this future, FAST!  I believe the only way we can do that is by ejecting trump.

The USA is in dire straits.  No decent person can possibly justify ignoring the excessive abuses of power already committed by trump.  Namely curtailing Freedom of Speech, infringing the Freedom of the Press, violating Constitutional bars against Conflicts of Interest.  Nobody should be exempt from the supreme law of the USA, and that law is the Constitution.  trump clearly holds himself above it, I wonder where he holds you?

Though trump’s era will not end well, it needs to end soon.  Does the Republican dominated government have the moral courage to stand up to a vindictive fascist bully?  Sadly I think they’ve already shown they don’t – they are too busy pushing their own agendas to do the right thing – which is to impeach this despicable bigot.

In closing, let me ask you this.  What good has trump ever done for anyone besides himself?  I think you will be hard pressed to answer, but this might help you start this fruitless search.

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a wish of you

~ a wish of you ~
~
Was I granted one wish,
that wish would be a wish of you…
to see you every day
and as every day draws to its close,
to know
I’ll see you on the next,
and as the next draws to its start,
to see You before
I see me.
~
Was I granted one wish,
that wish would be a wish of you…
it would be a wish
to know
I’ll always think of
You
before I think of
me.
~
Was I granted one wish,
that wish would be a wish of you…
it would be a wish for
your hand
forever bound
to mine.
~
Was I granted one wish,
that wish would be a wish of you…
it would be a wish to love you
every day
and more,
and every day to love you
more than I loved you
before.
~
Was I granted one wish,
that wish would be a wish of you…
it would be a wish to be with you
as with grace our bodies age,
it would be a wish to know,
more than that our love will never die,
but that it will also never fade.
~
Was I granted one wish,
that wish would be a wish of you…
to be beside your side
forever
for you, my dearest love,
within my soul reside.
~

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on Fairy Tales

My current WIP is an expansion of a short Fairy Tale I wrote some time ago, called A Crystal Tear.

Attention to detail is far too important to me to allow me to ever be a prolific writer.  To illustrate this allow me to convey a conversation that took place over a year ago, in which the question of the target audience for A Crystal Tear arose.  The conversation is almost verbatim, though the nitpicker in me demanded I correct a few typos and make a few minor modifications for clarity.

My FriendYou mention it will be a children’s fairy tale.  Firstly you need to establish what age group you want to target, or think will appreciate this more.  Obviously fairy tales are written to be read to children of all ages, but the content must be understood.

My response:  mmm, I really really dislike putting things into neat little boxes like, “7 to 10 year olds”.  Instead let me tell you what my intentions are.

First, to return people to the magical moments of their childhood, before they were taught to doubt the everyday magic that surrounds us.

Second, to encourage parents to read to their children.  Perhaps that is who I’m really targeting – the parents of young children, say in the 4 to 7 year range.  I want to give those parents the chance to introduce the magic of imagination into their children’s thought processes instead of taking magic away by giving them technological gadgets that simply cannot replace imagination, and probably suppress it.

With those goals in mind A Crystal Tear should raise questions from both parent and child.  I want to encourage the child to ask, “Are fairies really just dragonflies?” which allows the parent to answer, “What do you think?

I’d like to create conversations that flow both ways, where the parents can ask questions intended to reveal the things their children cherish.  Like, “Have you ever seen something no one else has seen?“, in order to allow the child to answer, “Yes! All the time…

Another goal is to introduce words and concepts the kids definitely won’t know, specifically to encourage meaningful dialogs that are powerful bonding opportunities.

I guess the goal of A Crystal Tear isn’t a set age group at all.  Perhaps it is to reintroduce magic into the mundane, technology suppressed minds of both parents and children?

{P.S.  Magic truly is everywhere, all we need to do is look for it and we find it.  I intend A Crystal Tear to be an illustrated children’s book.  Many of the illustrations will be photographs of apparently mundane things, within which magic waits to be discovered, revealed, seen, and appreciated.  My youngest daughter, Julia, is creating transitional sequences from some of these photographs.  Those sequences are intended as prompts to help young minds see the incredible, magical beauty that dwells in the most mundane.  Most of the photographs won’t have transition sequences, those are the ones where you can ask your child what they imagine could be there – while understanding there are no wrong answers in our imagined thoughts.  We often look at clouds and see shapes, but those shapes are everywhere.  A Crystal Tear is intended to ignite and encourage the imaginations of our young in a way that video games and cell phones simply cannot.  Please give your child’s imagination an encouraging boost – you’ll open up wonderful scenes that live forever in their minds.

Remember… a world without art is both dismal and dark, a world without art, is a world without heart.

Even with the help of my daughter Julia converting photographs into artwork, this will be no easy task so please wish me luck!}

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on Closure

Made up words, with virtually no meaning.

Closure.

We’re closing the door, but not really…

We’re forgetting something we should never forget…

We’re throwing out the trash, by sharing it with the world…

We’re letting it go, without thought of who’ll catch it…

Closure, such a buzzword that means so…  well, it means so nothing at all.

Emotion has never operated with the click of a closing door.  Emotions… we can’t close them out, but we can close them in…

Forgive me for saying what I feel on my blog.  It isn’t intended as a criticism of you, the way you are, or the way you think – it is a criticism of the way we’re instructed to think and the way we’re told we should feel.

Closure… precisely how do we learn by forgetting?

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Kindle Unlimited

Today is the last day any of my work will be enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Select program for authors, and its Kindle Unlimited program for readers. This post attempts to explain why.

First.  Kindle Select pays authors based on the number of pages read, not on the number of pages re-read.  My work is not in the mainstream, and it never will be.  Malmaxa isn’t banal or easy to read, but strangely enough a consistent theme of readers is that once they’ve read it they read it again, and then they often read it again.  I don’t think many books do that, but I know mine do.

Next.  I don’t subscribe to competitions in which the winners take all, while all the other competitors support said winners and get nothing in return.  Unfortunately that is precisely what Kindle Unlimited is – a very small number of authors are rewarded financially, while Amazon gets to advertise how its Kindle Unlimited members can read books from thousands of authors, for free.  Essentially this is a situation in which thousands of authors support a numerically insignificant number of big winners, while getting nothing in return.  Would you be a member of Kindle Unlimited if Amazon told you “You get to choose from a few hundred books!“?  I don’t think so – the draw is freedom to choose from a massive pool.  But remember, though the pool before you is massive, you only get to drink a few drops.

Finally…  Kindle Select requires Amazon to be the only place your digital work is sold.  I find that to be a severe restriction of freedom and am not willing to be bound by it.  Interestingly enough Amazon is currently the only place you can purchase my work in eBook format.  Now you might think that since Amazon is the only place you can buy it, it would be no loss for me to remain enrolled in KDP Select.  In a way you’re correct, it would be no monetary loss since it doesn’t cost anything to be in it.  In another way you’d be incorrect, it would be a loss of principle and I’m not willing to do that.  The forced elimination of competition is not a good thing, and that is precisely what KDP Select does – it prevents authors from engaging with Amazon’s competitors.

I guess the bottom line is that I’m as selfish as the next person.  I want my readers to be my readers.  I want my writing to touch them in ways they have never been touched before.  I want them to want to read my words again, and every time they do, for them to find something new.  I want them to possess my work, as much as my work possesses them.  I don’t want drive-by readers who skim over my words without taking them in.  I want readers who care, and the bottom line is that I don’t think Kindle Unlimited helps me find them.

If only I knew what did…

{P.S. There is lots you can read for free right here on my blog.  There is poetry, if you’re into that.  If you’d like to read the start of Malmaxa you can do so at the following two links, right here, right now, and completely free.  Beltamar’s War, and my personal favorite excerpt from the same book.}

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on Uncertainty

Are you aware that men almost never make eye contact with each other, unless they are in a social setting?

Why not?

Well, to us men it is simply way too overt an aggressive act as direct eye contact between men is an outright challenge.

This is one of my longer and more penetrating posts, however if you have the time please struggle on through.

Are the above statements my opinion, or are they verifiable facts?  They are neither, they’re assertions of something I believe is self-evident.  That is what my blog, my tweets, and my book[s] are about.  They are about Truths as I see them.  Contrary truths, truths others might not see, yet they are all truths to me –  like the tag line of my website says, what I offer is “Another View, of True ©“.  Although it seems to contradict my previous sentence, something interesting about truth is how for something to be true it must be true for everyone, everywhere, all the time.  Doesn’t that mean Truth can’t be contradictory?  No, it doesn’t mean that at all.  It means that truth is modified by perception.  Something else about truth is that it must still be perceived to be true when investigated with an open heart and mind.  I’m going to try and do that, but first let me set context by using an excerpt from the second book in my work, “Malmaxa“. What is Malmaxa? Its an obscure tome in a genre that doesn’t exist, a genre I have labeled Philosophy, couched as Fantasy.

Ryntam immediately countered, “Many listen, few hear, and even less understand.  The truth in this matter… discern it.”
Jalgar noted the imperative in his child’s voice and smiled.  A heartbeat and a pace before he spoke, “You ask that I discern the truth in the matter of the Chundrah.  I shall attempt it.”
Ryntam knew full well she had demanded, not asked.  She glanced at her father.  The levity of his tone fortified his words, which clearly showed he would not bow to her simply because of her blue Chukrah.
Jalgar spoke unhurriedly, “To the Elder, the Chundrah is heavy.  To you, it is light.”  He deliberately rephrased her words, ensuring she knew he grasped their meaning.  After a pause for emphasis he continued, “These truths expose a quandary.  How can two things seemingly opposite, both be truth?  Is truth not absolute?”
Thoroughly enjoying her father’s reasoning, Ryntam pursed her lips as she nodded slowly.  In consideration, not in agreement…
Jalgar continued in the same measured tone, “Can there be only a single truth in this matter?  If so… is one perception a lie?”
Ryntam chuckled in delight before nodding to acknowledge he had fulfilled her request.  After a few paces, she murmured, “Perception, indeed.  Perception modifies truth.”  Another quiet chuckle, “Yet there is another matter which troubles me, Father.  We agree that to the Elder, the Chundrah is heavy.”
Jalgar agreed, “Yes, that is the Elder’s truth.”

Now, back to the investigation of my opening assertion.

We should never take anything at face value, and we should never take anything for granted.  This is especially true of the things we are not permitted to question.  After all, if something cannot withstand even rudimentary questioning then it simply cannot be true.

I asserted that men almost never make eye contact with each other, unless they are in a social setting.  If you question this, which you should, then verify it by watching the behavior of men outside a social setting.  How often do you see two men who don’t know each other look directly at each other?

Women will find this exercise easy.  Men won’t.  If you’re a man, I think you’ll find it quite difficult since it entails you being covertly aggressive toward men you don’t know – men who will be aggressive toward you if they notice you’re watching them.  Of course the ultimate, though extremely foolhardy test of voracity for men would be to actually do it yourself.  How?  Walk down a street in which you don’t know anyone and stare at every man you see.  Actually… don’t do it.  Why?  Because whether verbally, physically, or by a third party, you will be assaulted – but you men already knew that didn’t you?

Like so many truths we investigate, this brings us to another interesting question to ponder.  Why do men feel challenged when other men look at them?

Could it be a left over genetic prerogative from caveman days?  At first glance that seems like a reasonable assumption.  However cavemen wandered around in social groups, so the assertion doesn’t apply.  Did they attack and kill any other groups whose menfolk looked at them?  Though that is a romantic notion all too often promulgated by fantasy, I seriously doubt it.  Why?  Because if they had we wouldn’t exist today, we’d have died out from lack of genetic diversity. {Another assertion to question, but I’m afraid you’ll have to investigate it on your own :)}  However, I don’t doubt bloodshed ensued when a group of cavemen encountered another humanoid group they perceived as different from themselves.

And there it is…  Wait…?  What…?

Uncertainty of course!  We have a very powerful distrust of people we perceive to be different than ourselves.  Men, the defenders of their womenfolk from the attentions of other men, are much more prone to this uncertain distrust.  I’m very confident we’re hardwired to react aggressively to any perceived threat – like many other animals I think our instincts insist it is better to be safe than it is to be dead.  So we immediately prepare something I’d like to think of as heightened preemptive awareness.  Unfortunately this state is also pretty aggressive and pretty irrational, of which neither emotion is pretty at all.

Irrational people are easily manipulated.  {File that thought for later consideration.}

People who are distinguishably different make us uncertain.  When we are uncertain we feel unsure.  When we’re unsure we don’t feel safe.  When we don’t feel safe we feel afraid.  When we feel afraid we act irrationally.  When we act irrationally people get hurt.  We can’t help ourselves.   Please don’t accept any of this, question it all.  You deserve to discover your truths for yourself, and I believe the only way anyone ever manages that feat is by investigating and questioning everything – including and especially themselves.

We can’t help ourselves…  Did I say that?  Did you believe it?  I really hope you didn’t.  You see, the truth is that we can help ourselves.  Yes, we are genetically encoded to feel certain things in certain circumstances.  That is an inescapable fact sometimes referred to as a biological, or genetic imperative.  I believe one of those feelings causes uncertainty when we encounter something we don’t recognize, something like people who seem completely different to us.  But what I believe doesn’t matter.  What you believe matters.   But how do you know what to believe?  Easy.  By questioning until you’re completely satisfied you grasp the truth.

And the truth to me, is that we can help ourselves.  We can overcome our ingrained prejudices, regardless of whether their source is genetic, social, religious, cultural, national, or whatever.  We can overcome our uncertainty, along with everything that negative feeling leads to when left unfettered and uncontrolled.  However we can only do so if we’re willing to ask ourselves the hardest questions, and then keep on asking until we answer with our own personal and inescapable truth.  Until we answer, not until someone else gives us an answer.

What is the inescapable truth?  There isn’t one – there are many.   However the path to enlightenment begins with the first question to which we find our own personal and inescapable truth.

One of my inescapable truths is that although every human is unique, fundamentally we’re all the same.  We are all genetically compatible.  Any fertile, gender diverse pair of humans from anywhere across the entire Earth can mate and engender a child.  Try as hard as you like, for as long as you like – you will be unable to disprove this.  It is an inescapable truth.  We. Are. All. The. Same.  Surely there is more to humanity than mere genetics?  Of course there is, feelings and emotions are at the root of how how we define ourselves as “human”.  But that doesn’t matter – we’re still the same!  We all love, hope, hurt, and fear.  There isn’t one of us anywhere, any time, who doesn’t.

Unfortunately there are powerful people who profit from uncertainty, and it is precisely those people who control the media, the governments, and the corporations that treat people like commodities to be bought, used, exploited, sold, and discarded.  But for people to be controlled it is necessary to fill them with uncertainty, along with all the negative emotions uncertainty brings along as baggage.  I believe this is why those powerful people cast seeds of uncertainty through the constant assertion they are different from us!  Those power mongers lie.  There is no us versus them, there is only humanity and we are all the same.  Dig deep in your heart and you’ll find this is inescapably true – fundamentally, we’re all human.

The power mongers tell us we’re different to make us feel uncertain of who we truly are.

Oh, to be wise enough to know which parts of us are us, right down to our core, and which parts of us are built on patterns other draw…

Take away all the lies, misdirection, and hysteria and deep inside yourself you’ll find you’re human, just like all the rest of us.

When next you feel uncertain ask yourself if that is really you who feels afraid, or if fear is a feeling you’ve been taught to hold.  That man whose eyes you won’t meet, for fear he is different to you?  Look deep enough into our shared collective past and you’ll find your truths, and your truths will set you free.  One of my truths is that the man who I’m afraid to really look at is a brother from a long distant past, all I need do is care enough to recognize him.

Now let me leave you with these thoughts, and hopefully a lot of other questions to explore…

Enlightened people constantly struggle with ingrained distrust, while the unenlightened spare distrust not even a single thought.  I wonder into which category of person you think you fall?

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on Change

No matter who you are, you won’t enjoy this post.

What is it about?  It’s about a world changing for the worse, it’s about the abject failure of the US political system, and most important of all, it is about a turning point for humanity.

My youngest daughter, Julia, asked me, “Why bother writing it if all it will do is make people angry?”  A guiding principle in my life precludes me from remaining silent the way far far too many of us will and are already doing, “All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.”  I already have a terrible struggle believing I am a good man.  Indeed, that statement isn’t quite true.  I know I am not a good man and I have a terrible struggle keeping guilt at bay.  That is how it should be.  We should not receive a free pass from our conscience, for if we did then what purpose would our conscience serve?

Divided we conquer, united we fall.  No, I didn’t make a typo, that is the way the political “elite” play with the minds of the electorate.  Those in power and those struggling to get into power know the best way to stay or get there is to divide the voters.  When we are divided, they conquer. When we are united, they fall.  They divided us, and they have won again.

We recently elected an example of all the most despicable traits humanity possess rolled into a vile ball that goes by the name of Donald Trump.  Only we didn’t – the Electoral College did that.  The majority of Americans, myself included, did not vote for Donald Trump.  Trump lost the democratic vote by around 2.9 million votes.  Trump lost, but he is going to assume the role of President of the United States anyway.

Is this democracy?  No, it is not.

Ask yourself how it is that some people’s votes are worth less than others?  How is it that where we live determines how much influence our vote has?  I wonder if anyone else sees the similarity between this abominable fact and the early days of the US Constitution, in which certain people were counted as only three-fifths of other people?

Let me be clear.  I did not vote for Hillary Clinton, I voted against Donald Trump.  Like the vast majority of Americans I am sick of the “politics as usual” spew both political parties ram down our throats.  I am tired of the divisive nonsense that rears its ugly head every election year.  Was I enamored with Hillary Clinton?  Not by a long chalk.  However from virtually the first time I saw him on television I have been utterly appalled by the nasty little man who will now assume the role of President of the United States of America.  In my personal life I don’t tolerate erratic vacillating liars, braggarts, racists, sexists, bullies, or bigots – and as evidenced by the spew that constantly issues from his own mouth Donald Trump is all of those, and worse.

How about Hillary Clinton?  Let me put it this way.  I read a lot of propaganda that alienated me against her {it now turns out a significant portion of that propaganda originated from Russia}.  However every time I saw her on television I saw a consistently thoughtful, considerate and polite person, with whom I often did not agree.  To me it soon became obvious that the “evidence” against Clinton was allegation, misdirection, and blatant propaganda.  I ultimately realized there is an enormous difference between hysterical allegations made by biased people, and evidence that pours out of a bigot’s mouth – ugly and plain enough for everyone to see.

Trump continues to condemn himself with the horrible, abhorrent things he says.

As for those of you who voted for this despicable monster?  You don’t get a pass.

You can’t brush your choice aside by saying, “I’m not like the small group of racists at Trumps rallies.”   You heard and saw Trump inciting racial, religious, and sexual bigotry multiple times, yet you still voted for him – therefore you are like them.

You can’t allege Trumps democratic loss by around 2.9 million votes is “Sour grapes from sore losers.”  Those are definitive votes cast by people who should have an equal say in the election of their President, however they don’t.  If you say those votes shouldn’t count equally, then you have abandoned the guiding principle of democracy.

You can’t allege “voter fraud“, because if such a thing truly exists then logic asserts that as much of said voter fraud will exist on both sides of the political divide.

Let me me ask you some simple questions.  Would you leave someone like Donald Trump alone with your wife or your female friend?  What would you do if you discovered your boss habitually sexually assaulted your fellow workers, while blowing off  his behavior as “locker-room talk“?  Would you stand by and do nothing as a vindictive bully attacked people and principals you respect?  Would you want someone like Donald Trump for a friend?

I think your answers to those questions say an enormous amount about your character.  I wonder if you’ll still be able to convince yourself you’re a good person when you realize you voted for the precise opposite of a morally decent one?  I wonder if you’ll be able to open your mind enough to realize what you have done, and where it leads not only the United States, but the entire world.  I wonder.

Does Donald Trump deserve a chance?  Since he has already squandered multiple chances, he does not.

Remember, all it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.  Staying silent about Donald Trump’s abhorrent behavior, is doing nothing.

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a new lease

As promised, one of my personal favorite excerpts from Beltamar’s War follows this post.  It’s from a section titled “Of Dragon, and Eternity”.  Things are not as simple as they first seem.

Although my writing doesn’t pay the bills, it does sooth the soul.  Recently my soul has been in sore need of soothing, so I took up the paused editing of “Malmaxa II – The Pilgrimage” in earnest.  The fruit of my efforts is its re-release – links appear at the end of this post.

Four years of editing is a long time…  However that time has let me come back and experience my own writing as a reader might.  When did my writing get so sad?  It didn’t get sad, it has always provoked thoughtful sadness.  That is just the way it is.

Just the way it is…

That statement makes me reflect on what my writing actually is, which I’m going to share.  Since I can only speak for myself it might mean something completely different to you.  I’d love to hear what you have to say about it.

Malmaxa is published under the Fantasy Genre.  But is Malmaxa fantasy?  No, it isn’t.  So why did I publish it as Fantasy?  Because there isn’t a genre that fits what Malmaxa really is.   In a world that seems to demand conformity, Malmaxa simply doesn’t conform.  I’ve called the genre into which it might fit, “Philosophy, couched as Fantasy“.  However Malmaxa isn’t really even that.

So what is Malmaxa?

Malmaxa is a look at the nature of people.  It is an examination of motive.  It is an investigation into love.  It is a tale told by an alien soul.  It is a love story, a mystery, a tragedy, but more than anything Malmaxa is a work that tries to provoke introspection.  It is something that attempts to teach us about ourself, about why we are the way we are, about why we do the things we do, about why we embrace self-deceit, but above all those things Malmaxa is about why love is the meaning we’ll find in everything that truly matters to us.

A young author I respect wrote a review I really enjoyed reading, her name is Amira Makansi and her review of Beltamar’s War is here.  Amira described it as a book in which “Nothing really happens“.  I smiled.  You see, that description provoked a line from Malmaxa, “Perception modifies truth.”  In a way, Amira is right – in fact her review is spot on, she sees the questions the book raises and raises meaningful questions about what she sees.

In my opinion our society places inordinate value on action, a perception that has seeped into our thinking.  We’ve been taught to expect “things” to happen, if you’re looking for that sort of traditional action, you won’t find much of it in Malmaxa.

So, no action?  🙂 Another smile…

The vast majority of the action you’ll find in Malmaxa happens in the minds of the characters as they try to make sense of the behavior of other characters.  Indeed, if my writing works, you’ll spend a lot of your time in the heads of a lot of people, and you’ll be as confused as they are.  However you’ll be confused for an entirely different reason.  Why?  As the reader you’re privy to the thoughts of every character, you know what they’re all thinking.  Malmaxa’s characters aren’t, they are restricted to what they see and what they think, and worse, they are restricted by what they think they see.

In our minds is where we construct the world in which we live, and the world in which we live is different for us all.  I guess that is what my writing is really about.  The fictitious world of our private thoughts that are more real than the ground beneath our feet.

Where do you really live?  On the Earth?  Or in your mind?…

Where do you really dream?  In your bed?  Or in your heart?…

That is what Malmaxa is really about – the places we really live, and where we really dream.

Now, since I said I’d include one of my favorite parts of the first book in this post, here it is.  It is from a section titled “Of Dragons, and Eternity”.

۷۸۷۸۞۷۸۷۸

Of Dragons, and Eternity

TimeLine: Night, Freyjasday, 2nd sixday, 9th Luna, 3600.

Selene sat up and looked about curiously.  From the dim light and the overhead rock formations, she knew she must be in a cavern, but had no recollection of how she came to be here.

She felt nothing.

No heat, no cold, no breeze, just… nothing.

Vaguely concerned, she looked down at her legs.  They lay flat on the ground.  Lifting one, she let it fall.  It smacked into the stone floor with an audible, meaty smack but with no sensation of impact.  She stood up, disquiet increasing, clenched her fists, and looked at her hands.  Nothing unusual struck her, they were just… her hands.  With her right hand she took a fold of flesh on her left arm and pinched, hard.

Nothing.

Now thoroughly alarmed, Selene heard her heart thumping loud in her chest, yet she could not feel its beats.  Frantic, she glanced about.  Her mind, normally so disciplined, had become almost incoherent with fear.  In an attempt to calm herself she breathed deep.  She realized she could hear her breath, but not feel it.

Strangely, this knowledge soothed her.  She relaxed, hearing the muscles in her neck lose tension with slight, crackling pops as she rolled her head.  I can hear, but not feel.  What a strange way to live.

Another thought immediately followed.

It seemed somehow foreign, Live?  You do not live, prey.  You walk the pathway to Eternity.

The thought echoed, as though reflected back from the cavern’s walls.

Surprised, Selene thought, Why would I have thoughts…  I do not have? 

With an element of mimicry, the foreign thought responded, Why would I… converse with prey?

Hearing a scraping noise, Selene turned toward the sound.  An enormous form lumbered toward her.  Its golden eyes, split by the vertical slash of a pupil blacker than pitch, fixed upon her.  Its forked tongue flicked in and out as it sampled the air.  It seeks my scent!

Selene froze motionless in place as she thought, A Dragon!

The foreign presence responded, Dragon?  Does Dragon move, prey? 

Selene’s fear filled mind screamed, Yes!

The Dragon stopped.  The thought presence, again, Does Dragon move, prey?

Heart thumping.

No sensation of its beats, but heard, and loud, so loud the Dragon must surely hear.

Fearfully, lest Dragon hear her and attack, Selene whispered her thought, No…

The foreign thought, I… am Dragon.  You… are prey.

Selene’s knees buckled beneath her.  She sat with an audible thump.  Although her teeth clicked aloud from the jarring impact she perceived no pain.  Resigned to her fate, she looked directly at Dragon, It will kill me now.

The return thought came immediately, Kill you, why?

Selene’s surprised thought answered, To eat me!

Dragon responded, Eat you?  Why, when it grants no satisfaction?  I cannot taste your flesh, catch scent of your blood, or feel the joyous crunch of your flimsy bones breaking between my jaws.

Selene relaxed, This is just a dream.  I’m safe.

Dragon responded, You are wrong, yet you right.  This is no dream, prey.  You are already dead, as am I.  This is the Hallway to Eternity.  Yet you are indeed safe, for nothing can harm those who are already dead.

Again Selene asserted, This is a dream!

Thoughts whimsical, Dragon responded, Would that it was.  This is the path between the instant that is life, and the Eternity that is Death.  My mate and I spent our moment in life.  Preceding me into death, he traversed these halls before me.  I seek his scent, that I might share Eternity with my beloved.  Yet, I smell nothing.

The Dragons forked tongue flicked out, tasted the air, and retracted.

Though wordless and without coherent thought forms, an intensely emotive emanation issued from the Dragon.  It conveyed enormous sadness, along with deep distress.

Watching the Dragon’s actions, while perceiving its pain, brought Selene to pity, Poor thing, to be trapped in this strange dream with me.

Surprise sufficient to displace the distress immediately registered in the foreign thought.

A heartbeat of stillness.

A moment later Dragon’s thought came, Strange indeed… to be pitied by prey.  Do not pity me, prey, for I… am Dragon. 

Indignant anger flushed Selene’s cheeks, I am Selene, not prey! 

Surprise increased in Dragon’s thought, Prey… bear names?

Selene pointed to her mother’s mark with one stiff, angry finger, Yes!  We bear names!  I bear the marks of my family, all named.

The Dragon took two quick strides toward Selene.  Each pace would easily have covered five of Selene’s.

Involuntarily, Selene scooted back on the ground, fear immediately replacing her anger.

Dragon halted its approach.

A soothing thought, Fear not…  Selene.  I wish only to behold these… these much-loved marks.

Selene relaxed as best she could.

The Dragon approached, very close.  Tilting its head to the right, the massive beast turned to looked down at Selene through its left eye.  The vertical slit of its pupil contracted then widened slightly as the Dragon struggled to focus on Daniskira’s mark.

For several heartbeats, nothing.

Finally, Dragon’s thought came.

Thirihshhastra.

Confused, Selene formed the strange, sibilant word in her mind, Thirihshhastra?  I don’t know this word.  Yet, it is pleasing, and soothing both.  I would know what it means? 

An inexplicable thrill filled Selene.  She repeated the name in her mind several times before speaking it slowly, and aloud, “Thirrr eeeh ssshhh huhzz trahh.”  The way it rolled off her tongue proved even more joyous than its echo within her thoughts.

Surprised, Thirihshhastra thought, A sound, reminiscent of my name. 

Selene turned to look directly into the Dragon’s eye and thought the name as she vocalized its sound again, “Thirihshhastra.”

The expression within the enormous eye conveyed unmistakable amazement.

Thirihshhastra thought, Selene!  You have the gift of speech?

Filled with a joy she could not comprehend, Selene grinned broadly and vocalized her thoughts into joyous words, “Of course I can speak, Thirihshhastra!”

Thirihshhastra took two quick paces backwards, shock and dismay evident in her responding thought, The prey curses my name!

In an instant Horror erased Selene’s grin.

Selene snapped her mouth shut, and thought, No!  No!  I only spoke my thought aloud.  Sorry, Thirihshhastra, I am sorry.

Conflicting emotions filled Thirihshhastra’s emanation.  Anger, fear, suspicion, and most dominant, confusion.

After a few loud, unfelt heartbeats, Thirihshhastra’s thought came, While baring your teeth in attack, you made terrible sounds and uttered the likeness of my name.  What could this be, but a curse?

Selene quickly covered her mouth with her hand to hide her relieved smile.  She suppressed her desire to speak the words and thought them instead, I smiled with wonderful joy, and said the words rather than thinking them.  It was no curse, believe me. 

Thirihshhastra’s pensive thought, I am in your thoughts, Selene.  Thoughts cannot lie.

After a few heartbeats of hesitation, Thirihshhastra’s further thought came, After the joyous sound that was the semblance of my name… well, that such a horrific noise is your speech surprised me.  Adding to my confusion was your, ‘smile’. 

Puzzlement evident in Thirihshhastra’s emanation, she contemplated the strangeness of the tiny being before her.  After a few moments her further questioning thought came, Your kind bears its fangs in joy, not in readiness for attack?

Brow creasing in concern, Selene thought, I was happy so I smiled, nothing more.  If you are prepared…  I shall do so now.

A hesitation.

After a few moments, Thirihshhastra’s thought, I am prepared.

Selene uncovered her mouth, her smile erased by Thirihshhastra’s distress.  Gazing into the Dragon’s eye, Selene once more spoke her name, gently, “Thirihshhastra.”

The joy within the sound brought back Selene’s smile.

Thirihshhastra’s thoughts bore understanding, though she flinched at Selene’s smile.

After a moment’s hesitation Thirihshhastra again approached close to Selene, focused her eye on Daniskira’s mark, and thought, Selene, you say the marks of your family are all named.  What is the name of this mark?

Puzzled, Selene responded, All in my family are named and I wear their marks, with honor.  The mark you look upon is the symbol of my mother, Daniskira.

Comprehension filled Thirihshhastra’s thought, along with surprised pleasure, Daniskira?  A beautiful name, worthy of Dragon.  It rolls… like thunder in a distant storm.

After gazing at Daniskira’s mark for several heartbeats, Thirihshhastra lowered her eye, And what of this mark?

Selene checked where Thirihshhastra gazed before thinking, That is the symbol of my grandmother, my mother’s mother.  Her name is Zunesan.

Thirihshhastra backed up slightly.  Head still cocked to one side, she looked one-eyed at Selene, And where is your symbol, Selene?

Selene smiled at Thirihshhastra, who barely flinched this time.

After a brief pause Selene realized the Dragon was not joking.  She shook her head, I only get my mark when I am twelve cycles old, silly.

Thirihshhastra thought, When you are twelve cycles of cold?  How many cycles of cold are you now, Selene? 

Puzzled, Selene thought, Cycles old, cycles of cold?  Yes, from winter to winter is one cycle.  I gain my sixth marks on the morrow.  I will be six cycles of cold very soon, Thirihshhastra.

A veil fell over Thirihshhastra’s mind.  Though Selene perceived no discernible thoughts, tangible sadness emanated from the Dragon.

In order to distract herself from the Dragon’s distress Selene thought of Eden and their mischievous play together, Our grand adventure with the Segattoo blossoms.  How did that end?

Thirihshhastra interrupted Selene’s thoughts with her own, guarded and framed in careful forms so strongly reminiscent of decorum that Selene forgot about Eden as she concentrated on the Dragon’s thoughts.

The name of my mate is Hithrathra.  We have borne three progeny, Selene.  I will not name them, for they are still trapped in time’s flow and alive.

Knowing Thirihshhastra shared something important, but confused as to what it might be, Selene instead framed a polite thought in as decorous a fashion as she could.  Hithrathra, a beautiful name, and fitting for one so mighty as a Dragon.

The emanation of sadness from Thirihshhastra deepened, Hithrathra… would that I could taste his scent, one last time.  But it is not to be.  

Sympathy filled Selene, The memory of Hithrathra brings you great sadness.  That I provoke such thoughts fills me with regret.

Mind still cloaked with a guarding mist, Thirihshhastra looked into Selene’s eye, Though young, you are a powerful being, Selene.  Your every thought inspires.  It is not my thoughts of Hithrathra which sadden me, Selene… it is my thoughts of you.

Emotionally, physically, and spiritually, Selene slumped at this.

Thirihshhastra responded immediately, her wordless emanation gentle and filled with reassurance.

Still puzzled, but with her heart lightening at the Dragon’s emotional support, Selene thought, But I don’t want to make you sad, Thirihshhastra.

For a long while, the Dragon looked at the tiny, yet magnificent being before her.  Her thoughts remained guarded, and inaccessible.

When Thirihshhastra’s thoughts became perceptible once more, they were carefully composed and again filled with decorum, Selene, I would that you remember well what I shall impart.

Selene immediately straightened from her slumped position, indignant the Dragon thought it necessary to instruct her to pay close heed, I am listening!  Do you think that I might forget?

Thirihshhastra’s emanation contained humor, Very well.  You bring me great joy, Selene.  Strange… for until our meeting your kind was less than nothing to me.  It is not you, but my thoughts of you that so sorely trouble me.  I disclosed my name, secure in the knowledge you had departed time’s ever-flowing river and now sit on Eternity’s still bank, beyond life.  My mate’s name I imparted, perhaps foolishly, yet in hope that should you meet him herein you might remember me to him.  Hithrathra is slain, thus he is beyond mortal harm, and forever safe.  Careless as my disclosure may have been, it can bring him no ill.  However, you Selene… you walk these halls long before your rightful time ceases.  You should not be here, you are… you are but a pup.

Selene could not help but puff her chest out and sit up straighter, making herself larger than she was as she framed an indignant thought, I am no pup!  I am nearly sixth-marked!

Thirihshhastra’s thought came, filled with joyous mirth, And you deserve your sixth marks, Youngling.  And your own symbol, when that time comes.  Me?  Well I lost interest in counting my age when I matched Hithrathra, many long cycles past.

Selene instinctively attempted to console the Dragon by framing a reassuring thought, You are not old, Thirihshhastra.  My grandfather?  Now he is old!  His name is Jalgar.  She thrust her right shoulder forward and pointed to its second symbol, Were Jalgar my father’s father I would wear his mark here.  But Toppie is my mother’s father so I don’t wear his symbol, save within the confines of my heart.  Toppie becomes an Elder this Convocation…  Why, he will be thirty-six cycles old!  Oh… Zunesan will be as well, though she seems young compared to Toppie.

Thirihshhastra’s humorous pleasure was evident in her eye and in her thought, How strange, that your kind can bear two names.  Is one name not sufficient? 

Selene frowned, Toppie bears but one name, and that is Jalgar. 

Thirihshhastra’s massive eye twinkled, Yet you named him twice.

Selene’s frown deepened as she tried to understand the humor filling the Dragon’s emanation.

Thirihshhastra’s eye became serious as she considered what Selene’s puzzled aura imparted.  After a long pause for reflection she framed a question, Is one his true name?

Selene’s face reflected her confusion, His true name is Jalgar, but I cannot address him thus, least not till my twelfth marking.

Puzzlement formed within Thirihshhastra eye.  After a moment she pressed the matter, You wear his mark in your heart, though not in your flesh.  You named two names.  Though your mind shows the truth of your thoughts, which proclaim he is Jalgar, within your heart’s bounds, his true name is Toppie.  Is this boon in return for me naming my mate?

Utter confusion reigned in Selene’s mind as she struggled to wrap her mind about the thoughts just presented.  After a few heartbeats, she smiled in comprehension.  Taking care to cover her face with her hand, lest her broad grin distress the Dragon, she thought Perhaps, in some way.  Yes.  Toppie is our secret name for him, Eden’s and mine.  It is used and known only within our family.

Thirihshhastra leaned forward and gently rubbed Selene’s shoulder with her massive jaw.  Gratitude accompanied that tender touch, along with the thought, Your Toppie is but a pup to me as well, Selene.

After a few heartbeats of contemplation Thirihshhastra framed another thought, its tone once more replete with decorum, I ceased tallying my age with my first progeny, granted me in the cycle of my match to Hithrathra, at three hundred.  My youngest is over that age, long since.

Selene’s eyes grew wide.  For a moment she thought the Dragon jested with her, yet Thirihshhastra’s thoughts held only truth.

Thirihshhastra slowly backed away.  As she did she unveiled her thoughts completely, Selene, I would linger with you here.  We could watch the river’s flow and perceive the changes in its depth, together.  We might walk Eternity’s banks, traversing the future and all that is yet to come, for only time before we escaped its flow is denied us.  This would be an Eternity of joy fulfilled, for your every thought brings me delight.  Sadly, I fear another moment here is too long for you.  I grant you my memories.  From my birth to my demise.  When you are ready… seek them as though they are your own.

Selene felt nothing yet perceived a flow within her mind as her memories seemed to shuffle.  The puzzling contradiction of feeling an actual sensation within her mind thoroughly distracted her.

Thirihshhastra noted Selene’s distraction, Now…  I do what must be done, to undo what should not be.  I regret we part thus, Beloved, yet I can conceive no other way to turn you back from these halls.  Selene, hold my memories and our names unto you alone!  Farewell, Friend.

With the last word, Thirihshhastra’s demeanor changed in an instant to baleful rage.  Jaws wide, monstrous fangs exposed, the Dragon charged Selene with a primal, deafening, and terrifying roar issuing from her gaping maw.

Selene saw Thirihshhastra’s charge and knew it heralded death within the Dragon’s fearsome jaws.  Horrific comprehension filled her.  Terror overcame her.  Sudden warmth flooded her thighs.

The frightening image of Thirihshhastra enraged clouded within Selene’s mind as she fainted from fright.

۷۸۷۸۞۷۸۷۸

Here is a link to the free sample of Malmaxa I – Beltamar’s War.

Below are the links to Malmaxa II – The Pilgrimage.

The Pilgrimage

Amazon Kindle

The Pilgrimage

Paperback

If you you think my writing might be for you, please read them in sequence.

Thank you!

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on Our Soul’s Counsel

How can you not hear your soul?  Or, perhaps to you the question is “How can you hear your soul?”

In a way I don’t have an answer to either question, yet in another way, I have answers to both.

If you’re fortunate, then at some time in your life something will happen to encourage you to realize there’s a whole lot more to life than mere animated hunks of flesh lumbering about in search of their own hedonistic pleasures.  That moment is when you’ll realize you not only have a soul, but that your soul speaks to you.  If you make the connection and realization which follows it, then you will be fortunate indeed.

Why?  Because everything will change.

The need to claw your way to the top of the heap, regardless of who your talons touch, suddenly falls away.  I wonder if you have any concept of how liberating that is?  Sadly, the majority of people don’t.  How can I say that?  Look at the world and you’ll see… so many who think adornments worn on the flesh are more important than feelings that dwell in their hearts.  So many who think that things they hold in their hands are more important than those they hold in their heart.

At the time of writing this post I’m halfway through my fifty-sixth year.  I was fortunate enough to experience this about five years ago, and it did indeed change everything for me.  My old age is good news, since it means it might not be too late for you.

I’ve always tried to be understanding – I haven’t changed, I still try, but now I try harder.
I’ve always tried to be compassionate – I haven’t changed, I still try, but now I try a lot harder.
I’ve always tried to be tolerant – I haven’t changed, I still try, but now I try a whole lot harder.
I’ve always tried to be forgiving – I haven’t changed, I still try, but now I try so much harder.
I’ve always tried to be loving – I haven’t changed, I still try, but now I try to show it, where before I tried to hide it.

I didn’t really believe in souls, but then something happened and I realized the connection we humans have is simply not “normal”.  I think that is when I realized what a soul is, and how important they are to our overall well-being.  If you’re lucky, something will happen that makes you change.

Life is not an “accident”, it is something wonderfully mysterious, and it truly matters. All life, not just ours.  Please think about that.

I listen to mine soul now, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to live without its counsel.  I hope you hear yours, and that it changes your life as positively as hearing mine has changed mine.

Oh, and no.  This has nothing to do with religious dogma, as evidenced by the multitudes of the religious who blatantly flaunt their worldly wealth.  No, it has only to do with your soul.  I wonder?  Are you one of the fortunate?  Of course you are, yet which type of fortunate are you?

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