on Miracles

It strikes me that most women are fascinated by a baby’s feet.  Women and men are different.  Me?  I’m fascinated by a baby’s hands.  They bring home how miraculous life is.  Perfect little hands, with perfect little fingers, tendons, muscles, and bones.  Tiny little functional replicas of our own.

With everything that can go wrong, if that a single child in a million is born perfect isn’t a miracle I simply don’t know what is.  Miracles are everywhere, we only need look at any form of life to see them.

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on Nature’s Lessons

It has always fascinated me how nurturing little girls are. Playing at being mothers is a skill nobody teaches them, they simply have it. Then they lose that skill about age ten or eleven, or shortly before puberty, and take a dozen years to get it back. Nature is a strange, mysterious, wonderful thing. It teaches us skills we don’t know we have, lets us forget them, to eventually relearn them anew. I wonder if, when the second lesson comes, we learn it as well as nature taught us first time around?

As for men? Well I’m fifty-six and only {re-}learning to be nurturing now. That lesson feels familiar, somehow.

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on Ill-Will

I recently learnt someone I truly despised had died. Many thoughts ran through my mind at this news, not least of which was how we should bear the deceased no ill-will.


Hatred is an emotion that grasps us in a cruel, yet clever grip. It convinces us we are righteous, that it matters, and that we should embrace and sustain it. It twists us until we think that something so wrong as hatred, is somehow something right. Hatred breeds, with the foremost of its offspring being intolerance and spite. Hatred hides in plain sight, wearing its many guises well. Yet once we recognize it those clever concealments soon fall away. You’ll find hatred and its progeny everywhere, from sporting events to religious teachings to political rallies to virulent atheism and most places between.

Ill-will is everywhere, though it serves nobody well.

Back to the person who recently died…

How strange to bear another ill-will right up until the time of their demise, then feel our hatred morph into pity.

Pity strikes me as a far better emotion than its inverse, from which it sometimes springs. Indeed pity might be kin to compassion, an emotion I hold in high esteem.

Ill-will takes too much energy to hold as tight as we do. Compassion takes no energy at all, indeed it gives it back.  Release ill-will, and embrace compassion. I think you’ll be relieved when you do. I know I am.

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on Matters

Everything I write, is written because it matters. This is true for my books, poems, blog posts, texts, tweets, beliefs, and emails. It all matters to me, the question is what matters to you?

Do truth, integrity, compassion, understanding, and love matter to you as much as they do to me? Or are those just arcane concepts people wrap with words, but not with thoughts?

An interesting idea that receives a great deal of attention in literature is the concept of doing wrong for the right reasons. I like interesting concepts because they allow me to weigh them in the balance scales within my mind. I wonder if you have similar scales within yours? You know, those two opposing voices that argue the merits of everything you encounter? Those voices are your inner scale of justice, and they aren’t blind.

Doing wrong for the right reasons… Is it okay to do something morally repugnant if the end result seems attractive?  Is it okay to do something wrong to get something right? Is it okay to be a little bad to ensure something good?  Let us investigate this by considering three examples.


  1. You haven’t studied, it is crunch time, and you’re about to fail your final exams. If you fail, your parents will have to pay money they don’t have for you to redo the semester or you’ll have to drop out and take a minimum wage job.  Is it okay to cheat?
  2. Military Intelligence has caught a suspected terrorist, they believe a brutal attack is imminent, but the suspect isn’t talking. Is it okay to torture the suspect?
  3. You know your boss is a liar who has been defrauding the company with something he shrugs off as “creative accounting”, but he promised you a raise if you remain silent, and without the raise you can’t afford to pay your rent. Is it okay to keep quiet?


  1. It isn’t okay to cheat.
  2. It isn’t okay to torture anyone, for any reason, ever.

Yes, those little voices in our head can come up with some pretty convincing arguments to justify something we know is wrong.  Indeed, we are able to justify almost anything. However the thing about justifications is that if a matter is truly just, there is never a need to justify it.

Oh, and lest you think I forgot the conclusion to the third scenario, I didn’t. In actuality that third scenario is the purpose of this entire post.

It is not okay to keep quiet when you know someone is a liar, a cheater, a thief and worse. Donald Trump is a liar, that isn’t an opinion it is an irrefutable fact. He has  cheated countless people by refusing to pay them. He claims to be billionaire who, by his own admission, does not pay Federal tax.  Your silence in the upcoming election is not okay. Your failure to vote in order to ensure this repugnant lying bigot is kept out of the highest office in the United States is not okay – no matter how you try and justify it to yourself.

So you’re a dedicated, lifelong Republican?  Who cares? Conformity is the ultimate abdication of personal responsibility.  Just. Don’t. Do. It.


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on Abuse

Love is a powerful thing.

Indeed, it is powerful enough to overcome abuse.

I struggle with that. I don’t understand how anyone can love someone who deliberately injures them, either emotionally or physically. For me this is one of those things it is incredibly difficult to grasp.

It is also one of those things in which we tend to blame the victims by saying or thinking they choose to remain in an abusive relationship when they should move on. I wonder if they realize they have a choice? If they don’t realize they do, then I’m inclined to think they don’t. If they think they have no choice and we blame them for remaining, instead of showing them they do, then I wonder if we’re adding to their abuse?

I think we are.

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on Busy

We live in a busy world full of things we simply must do.

But must we?

I smile as I write that.  Things are not people, they are just things and things don’t care whether they get done or not.  On the other hand people do care.  Yes, many of the things we do, we do for others, but perhaps the others we do them for might prefer the time we spend doing those things be spent on them.

A parents work is never done…

You know, I think the world would be a much worse place if parents ever began to feel they have done enough for their children.  However that “enough” relates to giving our children the skills to succeed and the love to feel secure.  It doesn’t mean we give them the clothes off our backs because they lack the ability to get their own once they are grown. That said, we most likely will anyway…

Some things should change, and some things should not.

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on Tough Love

I recently posted this thought on Twitter.

I wonder why we encourage our children to toughness, not tenderness?

In loving relationships between adults practicing “tough love” will quickly end such relationships.  With that thought in mind I’m tempted to ask the question “Why is being tough toward our children acceptable?

I’m tempted to ask, but instead I’ll explain why I think we tend toward being tough on our children.

Because we love them and we want them to be successful?

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? We think showing our children a hard hand or heart will somehow strengthen them and prepare them for a hard world. But will it? Or will it merely show them how to harden their own hearts?

The older I get the more I change my view toward the later way of thinking. After the physical necessities of life, the things our children most need from us are love, compassion, and understanding. Perhaps not in that order, but definitely all three of those difficult to define, intangible, yet absolutely crucial emotional elements.

How does “tough love” fit into any of those elements?

Should we teach our children discipline? In some ways we must. However, must is not necessarily the same as should.

The ways in which we must, and should, teach our children discipline are in regard to the physical necessities of life. We must teach them not to be greedy, not only because greed is immoral, but also because greed is unhealthy. If evil has a more accurate name, that name is greed.

On the emotional scale, we must teach our children to be cautious. We must teach them to be wary. We must teach them to listen to their instincts. We must teach them to always question, most especially the things they are told they may not question.

And then there is the question of when we should teach our children discipline in the matters of love, compassion, and understanding. I’m sure if I wrack my brain I can contrive some circumstance in which we should discipline our children to not love, to not be compassionate, or to not be understanding. Perhaps I could, however I suspect those circumstances would be precisely as I’ve already described them – contrived.

Perhaps instead of teaching our children discipline in the emotional elements of life we should teach them to be indiscriminate in the depth of those emotional constructs?

Unfortunately, in this shallow world where material possessions have assumed paramount importance I don’t know how to begin that lesson. How can I, in good conscience, teach my children to be generous toward those who exhibit greed? I cannot, however I can teach them to not take more than their share, and I try to do that every day.

Perhaps the essence of tough love is teaching our children to deny themselves the material desires so many mistake for needs?

Perhaps… is such a good word.

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on Moments, Misspent

Reflecting on how we spend our lives has brought me to the conclusion we are no longer spending time wisely.

Life is a purse full of coin we’re granted at birth, but the coins aren’t cash, they’re moments and we have no idea how many we get.  Our purse can and will run out, all too often when we least expect it. Nothing we do replenishes our purse, so we should spend our moments wisely.

We don’t…

We reach into the purse of our life, take out the coins and squander them on things that ultimately don’t matter. Work won’t remember us, while those we love and who love us in return will. Yet we spend our most precious and productive moments on work and have so few left to give the ones we love.

Why do you work?  To secure the daily needs of your loved ones, or to secure your legacy? There is a problem if it is the latter, that problem is the same one I mentioned in a previous paragraph. Your loved ones will remember you with love, your legacy might make your name remembered but it will never love you.

Perhaps the most important thing we should do with our time is constantly re-evaluate how we spend it?  When you do, please remember time isn’t an investment capable of earning the most precious things any of us have – our moments.

~ Time ~
When there aren’t enough hours in
the days.
When work takes our time and fritters
it away.
When we no longer have moments left
for play.
Hours spent, for what?
To let us give to work
all the energy we’ve got?
Hours stolen from living,
in payment for a chance
at life.

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on Trust

I believe that when we look for signs we find them. If we’re taught to look for evil, we will find traces of it everywhere. If we’re taught to look for beauty, then that is what we’ll find.

Are there people out there who have no place in humanity? Absolutely. But when we teach our children to be suspicious and afraid that is exactly what they’ll be. I don’t think that serves them well. We shouldn’t tell them to trust every stranger, but neither should we tell them every stranger is an axe murderer who should be treated as such until they are no longer a stranger.

Statistically, the worst crimes against children are committed by closely related family members, not by strangers.  Yet we don’t teach them to be suspicious of their relatives.  Nope, we actually instruct them to obey such people.  Is that a smart thing to do? Am I saying we should teach our kids to welcome strangers with open arms, and look on every relative with suspicion because that is what the statistics clearly indicate is the safest path?

No, I am not!

Instead I think we must tell our children to listen to their gut instincts very carefully.  If their gut tells them something is not as it should be, then they should listen to it and get out of there. Fast.  Get away first, then tell someone who has already proven they are completely trustworthy, and worry about hurting the feeling of the one who raised the hair on the back of their necks later.  But few of us do that.  Nope, we teach our children the opposite.  We teach them that they should NOT listen to their gut, to obey authority, to trust their relatives, and to distrust everyone else. We teach them a recipe for disaster, and tell them it’s is recipe for cake.

These are just my thoughts.  They may seem substantially different from yours, at first glance. But in order to resolve such differences, we’d have to have many long discussions, only one would simply never do.  And were we to have the opportunity for said discussions, we’d likely find we have much common ground – no matter how strange we seem to each other at first.  Who knows, we might even learn to respect and trust each other.  At the very least we’d no longer be strangers, we’d realize the sharpest axes we wield are words, and those would be very good realizations.

Trust is deserving when it has been earned, not when it has been demanded or instructed.  Perhaps that lesson would benefit the children of everyone everywhere.

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on Silence

Life is constant contradiction.  We’re told we should “Speak the truth and shame the devil“, we’re also told to “Bite our tongue“.  When we speak out against something that strikes us as questionable, we often incur the wrath of those who disagree.  This makes us immediately regret the decision to talk instead of biting our tongue.  Regret is painful, and since pain is a powerful teacher we quickly learn to choose silence even though our silence is a lie.

I believe the choice of silence is a big mistake. Why?  Because we’re choosing long term internal pain over over the pain of a short term external rebuke.  When I bite my tongue and manage to stop myself saying what I really think about something, I suffer through a drawn out internal dialogue in which I question my integrity, my resolve, and my courage.  Self-doubt is a pretty terrible thing because the one person we absolutely have to live with, is ourself.

Those are the thoughts that prompted this tweet…

Silence is the easiest lie of all. When you don’t speak the truth as you see it, what you’re doing is “silenting a lie”
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Soul Tutor

Our soul is our ultimate tutor. All we need do is listen to its murmurs, for that is when its lessons freely flow.

~ soul tutor ~
in how to understand, and be more understanding,
in how to accept, and be more accepting,
in how to cry, and feel the relief of release,
of how to long, and love longer,
of passion, and how to be tenderly passionate,
of life, and for whom to live it,
of love, and how to love better…

What lessons does your soul teach, and who is its most ardent student?

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The following is an essay written some months back by my youngest daughter, Julia. The assignment involved writing a creative “Dear John Letter”. I’ve had to wait till now to post it as it was still to be graded.

Why are we, as parents, so proud of the accomplishments of our progeny? Perhaps because those accomplishments are worthy of pride?  I hope you’re as proud of your children as I am of mine.

Julia’s Essay

To my Dear Nasty Old Dad Sweater,

                In my heart I wish it did not need to be, but our relationship needs to end. We have had a great run and so many amazing memories: the time we first met, it was Christmas and your wool seemed so fleecy and your colors so stupendously vibrant. In those days it seemed you were the only sweater for me, we were the perfect mix.

                I believe that when a relationship is no longer satisfactory to both parties it is best that it end. In this relation I believe I deserve to be comfortable, twee, and warm. At first I believed I would have all of these things with you, but soon after we became comfortable with each other you lost the fleecy feel I loved so dearly and became coarse and unrefined. Your colors began to fade and the lovely green I once loved became garish and hard to face. The warmth you once offered left me behind in a cold wind.

                I have tried my very hardest to stop this from happening, truly.  When you first lost your soft feel I tended you with fabric softener and tried giving you new dryer sheets, but it was to no avail for you remained course. When your once delightful colors turned garish I tried pairing you with a dark pair of jeans or boots, but your color remained horrendous. It is not your fault our summer turned to a winter cold and unbearable, but even with a long undershirt you did nothing to keep me warm.

                So despite my efforts to save the relationship I have held so dear, I must leave you. It is here that we part.

                Goodbye, my Dear Nasty Old Dad Sweater.

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on Motives to Writing

Why do we do the things we do? Motivation to the apparently inexplicable is a theme throughout Malmaxa. Few things are ever done “for no reason”, but to comprehend the reasons for apparently inexplicable acts we need to understand the person who commits them. In Beltamar’s War there are no characters, only people who sometimes don’t even understand themselves, yet long to be understood. But this post isn’t about Beltamar’s War, it is about my motivations for writing.

This post originally appeared on a blog named “The Story Behind the Book”. A couple of days ago pure chance, if you believe pure chance exists, brought me back to it and since such blogs have a way of vanishing overnight I’m re-posting it here. Like many writers, thought of my hardwrought words being lost distresses me. Anyway, here is the post – intact save the opening paragraph.  I hope it tells you a little about my motives for writing the things I do, the way I do, when I do.

The Story Behind the Book

At age six, I lost my father to a heart attack caused by a surgical blunder.  With seven children to care for, circumstances forced my mother to enter the workplace as a self-taught bookkeeper.  Though she has never expressed it, I can only imagine how desperate she must have been, and how difficult those times truly were.  We had a home, food, hand-me-down clothes, and all the love any child could ever need.  For our birthdays and Christmas, we’d receive the necessities – to this day, the Christmas gifts I treasure most are new socks, and plain cotton handkerchiefs.  In other words, we were destitute, yet didn’t know.  Though I was the fourth child of seven, I never doubted that I was my mother’s favorite middle child.  Each of us held a unique variation of the coveted title, “favorite”, and none of us begrudged the others theirs.  Hearts are strange things, their capacity for love is limitless, yet every iteration of love is unique.

Shortly after my father’s death, my Godfather assumed the role of father figure, for me.  He was a bachelor, never married, and recently forced into early retirement for his political beliefs.  He lived in a tiny, one roomed cottage a few miles from our house, and he read a great deal.  His love let me escape to the companionable solitude of afternoons spent reading, or talking about all kinds of things.  While he never directly mentioned his political views, which I later learnt were of social justice, he always held true to them.  Although my Godfather had excellent vision, he was the first truly blind person I met – in a time of widespread discrimination, he never considered people in terms of race, gender, creed, or social status.  To him, there were only individuals, their worth determined by nothing save their character.  Where you and I look at someone, and see their physical characteristics, I know my Godfather looked at people, and saw their soul.  Circumstances shape character – in that crucible, a hard life results in the finest clay.  I recall an incident when someone stole the radio out of his car.  Outraged anyone could do such a shameful thing to such a decent person, I expounded on how harsher penalties were needed – this was the prevailing thought of the time (it seems to have remained prevalent).  My Godfather astonished me by shrugging off the incident, and asking this question, “Who is the guiltier person – the one stealing the radio, or the one who buys the stolen radio?”  I was about eight at the time, but I grasped his meaning.  He never replaced the radio, and we never missed it, using its silence as an opportunity to talk instead.

When I was around seventeen years old, my Godfather left Rhodesia and moved to southern Spain.  This was during the height of the counter-insurgency war wracking that wonderful country.  I think only the most unfortunate are capable of seeing their youth as they truly were.  I don’t count myself among those deprived of a splendid childhood, so to me Rhodesia was a wonderful place of liberty and dignity for all.  In the decade I spent with him, my Godfather took me all over the country – we visited its wonders, and met many of its gentle people.  After he left, I completed my matriculation and volunteered for National Service nearly a year ahead of my scheduled conscription.  I firmly believing doing so was service to my country, and I held a great fear it would fall to the communist backed insurgents if I waited.  Looking back, I feel great remorse – not for serving my country but for the actions of my distant forefathers.  Europeans corrupted an honorable, ancient culture.  Centuries past, they took their beliefs and imposed them on a spiritual, primitive people who had been entirely self-sufficient.  Western values have little place in Africa.  Is the right of conquest a right, or an immoral imposition?  Yet that happened long before my birth, should I feel shame for the actions of my ancestors’ ancestors?  Although my heritage is European, I’m fifth generation African, my soul is of the Dark Continent.  This understanding is now a cornerstone of my philosophy – simply because someone holds different beliefs to you, does not make them wrong, it simply makes them different.  Without diversity, is doom.

By now, I’m sure you’re wondering what any of this has to do with my series, Malmaxa.  The answer is a significant amount.  I’ve lived through hard times, held prosperity in my grasp, and seen hard times return.  I’ve been a combatant in an insurgency war, witnessed terrible deeds, and done shameful things.  I’ve remained silent, when I should have raised vocal objections.  I’ve lost a brother to cold-blooded murder, and lived to see the day of his killer’s execution, though not the execution itself.  Each of these things, and countless others, most better but some far worse, have shaped me into whom I will become.  Of them all, I count the influence of my Godfather and mother highest.  They revealed a better world than that in which we dwell.  A world where character counts for more than dogma, material wealth, or inherited acclaim.

Beltamar’s War introduces my literal world – a place stripped bare of most all that makes people behave as poorly as we do.  Malmaxa, is my metaphor of a world where character counts.  Is it a perfect place, inhabited by imperfect people, or a world where insidious evil enslaves the innocent?  It might be both of these – venture in, and find out.

Join me in on my continuing journey through Malmaxa, where every deed or misdeed modifies perception, and perception is the ever-changing clay used to mold character.  If you’d prefer to travel alongside me in this world, follow me on Twitter, where you can find me as @CGAyling

{P.S. If you’ve read this far I think you’ll understand why I chose to use my Godfather’s name as my pseudonym. Sometimes motives are hard to comprehend, but sometimes they’re the simplest things in the world…}

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on Loyalty

In my “real” job I work with law enforcement agencies virtually every day. I have enormous respect for the vast majority of them, not because they “lay their lives on the line every day“, which in my opinion is the sort of hyped up nonsense used to justify unjustifiable acts, but because they work at a largely thankless job in which they genuinely try to ensure the safety of the citizenry they serve.

Unfortunately, law enforcement has a truly terrible systemic problem which their culture routinely promotes as a positive attribute, namely “Loyalty“. How can I possibly consider loyalty to be such a negative attribute that I deem it to be a “truly terrible systemic problem”?

I don’t.  Loyalty is an important character trait – when it is both earned and deserved.  When loyalty is neither earned or deserved, or is earned but not deserved, it becomes misplaced.  Which is precisely where law enforcement agencies make a fatal error – they consistently fail to make the distinction between earned and deserved loyalty and misplaced loyalty.  When a law enforcement agency closes ranks around an officer who has grossly abused the public trust the entire agency is tainted by the wrongdoing of the officer to whom they are displaying misplaced loyalty.  That is the terrible and systemic problem to which I alluded earlier.

If law enforcement truly wants to regain the public trust then they must stop abusing it by protecting people who should be punished.  No, I’m not talking about wayward members of the public – I’m talking about officers who abuse their power and authority.  Such officers do not deserve the loyalty of their departments – they deserve to be held accountable and to face the same legal consequences any member of the public would for acting in a similar fashion.

{P.S. “This is Awful – It Cannot be Lawful!” inspired this post, thank you.}

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on Transgender Restrooms

Restrooms are not about sex, they are about gender. When it comes to evacuating your bowels the sex you identify with does not matter, your gender does.

Before you join the current hysteria and scream “Discrimination!“, stop, draw a few deep breaths, reengage your brain, and ask yourself a few questions.


Who is going to console the women and girls who are victimized by peeping toms who get some sort of perverted pleasure invading women’s restrooms?  Who is going to prevent drunken men from bursting into female restrooms because their cohorts dare them to “Just say you’re a transgender”?  Who is going to console the females who are raped in restrooms by men masquerading as women?  How do you feel about boys and men having free access to the restrooms your preteen and teenage daughters use? And mark my words, these entirely avoidable abuses won’t be perpetrated by women entering men’s restrooms – they will be perpetrated against girls and women by men.

Transgender rights to restroom access” is Political Correctness taken to idiotic extremes, and as usual it isn’t about civil rights or equality – it is about misinformation pandering to and trying to influence public opinion.

I’m a man, I don’t care if some woman is foolish enough to walk into a men’s restroom and say, “I think I’m a man today, so I have a right to be here.” In fact I’m probably the fool who’ll try to defend them from the other men in the restroom who demand she prove it. However I most certainly do care about men pretending to be women in order to enter a restroom my daughters, or indeed any women or girl, might use.  In my considered opinion permitting or endorsing such an action is a gross violation of every females right to privacy.

Am I saying transgender people must be forced to use the restroom of their birth gender?  No, I am not.  However we must consider what transgender means. If someone truly is transgender then they have transitioned from their birth gender to the semblance of the opposite gender.  If that is so, then you or I should not be able to tell them from someone who is actually of their transitioned gender, and they should definitely not be broadcasting this information.  This means the entire question of transgender restrooms is irrelevant, since real transgender people are already using them and have been for a very long time.

Which brings us right back to the fundamental flaw of this politically correct nonsense.  Namely how it literally opens the door to abuse by people masquerading as people of the opposite sex.  It does not bestow any new privileges on real transgender people, it bestows new rights on male perverts who can now pretend they are transgender in order to abuse women and girls.

When did we start thinking the rights of the few are of any greater worth than the rights of the many?  That is how this issue looks to me, misguided, completely unnecessary, recklessly dangerous, and grossly unfair to women everywhere.  And as a man, for me the worst thing about this entire fiasco is that it will adversely affect women far more than it will affect men.  Men have mistreated women enough, let us not open the doors to one of their last remaining sanctuaries from men, namely Female restrooms everywhere.

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