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Adventures In Publishing: The Ruined Man

After the excitement from “The Saga of Shamus” died down I took a step back and decided to work on my craft. Learn how to smith the words better. To accomplish this, I started writing short stories like a mad man. This was a relatively new field for me. Until then I had mostly written plays and novellas. I had just moved to Albuquerque and me and my friend Brandon would spend our weekend mornings writing. And believe me, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I churned out at least one short story a week for a weeks on end.  Most of these stories were garbage and will never see the light of day. I collected my favorites and self-published a collection called “Twisted Yarns.”  I know what you’re thinking. Why would I self-publish again? What would possess me to want to undertake that exercise in humility again? To be honest, I was getting discouraged. Because even though I was churning out garbage short stories at a record pace, I couldn’t find anyone to publish them. Most of the stories I wrote were too long for the word counts of these publications. Flash fiction was really big at the time and everyone thought that if you couldn’t tell a story in under 1000 words, it wasn’t really a story. I don’t write 1000 word short stories. Hell, I don’t even write 3500 word short stories. My short stories start at 7500 words and usually top out somewhere around 10k.  And the few places that did accept lengthy stories gave me nothing but encouraging rejections. If you’re a writer, you know the kind.

“Great story, but not what we’re looking for right now.”

“Really enjoyed the story, but doesn’t fit our issue. What else do you have?”

And so on and so forth. Over and over again. One rejection after another in a constant flow of bad news. After a while the ego takes a hit. After a while you start asking yourself questions and doubting yourself and your talent.

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One of the stories to come out of this frenzy of writing was the original short story version of, “The Ruined Man.” The story actually followed the events of the upcoming book 2. I sent a copy to my old creative writing professor and he got back to me the same day with, “Turn this into a book! It NEEDS to be a book!” So that’s what I set out to do.

Turning a short story into a full-length novel is no easy feat. I’ve heard it said they are two separate modes of writing. A short story is like a passionate kiss from a stranger. It is fast, unexpected and leaves you breathless and wanting more. Whereas a novel is like a love affair. It’s slow, develops over time and is chock full of emotional highs and lows.  So the trick was how to turn a passionate kiss into a love affair. I decided to start at the beginning, like all good love affairs. I told the story of how Victor Wolf became the Ruined Man—a story that ended up beginning 15 years in the past.  The story, which ended up being book one, “The Ruined Man,” flowed out of me as if Wolf was telling it to me over afternoon coffee.  Before I knew it, I had completed the Purple Gates story and had to move on to the second half which covered the events in the short story.  Turning that into a love affair was difficult and took years. Literally years.  The few query letters I did send out about The Ruined Man were met with rejection (surprise, surprise). Even after the discouragement settled in and I quit writing, I would still go back to Wolf and tinker around with the novel. It soon became a monster. A monster that I loved like a child. A beast I wanted to protect from the slings and arrows of all the nasty assholes rejecting my work and chipping away at my self-esteem.  So I kept the book locked away in the fortress of my hard drive like the electronic manifestation of the Man in the Iron Mask.

Eventually, I quit looking at it altogether. Because I had finally had enough. Enough rejection. Enough criticism. Enough ridicule. Enough hearing loved ones talk about how I needed to “find a real job” and leave this writing thing behind. Those of you who know me know how huge this decision would be for me. All I ever wanted was to be a storyteller. Period. From the time my imagination started imagining I was making up stories. There is nothing I love to do more than get lost in my imagination and find a story there to share with others. I had spent years of my life not listening to all the naysayers. My high school teachers begged me not to be a writer. My college professors begged me not to be a writer. My parents REALLY begged me not to be a writer.

“There’s no money in it.”

“You’ll be poor your whole life!”

“Nobody respects writers! They are slackers and miscreants!”

Ad infimum.

I ignored them all and pursued my dream only to find out they were right. As I said in my last blog, I was one voice in a cacophony of thousands trying to get heard. Few people listened. Fewer cared.  Everybody wants to be a writer but nobody wants to read. I was discouraged, disgusted and frustrated and I was getting real tired of rejection. So I decided to leave it behind and get a job in IT. There is nothing more soul-crushing than giving up on your dreams.  Very little else will take the light from your eyes and the life from your step like losing a piece of who you are. But I had to. I couldn’t take the pain any more. I couldn’t take the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. I couldn’t take the smoldering disappointment I felt radiating from everyone around me. I had been defeated. So I stepped back and “gave it to God.”

I felt it leave in that moment—the fire I had kept stoked for years just didn’t die, it was snuffed out. As my imagination dimmed, a sharp pang stabbed my heart. It felt exactly like breaking up with someone. The loss was immense.

Franz Kafka said a non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. Franz Kafka knew something about it because I learned the truth in that statement pretty quickly. My whole life I used writing to process the world around me. The stories, poems, plays and essays I’d written were fueled by a myriad of emotions. But that was gone now. I didn’t have an outlet for creative expression. Those were dark days.

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During the summer of 2016 I came across Michelkin Publishing’s call for submissions. They were an indie house out of New Mexico and they were seeking local writers with books about New Mexico. Bonus points for magical realism. My thoughts immediately went to The Ruined Man, but I quickly pushed it back. I had quit writing. I didn’t want any more rejection.  I gave it to God and He decided to keep it. All my passion for writing was gone. But I kept going back to it for days. Finally I relented.

“It’s no big deal,” I convinced myself. “You haven’t gotten a rejection in years, you can handle at least one. It doesn’t even matter. It’s not like you’re a writer anymore, anyway. Accepted or rejected, it’s all the same now. Besides, it’ll be rejected for sure. No doubt.”

So I went to Michelkin’s site and filled out the submission form and included a summary of my monstrous word-baby. I clicked send and was hit with a brief spike of excitement that was quickly dulled over. Then I waited. Waited for the rejection I was sure would come.

“Dear Mr. DeGray,

Thank you for your submission but we can’t find room for you right now.

Signed,

Every publisher or agent ever”

The morning I got the email from Michelkin’s publishing department that’s what I expected it to read. But that’s not what it said. They actually said they liked the summary and wanted to see the first 50 pages. I couldn’t believe it. I was shaking as I dove into the electronic dungeon of my hard drive. My heart pumped wildly as I opened the key and let my Monster in the Iron Mask see light for the first time in ages. I spit-shined the manuscript and sent them what they asked for. Then I waited again.

And waited.

And waited.

Months later I got another email. Again, I expected this to be the one where they thanked me for my time but they had decided to pass. Again, not what happened. They felt the first 50 were solid and wanted to see the whole manuscript. I almost cried. No joke. I spent the weekend polishing up my beloved brain-child and sent it off to them. And then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

By this time I was getting anxious. It was December now and I hadn’t heard a thing from them since the end of September. I was convinced they hated it and hadn’t gotten around to sending me the rejection yet. I tried not to care, but the fire had been sparked inside me again. It burned with a tiny flame. Like a tea light–a miniature flicker of light in a sea of dark hopelessness. It was fragile and I knew that this rejection would snuff it out for good. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was the cosmic plan behind it, the killing blow that would ensure I would never get back up. And then it came.

December 10, 2016 I was at my niece’s birthday party when I got an email from Michelkin Publishing. My throat instantly dried and I was hit with a rush of excitement. I took three deep breaths and returned to the party. Later, after I had gotten home, I paced around for at least an hour terrified to open the email. Finally, I steeled my resolve and read the email.

They said they’d be happy to publish my manuscript. In two books. I cried. No joke. And that tiny flame suddenly grew into a blazing beacon.

And now, six months later, my first published novel is actually out. It feels great, I can’t lie. It’s blissful to no longer be a monster courting insanity. All dreams are worth living. That’s what I took away from this adventure in publishing. No matter who you are, no matter what your secret dream is—live it. Don’t let the wet blanket of hopelessness put out your fire. Don’t let the criticism and disapproval of others guide the direction you take.  It is YOUR life, after all. You are the one who has to live it, so live it well.

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Daily Wisdomisms: Buddha

“I consider the positions of kings and rulers as dust motes. I observe treasures of gold and gems as so many bricks and pebbles. I look upon the finest silken robes as tattered rags. I see myriad of worlds of the universe as small seeds of fruit, and the greatest lake in India as a drop of oil on my foot. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusions of magicians. I discern the highest conception of emancipation as a golden brocade in a dream and view the holy path of the illuminated ones as flowers appearing in one’s eyes. I see meditation as a pillar of a mountain, Nirvana as a nightmare of daytime. I look upon the judgment of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of a dragon, and the rise and fall of beliefs as but traces of the four seasons.” —Buddha

From “Zen flesh, Zen bones” as compiled by Paul Reps

The world is a petty place. All of its glitter and gold, its shine and appeal is an illusion. And behind that illusion, the truth of the world is as fake and tarnished as those who proclaim its brilliance. Buddha saw this. He noticed that nothing was as it seems. That reality was not real. That all of the world’s temptations and ideas of success were flawed and ultimately meant nothing. Not even religion and all the promises of the afterlife were devoid of the stain of pettiness and lies that covers everything we see, hear, think and believe. Right and wrong are in constant flux and all of our deeply held beliefs are nothing but passing memories. As a matter of fact, the only pillar that exists is meditation.

We have to go inside to find the answers we are looking for. We have to take time to listen to that still, small voice that so desperately wants to guide us. Because when the external world is nothing but illusion and lies and Nirvana is the nightmare of creation all we have left to guide us is that inner light. So always be encouraged to “Be still and know God.” That’s where beauty and truth really exist and it is they only place they do.

Problems with Godless Morality

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Morality. What is it? Where does it stem from? It is a big thing right now among secularists and atheistic movements to boldly claim, “I don’t need God to be a moral person. I am a moral person because it is  naturally the right thing to do.”

But can anyone really be moral because it is a basic, natural part of being human?

The answer, of course is NO.

Two major arguments arise when discussing Godless Morality. The first is Materialism, or the belief that everything is made of matter and nothing supernatural exists outside the material world. This includes God.

The second is Moral Relativism—or the belief that there is no absolute right or wrong. Moral codes are to be—and often are—freely interpreted by the individual.

MATERIALISM

Is Nature moral? Is there some sense of justice and fairness—right and wrong—to her cycle? No. At most, Nature seeks to achieve balance and will go to any lengths to maintain said balance. The material world doesn’t run on moral or ethical motivations whatsoever. There are no High Courts of Gazelles putting vicious and murderous lions on trial. There are no laws keeping monkeys from stealing each other’s fruits and mating with whomever they please or from flinging shit at people who piss them off. In Nature, it rains on the just and unjust alike. Some might even say there is a dogged absence of moral reasoning in the material world. So then logically, a sense of morality couldn’t arise from natural sources. It’s simply not natural. And after all, we aren’t anything more than apes raised above their station. 😉

So then it’s instinctual for us to be amoral. To seek the preservation of our life and species above all else. And to use whatever tools we have at our disposal to accomplish these goals. When left to our own devices this is exactly what humans do. Case in point: The Old Testament Jews.

Moses (by God’s direction) went to a lot of trouble to set them free from slavery and usher them into the promised land. Whole movies have even been made about it (if a point of reference is needed).  And after all that trouble, what do the newly freed people do the moment Moses leaves to get the rules from God? Did they sit around, patiently waiting and respecting each others’ safe spaces and living in harmony because it was the right thing to do? Hell no they didn’t. They blew all their gold on a graven image and started getting chaotic about things. I mean really down and dirty. Stuff that would’ve made Caligula blush. Moses was so pissed he broke the stone tablets the 10 Commandments were written on and had to go get a whole new set.

There’s a lesson here. The instant people are left unsupervised they tend to go crazy and fuck shit up. We are not naturally moral people. We are rapacious and unapologetic assholes. But that’s cool. Knowing there’s a problem is the first step to fixing it. But we need help. And isn’t it odd that the very help we needed arose at the dawn of time in every part of the world, setting down basic and common rules for living in every group of people that later turned into religions? It’s really not odd at all. It was God who gave us morality and told us to stop acting like rapacious assholes and make something of ourselves.

Thus, the secularist’s sense of natural morality isn’t natural at all. It is a direct result of living within the confines of morality for thousands of years. We have been living with moral codes for so long that they have finally started to become part of us. This was no accident.

 

MORAL RELATIVISM

The next biggest problem with Godless Morality is Moral Relativism.  A popular argument among its proponents is that there is no absolute right and wrong. No God exists in order to dictate morality to us. And as a result, we are each free to develop and follow our own moral codes. A few of the extreme fringe groups such as the Neo-Anarchist and Anti-Statist movements, think that moral relativism should be taken one step further in the abolishing of all laws and governing bodies. People should be free to live their lives based on their own moral codes. Moral accountability is a personal thing and absolute morals don’t exist as they are determined separately by each and every one of us. The flaws in this logic are epic.

First and foremost, if morality isn’t absolute and is open to free interpretation then anything goes. Literally anything. Murder. Rape. Pedophilia. Beastiality. Robbery. Assault. Genocide.  All are welcomed in a morally relativistic society. They would have to be. Otherwise you’d be infringing upon another’s right to live their lives.

If someone thinks murder and rape are perfectly acceptable and even natural, necessary things and seeks to practice them upon you and your family, who are you to stop them?

Simply put, you have no right to stop them. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and all that.  Your morals are not their morals and you just have to accept that. Give yourself over to the natural and amoral rhythms of Nature in all her glory.

But there is a problem with that scenario. Things like murder and rape ARE abhorrent to most of us. The very thought of them stirs revulsion and disgust within us. So then in the face of that, knowing that Nature is amoral and believing in no absolute right and wrong, where does that sense of absolution arise from? Where does that simple knowledge that we should act better than our animal selves spring from?

A Source outside of us. God. The same source responsible for giving us consciousness gave us morality.

So in conclusion, Godless Morality can’t exist because morality doesn’t exist without God. Morality is not some response developed through the course of evolution since it is not natural to begin with.  Secular morality is intellectual dishonesty of the highest nature as it seeks to steal the credit for humanity’s moral development from God and place it within the Self. When in reality, civilization and its growth is impossible without God.

Hey! Leggo My Ego!

Let’s talk about Ego. ID-100160588

I’ve been studying the Spiritual and New Age movements for some time now. One term that gets thrown around and misused more than “love” is “ego”. And in almost every one of these fly-by-the-seat self-help religions Ego is bad. Very, very bad. Nobody should have or “give in to” the Ego and having it is seen as an impediment to Ascension, Enlightenment or Awakening or whatever your term for achieving spiritual openness. I see the word used all the time in arguments as admonishments or to rebuke someone who is being challenging. All in all, a lot of negative energy is attached to the Ego. Even in popular culture, the Ego suffers. Egotism. Egotistical. Any way you slice it, Ego is bad.  So I began to wonder, what makes the Ego so bad?

First, we have to understand what Ego is. The simple definition is “the opinion that you have about yourself”; and in psychology it is “a part of the mind that senses and adapts to the real world”.  That doesn’t seem too terrible…maybe an in-depth definition would shed light on the Ego’s insidiousness.

1.  the self especially as contrasted with another self or the world

2 a :  egotism which is  the feeling or belief that you are better, more important, more talented, etc., than other people. 2 b :  self-esteem

3:  the one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality especially by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality — compare idsuperego (cited from mirriam-webster.com)

From the above definitions it is easy to see there is a difference between the Ego and being “egotistical”. Let’s explore these definitions more.

The opinion you have about yourself:

Also known as your self-esteem and self-worth. Now these are things that the new spiritual movements preach a lot about. Better self-esteem through positive thinking.  The positive power of manifesting self-worth. They are touted as good things, not bad. Oddly enough, they are directly tied to peoples’ Egos as per the definition. Now an uncomfortable paradox is manifested. Ego=bad. Self esteem=good. Ego=Self Esteem thus Bad=Good. The whole argument falls apart when it is broken down to its most basic components. If Ego is bad, then so is self-esteem and I don’t need to go into the negative downward spirals that come with self-esteem issues. Almost everyone has had experience and struggles with lack of self-esteem at least once in their lives. For some, lack of self-esteem is an ongoing battle. Some Ego hounds may tell you that your Ego is responsible for these thoughts. They will say that the Ego is actually responsible for reducing your self-esteem.  It’s the devil on your shoulder, so to speak. But that simply isn’t true. Your Ego mediates thoughts, experiences and struggles, filtering them back up to your higher self. Which brings us to the psychological definition of Ego.

The part of the mind that senses and adapts to the real world:

In psychology, the Ego is a Freudian term related to the Id and the Superego. The Id is your base animalistic instincts and the Superego is your civilized moral self. The Ego is the mediator between the two. It processes what’s going on in the world around you and mediates those findings between the Id and the Superego. Basically, it keeps them under control and impedes them from running rampant. Of course this is in a perfect setting. In reality the Ego often gives in to the Id or the Superego (and according to Freudians, more often the Id) which causes conflict between the self and the real world. Welcome to the Human Experience.

So the Ego isn’t the real culprit. The Id and the Superego are responsible for the negative influence on the self. The Id, or the base survival instinct, is most easily personified in the moments of unchecked and irrational lashing out people are prone to (think of the last time you had a road rage incident). And the Superego, or our rational and logical selves, is responsible for all of a person’s “thinking problems” (i.e. neuroses, narcissism, etc). The Superego is also home to dysfunctions like egotism. All the Ego does is process the experiences. It is the higher self’s filter in the physical world.

Then what IS the Ego? Fundamentally, the Ego is our sense of identity. Ego is what makes a person who they are. It’s what answers you when you look in the mirror and ask “who am I?” It is the mechanism that allows you to exist in and experience the world and universe around you. The Ego is the individual. It is, however, an imperfect mechanism just like everything else in this beautiful creation called The Universe.

So then why would a person think that something as simple and profound as your very identity would be a bad thing? The opponents of Ego would say, “Because the Ego makes you vain and greedy and self-serving, it distracts you and on and on ad infimum. O.K. So let’s look at that as logically as possible. The Ego is your identity, as we discovered above. Your Ego is responsible for everything wrong with your spiritual and personal development. Thus, your identity is ultimately responsible…and you are your identity. See where this is going? “Ah ha!”, exclaim the Ego detractors, “See? Ego IS bad for you. You must therefore let go of your Ego and think positive happy thoughts to correct the bad and replace it with good.” They don’t call it “prosperity therapy” but they should. After the glorious and paramount task of freeing oneself from their debasing Ego, they will have truly overcome and ascended into what amounts to a perfect state of self-realization and achieving perfect love and joy and oneness forever and ever. Again, it’s not called prosperity therapy no matter how much they seem to fit together.

And the ultimate goal of all this? The grand finale? A person separates from their identity and “returns to the Source” or God or the Creator or whichever name is drummed up by whoever is coining terms at the time. Here the whole Ego attacking/ Personal Enlightenment theology gets a little vague and highly dependent on personal speculation. Or you can go with the Buddhist/ atheist option and return to Nothingness.

I say forget all of that. Creation serves a purpose. A very specific purpose. Thus, identity serves a purpose. EGO serves a purpose. And ultimately, each and every object in creation is serving a purpose. What that purpose is, is discussion for a later talk. However, at the core of all of Creation’s purpose is to exist. Existence exists to exist.

We are all part of God and God wants us to be; he wants us to exist as individuals. He gave us freewill and a purpose then programmed us into the universe. Part of that experience is ultimately individual consciousness—identity. And your Ego is your identity. This is not a bad thing. It’s an imperfect thing. You can’t overcome it. You ARE it. It’s not “fake” or bad or meant to hinder your spiritual advancement. It. Is. YOU. And again, THIS IS NOT A BAD THING.

God doesn’t want you NOT to be you. He is part of you. He is right there with you every step of the way, experiencing life alongside you. Waiting for you to accept His love so that true transformation can occur.

Now the general consensus is conscious beings have forgotten this critical piece of information hence the human condition and shackling of us to the material world. Our Egos did not do this to us. This happened before there was an “us”. So now the point of Ego becomes remembering our connection to God. This is the “personal relationship with God”. This is the Ego’s relationship to the infinite. In order to have a relationship with God, you must first recognize he is there. But recognition is only the beginning. Jesus told his disciples that if they even had the faith of a mustard seed, they’d command a mountain to jump into the sea and it would. That’s heavy stuff. This level of relationship happens through dialogue with God. The more dialogue you have with God the more your faith grows. What this dialogue is and how to achieve it are what spiritual teachers have been telling us and religions have been corrupting since the beginning of time.

The beauty of this is that all experience and the experience of life itself is facilitated by the Ego. Our Ego doesn’t impede our dialogue with God. It’s the mechanism we use in order to facilitate that dialogue. What impedes us are our base, animalistic tendencies (i.e. the Id) and our aloof and moralistic civilized natures (or our Superegos) as well as the physical world. Each of them scream for our attention, even battling for it like shoppers on black Friday. These are what keep us asleep and spiritually crippled. These very literally ARE the devil. So ignore them and focus on God. Put your Ego to its intended use. Strive for it. Live for it. And your faith will be as big as a mustard seed in no time.

 

 

Daily Wisdomisms: Rumi (The Guest House)

Today’s tidbit is an inspiring and eye-opening poem from Rumi. Enjoy!

 

“This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

 

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.”     The Essential Rumi, p. 109

 

To me, this is a poem about perception. I like the idea that being human is a guest house whose purpose seems to be to entertain all these different experiences. But isn’t that the point? We are here to experience all that life and the world has to offer to us. The good and the bad. I”ll be the first to admit, it’s hard to meet the negative at the door laughing. It’s even harder to invite them in. But in the end, even those experiences add to our character and strengthen our souls.  We can’t live life in fear of or trying to avoid negativity and hardship. It WILL find us eventually. There is no escaping the fact that life isn’t all smiles and rainbows. The greatest weapon we have against them is our perception of them.

Even when they “come into our house and violently sweep out all of our furniture” we still treat them honorably. Even when something happens in our lives that totally screws everything up we have to keep a reasonable perception about it. After all, change is often a violent and unsettling process, but the end result is always likely to be a “new delight.”  Seeing misfortune and hardship any other way is a one way ticket for self-pity and depression. And life’s too short to spend in the dark place of our souls all the time.

So” be grateful for whoever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond”.  Each and every experience of our lives is serving to move our souls toward growth and development. So we have to be conscious of falling into the self-pity, woe-is-me mind traps that open so easily every time misfortune knocks on our door. Remember, every time we grow comfortable, we cease to grow.

What’s your passion?

Tonight I was walking into the corner store and sitting outside was a man smoking cigarettes and asking for change. Usually, I decline them, but tonight something moved me. When the man asked if I could spare any change I said, “Sure. I’ll give you all the change I have if you tell me something.”

He said, “What do you want to know?”

“What’s your passion?”

He looked at me quizzically and said, “What does that mean?”

“What fills your heart? What drives you onward?”

Without hesitation he answered, “Love, brother.”

As I was giving him my change, I asked him one final question. “What have you been doing to pursue that lately?”

He shook his head sadly and looked away. “Hell. I don’t even know anymore, man.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I have a list of passions that fill my heart. But when I ask myself what I’ve been doing to pursue them, I have to admit to myself, “Hell. I don’t even know anymore man.” And why don’t I know? Why have I given up on all these things that add meaning to my life? I suppose for the same reasons most people do. Because we let life get in the way. We tell ourselves, “I’ll start on it tomorrow.” The only problem with that is Tomorrow never comes. It always turns into Today. And it’s always so hard to find the time today; there’s too much to do.

But what is passion? What does it mean?  Ultimately, our passion is what we were put on earth to accomplish. What we individually do to make and leave the world a better place. But that has been distorted and confused. We live in a world where passion has been mistaken for emotional outbursts. Look at reality television. It’s nothing but cheap emotional manipulation saturated with advertisements. The same can be said for social media outlets. Every time I scroll through a feed I go through a range of emotions. This post makes me angry. This post makes me laugh. This post tugs at my heart-strings. This post wants me to buy a new razor. And on and on. These things aren’t passions they are sleazy emotional ploys. We shouldn’t be filling our heart with them. They give our lives no meaning. In fact, they only take from us. By the time I get to the bottom of the feed, I feel empty. I usually slam my computer shut in disgust and tell myself, “Way to go, genius, you just wasted another 20 minutes of your life.” So what’s the alternative? The answer to that is easy: force a change. If you know better, do better.

We let ourselves become convinced that happiness is this false sense of security called the American Dream and we’ve sacrificed our passions on the altar of this great god called Mammon. We’ve been conditioned all our lives to believe that if we do everything according to plan, go to school, get a job, make money, get a house, fill it with shit, then we are supposed to be happy. But that’s not the case. I see more and more people unhappy with their supposed achievements. But this doesn’t necessarily mean more and more people are realizing what they need to be doing is following their passion. Too many of us are immersing ourselves in an ever-expanding myriad of distractions in order to ignore the fact that we’re miserable and unfulfilled. We are all guilty of it. We can’t really blame ourselves too much, I mean, it IS the world we were born into. But it’s not the world that we have to live in. It’s not the world that we have to leave to our children.

Things are how they are because we’ve been fooled into accepting a fiction as reality. We CAN change. We CAN refuse to accept the lie and start living in truth. But in order to do that we have to start TODAY. Are you ready? If so:

What’s your passion?

And what have you done to pursue it lately?

Daily Wisdomisms: Rumi (An Empty Garlic)

In today’s Wisdomism, I ruminate on Rumi once again. Enjoy!

 

AN EMPTY GARLIC

 

You will miss the garden,

because you want a small fig from a random tree.

You don’t meet the beautiful woman.

You’re joking with an old crone.

It makes me want to cry how she detains you,

stinking mouthed, with a hundred talons,

putting her head over the roof edge to call down,

tasteless fig, fold over fold empty

as dry-rotten garlic.

 

She has you by the belt,

even though there’s no flower and no milk

inside her body.

Death will open your eyes

to what her face is: leather spine

of a black lizard. No more advice.

 

Let yourself be silently drawn

by the stronger pull of what you really love.  The Essential Rumi, p. 50

 

How often do we find ourselves distracted from the fullness of life by the old crone? How often do we miss out on the grand design because we are focused on one unimportant fig?

In this poem, I believe the crone represents hollow pursuits, including material gain. The crone has the young man “by the belt”. She has his full attention, even though there is “no flower and no milk” (she is lifeless, dried up.) in her. Meanwhile, the beauty of life passes us by until finally death takes us and we realize just how much time we wasted joking with the crone.  We live in a world now where the crone has us distracted nearly 100% of the time. So often we must forsake the stronger pull of what we really love in order to survive. The crone holds all the keys and she constantly dangles them before us, tantalizing us, lying to us and telling us our dreams are just around the next corner. Just a few more years to retire. A little more money to save up. A little more of our lives lived and gone forever until it’s too late to do anything about it. No more advice.

We have the power to change the world. We have the power to write our own stories. All we have to do is turn away from the crone.  All we have to do is look up from whatever has our focus and see the limitless possibility before us. We are only slaves because we choose to be. Because we believe the lies that have been ingrained within our collective consciousness. I, for one, choose to believe it’s time to wake up and follow that stronger pull.

Daily Wisdomisms: The Tao Te Ching (53)

As always, the Tao is a well spring of truth and inspiration.  Its complex simplicity can speak to your heart no matter what you are going through. After a chaotic day, I was trying to decide what to post. I flipped around in a few books for a while and then came back to the Tao. I immediately opened to this passage and a light went off in my head. Enjoy!

The Great Way is easy,
yet people prefer the side paths.
Beware when things are out of balance.
Stay centered within the Tao.

When rich speculators prosper
while farmers lose their land;
when government officials spend money
on weapons instead of cures;
when the upper class is extravagant and
irresponsible
while the poor have nowhere to turn–
all this is robbery and chaos.
It is not in keeping with the Tao.”  The Tao Te Ching, chapter 53.

 

I often look at my life and wonder why I always seem to choose the side paths. The Great Way is easy. It’s outlined for us, written on our hearts by God. Whispered to us each day by His loving Spirit. Yet we always seem to say, “Yeah, yeah. That’s all good. But what about what’s over here…No I hear you. Just hold on a sec while I check it out…” And then everything gets thrown out of balance. Part of me says it’s the experience of life. But I ask that part, aren’t we supposed to learn from experience? Why do we seem to get caught up and sidetracked more often than we follow the simple advice of our hearts? For me personally, a lot of it has to do with my thinking that I know what’s best for me. I can handle this. I don’t need God or the Tao or any cryptic sayings of old dead men to tell me what to do. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Only, those old dead men knew what they were talking about. Say what you want about human progress, but people really haven’t changed. All that’s changed is fashion and technology. People are much the same today as they were thousands of years ago. All that technology has done for us is added another level of distraction to an already distracted populace. Now, when the government spends money on weapons instead of cures and the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible, the people scroll past it on their social media apps, only stopping long enough to give it a cursory “like” or to comment about “how horrible it is!” But that’s as far as the outrage is likely to go.  And this…all of this…is not in keeping with the Tao. It seems there’s no sense in showing all that robbery and chaos when there’s a cute picture of a kitten covered in toilet paper instead.

Daily Wisdomisms: Hermes Trismegistus on Atheism

Quite an interesting excerpt today. It appears atheism is nothing new. Despite what its proponents would have us believe, Atheism is not the byproduct of humanity moving into a new enlightened age. It is short sighted skepticism at best. Here is what Hermes had to say on the subject. Enjoy!

No one says that a statue or portrait has come into being without a sculptor or a painter; then has this work (the cosmos, J.) come into being without a creator? What blindness! What sacrilege! What mindless arrogance! My son, never deprive the works of creation of their creator. He is greater than anything the name of God implies, so great is the Father of all; for He is single and his work is just this: to be Father.The Corpus Hermeticum, Book 5.

This falls in line very nicely with my piece Only The Code that I posted a while back. To me, this makes perfect sense. As above, so below. No one says that art spontaneously arises out of chaotic nothingness and falls into perfect order. So why is it so hard to believe that the beautiful and magnificent work of art we call “The Universe” has a hand intelligently directing its design? As above, so below. I think that in this day and age with technology and “progress” being what it is, our collective ego has inflated to epic proportions. And we feel bold and empowered enough to challenge the very existence of God. Much like humanity did with the Tower of Babel and we saw how that turned out…

Daily Wisdomisms: Hermes Trismegistus

Further exploration of the writings of Hermes. This excerpt, on the nature of God, ties in nicely with an earlier tidbit from Philip K. Dick. Coincidence? Enjoy!

Be still, my son, and consider what is God, what is the cosmos, what being is immortal, what is dissolved and consider that the cosmos is made by God, and in God, man is made by the cosmos and in the cosmos, and that God is the source, the boundary and the constitution of everything.The Corpus Hermeticum Book 8. p.42.

Again we find reference to God being a part of His creation and not separate from it. I keep coming across these types of passages in my readings and I think that modern religion may have some things wrong. I grew up being taught that God was this eternal grumpy old man who lorded over us dispensing justice as He saw fit. I thought of Him as a force outside the universe He created. Something apart from it. But I no longer think this to be true. God isn’t some grumpy grandpa declaring jealousy and murder a sin, yet freely inflicting these things upon the peons in the cosmic playground He created. That is a trait of someone that is outside their creation looking in. But as Jesus was so fond of telling us, “God is Love.” And in order to truly love something it has to be a part of you. There can be no distinction or separation.

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