Simple Words

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums (1958)dharma bums.jpg

 

From Barnes & Noble page “Published just one year after On the Road, (Dharma Bums) is the story of two men engaged in a passionate search for Dharma or truth.

Their major adventure is the pursuit of the Zen Way, which takes them climbing into the High Sierras to seek the lesson of solitude.” (It’s suggested that one read On the Road first for proper context to this novel which could be considered Part 2 of the first one.)Kerouac.jpg

If you haven’t yet read either of his novels, you may have studied Jack Kerouac’s influence on modern literature, as well as his documented pursuit of spiritual clarity for himself and for others.

For those who wish to glean techniques from other writer’s talents, assessing Kerouac’s rawness and meaning refinement throughKer quote 2 (2) simple-living description is a solid path for a writer’s own self-discovery and inner-world exploration.

It follows the most important writer’s dictum: Keep it simple, clear and concise.

Using Kerouac’s poetic example in The Dharma Bums, his theory on “good writing” is being as artistically precise as a Japanese Haiku.

Because both books were written at the rise of the Beat generation that preceded the Flower Child (Hippy) generation, there are rough attitudes expressed that might appall a sensitive reader.  But Kerouac’s vision and the handling of his subject matter are a study in distilling thought to poetically capture and convey life’s most precious moments.

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple,” he said.

I agree. That statement is my primary creed as well.

Writing is a communication between/among two or more “readers” to share thoughts, concepts, or instructions.

Writing can convey emotions over a distance—where deepest feelings are often captured best in similes and metaphors because those appeal more to the intuitive right brain than the analytical left. That’s the value of Haiku—it bridges the brain hemispheres between word symbols and emotive imagery.basho quote

Haiku is thought essence crystallized.

As Kerouac suggested in The Dharma Bums, if you want to capture the power or beauty of a moment use a Haiku to transcend earthly limitation.

But it also requires artistic discipline to craft the proper phrase, while utilizing a writer’s higher resonance with the subject matter.

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

Yes.

A Short Story Collection of Rick Bass

Rick Bass.jpgShort stories capture little vignettes of life as compared to a novel’s more-lengthy theme exposition and character development.  A good short story is every bit as difficult for a writer to master as is a good novel because you have far fewer pages to make your point and show your world view. It requires great clarity of vision and a high degree of literary skill. In other words, it takes discipline.

Do NOT consider short stories as the Reader’s Digest version of a novel. They are very different genre and as such offer a unique and rewarding reading experience. To me they are like browsing a buffet of favorite foods all stretched out before you to sample a bit of this, and then try a little of that until eventually you’ve sated your appetite. This book is the buffet grazer’s banquet.

And as mentioned previously, I really love a good writer—a word-magician who can string a few random syllables into multi-dimensional prose with such ease and grace that is effortless to read while being transformative in the process.For a LIttle While

This book I’m now exalting is called FOR A LITTLE WHILE: New and Selected Stories of Rick Bass.

As a short-story writer, Rick Bass could be the resultant love-child of Jack London coupled with Ernest Hemingway—birthed and nurtured by a Jungian midwife. His writing style is succinct, precise, sensory stimulating; and often depicts his characters’ intimate, dependent relationship with their environment.

Bass often shows how the environment has shaped each of the characters in his stories because the characters and the land itself often seem interchangeable with and indistinguishable from each other.

As a writer he subtly captures the depth of human interaction/emotions by describing actions (it’s what you DO, not what you SAY that counts). A character’s speech or dialogue might reveal conscious, flowing thought but actions reveal the unconscious motivations at work that drive the plot (and the life).

Overall I think Rick Bass really goes places that most writers never go—into the psychological core of basic human belief that drives their behavior—a spiritual connection to the land, which he often then parallels to animals of the same region.

tree tops.jpgIn fact in this collection of stories, there is an overwhelming oneness of every living thing interacting with their environment. That natural interdependency is often ignored in the prose of other writers—perhaps because of other writers not recognizing it. Bass, however, reveals the basic matrix of life itself—exposing the soft underbelly—with all its species interconnections and dependencies.

But more importantly is that as a really good writer he does it all so simply and elegantly—and that’s what just blows me away.

He doesn’t get salacious with his story line. He doesn’t go all horrific or deranged. He takes a rustic setting with simple born-of-the-earth people and examines each character’s internal machinations that translate into daily doings in such a way that it reveals WHO those characters are as human beings.

He shows the reader that WHAT his characters are swans on lake.jpgdoing in response to life’s challenges and grind are reflective of WHO they are; but it also helps us to see WHY that should matter to any of us. Bass deftly unveils how our simplest daily actions define our lives—it frames how we view each other, discloses how we treat each other, and clarifies what true life-lessons are learned during our journey here, whether separately or together.

rooted humanYou won’t read a Bass line claiming that life is fair or unfair; only that it is LIFE with all its beauty, tumbles, and bruises. He frequently shows how those strongly-rooted-to-the-land individuals derive their very life-essence from the land itself—how those “firmly planted humans” with feet to shuffle rather than burrowing filaments can more easily flow with and/or resist the life challenges that might test us lesser humans to the limit of our strength and stamina.

Anyway, I could go on and on here, but I think the book is a great short-story collection, especially for nature-lovers. The writer, Rick Bass is a phenomenal talent, and I’ll be reading more of his offerings soon.th

It comes as no surprise that he is an environmentalist.  He writes of nature and the land that supports us like an adulating lover extolling his beloved’s attributes.

Selling a Narrative

This morning while reading through some previously-shared, philosophicalAlberto.jpg Facebook posts, I reread this caption:

“When we enter infinity, the past and future are stripped away and only the here and now exists. We are no longer bound to the painful stories from our past, and our future is no longer scripted by our history. We realize that we are not our stories.”Alberto Villoldo

And because that same subject matter actually applied to my last blog post on Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island, Alberto’s last sentence reverberated in my thoughts: “We realize that we are not our stories.”

narrativeSatin Island was about examining the psycho-social science involved in “selling a narrative”—selling a story about the world we live in—a story about ourselves and our relationship/responsibility to that world we all share.

The key belief that almost all religions of the world share is the need for a “Creation Myth”—a story—a narrative, if you will, of how everything and everyone came into being on this planet: i.e., Who pushed the button to make it all happen and what wahands ball of fire.pngs the reasoning involved in the decision to do so.

The “WHO” in those Creation Myths may have many different names throughout the world. And the “reasoning” for such creation is often speculation at best.

Along with that Creation Myth for each religion there quickly follows the “governing rules” for living in harmony and/or conflict with every other being co-existing at that same time.

dao creationThe problem with so many creation myths and those governing rules that soon follow them is that they differ in small or large part from each other. This creates confusion as to which “Creation Myth” and corresponding rules are the TRUTH, which of course by elimination in that TRUTH category, must make the others false.

Herein lies the battle among world religions as to which religion is TRUTH above all others, with the resulting inference being that if THIS religion is the TRUE one, then all others are falsehoods, pitting devoted believers of one religion against the others.sign.jpg

But the actual TRUTH here is that all Creation Myths and governing rules are merely narratives created by human interpreters of Higher Intention; and the believers of those interpreted narratives have actually been “sold” on them in some way, or they would not believe what they are reading or being told.

That’s not to say that the “selling of a narrative” was a questionable practice—even for a Creation Myth. It is to say that what we tell ourselves about our own lives or about the world we live them in is a story that we buy into for one reason or another.

belief sign.pngAnd if, as Alberto says, we free ourselves from our history and our previous stories, we can change our future, because we are NOT our stories. We are NOT tied to our past. We are NOT limited by our personal or world belief systems when we open our minds and hearts to direct experiencing of TRUTH itself

TRUTH is NOT a story—it is NOT a narrative.

TRUTH is a lightwave frequency of such harmonious vibration that when we raise our personal vibration high enough our energy fields immediately slide into perfect resonance with it—we FEEL it on a far deeper level—and we KNOW that it is TRUTH. We don’t have to be told that it is. We don’t have to buy into anyone’s narrative to explain our veryknow truth existence.

We can FEEL TRUTH—OUR TRUTH.

So as Alberto mentions, when we reach that highest level of resonance with Higher Intention, the past and the future simply slip away; and we are left there in that harmonious moment resonating with immediately-recognizable higher TRUTH. That is when we know OUR TRUTH.

As he said: “We are NOT our stories.” We are beyond mere words and explanations created by limited minds with limited understandings telling us what our lives mean and how we should live them in accordance to their governing rules.

Beyond all human limitations, we ARE TRUTHever expanding—ever extending toward greater awareness and greater comprehension.

highest authorityAnd if you ever feel that you don’t quite fit into what others say you should be doing or what you should be thinking, then don’t sell yourself that old narrative.

Create a new one—a NEW TRUTH—just for you.

Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy.jpgI don’t just love a good book. I really love a good writer because writing is both a skill and an artform.

In today’s world there are a few masterful wordsmiths who can not only turn a memorable phrase, but who can fully immerse you into their illuminating narrative. Those are the ones I applaud and whose talents I honor when I blog about them.

book.gifAgain while browsing the NEW BOOK section of the library, I ran across Satin Island by Tom McCarthy. Amazing! It’s subtle, distinct, but covertly deep as the Mariana Trench.

Tom McCarthy is definitely a “Writer’s writer”—one who electrifies the mundane with rich philosophical underpinnings masked by dry British understatement.

Without a doubt, LIFE is truly metaphor—and McCarthy’s every word becomes your symbolic stepping stone from banality to profundity, amassed under the guise of simplistic reporting of daily life around him—assessing the journey from here to there and back again.

His main character in this novel is called “U”—no name, just “U”. You got that, right? U is YOU, not directly of course, but by inference and association. He’s very Ericksonian (as in Milton—the great hypnotherapist). And his boss’s name is Peyman (yes, “pay-man”). I laughed when I finally got that.

Here’s a quote from the book cover about the novel’s contents: …”U., a ‘corporate oil slick.jpganthropologist,’ is tasked with writing the Great Report, an all-encompassing ethnographic document that would sum up our era. Yet at every turn he feels himself overwhelmed by the ubiquity of data, lost in buffer zones, wandering through crowds of apparitions, willing them to coalesce into symbols that can be translated into some kind of account that makes sense….In Satin Island, Tom McCarthy captures—as only he can—the way we experience our world, our efforts to find meaning (or just to stay awake) and discern the narratives we think of as our lives.”

It’s not an adventure novel—unless your adventure lies primarily in finding meaning from all aspects of your life. He starts with U sitting in Turin, Italy—or more appropriately in the Torino-Caselle airport waiting for a plane home. First sentence is this: “Turin is where the famous shroud isShroud.jpg from, the one showing Christ’s body supine after crucifixion….”

A few sentences later he tells how the Shroud of Turin myth was debunked by carbon-dating, then says, “But that didn’t trouble the believers. Things like that never do. People need foundation myths, some imprint of year zero, a bolt that secures the scaffolding that in turn holds fast the entire architecture of reality, of time… We see things shroudedly, as through a veil, an over-pixellated screen.”

And that’s the gist of his novel: he works for a corporation that makes its living selling a narrative of what contemporary life means so that other corporations can profit from the data in some way (while obscuring the actual ecological damages being done to the planet).

His boss, Peyman, makes a living selling “narratives”—does that mean the narrative is truth or simply whatever Peyman is selling? U asks himself that question.

Overall, McCarthy’s descriptions are kinetic and animated— by the 3rd page into the book I had grabbed my pencil to tag descriptive sentences. One of my favorites involved snoop“double-bumping over a railroad track.”

Will this novel be the book for everyone? Probably not. But for fellow writers who blushingly marvel at a colleague’s writing skills, there is much to admire about Tom McCarthy.

“The World According to Garp”

While watching the early morning news shows, that old book/movie title came to mind: The World According to Garp.

garp.jpgThe book was by John Irving, and the movie starred Robin Williams back in 1982.

When I search the dank archives of my memory, I can still recall snippets of the movie because it was a somewhat dark-themed effort at breeding reality with twisted humor, or as Wikipedia describes it:

“The story contains a great deal of (in the words of Garp’s fictional teacher) ‘lunacy and sorrow’, and the sometimes ridiculous chains of events the characters experience still resonate with painful truth.”

Why the news reminded me of the title is probably because of hearing the many laughable versions of world affairs offered by political candidates who think they want to be in charge of them all. Now THAT consideration is an Irving-esk dark comedy in concept-expansion stage—being both ridiculous and painful to watch.

For most of us, LIFE is an experience that we all share and yet recognize that each of us has our individual perspective skewed perspective.jpgon what LIFE in general means, on how it works, and why we believe that we personally matter to any of the events around us.

For our society in the broadest sense, reality itself is a consensual agreement governed by majority rule, and the majority that does rule determines the acceptance of behaviors, mores, and attitudes for the rest of us.

If we share that “consensus agreement,” it’s great—life is good. But if not, ….well I guess it depends on the majority who is ruling the rest of our hands in circle.jpgbehaviors, mores, and attitudes as to their punishment for being someone thinking or being different than they are.

This is often called the tolerance factor of a society. How expandable or rigid are the acceptability guidelines within that society?

Have you ever thought about this? What about you? How broad- or narrow-minded are your views on major issues that define our society in general?

Marcus Aurelius.jpgMutual agreement on much of anything is pretty hard to come by these days in congress or in coffee shops around the nation. But overall, opinions are plentiful.

That I believe is what we are presently hearing: huge volumes of vociferous opinions on what candidates believe people likely want to hear.

To me, what is most important is to watch and listen to the manner in which these opinions are expressed, and to note how they veer into tailored variation depending on the intended audience. If the message changes from day to day or event to event, what does that say about the speaker?

And if the message is one full of intolerance and hateful rhetoric, what does that also say about the audience listening to it?

Like the fictional character Garp, we all have our own take on the world around us—we see it as WE see it—we judge what we see by how it affects us and those we care most about.

garp plane.jpgAnd like that twisted tale of skewed perspective determining his future life tragedies, we lean toward the perspective that best matches our own.

Hopefully this revised movie version plays out better for all of us than Irving’s did.

Shifting Timelines

RCWAgain, been reading lately and have another Robert Charles Wilson book in process. Evidently I enjoy his writing style and skills.

I won’t mention which book it is at this point, but it is one of his earlier ones where he isn’t quite as subtle dipping into his extensive bag of tricks. It’s much easier to see how he’s introducing the characters, settings, and scenarios then interweaving them into the storyline.

Mid-way through this one I realized what an excellent teaching tool his books can be to frog disectcreative writing students—no matter the age. It just takes a little extra time, a few margin notes and a coil notebook to trace all the components as you read through it. Lay the gathered info out like an old-school frog dissection if you want to see what’s inside it—pinning those guts out onto the matrix-cardboard, gore everywhere—all over your desk—all over your shirt—all over the notebook.

Then using a white board to display each chapter (represented by small sheets of paper spaced evenly across and down the board), and using some colored yarn for each significant character, one can track character introductions, interactions, and crescendos across the entire whiteboard—which represents the entirety of the novel. This can be very revealing of an author’s intentions and message.

stephen kingIn novels where the narrator (voice and tone) is the main character, it is easier to follow character timelines—because you basically have one point of reference, but when the perspective is more omniscient or limited omniscient, it is more difficult to effectively regulate the writer’s tone and tempo. Then more obvious time descriptors are often used as headers, such as: “a day later”, “the year after this”, “two years prior,” etc.

Exposing too much information too soon makes for clichéd writing; but offering toodark night little information during early chapters creates reader confusion and lack of interest. So it becomes a balancing act of what and who is introduced when and where.

The big question the writer must always answer is the WHY of what, who, when, and where.

WHY is this character appearing early, middle or late in the story? What makes that character significant to the situation as well as to the integrity of the book itself? There are many ways to tell a story—why is the writer using this method? What’s his rationale?

For instance, right now the Wilson book I’m reading is a story about time-travelers, and as one might imagine, scenes switch all over the proposed timeline represented: present, past, future, past, present,…until you start to wonder aloud: “Wait,….which present am I in? The present in the past or the present in the future, or IS THERE ahere and now PRESENT at all?”

I think that might have been one of his themes for this particular novel: “Is there really a PRESENT?”

It’s interesting to me, because that is the same question that I’m sometimes asked when conducting hypnosis Past-Life Explorations with my own clients.

Mid-journey, the client can be describing to me the events and feelings that she is experiencing during a particular past-life situation in a different time and place—a different body—a different setting—a different country, while I sit in PPFthe chair beside her in the NOW. And to the client who is effectively bi-locating in two places at the same time, she may be asking herself or me, “Which PRESENT am I really in? Am I there? Am I here? …..Where is the present?

Well, as the narrator of this story and my client’s tour-guide through her then-current Past-Life Exploration, I simply tell her: We are right here, right now …wherever that is in your timeline because the PRESENT is a constantly moving target.

It comes. It goes. Yet it still remains…the PRESENT, ….at least as we know it.

Memorable Reads

There are spells when I’m a voracious reader. Every two weeks or so I’ve been going to the library—which is really an excellent library with continual supplies of NEW books, both Fiction and Non.

What I’ve noticed is that lately there are some fine quality Fiction books (as well as Non-Fiction—which are usually coleridgemy favorites) available; and then there are some, how shall I say it, less than well-written books with flashier covers and more provocative lead lines. Those tend to be more melodramatic and trite, and unfortunately, they are quite predictable by mid-story.

As a writer myself, I can admire and marvel at a writer’s skill in not only telling a story, but I also like to note the techniques used to create that story’s setting, how the main subjects’ character traits are defined, and how the author handles the passage of time.

Skilled writers are masters of the subtle details hidden between the covers. They can be tricky—like a sleight of hand artist palming a lesser card mid-deal and replacing it with an ace. A flick of the wrist and an unsuspecting eye could miss a persuasive key stroke.

There is far more to a quality novel than just rolling out a somewhat believable plot. Voice, tone, and tempo are all important factors to how a story is told. It’s a lot like that slogan “Destination is not what is important in life—it is the journey along the way.”

readerA good writer can make it a revelatory journey—show you the terrain—the winding curves, the bumps and potholes, the vegetation massed along the side—help you feel comfortable or uncomfortable with your tour guides who are describing scenes, and allow YOU to form your own opinions on what is really occurring in those faux interactions and situations where the main characters are challenged by extreme emotions or passions.

Ensconced in the telling, you even become the helpless witness when they eventually succumb to their own character flaws, allowing the story to play out like a true Greek tragedy—rich in pathos.

So I want to mention that reading-material wise, I was very impressed with The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson. the affinitiesIt is a bit Sci-Fi but not a far stretch for the possible future of social and cultural evolution where emotional attachments and character tendencies become group-based behavioral classifications. The book is more so a group character study (philosophical and psychological) than action-based, but it is so well-written that I will read it again just to take notes on how Wilson transitioned characters, defined settings, and massaged the passage of time.

Another good book (non-fiction that reads like fiction) is A Death on Diamond Mountain: A death on diamondTrue Story of Obsession, Madness, and the Path to Enlightenment, by Scott Carney, which is a masterful telling of truth and hard-gathered facts as if they were unfolding before you. An investigative journalist allows us to see behind the smoking mirrors of a popularized religion.

So how can you tell good writing from mediocre tries at such?

Good writing is easily distinguished from lesser attempts because it is effortless to read and yet deeply satisfying in effect—a bit like a spicy-hot Italian Sausage Pizza that lingers on your palate long after the meal is done.

Every after-burp is a reminder of its potency on your very being.