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Monday, October 26, 2015

Mark Vonnegut

Writing for me is a spiritual exercise. I did not realize this until I read an essay several years ago in which Mark Vonnegut talks about his father, Kurt, one of my favorite authors. This quote opened for me the door into why I have spent 40 years writing without fame or fortune.

Since I rejected organized religion and experienced a spiritual crisis at age 18, writing became the spiritual road I walked. Writing gave my soul the courage and strength necessary to face the traumas of this world. I was called to be a preacher but I could not preach until I first cleansed my soul and made it strong through writing. 

The writing is what makes me whole, gives meaning to my life, and keeps me believing even when I feel there is nothing left to live for.  Writing is my spiritual path, my meditation and my gift of prayer.

What roads have you traveled?  What paths have you taken?  Have you questioned your faith or simply accepted the beliefs taught you as a child?  Is your art a spiritual path that you have wandered down?

Here are several of my spiritual poems.

Many do not understand my form of spirituality.  I do not fit into any mold or preconceived notion of what religion is or should be.  For some I am a sinner lost in the world.  Others ask why do you speak of God?  He does not exist?

For me, my salvation is in my ability to question — in my gift of doubt.  I walk the path of the doubting Thomas.  I shoulder the burden of uncertainty.  I live at the edge of chaos and thrive.

I ponder the question of why we are here — of what is the meaning of life.  I receive no answers, only more questions.  I choose to listen to the languages of God and wait for His Word.  I walk the path of no regret.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Paul Gauguin

As a writer, I have lived in a black and white world for years. The pages of books are black and white. The page I write on is black and white. I came to color only slowly when I took up the study of art about fifteen years ago. 

The complexity of color is hard to understand. There are shades of color within shades of color. Black and white is easier to comprehend.  Black and white makes life simpler. Color adds layers upon layers of mystery and depth.  

Autumn is here — my favorite season. A time of reflection. The colors of the leaves are shifting and changing. The greens that we have lived with for months are fading from the world. Now we see yellows, reds and browns. Soon winter will come and we will be back to black and white, waiting for spring to sprout its vibrant greens.

What is the color of your life? Light? Bright? Sparkling? Deep? Dim? Dark?  What is the color of your soul? Yellow? Red? Blue? Purple? Brown? What is the color of your heart? Love? Hate? Indifferent? Compassionate? Discouraged? Hopeful? How do you paint the world?  Gray?  Black and White? Turquoise? Lavender? Rose colored?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Isak Dinesen

In the last 25 years, the publishing world has sought to give us more and more memoirs — people sharing their stories of sorrow and pain. They have taken Dinesen's quote to heart. And there is a lot of truth here. We all tell our personal story — if not to others, at least to ourselves.  By sharing our stories we can begin to heal the pain and suffering we have experienced.

When my wife and I wrote our book on pet loss, we gave voice to the pain that pet lovers feel when their pet dies. We allowed people to tell their stories.  We heard the tears of people who felt they had lost a soul mate.  Some said the pain was worse than the death of a parent or a divorce.  Some were still crying ten to twelve years after the pet had died.  Sharing their stories helped some to bring closure and healing to a painful time in their lives.

One of the best salves for healing the pain and sorrow that we feel is writing. The process of putting our feelings, thoughts, and experiences down on paper will give us the opportunity to work through our pain and sorrow.

Unfortunately, some of us don’t feel we can write. We feel that writing is something for professionals with creative talents but not for us. Yet writing is one of the most powerful techniques we have for clarifying our feelings and working through our emotions. By opening ourselves up and expressing our pain and grief on paper, we will release the emotions that are suffocating and depressing us. Giving vent to our anger and pain through writing will help set us free.

What is your story? What sorrows darken your face? Have you put it in words? In pictures? In music? Healing comes with the sharing of our stories.

I want to share with you a process, that if you follow it, will help you share your story and begin to heal your wounds and help you to recover from your sorrow.

Twelve Guidelines for Telling Your Story 

  1. Write for fifteen minutes every day. Discipline yourself to write even on those days you don’t feel like writing. 
  2. Write in longhand with a pen or pencil. Do not use a computer. 
  3. Begin either with the phrase “I remember’' or “I feel.” Whenever you run out of things to say, begin again with the phrase “I remember” and keep writing. 
  4. Write without stopping for the full fifteen minutes. Keep your hand moving at all times. 
  5. Write without thinking. Give free rein to your emotions and feelings. 
  6. Feel free to say whatever you want. Don’t worry about what others will think. 
  7. Be as specific as possible in your writing. Put in descriptive detail. 
  8. Don’t try to be creative or cute. 
  9. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or what your English teacher taught you. You are not writing for a grade. 
  10. It is okay to cry while you are writing. Keep writing through the tears. Don’t stop. 
  11. Keep writing as long as you need. If you wish, you can expand your writing time to thirty minutes or an hour.
  12. Initially, do not share your writing with others. They may not understand your expression of your pain or may be hurt by what you write.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Danny Kaye

We are in charge of our lives.  We make choices every day that lead us where we want to be.  Life is like a canvas and we are the artists of our lives.  We paint the person we want to be.  Or we paint the person we think we should be.  Or we paint the person we think others want us to be.    

Are you painting the life you want?  Have you chosen a large enough canvas?  Are you too stingy with the paint?  What color are you painting on the canvas of your life?  Blue?  Red?  Purple?  Are you painting flowers?  Or dirt?  Is the life you are painting happy?  Or sad?  Or anxious?

We tell our stories through what we paint on the canvas.  Others will know us by what we paint.  They will judge us by the colors we use or fail to use.  What stories are you telling?  Have you changed the facts to fit the story?  Or have you altered the story to fit the facts?  Are the pictures of your life filled with people?  Or animals?  Or is your life a landscape empty of people and animals?  Do you prefer the solitude of the mountains or the splashing of waves against the shore?

Are  you timid in how you approach life?  Or do you rush full speed ahead and ignore the red flags popping up every where?  Do you splash the paint on the canvas or do you make tiny delicate strokes with your brush?

Can you visualize your future?  Do you know what you want to paint on the canvas of your life?  Do you know what color you want your life to be?  Are you only painting the surfaces of your life?  Or are you exploring the depths of your soul?  If we look into your eyes, what will we see?  

Every day we pick up the paint brush and add a few strokes of paint to our self-portrait.  Is your self-portrait a true picture of who you are?  Or do you need to change the paint brushes that you are using?  Or do you need to use different colors that better reflect your character and inner beauty?  Are you painting the picture you want to paint?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Review - No Higher Honor by Condoleezza Rice

No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in WashingtonNo Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington by Condoleezza Rice
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After listening to the audio book by Hillary Clinton on her experience as Secretary of State, I decided to follow it with No Higher Honor by Condoleezza Rice, her predecessor.  The books are in many ways very similar both in the telling and in the stories being told.  Like I was not a Clinton fan prior to reading her book, Hard Choices, I am not a George Bush fan either.  In fact, I have very negative views of his conduct of the wars during his administration, but I feel it is very important to keep an open mind and to listen to what they have to say.  One does not have to agree with someone to appreciate what he has to say.

Rice tells a very powerful story about her 8 years of experience in the Bush Administration as the National Security Advisor and the Secretary of State.  She was introduced to George W. by his father whom she had served under during his administration.  Rice consistently defends the George W. and his decisions.  His administration was deeply influenced by the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.  She discusses the fear that permeated the administration in the months and years that followed the attacks. The way the Administration saw the world was colored by that fear.  While Rice admits making mistakes in her positions, she does not voice any negative feelings toward George W.  She is less positive about Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld with whom she experienced major disagreements, although one has to read between the lines to gain a sense of the conflict.

Rice grew up in the segregated Birmingham, Alabama.  She tells the story of how one of her kindergarten friends was killed during the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham.

One of my favorite anecdotes was during a trip to Rome for the funeral of the pope.  She was sitting between George W. and Bill Clinton.  She said Bill talked all the time and George did not talk.  The story, I believe, is very telling about the differences between the two men.

Rice did her own recording of the book so one hears the story in her voice.  I would highly recommend the book to anyone interested in politics, history and the international world.  The book offers more of the story than one finds in the newspapers and on television.  And I would also recommend that one reads it in conjunction with Hillary Clinton's book on her experiences.  Hillary opens her book with the letter she received from Condoleezza.  A part of me wishes that Rice had chosen to run for President and that she and Hillary would have had an opportunity to campaign against each other.

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