Monday, September 14, 2015

Color Spells

We lose so much when we allow our vocabulary to dissipate into red, blue, and yellow clouds. It was recently brought to my attention that using color in one’s writing is an incredible way to evoke emotion, add impact, and invigorate descriptions. I love visuals. I love the amount of information that can be transmitted through a single image. I love the emotion that a person can communicate with one look, one glance. I love the aura of a landscape, the difference between the mountains and the desert, the ocean and the swamp.  All those things require the application of powerful magic to transform into words on a page that, in their turn, will transform, with an even more powerful magic, into images in some other person’s head.

In the pursuit of magic then, here is a kaleidoscopic assortment of hues, tints, shadows and saturations. Words far more powerful than mere “orange” “green” and “purple.”

On a car ride through the cascades, my family and I brainstormed words for the changing leaves outside. We got saffron, pumpkin, scarlet, russet, cinnamon, flame, rust, honey, lemon, topaz, and
ochre. Then we talked about the greens that were flashing by. Fern, lime, ivy. Dad suggested spirulina, which, while not a beautiful word, has strong chromatic connotations. Katey, after peppering us with things like “grass-green,” “tree-green,” and “bright green,” suggested “pea-green.” I reluctantly thought of chartreuse. I resent that chartreuse is not a deep, warm red, like burgundy or puce. Chartreuse sounds red, a Mediterranean, dramatic red. Not the greenish-yellow that it is.
From there colors came in a festive shower, rose, ashy, charcoal, fuschia, teal, algae, iron, periwinkle, smoke, cherry, cobalt, snow, muddy, walnut, ice, mustard, moonlight, plum.

Then I started extorting words for eye colors as interest faded, forcing our jaded imaginations to come up with five alternative adjectives for green, brown, hazel, blue, gray, and black.
We got mahogany, coffee, clove, clay and dust for brown eyes, moss, mint, fir, pine, and summer leaves for green. To describe grey there is stone, iron, steel, ash, and pepper. Onyx, tar, shadows, and obsidian for black, along with this gem: chocolate chip. “The child grinned mischievously, his chocolate chip eyes sparkling.” Blue yielded denim, marine, indigo, distant mountains, and glacier. And yes, I know several people with eyes that are a light, icy blue for which “glacial” is a perfect description. Hazel, not surprisingly, was the hardest, but we finally came up with cedar, chai, juniper, olive, and a winter field. 

To wrap up this florid revel, consultation of the internet gave me vermilion, verdigris, cranberry, garnet, pomgranate, wine, heliotrope, amethyst, smalt, azure, blush, jasper, and cannon.

Lots and lots and lots of magical words. Way better than abracadabra or bibbidi-bobbidi-boo. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Inmate

In an ancient, crumbling prison
By the royal order old
Lies a long forgotten inmate
In the dungeon shadows cold

By the sentence spoken long ago
He rises but to stand
The chains tug at his ankles
And the shackles weigh his hands

And though the chains are shadows
And the manacles a dream
To him the whip is waiting
If he dare but stir his feet

Lost in darkness and the cold
Unfettered and unknown
Ignored, the call of freedom
And the chance of going home

To him, the door is bolted fast
The guards are at the gate
The doors for him have opened
But they have unlocked too late

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Deep Waters

This picture actually terrifies me...
I think I'm in over my head.

To begin with, I'm writing a novel about a sea voyage, when the only time I've ever been on the ocean in a vessel of any sort was going crabbing with my grandfather.
Oh yes, and I was four.
It's a sailing ship, too, and I was on a sailboat once, on a lake, in a twelve-or-so-foot boat with one triangular sail. This ship is a cargo barque with at least three masts and probably at least two rectangular sails per mast. I've read a number of books about sailing boats, though, so that should count for something, right? I feel like it has.

My story is set in the 1850's. A time-period that, as I now know, I know very little about.

It begins in the Caribbean. An area I have never visited. See that picture of a map? You now know more about the Caribbean than I did when I started this process.

The sea journey, my ignorance concerning which has already been discussed, takes them to Victorian era England. I think it's telling that my first reaction, when I realized this, was "Oh! Steampunk!" It took me about thirty seconds to realize that wasn't going to work. Not without holding the story at gunpoint in order to shove it in.

So I know nothing about my setting or time-period. No big deal, right? Google and all that sort of thing. Research. It's all easily remedied.

I haven't even mentioned the plot yet.

To begin with, I'm shamelessly borrowing from Shakespeare. I didn't set out to do that, it just so happened that my initial story idea had strong resemblances to one of Shakespeare's works, and when I realized that, I decided I'd make my story a retelling of that work. Which I fondly believed to be "The Tempest." Which I hadn't read.
Well, it turned out that the play I was thinking of was "A Winter's Tale," but I hadn't read it either, so it didn't make that much difference.
And yes, I have now read it.

Then, I decided that I would borrow from Dante and all my chapter numbers would be planned out and each part would have a number of chapters that was divisible by three and good grief, was that ever a stupid plan. I shudder to think of the amount of trimming and slimming I'm going to have to do in the editing stage thanks to extra chapters desperately dragged out just to make those numbers work.

Maybe trying to borrow from two greats at once isn't such a great plan.

And to wrap this all up, I'm incorporating literary alchemy, also something I'm learning about as I go, planning out the plot ahead of time, which I have never done, and my chosen blueprint is ring scaffolding. The frantic research on ring scaffolding is just beginning.

One more thing.

I just set a deadline for myself to finish this beast before Christmas.
(Cue hysterical manic laughter)

Ladies and gentlemen, I might possibly have my first draft done before Christmas, but there is no way in the galaxy that I will have it published before Christmas. I know this, and yet I persist in working like I think it's going to happen. Even if did happen, the amount of error that would slip past me is terrifying. Did I mention that the only thing I know anything about in this whole story is my characters, and that only because I invented them all myself? Am I considering the amount of research I'm going to have to do to make this work? Have I learned nothing from all the time I've spent researching already?
Apparently not.

It would seem that I'm not only insane, in all this persistently going beyond my depth, but that I like it.

Oh well. What better way to learn about English colonization of the Caribbean, the trade routes across the Atlantic, the history of the Kalinago people, post Industrial Revolution London, the Golden Age of sail, the different between a brigantine, a barque, and a clipper ship, how to use a sextant, the island of Dominica, which docks in London were used by the West India Trading Company, the Tempest, the Winter's Tale, the psychology of unreasonable jealousy, Shakespeare's life, the Divine Comedy, Dante's use of numbers, Dante's life, literary alchemy, the symbols for nigredo, albedo, and rubedo stages within the story, the history of the science of alchemy, ring scaffolding, the history of ring scaffolding in literature, and redemption, renewal, and transformation in human lives?

I misspoke. I don't merely like this. This is not just some project involving interesting study.
I love it. This is my element. I could talk about this stuff for hours.

It's not really that I want it done by Christmas. I just want an excuse to obsess over it from now until then.

And that's a particularly good excuse.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Book Review: The Seven Basic Plots; Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker

That was a lot of book, and there is so much that I could discuss!
"Let me explain--No, there is too much. Let me sum up!"

Booker basically used over 700 pages to communicate a very simple idea: Stories are about the struggle between good and evil, and man's separation from God.
Booker says that stories say men and women embody opposite and complimentary aspects of human nature, that when they come together at the end of a story, it symbolizes a person becoming whole. (Ephesians 5:22-33, marriage between a man and a woman is a picture of Christ and the church.) That stories say people are separated from an essential part of the universe, and without gaining a greater understanding leading to faith in something beyond themselves, will destroy themselves in sin and despair. (Ephesians 2:12-14, man is separated from God and without hope, but is saved through faith in Christ.) That stories are a representation of a battle between good and evil, both in the outside world and within the human psyche.

Unfortunately, Booker seems to be locked in his own lack of understanding, darkness, and un-whole-ness. In vague, inconclusive, humanistic language, he phrases all of that in muddy terms like "light figures" "dark figures" "reaching maturity" "realizing the Self." One has to wonder, in the dim, muddy spirituality of his weak animism or perhaps spiritual-ish humanism, what meaning "maturity" or "self-realization" ultimately have. He seems to believe that man must be re-connected with God, without believing in a God to re-connect with.

Overall, I would recommend this book as a fascinating study of story-telling, an insightful simplification of plots into seven basic archetypes, and an interesting social commentary by a man who believes firmly in morality and spirituality, without believing that there is a God to give meaning to those things.

Monday, May 18, 2015

No Other Answer: My discovery of Fyodor Dostoevsky

I have this Hall Of Fame thing in my mind.
Favorite books. Favorite authors. Favorite songs. Favorite movies.
None of which I can think of when someone asks me, "What's your favorite book/author/song/movie?"

I'm stuck scrambling around in my mind, which, if you could see it, would look like like my desk, or my house, since now that I'm married my whole house is basically my desk. Rushing about, pushing aside random scraps of paper and scanning stacks of books, tripping over backpacks full of rock climbing gear that I left in the hallway, and noticing with annoyance the irrelevant but urgent fact that the fish bowl needs to be cleaned again. Muttering, "C.S. Lewis, I know it's by C.S. Lewis. Sort of." Or, "World War Two. Isn't my favorite movie about WWII?" And compromising by saying the first good idea that comes to mind, in the most non-committal way I can, with a vague sense that I am betraying a friend.

That's still better than when someone asks me what my book is about. *shudder*

Anyway, I began this train of thought when I realized earlier today that my Favorite Authors Hall of Fame has a new member. That venerable institution, long presided over by C.S. Lewis; that welcomed G.K. Chesterton and George MacDonald with joyously open arms; that slowly accepted J.R.R. Tolkien after a four year debate; whose ranks are filled with old-time friends like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, and L.M. Montgomery; and swelled by the delightful additions of Elizabeth Enright and Jonathan Rogers, has quietly and without my express permission added a new member.
One that, until last year, I had never heard of.
And that is a real problem.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1821-1881
I'd heard of Leo Tolstoy, of course. Hasn't everyone? But his countryman, Fyodor Dostoevsky? I had no idea. I don't know whose fault it is that I'd never heard of him. But I blame the world at large.

Last year, I read a book by Phillip Yancey called Soul Survivor: Why I am still a Christian, (which was an excellent book, I highly recommend it) and it mentioned both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky as novelists who had brought Mr. Yancey to a greater understanding of who God is, and how much he loves us.
I have since read Tolstoy's War and Peace, which I liked.
But Dostoevsky? The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment... I loved them.
Someone told me that Dostoevsky's books were dark and weird. I don't see them that way. Yes, they handle difficult subjects. The Brothers Karamazov is about a dysfunctional family torn apart by hate, lust, and murder. But it's also about a man clinging to faith in the face of heartbreaking events. About brothers showing love to each other despite vastly different world views. About hope and love triumphing over sin and pain.
And Crime and Punishment is about a young man who commits a pointless act of violence. About how he tries to justify and rationalize it. About how guilt breaks him down and destroys him.
But it's also about a love that passes all understanding, and a redemption that can find even the most broken, even the most evil. Even those who think they are above it.

"For no one can judge a criminal, until he realizes that he is just such a criminal as the man standing before him..." ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

An artist's depiction of Dmitri, Ivan, and Alexei,
from The Brothers Karamazov.
“I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they've shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.”
~ Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky attacks the greatest questions, the haunting doubts, the dangerous philosophies. And he doesn't exactly answer them straight out. But somehow, they feel answered. Dostoevsky's books are full of what this quote by C.S. Lewis means: "I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. No other answer would suffice."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Short Story: The Archer's Oath

   High in the sheltering branches of a massive fir, Torben pulled the spider-wool cloak tighter around his slim shoulders. The warlock had forgotten to give them hoods. Torben’s keen eyes searched the forest below him, peering through the rain dripping from his hair. He drew a finger across his bowstring, careful to keep the weapon dry.
       The afternoon was darkening. Fog rose from the wet trees. The earth steamed in the cold air, like a great beast breathing in winter. The trail through the forest grew dim, obscured by drifting wraiths of mist.
       Carefully, slowly, Torben climbed down a few feet. His feet found new anchors against the wet bark. The cloak was faulty; he was shivering.
        A crow called. The archer tensed. There was a slight movement in the forest. A shower of droplets fell from laden vine maple leaves. He drew his bow, arrow poised and ready to fly.
        The figure of a woman stepped into view, clad in a long green, hooded cape that hid her face. Torben could see no weapons. But from what the warlock said, she didn’t need any.
She paused for a moment, looking around. He would regret this kill. But he was bound by oath.
       His fingers loosed the arrow.
       Instead of the soft thud of impact, instead of the target crumpling, instead of readying another arrow for a finishing shot, Torben felt the tree give way beneath him, and he was falling.
       His arms flailed, trying to slow his fall. Wet branches smacked his face and arms. The spider-wool cloak caught on a limb and tore. He struck the ground with a thud that drove the air from his chest.
       Instinctively, he rolled over and pulled his dagger from his belt, struggling to get a breath. The ground was wet. Mud seeped into his clothes.
       His target was smiling slightly. She had thrown back her hood, revealing a young face and long red-gold curls. She was not dead, not wounded. Torben looked around feverishly for his arrow. In answer, a hawk landed on the girl’s shoulder, the missile in one talon.
      She looked up at the tree Torben had fallen from and nodded. “My thanks,” she said graciously. Torben looked up at the tree and caught a slight bow from the big fir, a motion that could have been merely the tossing of boughs in the wind. But the evening was still. The tendrils of fog drifted untouched by breezes. Even the gentle drizzle had paused for a moment.
        Torben pushed himself to his feet and drew a long, ragged breath. He pointed his dagger at the girl, but she just laughed and came towards him.
      “Drop the blade, archer,” she said. “I would leave you unhurt.”
       Torben gripped it tighter. She would see that he could fight with a knife as well as he could shoot. And no bird could swoop from the sky to seize it.
       But she stopped before she was close enough to stab. “Do you know who I am?” She stood tall and proud, but her voice was gentle.
       “No. I do not need to.”
      She took the arrow from the hawk on her shoulder, and with a quick wave, released the bird to fly free into the trees. There were no straps or jesses. She turned the arrow over, examining the black head, edges sharp enough to pierce a dragon’s wing. “Who is the maker of this arrow?” she asked. “The same who wove your cloak?” The spider-wool cloak lay, torn and muddied, at Torben’s feet.
      “Yes,” he said shortly.
       “It is ill sewn,” she said, and turned back to the arrow. “But this was carefully forged.” She looked directly into Torben’s eyes, and he knew that any attempt to lie would be useless. “Do you know why he sent you to kill me?”
        “I ask no questions,” Torben said. “I am an archer of Camden, sworn to serve the lord of Great Mountain.”
        “An archer of Camden?” Her eyebrows rose. “Then you have elf blood in you, bowman.” She tossed the arrow lightly into a clump of moss and it stuck fast, sending dewdrops quivering to the earth. “Does it not gall you to serve a mortal?”
         Torben frowned. She knew his people. “Who are you?”
        She lifted her head. “I am the last of the elf-queens,” she said, her voice ringing through the trees as if each living thing in the forest sang with her words. “I return to take my throne in the Great Mountain.”
         Torben lowered his eyes. The dagger slipped from his hand. His people had long awaited the return of the elf-rulers. The warlock was indeed a galling lord to serve.
         He picked up his bow from the mud, the string wet and useless, and laid it at the queen’s feet, bowing deeply. “My queen,” he said, “I plead your forgiveness.”
        “Stand,” she said.
        He straightened and met her eyes.
        “I do not fault you for obedience to your people’s vow.” She hesitated only a moment before adding quietly, “I loose you from your oath. You are free to choose whom you serve.”
        Torben stared at her for a long moment. Freedom was unfamiliar. Confusing. He bowed again. “I-I thank you,” he stammered.
        She smiled. “If you choose, I would welcome your free service when I claim my throne.”
        He nodded, lifted his bow, and walked away. He stopped once to look back.
       The woods were growing dark. Mist rose high into the forest. Beads of water fell in a fervent shower as the trees bowed before the queen. Rain began to fall once more, a cold drizzle against his skin.
      The queen pulled her hood over her hair and disappeared.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Confessions of a Young (Maybe Some Day) Writer

I’ve been writing for half an hour.

I’ve written twenty words.

That’s about half a sentence. I mean, it could be like six sentences, if I wasn’t trying to do too much with this first sentence. 

But I’m not worrying about that right now. Editing is for later.

Right now I’m worrying about getting past that first sentence.

To be honest, I haven’t exactly been writing non stop for the last half hour, because first I had to find the right music, and I was tired of my i-Tunes playlist, so I listened to Noelle Bybee and Sawyer Fredericks sing ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’ on The Black Hole (YouTube) which was amazing, and then I wanted to download the Mulan soundtrack from the library, which I can do with some music because our library is cool like that, but then they didn’t have it, so I found it on YouTube, then I saw this parody version where they ran the lyrics through GoogleTranslate, which was funny, so I started watching the other parodies they had made, realized I was wasting time dreadfully, and went back to my i-Tunes playlist, because it is much less distracting.
That, by the way, is a 140 word sentence. 

I need coffee.

But I already had black tea this morning. And it’s only 10:45. I shouldn’t need coffee before 12. True, I only got about 5 1/2 hours of sleep last night, but come on, I’m 20 years old, I should be able to get away with abusing sleep like this, right? Older people keep saying things like “I just can’t stay up late and get up early and get away with it anymore, I need my sleep now that I’m older…” And I’m just like, Well, when I get older I am in TROUBLE! 

Besides, I only stayed up late because I was watching a movie, which I chose to watch, knowing I still had to get up at a reasonable hour this morning, because I wanted to watch it. (It was Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, a.k.a. Indiana Jones and the Snake Pit of Doom and the Ghost Fire That Melts Faces. I saw like half of it when I was ten or so and it terrified me. I totally understand why.)

OK, by now I’m just avoiding reality. 

Reality being the fact that I told myself I was going to write 3,000 words today, on a specific story that for some reason does not want to come this morning.

This is exactly how I feel.
Why do I set these stupid goals for myself? Why not say I’m going to write 300 words, about anything, today? If I had said that, I’d be done by now.
Because I have this fear that life will get away from me and I’ll be stuck with a bunch of half written stories that never get finished, polished, any semblance of published. At least now I know that if that does happen, I’ll have at least one finished, published novel.

Not that any of that matters, or should matter. Or should it? Why am I writing anyway? What is the POINT of all this?
What is the meaning of life?
(See? Deadlines, goals, and the like are evil. They cause you to question your very reason for existence!)

I’m going to stop now. I’ve written over 500 words in about fifteen minutes, which proves that I’m not entirely impotent. Let’s not talk about the quality of the aforementioned words. I’m going for quantity today. (Editing is for later. I’d put that on the wall if I could think of a way of saying it that sounds cooler…)

3,000 words. 

2980 to go.

I’m making another cup of tea…

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Cross and the Vampire: A Review of Dracula

Book Review:
Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Team Hairbrush?
It’s not an overstatement when I say that I hate modern vampire fiction. (It’s like what would happen if a tacky horror movie had a child with a cheesy romance novel.) Even if ‘Twilight’ isn’t just a badly written fantasy, but a Mormon “allegory” constructed using time-proven literary scaffolding (as argued by John Granger at Hogwarts Professor), I still think the only good thing about it is how easy it is to make fun of. 

And as I had heard Dracula described as the novel that defined the popular form of the vampire, it wasn’t on my list of “classics I want to read.” The popular form of the vampire is this hot bad boy who has an unfortunate desire to suck human blood, but don’t worry because that’s not a real obstacle to true “love”…right? Yuck.
But that is not the story of Dracula.

Count Dracula is an evil, creepy, blood-thirsty creature that no one, no one ever ever ever, would fall in love with. (Unless you’re a psychopath.) Count Dracula is a long dead human who is possessed by the devil. Although he can control wolves and rats, shape shift into a wolf or bat, and control the weather, this is not “cool” like it would be presented as today. Count Dracula is clearly, unquestioningly, and refreshingly evil. And in a world that consistently blurs the lines between good and evil, Dracula is a breath of fresh air.

The book opens with excerpts from the journal of Jonathan Harker, a, English solicitor sent to consult with a client in Transylvania about the property he has bought in England. As he stays in the Count’s castle, Jonathan quickly begins to notice a myriad of concerning details about the Count’s habits and appearance. The man has red eyes, sharp canine teeth, seems to be nocturnal, never eats, keeps Jonathan locked in one part of the castle, and has no reflection in Jonathan’s shaving mirror. As Jonathan grows more suspicious and starts trying to find answers, the Count grows more menacing, and all the horrifying dangers of Dracula's castle close in. Jonathan finally chooses to tempt death in a perilous escape attempt rather than face even worse at the Count’s hands.

The book is continued with excerpts from several people’s journals and diaries, as well as an occasional newspaper clipping. Count Dracula makes his move, taking a ship to England, and there, in the darkness of the night, preying upon young women. Only six people know what he is and what he is doing. It will take all their combined strength and cunning to thwart him. Using the strategies and tools found in tradition, they risk their lives and souls to fight the powers of darkness. 

Dracula is a clear cut “good versus evil” story. The cross and the bread of Communion are the best weapons the protagonists have, and although Count Dracula must be destroyed, it is the devil possessing him who is the real enemy. In fact, Jonathan’s fiancĂ©e Mina points out that the men fighting the Count should do so with a feeling of mercy, knowing that they are freeing what was once a man from the horrible fate he has been bound to after his death. Not many stories have a character who is fully evil and yet still finds a measure of redemption.

With clear, Christian, old fashioned values, brave, smart, feminine women, strong, courageous, manly men, and a story that manages to be deliciously creepy without feeling spiritually oppressive, Dracula is what I wish every horror story would be. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Cure For God

Coffee from the alley...
Today, I was sitting in the downtown Bend library drinking a maple latte from Lone Pine Coffee Roasters. And I read an article, in a magazine called “Skeptical Inquirer,” about skeptical scientists trying to figure out why, over eons of history, human beings have believed in gods. 
Whether a pantheon of distant deities, or one towering all-powerful cosmic figure, whether a vague idea of something higher or a elaborate and detailed doctrine, this belief has marked centuries of human history with a broad and sweeping brush. 

“God” has toppled dictators and begotten tyrants. “Life after death” has inspired men to spend their lives as barefoot hermits, or to end their lives along with their enemies in a blaze of fire. “Morality” has spawned unimaginable kindnesses and inconceivable horrors. What is it about this idea, that, though expressed in a myriad of different and even opposite ways, always boils down to the same basic idea?

“God created the world. There is an afterlife, and men will be judged after death by their deeds. Men ought to be good.” Even in the varying ideas and expressions of “goodness” we find, at their origin, overwhelming similarities.

Sir Isaac Newton. Famous scientist. Famous theist.
So how does a materialist, a skeptical follower of the scientific method, explain this phenomenon? The article I read attempted to offer a satisfactory explanation. First, they explained the problems with a number of common reasons given for why men would invent gods. None of them proved convincing enough. So they offered their own explanation.
According to the “Skeptical Inquirer,” people have an innate desire for everything to have meaning. For the trees to be there to give the animals oxygen to breathe. For the animals to exist to provide human beings with food, help, and companionship. For human beings to exist for the pleasure of God.

And because of this innate desire for meaning, humans invented god. A belief that is so entrenched in the human psyche that it takes years of education and conditioning to stamp out. So built in that even the children of non-religious parents believe it, at least until they’re twelve years old or so. 
God comes from a belief in meaning? Where did the belief in meaning come from? Why believe in meaning if there is no such thing in the universe? Where does the beauty and mystery in the world come from, why do we persist in seeing something, if it is not there? 

Artists or barbarians?
The article made a vague claim that a belief in meaning had some sort of evolutionary advantage, but that doesn’t make sense to me. Why would a man who spent his time sitting around pondering the meaning of the universe have an evolutionary advantage over the man out hunting and not bothering about such metaphysical concerns? It seems to me that it would be just the opposite.

In the article, the insulting and erroneous assumption was that religious beliefs are the domain of the poor and uneducated, and that the cure for God was education. I know from my own experience that this is completely untrue. I know many well-educated and intelligent people who believe, if not in a specific God, in at least some higher Power. In a meaning to the universe. It is a part of the human soul that even the anti-God education system has failed to eradicate. 

As for me, I do not base my belief in God on the fact that over the ages, everyone has, although I see in that fact a problem that the skeptics still have not been able to explain away. 

I believe in God because I see a meaning in the world. I see a beauty that defies chance. I see actions that prove Love exists. I see a beauty and a mystery hiding behind the cosmos that shouts of a God that not only exists, but created, as we his children attempt to create, that loves, as we his children long to love, that has the plan that we his children yearn for.

I am sure that God has a satisfying explanation for the development of the skeptics. For now, we can quietly note that if a skeptic continues to educate himself, he will find that education is not, in fact, the cure for God. It is the cure for skepticism.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

To Be Beloved...

To be beloved, held, and free,
Redemption given unto me,
Sanctified, absolved of wrong,
And hallelujah be my song

To be beloved, come what may,
For both tomorrow and today,
My future resting in his hands,
On rock, not on the shifting sands

To be beloved, even now,
Though fears and sorrows don't see how,
In clouds and looming darkness find,
My God is faithful, loving, kind

To be beloved, ransomed, kept,
For me he bled, for me he wept,
However stubborn be the stain,
His sacrifice will be my gain

To be beloved, made complete,
To find in him the truth I seek,
His faithfulness a proven thing,
And of his glory I will sing

Friday, January 23, 2015

the lucky ones

We are the lucky ones. We walk the halls of court in silk and feathers, hidden by intrigue and tales of scandal. Our true lives are so hidden behind veils of glimmering satin that we are like dolls, acting out the wishes of a capricious monarch whose interests are diplomacy and connections. Our honor is nothing, the honor of the dynasty: everything. We learn early that is is wiser to never fall in love than to set our affections on a dream that will never materialize. For we are little more than pawns in a king’s game of chess, daughters of a destiny that we can not control. Our lives have nothing to do with luck, and everything to do with the mind of a king, and yet we are the lucky ones, for we know nothing of poverty and privation. We know nothing of need. We know only a life of pearls and lilies. We are the lucky ones.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Shakespeare Wrote a Play

       One does not simply review Shakespeare any more than one walks into Mordor. It is not a land for common people or those with only high school diplomas. You must have at least a four year degree to attempt heroics of that nature.
       But some of the best stories are about ordinary people doing the things that should be left to kings and heroes.


           I am no Shakespeare scholar (yet). I have read Charles and Mary Lamb’s retellings of the stories, which left me with a working knowledge of the tales, and a slight sense of superiority. I have read A Midsummer Nights Dream, which, bewitching title aside, left me as confused and muddled as poor Helena when Lysander suddenly fell in love with her. It stripped away the superiority (OK, these stories aren't simple) but also rendered me a bit disgusted, what with all the philandering and ass's heads on idiots, and childish, vindictive fairies. I have also read Romeo and Juliet and part of Macbeth
Horrified and heartbroken...
I also watched a movie adaptation of Henry V, which with all its heroism and drama, left an impression on me of sick horror, stamped deep by the scene in which the French break through the back line (I can still see their horses jumping through that fence of stakes) and slaughter the unarmed messenger boys, leaving a field of dead and bleeding children. I still can't bring myself to read the play, because it wasn't the gory depiction that bothered me. It was the emotional carnage. I was still a child myself, and the one character close to my age was brutally and unfairly killed.

Because calling someone a fish is
much more insulting if it's a
deboshed fish...

Shakespeare, as well as being an esteemed and enthroned writer of plays, is a king of insults. I have a book full of insults and nasty names taken from Shakespeare’s plays, as well as a mug festooned with such cutting and hurtful remarks as “beetle headed, flap-eared knave.” (My favorite insult, however, does not come from Shakespeare, but from L.M. Montgomery’s book Emily of New Moon, in which the heroine’s father describes someone as having “the brains of a hen and the sensibilities of a cow.” If you’ve done anything with chickens or bovines, you understand just how expressive that saying is.)

Hamlet, played by Kenneth Branagh. "Whether 'tis nobler in
the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous
fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by
opposing, end them?"

I guess my question is this: Why does an English playwright from the fifteenth century become one of the most influential writers who ever set pen to paper? What is it about his words, his phrases, his stories, that has made them stick? And is it, in fact, the words, phrases, or stories? Is it the rhythm and power of the words he chose? Is it the multitude of sayings found in his plays that have now become so common, they could be considered cliches? Is it the dramatic and emotional stories that he told? 
William Shakespeare died almost 400 years ago. Why is he still in print?

        I don’t have the answer to those questions. It would be an interesting study to look at the structure and scaffolding that the national poet of England used. To examine the plots he used, the characters he invented, and the emotions he invoked. Until then, I’ll close with a particularly pithy observation of the Bard’s, one that highlights the fact that the more I study story, the more I realize that I don’t know, and that I will never have enough time to fully understand. 
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

Isn't something like that in the Bible? Because Shakespeare, for one thing, got that right.