Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Flannery O'Connor's Mean Streak

I just read "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor.  Another one of her brutal horrifying tales that is supposed to somehow give us a glimpse of God's grace. I'm not saying it doesn't, and she was undoubtedly a great writer. But I wonder if there are other ways to show that. Despite all the fancy explanations of her work (by her and others), I sometimes feel that woman had, as they used to say, a "mean streak."

In her talk about the story she speaks about violence in modern stories: " my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work. This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world." And further: "Violence is a force which can be used for good or evil, and among other things taken by it is the kingdom of heaven.

And there, in my opinion, we get to the heart of it. As a Catholic who went to church every day while growing up, she was raised in an inherently violent religion that has been responsible for the suffering and death of millions of people. She was inculcated with the belief that eternal good can only come out of violent mortal suffering. And so, she creates ridiculous coincidences in order to put a family in the hands of killers so that they can be slaughtered in cold blood, just in order for a moment of grace to be provided for the main killer (or the grandmother or both, or hell, neither, depending on your viewpoint).

I am not against violence in literature, and I agree with her when she states, "With the serious writer, violence is never an end in itself." But when she says, "It is the extreme situation that best reveals what we are essentially than in the tenor of our daily lives," this comes from a belief system. I would not argue that it may in some ways be true, but extreme situations do not have to always be violent ones. And, I believe essential aspects of us, such as deep love for another person, nature, or the divine, can come about spontaneously in our day to day lives. Many of the great mystical experiences did not happen in foxholes, but during walks in nature or simply stepping from here to there. Extreme violent situations might just as easily reveal aspects of someone's nature that are in fact "false," in the sense that they may only be physical responses to danger created by adrenalin and other chemicals that alter our mental state at the time. If a lion is chewing on your leg and you shoot it in the head, that doesn't mean that you're actually an animal hater. So, again, this comes from her religious beliefs and may be true in some cases and in other cases, be a complete red herring.

I suppose her stories would not have been as fascinating or sold as well if they were about people going on vision quests alone in the wild, praying and meditating alone for hours, or working to provide the basic necessities for the extreme poor in adverse conditions. And her upbringing with an inherently violent religious worldview helped make her choice for her.

And speaking of saving graces, despite the horror and drama, her stories are also hilarious, and that is the reason I still find them palatable.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Quick Note and a Call for SANITY and PEACE

A quick note and a call for SANITY and PEACE before Tuesday. I am appalled to hear that people end friendships and stop talking to family members because one is voting Republican (or Romney specifically) and the other Democrat (or Obama specifically).

Please look at the following list and you'll realize how much this election is NOT worth losing a friend or family member. Beyond this list, the men elected are part of a system which is monolithic and run by very powerful people who have been involved in the process for decades. Even the president has very limited power to change things. Stop putting so much on the president and start shifting some of the responsibility to yourself and your life choices (and your local elections).

After you read this list, take some deep breaths, then call up or hug the person (family member or friend) you think is your rival or enemy. The extreme opposition that has been created is merely a point of view, a fiction. You and those you disagree with (and Obama and Romney) have FAR more in common than in opposition. Only together, with open minds and courageous, compassionate hearts, does any real positive change happen. Love...

1. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both supported TARP.

2. Mitt Romney supported Barack Obama’s “economic stimulus” packages.

3. Mitt Romney says that Barack Obama’s bailout of the auto industry was actually his idea.

4. Neither candidate supports immediately balancing the federal budget.

5. They both believe in big government and they both have a track record of being big spenders while in office.

6. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both fully support the Federal Reserve.

7. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are both on record as saying that the president should not question the “independence” of the Federal Reserve.

8. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have both said that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke did a good job during the last financial crisis.

9. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both felt that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke deserved to be renominated to a second term.

10. Both candidates oppose a full audit of the Federal Reserve.

11. Both candidates are on record as saying that U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has done a good job.

12. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have both been big promoters of universal health care.

13. Mitt Romney was the one who developed the plan that Obamacare was later based upon.

14. Wall Street absolutely showers both candidates with campaign contributions.

15. Neither candidate wants to eliminate the income tax or the IRS.

16. Both candidates want to keep personal income tax rates at the exact same levels for the vast majority of Americans.

17. Both candidates are “open” to the idea of imposing a Value Added Tax on the American people.

18. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both believe that the TSA is doing a great job.

19. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both supported the NDAA.

20. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both supported the renewal of the Patriot Act.

21. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both believe that the federal government should be able to indefinitely detain American citizens that are considered to be terrorists.

22. Both candidates believe that American citizens suspected of being terrorists can be killed by the president without a trial.

23. Barack Obama has not closed Guantanamo Bay like he promised to do, and Mitt Romney actually wants to double the number of prisoners held there.

24. Both candidates support the practice of “extraordinary rendition”.

25. They both support the job-killing “free trade” agenda of the global elite.

26. They both accuse each other of shipping jobs out of the country and both of them are right.

27. Both candidates are extremely soft on illegal immigration.

28. Neither candidate has any military experience. This is the first time that this has happened in a U.S. election since 1944.

29. Both candidates earned a degree from Harvard University.

30. They both believe in the theory of man-made global warming.

31. Mitt Romney has said that he will support a “cap and trade” carbon tax scheme (like the one Barack Obama wants) as longas the entire globe goes along with it.

32. Both candidates have a very long record of supporting strict gun control measures.

33. Both candidates have been pro-abortion most of their careers. Mitt Romney’s “conversion” to the pro-life cause has been questioned by many. In fact, Mitt Romney has made millions on Bain Capital’s investment in a company called “Stericycle” that incinerates aborted babies collected from family planning clinics.

34. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both believe that the Boy Scout ban on openly gay troop leaders is wrong.

35. They both believe that a “two state solution” will bring lasting peace between the Palestinians and Israel.

36. Both candidates have a history of nominating extremely liberal judges.

37. Like Barack Obama, Mitt Romney also plans to add “signing statements” to bills when he signs them into law.

38. They both have a horrible record when it comes to job creation.

39. Both candidates believe that the president has the power to take the country to war without getting the approval of the U.S. Congress.

40. Both candidates plan to continue running up more government debt even though the U.S. government is already 16 trillion dollars in debt.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Problem with Public Education: Creativity and Divergent Thinking

Fascinating and insightful (and very easy to watch and understand). Especially if you have children, you should watch this. An introductory talk about the problems with our current mode of thinking with education. Far past time for a major change.

I hope things will change. It absolutely sucks to be a creative person or a divergent thinker in our society. We're treated with no respect or esteem unless we can create things that make wealth for the companies owned by the wealthy elite. I can envision a completely different society that would so transcend what we have now that it would be almost unrecognizable. A society of artists, scientists, philosophers, healers, teachers, growers, lovers, explorers (of inner and outer space). Life could be an incredible and much less lonely adventure for everyone.

So much time and resource is wasted learning how to make money for a few people to be needlessly rich and the rest to barely survive, paying for the right to inhabit a tiny piece of land or building and breathe the air owned by those same people (not to mention that so much of the profit is sustained by constant war). It is a horrible reality. I only hope to quietly create the greatest art that I can while I'm here before moving on to what is hopefully a more sublime reality. I hope it will be a better world for the children of this generation.

But the only way will be a cultural revolution of the mind, away from the old paradigm, no longer worshiping solely the analytical mode of consciousness and giving up the idea of solitary self-interest.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Fear of Women

Many men hate women because they fear the power they feel women have over them. The more they resist and give in to the fear, the more it grows and they are forced to build a false male ego-self, putting on a facade of strength to protect the fragile, frightened self within. By doing so, they cut themselves off from the power of their feminine half and go through life suffering and incomplete, needing more and more that which they have come to hate, and hating more and more that which they need.

The only way to become strong is to face your fear, humble yourself before what you do not understand and be willing to learn and grow. If you do, you sometimes find that which you thought was a demon trying to claw you to death is in fact an angel seeking to free you from the shell that hides an incredibly powerful being within.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Eternal Afternoon World

Yesterday, I went to that spot in Griffith Park where the fire road runs east and turns to the north and Glendale lies to the east below. There are a few very tall, lonely, windswept trees at the edge of the road where the cliff drops off for hundreds of feet. Walking up the road, which is at a slight incline, you see the sun-drenched road, the golden ground at the edge where the trees sway in the breeze and, over the road, the top of the San Gabriel Mountains rising filtered through a blue haze.

I stood there for almost twenty minutes, in an altered state of consciousness, feeling like I was lost in an eternal afternoon world. I felt as if the distant mountains were tugging at my soul, which created a delicious sense of longing almost akin to deja vu.

Go outdoors. Take your time. Keep your head up. Be quiet. Listen. More often than not, the universe will speak to you in a voice without language that goes straight to the core of your being. It took twenty minutes, but it lifted the anxiety I was feeling and changed my day. In the face of the eternal, the temporary becomes a ghostlike shadow.

This excellent photo is by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti. It was taken later in the afternoon than when I was there (which was closer to noon or just after). See more excellent photos by Lisa at

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Intelligent Lust Denied

I recently sent this email to the CEO of Psychology Today magazine. I encourage anyone who is as outraged by this persecution of free thought as I am to send an email as well. Here's the link to the contact page of the CEO:
Here's the general contact page if you want to contact someone else: 

Here's the letter I sent upon finding out that Stanley Seigel's excellent column, Intelligent Lust, was "retired" from the magazine. Siegel's column must have pissed off some of the thought police, because it was excellent and very popular.

And now, my letter to the CEO:

I was perplexed to not be able to find the excellent article "In Defense of Casual Sex" on the Psychology Today site. All I could find were negative response articles to it, which is lame. I finally found Siegel's own site and found out that his column was "retired" from your magazine.

It's sad to see that Psychology Today is so afraid of free discussions of certain topics which don't adhere to certain people's fragile belief systems that you have to "retire" one of the best columns you had. Almost makes me think some of the people at Psychology Today, I don't know, maybe need to see a therapist.

And maybe you should change the name of your magazine to "Psychology Yesterday." I won't bother reading any more of your articles.



Farewell, Ray Bradbury, Martian Chronicler

Ray Bradbury died last Tuesaday at the age of 91.

He left behind an incredible legacy for the world. He was a great man and a great American, with an incredible intellect and a compassionate poet's heart.

His books made me a better person and a better writer. I've longed to capture the beauty and nostalgia that he was able to evoke, most brilliantly in the Martian Chronicles. The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Fahrenheit 451 are my favorite Bradbury books, and, in my opinion, three of the greatest books ever written.

Every writer who's truly a writer longs to write something that really matters, something that moves people's hearts, changes their lives. But probably the only way to do that is not to try but to do what Ray did.

"Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for."

Well, I'd better get on with it. Ray would want me to be writing now, not spend time talking about him.

We will miss you, Ray. Thanks for all the great stories.