the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Letter To Myself - What I Know Now

If any of my regular readers are still around, I hope you aren't too dismayed by the word 'faith'. I do plan to go back to writing fiction and other things here, but this was something I needed to do. I will also be writing about my faith, but not exclusively - and I'll try to make sure those who would rather avoid such posts can do so easily. And for those taking part in the Faith Jam, I hope I haven't broken any rules...

Hello, Ray;

It’s hard to remember just how my mind worked thirty six years ago when I was almost seventeen. So much has happened since then to change me, I’m not sure I’d even recognise myself. I suspect you’re going to have a hard time believing who this is from. After all, as much as you’d love to be able to travel in time, you know it isn’t possible. And it feels strange to be writing to myself, when that ‘self’ is so much different from the person I am today.

But I know things about you that you haven’t told anyone else yet. Most importantly, it was only a month ago you decided to give God a chance to prove He was real. You weren’t expecting that He was, but you did honestly want to know the truth, so He took up your challenge. You’ll learn that you can’t set limits on God, though; that’s why He took such pains to prove to you that He did exist in the one way you’d told Him you couldn’t possibly accept. And the fact that He managed to do that, when you were so sure you needed something tangible to overcome your reason, was a powerful proof in itself. So now you believe in Him, to your own shock, but there are so many things you don’t understand yet, things that you’ll find yourself learning through painful experience.

The first thing you need to know, and I’m not sure if it is the most important but it is the most urgent, is that you have a harder time hearing God than most people do. There are reasons for that, but before I get into those - if you can hear Him, He’s shouting. So when you hear Him telling you “Tell Michael about Me” - listen! Don’t take time to think about it first, or wait for the right time, like I know you’re going to want to. There isn’t time. Unless talking to Michael about God will change things, in about six weeks you’re going to be reading another note. This one won’t be from me. You’ll get home and find it, and it will say “There was a crash. The driver died. It was Michael ------.” And you’ll remember what you heard the night before, that awful sound you thought was an explosion, until you couldn’t see any flames out the window.

You’ll remember how you were so freaked out you put it out of your mind, even when you heard sirens and chainsaws and realised there had been an accident down at the corner, you never even connected that with the sound you heard first. When you went by the corner that morning and saw the oak tree ripped up by its roots, and knew that must have been what you heard them cutting up late into the night, you still didn’t connect it with the noise that you heard just after midnight. But once you read that note, and understand it was Michael’s car that slammed into that huge tree, his body that lay broken and dying on the ground, you won’t be able to forget the sound any longer. I can’t even write about this thirty six years later without crying. So talk to him.

If you listen, I don’t know what that will change, but I’m pretty sure your life won’t be nearly as much of a mess. If you think this is a joke and everything turns out the same way, there are a couple of other things you need to know. First, God forgives even something as awful as ignoring His voice when it matters as much as that. His love is that great. It took me years to figure that out, but there is nothing God won’t forgive. But even more important than that - God doesn’t just love you. He loves Michael, too. And if you screw it up, He knew you were going to do that, and with all His power and mercy and grace, there is no chance at all that He would allow Michael to burn in hell because you screwed up. I don’t know anything more than that, but I’ve learned that much about God. If you can remember it, it might keep you a lot saner than I was for a lot of years. It was still a horrible thing to do, and ignoring God is never a good idea, when you can figure out what He’s saying. But at least you’ll know He will and does forgive you, and that He is not so powerless that He needs to allow someone else to suffer because of your failure.

But there are other things you’ll need to know, that are important, too. Right now, you think what you need to do, once you’ve accepted Jesus and ‘gotten your passport stamped’ is try to be a good person. Forget about that. You can’t. You can never be a good person. No one can, not really. Only God, with His power, can help you to do that, and you have to follow Him and let Him work it all out instead of trying to do it yourself. I know all your instincts are telling you otherwise, but don’t listen to them. Those instincts are about as useful here as a lemming’s instinct is when he comes to the top of a cliff. You can do nothing on your own. Only God can accomplish anything worthwhile in your life. The only thing you can do is try to follow Him, wherever He leads you.

Some people will say that’s wrong, but there isn’t anyone who’s that good at understanding God. You’re not, I’m not, and neither is anybody else. People are horribly good at taking the truth of God’s Word and twisting it to fit what their human minds understand, or what they wish it said. All of us do that, and convince others, and confuse each other until no one is sure what He really meant. We end up arguing about it and hurting each other instead of loving one another the way He told us to do. I’m not any better at that than anyone else, sadly. As much as I understand God now, that was thanks to a pastor who had the guts to get up in front of us all and admit that he was scared, that he was flawed, that he screws up just like everybody else. God works best when you admit just what a mess you are. And I’ve seen God working enough in my life to be sure I’m at least somewhere near the right path on that, although I’m sure I’m still further off it than I’d like to think. But if He is working in my life, that means something. It means a lot more about His love and mercy and grace than anything to do with me. I never would have come to this point if He hadn’t drawn me in. I couldn’t even do that much on my own. Remember that, and don’t pat yourself on the back just because you know the truth. It doesn’t make you better than anyone else.

He made me the way I am, and I screwed it up. Yes, I had help. But no one alive chooses what they learn when they’re younger, when they’re just figuring things out. We all learn lies, bad habits, ways of coping that don’t work as well as we hoped they would. The people who taught you aren’t any different than you are. That’s one reason you shouldn’t judge anyone else. We are all struggling, and you don’t know what they have to fight any more than they know what you’re fighting against. We all misunderstand each other. You can see how messed up they are, but you haven’t figured out yet that doesn’t do you much good, because you’re just as messed up in different ways. The faster you figure that out, the better, because that’s a lesson you’ve got to learn in order to let God lead you instead. And even when something honestly isn’t your fault, that isn’t what matters - because you’re still the one who has to live with the way you are until you let go and let God fix everything that’s broken inside you. No matter how much someone else hurt you, or left you in a mess, you’re still the one who has to live with the consequences. So the best thing you can do is forget about everything except getting out of the way and letting God heal you. What’s happened to you is the same thing that happens to everyone; God makes them, and they and all the people around them damage what He’s made until only He can fix it.

It’s part of our nature to fight, to struggle, to try to figure it all out and fix it on our own. Yes, you’re smart, and there are people who get hurt a lot worse than you’ve been, or will be. So it looks like you can do it on your own, but you can’t. That’s God’s grace, because if you could patch yourself together enough to convince yourself the job was done, you’d never turn to Him for help. And the job wouldn’t really be done, you’d just have covered over all the cracks. Nobody can fix themselves. Only God can do that. He has all the blueprints, He knows how you work a lot better than you do - and how you were designed to work. He knows what you were meant to be, and what damage you’ve got that’s throwing you off that track. You’re so damaged, you think some of the broken parts were meant to be that way, and you go around breaking things that weren’t damaged yet, because you think they needed to be fixed. So you have to let Him do it.

You’re going to have some nasty surprises I can’t do much to help you with. You’re more different from other people than you can possibly understand right now. And that’s going to mislead you. Yes, you’re able to see that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes while everyone around you is busy applauding and exclaiming over his new outfit, but there are things they can see that you can’t. As long as you let yourself get distracted by how right you are on some things, you’ll keep right on walking off cliffs and into walls that you can’t see. Since you’re so sure you know what you’re doing, you’ll believe it was something else, too. Everybody seems to make that mistake, but you’re in a position to get more caught up in it than most people ever do. Getting the ‘genius’ label when you were young wasn’t helpful, and neither is obsessing over all the things that you’re right on that no one else can see. Sometimes you really are right, but some truths are just a distraction from much bigger, more important truths.

Everyone sees the world through tinted glasses. The only difference is what shade they are. Most of us even look through a couple of pairs at once. I know you won’t have any trouble believing that, since you’re already starting to figure it out - except that you’re almost certain to assume that you’re immune. You’re not. Just because you don’t have the same tinted lenses most people use hindering what you can see, that doesn’t mean you aren’t missing a different part of the spectrum. You’re going to get hurt, a lot. Then you’re going to start wondering if all the bullies were right after all. That isn’t true, either. Right now, you think the fact you’ll never be able to drive is a life sentence as an outcast. Later, you’ll come to realise you’re much more of an outcast than that, and eventually, you’ll even identify yourself as “an outcast even among the outcasts”. But neither extreme is what’s important. What matters is what God is doing in your life.

If you could see me right now, I suspect you’d be horrified. I’ve made a mess out of my life, and I have literally nothing but God Himself to rely on right now. That sounds like a bad thing to you, but it isn’t really. The truth is, anything but God that you rely on is an illusion. Even if it’s there at the moment, you can lose it as quickly and with as little warning as Michael died. So knowing that all you have is God, and nothing else, is really just being forced to face the truth you’ve been trying to hide from all along. You could write enough bestsellers to make you rich and famous, and you could count on your money and your fame and all the people who looked up to you as a bestselling author - and you could wake up one day and find out a financial crisis had wiped out everything you had, people had moved on and decided all your books were crap, and you had cancer. So trust God, learn to rely on Him, lean on Him. Worry about what He wants. That’s all that really matters.

Even in all the pain and misery and agony that you’re going to go through - God is there, beside you. He is watching over you, and He will bring you back to His side even when you lose your mind from the pain and shove Him away. And finally, when you’re ready, He’ll let you learn at least some things about yourself that you’ve never understood. All the reasons people have attacked you, have called you a liar when you weren’t, have challenged you when you were telling the truth so you even found it easier for a while to lie because they believed those more easily, all those things have an explanation. And, for all the hard times you’ve had being an outcast, for all the pain, when you finally understand what your eyes really work like (and, no, you don’t even know that yet; I won’t know until I’m fifty one) and how your mind works, you’re going to discover something amazing. God actually planned out those ‘defects’. He designed them to work together, to shape the person you already are, and they’ll go on helping you and shaping you in ways you aren’t ready to grasp yet. You have as much sin inside you as anyone else, you’re not any better - but you’re not worse, either. You’re not

I dare to hope that means He has some use for me. Why would He spend so much time working in my life, if all He meant to do was let me die in a gutter in six months? But even if that’s what happens, it won’t be a big deal, because death isn’t the end. Death is just a step across the threshold into Heaven. So focus on what matters. Remember that you have an especially hard time hearing God. That’s something I’m still working on. And you have more trouble focusing on anything than you’ll understand for a long time, so you need to be aware of that. And you need to let God guide you and unfold the details of His plan as you’re ready to take that next step. I still don’t know what use He has for me, but I know more than I did a few years ago. I’m growing. One other thing I’ve learned, though; whenever you get too impressed with how far you’ve grown, that’s a danger sign. Because there is a lot more that needs to be fixed than you can possibly comprehend all at once. Every time you think God’s done restoring you, He peels off another layer and lets you see all the rust and corrosion and damage underneath it.

Even if you don’t get this letter, or you decide it’s just a joke, it’s all right. God knows what’s going to happen, and He can make it work out the way He always meant it to. Great chess masters can stay just a couple of moves ahead of you, so they can beat you and make it look like magic. But God knows, before the board is even laid out on the table, how the whole game is going to turn out. If He allowed me to take this long to figure things out, then He can still make use of that, somehow, even if I never understand how. That’s His magic, and it is more powerful than any magic any person has ever imagined.

Yourself, at fifty three.

To anyone else reading this;

Since I am an ‘outlier’, so different that even people who know me well misunderstand me more often than not, no doubt you’re puzzled by some of the things I’ve referred to. I was born with poor vision and crossed eyes. Some of my earliest memories are of visits to eye doctors - and getting yelled at because I squirmed and tried to get away from the bright lights. It took until I was in third grade for a specialist, one of the most prestigious eye doctors in the state, to figure out that I was legally blind. Obviously, my poor vision had a huge influence on my life.

On top of that, a lot of people were always asking “What’s wrong with you?” Almost no one ever took me seriously. As an example, when I was ten, my pediatrician was digging wax out of my ears, and I screamed in pain until he yelled at me for being a “crybaby”. That stung almost as much as my ear, and made me shut up, until he was done. Then, my ear tickled, so I put my hand up to scratch it - and pulled it away covered in blood. The doctor simply looked at my mother and said “How was I supposed to know he had hair growing in his ears?”

As much as it stung that he couldn’t even be bothered to apologise for ripping so many hairs in my ear out by the roots that blood poured out for half an hour afterwards, or for calling me a crybaby for yelling in pain at that sensation, he wasn’t as terrible a doctor as you might imagine. That story illustrates the way most people react to me. My second grade teacher and the school nurse both called me a liar in front of the whole class for saying I couldn’t see things at the same distance everyone else could. They tried to force me to read books at a “normal” distance. Over and over again.

Even when I was grown up, things like this continued to happen to me, and even people who knew what I was going through would have what I found to be a most frustrating sympathy with the offenders. I heard, “It’s just something about you. I can’t explain it, but you almost ask for it.” so often I could recite the words by heart. And then there were the quirks I had I never told anyone about, or tried to bury or conceal somehow. I doubted my own sanity a lot more often than I was willing to admit to anyone else. So what was the explanation? Finally, in the summer of 2010, someone made a remark that got me thinking. By then, I’d already heard of Aspergers. I’d even thought a lot of things about it sounded very much like me. But there were other things that weren’t like me at all.

This time, I decided to really look into it, to settle the matter and figure it out one way or the other rather than wondering. When I was younger, no one even knew about Aspergers. And getting a formal diagnosis as an adult is a lot harder and more expensive than I was prepared to handle, but I could research it, and consider what I learned as it applied to me. After all, who knows me better than I do? So I did - and I still didn’t think I had Aspergers, until I realised something. The things I was sure didn’t apply to me were things other people often said about me - things I felt were unfair. So what if this was describing what someone with Aspergers looked like to a person on the outside? In that case, the description fit me amost perfectly. I did more reading, and met other people like me online. For the first time in my life, I was among other outcasts who thought I made sense. And they all thought the ‘experts’ didn’t understand us very well, either. Even people who had been formally diagnosed thought that.

Now that I finally know what it is that’s different about me, now that I know what advice from others I need to just ignore because they have no idea what’s going on inside my head, I’ve begun making more progress than I ever have before at actually figuring out my life and trying to accomplish something. Not much progress; the neurotypical world would laugh at what I call ‘progress’. But if I measure it against my own experience in the past, I’ve come further in two years than I ever managed to do in all the years that came before that. There are still things I don’t know how to overcome, that I’ll have to trust God to help me deal with.

Imagine that a cat was born in a dog’s body, among a pack of dogs, but still had all of a cat’s instincts and reflexes. When the dogs around them wagged their tails, they’d back off, fearful because they’d think they were angry. When the other dogs acted as if they were just another one of the pack, and should behave like any other dog, they’d be confused. They wouldn’t even know how. After all, they’re just doing what comes naturally to them. When they wagged their tail in fear or anger, the other dogs would think they were happy, then they’d blame the poor cat in dog’s body who swiped at them when they got close. Is it any wonder that poor creature would grow up confused, unsure what to believe or who to trust? Is it any wonder they might stop trying to communicate with those dogs at all, and, if they didn’t, that they might keep their distance and be very wary? That’s what life is like for us. We understand that we don’t understand you. But what most of you don’t understand is that you don’t understand us any

So I have struggled, and for years felt God must hate me. The more people urged me to do and be what I could not - to be a “good dog” when I am instead a cat - the more I believed that. But, only a month or so after I figured out my mind was different, I found out my eyes were, too. What the specialist of my childhood never knew - or at least never wrote on my diagnosis - was that I was born with ocular albinism. My eyes don’t work the same as almost everyone else’s either. Not even the same as most people with poor vision. Instead, what would be peripheral vision in anyone else is all my vision. I don’t need to fear macular degneration, because I never formed a macula to begin with. Of course my eyesight worked differently than anyone was used to. Of course it just added to the misunderstandings anyone with Aspergers learns to take for granted.

But it did something else, something powerful, something only God could do. I had to learn some of the letters when I was much younger than most kids ever learn, just to tell the eye doctors my parents kept taking me to what letters I saw on each line (or at least the top few lines) of their charts. The curiosity and drive to understand that burned inside me due to my autistic traits caused me to expand on that, to insist on learning to understand those letters, how they fit together, how to read. And then I learned that I was able, when I read very close up to the page, to see several words at one time, at a glance. And my autistic brain could take those words in almost instantly and piece them into the sentence I was building up in my mind. So I could read so fast most people who saw me do it couldn’t believe I was actually reading - until I proved it to them. Scanners didn’t really exist then, and I wasn’t quite as fast as a modern scanner, but in a sense, I was a sort of human scanner that fed input into my own brain.

And while that input, all the many books I devoured desperately, did not and could not ‘cure’ my autistic traits, since they are not a disease, not a ‘defect’, but simply a different neural circuitry, it did provide me with information that helped me to deal with some of the things I couldn’t cope with, that helped me gradually to understand at least some things that some of us who don’t read much never learn to understand. And it shaped me. It made me a writer. Printed and written language was my first and most lasting ‘obsession’. It made me who I am - a writer. The one word that identifies me even more absolutely than “outcast” is “writer”. So God used two ‘defects’ to work together to create the person I am now. In spite of all the torment and misery and struggle, the blessings I’ve gained from the interaction between my different vision and my different mind are such that I would not go back and live a ‘normal’ life even if I were allowed that opportunity. I couldn’t, because to do so would be to cause myself to never have existed. I would be a completely different person.

I’ve made this explanation so long because, although it isn’t a spiritual lesson I would have any need to explain to myself - I’ve always felt sympathy for outcasts, long before I understood why - it is a spiritual lesson I hope someone else might be able to learn from my words. There are so many others out there like me, lost, alone. Desperate. There are other sheep just as lost, even if they aren’t lost for precisely the same reasons. Mostly, we are the ones no one bothers to try to lead back to the fold, because we’ve gone so far astray, because we run when we see anyone coming toward us. It was only God’s grace that kept me from doing just that. But we need God just as badly as anyone else. Perhaps you have honestly tried leading someone so lost back to the fold, but until you understand that you don’t understand, until you know why they fear you, all you can possibly do is drive them further away.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Crazy NaNo Project 2011

As anyone still reading this blog is probably aware, I'm doing NaNo again this year. Only I've gotten so used to it, I decided to make things a bit more "interesting". The curious can read the details over on the blog I set up just for this wild project: Thirty Days and Nights of Inksanity. Yes, I'm writing in longhand, with fountain pens and inks, and posting about them each day. I'm a few days behind, thanks to the "snowpocalypse" that struck in late October (which I posted about over there, too). But I'm having fun...

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering Lindsay Coates Herkness III

This is a very painful piece for me to write, but I believe the least I can do for Lindsay Coates Herkness, who lost his life ten years ago today, is to publicly admit just how much I owe him, even though I only "met" him years after his death.

Five years ago, I decided to take part in the 2996 Project, an effort by bloggers to honour each of the victims of America's greatest tragedy on the fifth anniversary of that day. I was assigned a tribute, which I wrote and posted, but then I learned that some of the bloggers who had signed up to write a tribute never did so. Those of us who took our responsibilities seriously were horrified, thinking of the families who might seek out their loved one's tribute, only to find nothing. So some of us agreed to research, and to write, tributes for these victims as quickly as we could.

I was given the name of Lindsay Coates Herkness III, with the mission of researching his life and writing his tribute literally overnight. I am ashamed to confess this next truth, but I must, in order to explain what Lindsay taught me, even after his death. When I began to research him, I discovered that he was someone I'd formed a poor opinion of in the days immediately following the disaster. He was the man who remained in his office, refusing to leave, until one of the Port Authority security officers went up to bring him down. Both men died when the tower collapsed.

The fact that I wasn't the only person to criticise him when I heard the news report about the rich financier who 'got a poor security guard killed' is no consolation. You see, whatever prior opinion I'd formed about him, I believed that I owed it to Lindsay himself, and to his family and friends, to learn whatever I could and to write the best tribute for him that I honestly could. So I sat up, in the middle of the night, reading about his life, and reading the comments people who had known him left on various memorial sites. In the process, a very different picture emerged from the man I'd been so quick to criticise.

It became obvious that he was the type of man others relied on, whose calm refusal to leave would have helped to keep others calm. It was also obvious he must have known this, or at least guessed it, and his "foolish" decision was in reality the best thing he could have done to prevent a panic. Remembering my own arrogant judgment of his actions, and the fact that many others had made similar remarks at the time, I wrote his tribute in such a way that, I hope, anyone who had misunderstood his actions would be convinced he had in fact done nothing wrong. At the time, as tired as I was, that was the best I could do.

But since then, I've remembered Lindsay at times, especially in early September, but on other occasions as well. And I've remembered just what he taught me, even though he had already been dead for five years at the time. I learned how very easy it is to criticise someone else, even when you're wrong. I learned how arrogant, how judgmental, I could be, even towards a man who paid with his life for his choice. I learned how easy it is to attack someone with the benefit of hindsight. I learned just how important it is to try to view something from the other person's point of view before you make up your mind why they acted as they did.

So, I'm sorry, Lindsay. This is my public apology to you. You taught me a great deal, and I owe you more than I could repay even if you were alive. I hope someone else may read this, and learn from my mistake - and remember your life, and the choices that you made, and do better than I did that awful day. You were a generous and a gracious man, so I'm sure you would have forgiven me, if you had the chance. Thank you for that, and for what you've taught me. I wish I could have known you.

Remembering Francis Esposito, FDNY

I never knew Francis Esposito while he was alive. I "met" him in the summer of 2006, when I was researching my tribute for him as part of the 2,996 Project to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Since that time, I have thought of him often, especially as the anniversary of that terrible day approaches each year. I think of his sacrifice, and I think of what the world lost when he died.

Our world has changed so much in just ten years. Yet if we spent more time reflecting on what men like Frank have taught us, we might make the world a much better place than it is today. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (Testament of John, Chapter 15, verse 13) Francis Esposito offered us one example of what such love looks like. He marched into a blazing tower, a sight so terrifying that I, safe in front of a television in Massachusetts, was consumed by fear and dread. He marched in to save the lives of others, knowing he might never come out again.

How many people owe their lives to him? We'll never know the exact number, but that isn't as important as the lesson we can learn from his life, and the manner of his death. Every time we remember his bravery in the face of something much worse than anything which will ever confront most of us, and march on, we honour Frank and the way he lived his life. Every time we think of how much he sacrificed to help others in peril, and set aside our own personal desires to aid someone else who needs our help, we respect his memory and add just a little bit more to his legacy. Those of us who weren't in those towers, who weren't even in New York, that day still owe him much more than I can ever express, for setting the example that he did, for making the sacrifice that he did.

So, please, take a moment to think of Frank Esposito, and to pray for him and for his family. And when you go on, let his example make you a little better than you were before you learned about him.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Horror In Norway

I am writing this post in response to the horror which took place in Norway yesterday. First, my condolences and my sympathies to all the Norwegian people, especially those who have lost loved ones and friends, but also those who simply no longer feel safe, who have had their peaceful world shattered. There is little I can do to help you, but I think one thing we can all do in moments of such tragedy is learn all we can, in order to prevent such tragedies.

Yesterday, the news media was full of speculation that this attack might be linked to Al-Quaeda, or some other Muslim terrorist organisation. Today, we learn that is not so. The man responsible for this outrage apparently considered himself a Christian fundamentalist. Now, lest I allow myself to become guilty of hypocrisy, I had better admit right here that I certainly found the suggestion yesterday that this was an attack inspired by Muslim fundamentalists perfectly plausible. I'm ashamed to say that, but it is the truth.

So what can I learn from this? I already knew all Muslims were not terrorists, and considered any such assumption absurd. But I did allow myself to forget that not all terrorists were Muslims, and in so doing, I was still unfair to peaceful Muslims everywhere. If you are a peaceful Muslim, and are reading this, I apologise to you.

I consider myself a Christian, and I certainly know that all Christians are not terrorists. But I am shocked and humbled to discover that anyone who considers themselves a Christian could resort to this type of violence. I can only repeat my own version of what Muslims have struggled to remind everyone for the past ten years. Those who use such measures are not following the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In my own shock and my own pain, I understand much more today of what Muslims everywhere who did not support the terrorists who used their religion as an excuse must have been feeling for the past ten years and more. Again, I apologise. I have never believed that you should be persecuted just for what you believe, but I have failed to appreciate just what a terrible burden you were struggling under.

We all need to remember that not everyone who can be lumped under any label deserves to be judged by the actions of the worst among them. We all need to remember that treating any person who does not themselves resort to violence or actively support the use of violence in the same way as those who do is to make ourselves no better than the worst among us. And, most of all, we all need to be united in one basic certainty: blowing up, shooting, or otherwise killing and maiming innocent people in the name of any cause, any belief, any goal, is wrong. And we all need to avoid blaming those who share the beliefs but not the willingness to resort to such tactics.

Every time we assume that one group must be responsible for violence, even before there is any evidence to prove anything beyond the simple fact violence has occurred, we encourage all groups to resort to violent tactics. By viewing them with suspicion, refusing to trust them, and treating them unfairly, we push members of the group we fear toward extremism as their only option - and, in so doing, we share their guilt. And by pointing a finger at that one group, we encourage the extremists among every other group, those who are just waiting for an excuse, to believe they are justified in their attacks. And, in so doing, we share their guilt.

Violence is wrong, whoever resorts to it. But isolating a single group, and presuming that is the only group capable of unjustified violence, is just as wrong. The man who killed so many people in Norway yesterday knew what we would think at first. He felt even more strongly than we did about Muslims. But in sharing his feelings, even in part, we encouraged him.

I can argue that my own part in that was tiny, and it was. But that doesn't make any difference, because I did have some tiny part in it. Just because I was in the back of the mob, and wasn't shouting as loudly as the leaders at the front, just because my own slogans weren't as broad or as harsh as those others were using, doesn't excuse me. The only excuse would have been if I had been standing against that mob, urging them to calm down. Every time I heard of a new explosion, a new shooting, and agreed, "Yeah, it was probably Muslim terrorists", every single time I did that, I stood shoulder to shoulder with the mob and failed to oppose it. And, for that, I am very sorry. It isn't enough, but all I can do now is try not to do it again.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Brief Update

I'd meant to write a longer update today, but that isn't going to happen. In addition to the larger issues that have kept me from blogging for so long, I am fighting a nasty sinus infection that wants to (or perhaps already has) become bronchitis. I never get sick in the summer, I wasn't sick all last winter, but where I live, a lot of people seem to have been hit with this, and it is nasty. I've been getting much more exercise, and regaining much of the energy I thought I'd lost in the past decade or so, but this illness has just exhausted me and tired me out.

I did win NaNo last year, even if I failed to update my readers here. I had about sixty thousand words before the end of November, when I got stuck on a conflict between my plot and the realities of history. I'm still trying to work that out, and I may need to go back and rewrite much of what I have, but I think it is an interesting story.

Various troubles have interfered, and I've written about many of them. But late last year, I finally began to understand all the odd things about myself that have never made sense. One relatively simple explanation put my own struggles, and a number of bizarre experiences throughout my life, into perspective. It also dug up and exposed memories reaching all the way back to my earliest childhood, many of them painful. I've actually considered writing a memoir, in the hope it might be helpful to someone else.

And, at the same time I was going through this total reassessment of my entire life, my father developed severe dementia. I suspect he has always heard voices; "somebody" told me was a common excuse for odd pronouncements. And he has claimed in the past to hear from God and from angels, and to have some secret source of knowledge. But last fall, he began to wake us up in the middle of the night, shouting "Nobody move! The police are outside and they're shooting everyone!" And he got the idea that the house had been moved to Boston, right next to the Park Street Church. When he went outside and saw it was on the same lot it has always been on, he started yelling that the police were going to arrest whoever had moved it back "and take them straight to hell!"

Those are just a few of the incidents that spring to mind, but there have been a lot more. There was one stretch of several weeks when we didn't get a single night of uninterrupted sleep. At one point, while he was in a rehab facility, he grew so violent they had to call the police to have him taken out of there. The police took him to the hospital, where they promptly sent him right back to us. And the medications the doctors have been giving him to make him calmer seem to have actually had the opposite effect.

Caught between a major reassessment of my life, and a crisis that would test the limits and the sanity of those with more to spare than I have, I haven't even thought of posting here until Miss Kitty stopped by to say hello and ask how I was. I promised her an update, and felt in case there was any other loyal reader out there who might come by one day and wonder, that would best be posted here.

I may try to post, sporadically, to explain more about the new understanding of myself that has caused me to examine everything in my life differently. I may try to post a few other things, here and there. But the way my life is at the moment, I dare not promise any particular schedule for posting. I'm trying, whenever I can fit it in, to go through all the writing I've accumulated over the years, to finish the incomplete fragments, to revise stories that have promise, and to generally get everything I've written in some sort of order. That project has priority for the moment, and simply working out strategies to keep writing, to make my life a bit easier.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNo Diary: Day Ten

I know I haven't posted the past few days. I've been writing, but that and everything else in my life just took up too much time to allow me to update my NaNo Diary here. I'm dealing with a great deal of personal stress and tension, problems that keep cropping up and have to be resolved, other things I need to do.

But, in spite of all that, my novel is doing well. I don't mean to suggest it is perfect. I've gone off the rails in a few places, and I'll need to clean things up quite a bit when I revise - but this is a first draft. I am not one of the rare writers who can put a flawless first draft down on paper. At least not usually, and the very rare times when I do, it is a poem or a very short story...

The point is that a few interesting twists have come up to enliven what I'd planned in the few days I managed to devote to that. The story and the characters are coming alive, and developing a certain momentum of their own. No matter how much cutting, patching, putting things back together, and otherwise rearranging I'll need to do in revision, I do at least have a story I think I can polish into something interesting.

And Dietrich Bonhoeffer hasn't even stepped into the story yet... Yes, he has a cameo in this alternate history. He sets my main character thinking along different lines. Anyway, if anyone is reading this, I know what you're waiting for is my current word count. As of tonight, I am up to 21,921 words!. For the first time ever, I have consistently been ahead of my goal from the very first day, and each day, my 'lead' keeps growing. By now, I am slightly more than three days ahead of target. I dare not grow complacent, but at least I'm not thousands of words behind - and my story is picking up steam, as I already said.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

NaNo Diary: Day Two

I seem to be on a roll so far; my two day total is 4,010 words. But since I am also fighting off a nasty bug, my entire lead may disappear at any moment. Still, I plan on making as much progress as I can as quickly as I can, and dealing with the problems as they come up. Since it is late and I'm tired, this will be a brief update...


4,010 words! Woohoo!

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 01, 2010

NaNo Diary: Day One

For the first time, I am - slightly - ahead of target on the very first day of NaNo! I'm excited by my story, my main character is really taking shape on the page, and I have 1,775 words already written. That's 108 words more than my target. Now, if I can only keep this up...

So, if you're following my progress, wish me luck.

Labels: , ,