Monthly Archives: February 2014

Interrupting an Artist at Work

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you surprised a writer (or any other writer) while they’re working? Something like this:

Short version: Don’t do it.

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The Only Ten Rules You’ll Ever Need to Write

Do you want to the secrets of a writer? Do you want one quick, simple resource to tell you all you’ll ever need to know about writing? Do you want all your questions about writing answered in one place? Then this article here is everything you want, and more. Read on.

The Only Rules You’ll Ever Need to Write

Photo Credit: Audringje via Compfight cc  (altered)
Photo Credit: Audringje via Compfight cc (altered)
  1. Make your own rules.
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Love: What Is It, Where Do I Get It, How Do I Know, and What Do I Do with It?

Every young lover, and perhaps a great many old lovers, ask these questions. I’ve asked myself these questions, and many more, many times. I have given them a lot of thought. And I have found some answers. These answers may vary from person to person, I can’t really say, although I believe that they must; I would say it’s probably up to every lover to answer these questions for themselves.

I want to make that very clear: In the test of Love you can’t copy someone else’s answers. This is only what I personally, through experience, have discovered for myself, and I’m still learning.

But from one man in Love to another person in Love, I hope I can still give you something that will be helpful to you, and will in some way, make you think.

love

Photo Credit: Melvin_Es via Compfight cc

What Is Love?

In my case, I find that Love involves a desire for companionship, an innate curiosity, a thirst for understanding, a concern for her well being, vain attempts to comprehend her, a need, a striving for self-improvement, a fear of loss, a fear of Love unreciprocated, an intangible euphoria, and a complete and utter ignorance, among other things. Any of this sound familiar to you? Love is a great many things, isn’t it?

Love’s a lot like life, and both are chimeras full of variations and paradoxes. If you really want to grasp Love fully, you better give up now. It’s impossible. Love isn’t a science, it’s not an art; I don’t even know exactly what it is. It can’t be grasped.

It’s not just an emotion, either. As you can see from my little list up there, I hardly even mentioned emotion among all the things Love is to me. Love moves the emotions, but it is not, itself, an emotion.

Another thing about Love, it’s usually pretty unconditional, isn’t it? Usually, it’s hard to explain. I always say that to really Love someone, you Love them and don’t really care why . . . but somewhere, deep inside, you know exactly why.

Love is mystery, misery, and generally a lot of heartache, too. Love is . . . gosh, Love is a wonderful, beautiful thing, isn’t it?

Wait, I’ve got it. I know what it is. Love is one soul put into two bodies.

Where Do I Get It?

I’m going to be blunt here. Love doesn’t come out of sex or desire. Love isn’t lust. Too many people don’t understand that.

Above all else, Love is not physical. It’s something transcendental. It’s not really impressible by anything material, be it what its object looks like or how its object acts. Often enough we Love no matter how the one we Love looks or acts. At times Love can feel “stronger” than at others; it can be stronger when you see your beloved smiling, or when you haven’t spoken to her in forever, or when he compares your eyes to stars. It can be “weaker” when your beloved offends you or hurts you, or when your beloved seems apathetic. But I propose that all of these emotions, whether positive or negative, are just Love in its many different forms, that is, the emotions are born of Love, but there is no one emotion that is definitively Love itself. Love is, or at least can be, every emotion, good or bad.

Emotion comes from Love. So where does Love come from? Here’s what I think.

I think Love comes simultaneously from within and without. And I don’t mean the more Love you receive the more you Love; I think being Loved is a positive emotion, but I’m not sure how strong an effect it has on Love itself. The more you Love you receive the more Love you give? Maybe. But Love can be withheld and still be there.

I think Love comes from within, looking down into your own soul; and I think it comes from without, seeing someone else’s soul, and I mean truly seeing not just what they are and the way they act, but who they are, and to understand that, without consciously comprehending, at least not very well. . . . Does that make sense? No? Good. I think you’re getting it.

How Do I Know?

Well, the classic truth is, “When you find the one, you’ll know.” And I think that’s generally true. When Love is true, you’ll know.

But what if you’re doubting? What if you feel like you know but you’re not really convinced? Love, like religion or any other sort of belief or conviction, can be doubted. But just because you doubt, doesn’t mean it’s not real. That’s just anxiety.

So how do you know you’re in Love? What are some of the symptoms? If you’re asking that, you’re already looking at Love from the wrong angle; it’s not an ilness, it’s a cure. But there are . . . side affects, for sure.

For one, when you’re in Love, you generally feel pretty confused, and it’s hard to think straight, especially when what you’re thinking about involves the one you Love in any way. And if you’re really in Love, almost everything somehow becomes connected, in your mind, to that one person. I guess it’s your soul trying to merge every aspect of your life with the other half of your soul.

Another probable sign is that you do a lot of stupid things. One kind of stupid thing is a dangerous or otherwise foolish act done to impress. Another kind of stupid thing is saying or doing everything wrong when you’re with, near, or thinking of, the one you Love. Love generally increases both courage and fear, both of which in excess can make you do pretty stupid stuff. Love makes you fearless and yet oh so cowardly.

And as I said before, Love is generally accompanied by a myriad of emotions; which of all things that could vary from person to person, would be the surest. The most common, though, are happiness and misery, benevolence and need, hope and despair, pity and anger, and courage and fear. I guess even hate is another form of Love, just a really, really negative form of Love.

So, you know, someone hates you? Feel better. It’s only because they Love you. Honestly, what you should be most afraid of is complete apathy.

And Love, as I said, is full of doubts. Really, I think that’s actually a more common side affect of Love, at least early on, than confidence.

All in all, if you feel drunk but haven’t been drinking lately, could be you’re in Love.

Similarly, when you’re drunk, pain is dulled, right? Well, when you’re in Love, nothing really hurts, because Love heals. It’s a cure, like I said. Love aches, it aches so much it can break your heart . . . but it never hurts.

What Do I Do with It?

Ah, that’s one of the most important questions, isn’t it? What do you do when you’re in Love? How do you Love?

As an impractical man and a failed lover, I’m hardly an authority. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that what you do with Love is much more important than I ever thought it was. I used to think just Loving someone was enough. Sure, in fairy tales. Unfortunately, in the real world, life becomes a factor, and it tends to get in the way.

For a moment, as an example, let’s talk about the one I Love. I’ll try not to bore you with how sweet and godly she is, or by telling you what she means to me and how every gesture and move that she makes transports me to paradise, and of course I could, but won’t, go on for days about how her smile is like the sun through the clouds, or how her wit is flawless, or how she makes qualities out of her flaws, or how few bounds (which I could name) her wisdom knows. I won’t explain in detail how she amazes me, how blessed I feel, how simply put I Love her in so many ways. I could do all of that, but it’s a little beside the point right now, isn’t it?

My point is, heck, I have no idea why she should possibly Love me. Seems incredible. But somehow, she does. Strangest thing in the world. Meanwhile, I have every reason in the world to Love her; but the strange thing is, and I think this is true for men in general, my Love is unconditional. If a woman treats a man cruelly, he tends not to react, at least not at first, but continues Loving anyway. I know, because I’ve been in that situation myself in the past. Often a man will Love no matter how he’s treated.

Whereas, in a woman’s case, I’ve often heard that a woman’s Love is responsive, which may be true. If you act like a jerk to her, she probably won’t Love you, or she’ll stop Loving you pretty quick. If you act like a perfect gentleman and treat her like a queen, over time you might sway her into Loving you, or she might just hate you even more because you can’t take a hint.

Could go either way, because the fact is, you can’t force anyone to Love you. You just have to stalk them and hope for the best. (Don’t take me seriously. Please don’t stalk anyone. Yields very, very undesirable results.)

Now, I’m not a big believer in “just be yourself.” Why shouldn’t I be willing to improve myself for the woman I Love? I am, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the fact is, and this is true for both sexes, Love can’t be provoked. Love a person with your whole heart, and instead of trying to force them to Love you, show your Love in your way, and show it honestly. If they really Love you, it’ll work.

But take careful note of my choice of words: show your Love. As cliched as it sounds, Love is a verb, not a noun. You have to show it.

So, yes . . . Love isn’t perfect, Love is impractical, Love is hard. Love isn’t easy. But when two people are truly in Love . . . they find a way to make it all work, because they couldn’t do anything else.

Most important . . . Love never gives up. Love never stops. Love never dies.

But just remember . . . Love is a verb, and ungrammatical though it may seem, the subject must put the object before itself. It is not that “A Loves B,” no, “B is Loved by A.” That’s how Love works. By giving everything its got.

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Categories: Imagining a Better World | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Philosophia Venereum: Sapientiam Quaerunt

Sapientiam Quaerunt

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”

— Mark Twain

“They’re not here.”

“They were here last time.”

“They couldn’t have just walked away.”

“But they could have been moved.”

“Honestly, they do this all the time. I think it’s a conspiracy. They rearrange things so that when people head straight for what they’re looking for, it’s not where they thought it was. Instead they find a lot of books they weren’t looking for, but between that and the time it will take them to browse for what they wanted in the first place, there’s a much higher chance that they’ll pick up more than what they came in for. It’s devious.”

“It’s business,” she said. “That’s exactly what they do.” She took me by the hand. “Come on. The classics must be somewhere.”

She led me through the aisles of the bookstore as our search for the elusive Lord of the Flies continued. At last she spotted the sign labeled “Classics” and we made our way to that shelf.

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Photo Credit: jessamyn via Compfight cc (altered)

She looked at me. “What’s his name?”

“William Baldwin, I think.”

“Okay. B . . . B, B, B . . .” Her slender finger traced the spines. “Here’s Unamuno, U . . .”

“Unamuno? As in Miguel de Unamuno?”

“Eyes on the prize. Don’t get tricked by their system,” she teased.

“Ha, ha. But Unamuno–wait, that’s not Miguel. I’ve never even heard of this guy, how did he make it to classics?” I took the book off the shelf and examined the copyright. “1997? Come on, people. Not my idea of a classic. Am I a classic? Are you?”

“We’ll debate that later,” she interrupted. “Here’s Kantor, K, and . . . Collins, Carroll . . . Burnett . . .”

“Burnett?” I echoed, diving toward the shelf. I returned with a book cradled in my arms.

The Secret Garden? I thought you already had a copy.”

“Two, actually, but one of them uses single-mark quotes where they should be double-marked, and vice versa, and I mean seriously, what’s up with that? Besides, they’re both paperback. Look at this! Leather-bound, and just smell it–wood shavings, right? I love that smell! And at a price like that, two dollars, brand new? I can’t pass that up.”

“All right, well, look for yourself, there’s no Baldwin here. It goes straight from Bacon to Beckett.”

“Uh . . .” I ran a hand down the back of my neck. “That’s probably because his name was Goldwyn . . .”

She had the uncanny ability to thoroughly deride my stupidity just by staring at me. Words would have blunted the effect. Rolling her eyes, she said, “G, then. That should be over here . . . Fitzgerald . . .”

“Frank,” I read, and looked lower; “Haggard, overshot . . . Guest, never actually seen any of his collections before. They said it couldn’t be done!”

“I see what you did there,” she answered, and I could hear her eyes rolling. Pointing with a finger she began, “Here’s–”

“Aha!” I interrupted.

“What? Do you see it? I don’t–”

“No, I just rememered, his name was Golding, not Goldwyn!”

“Doesn’t matter. Right here, goes from Gogol to Green.”

I tutted. “Not here?”

“We’ll have to try general fiction.”

“Which is–where?”

She shrugged.

As we resumed our heroic quest for our quarry, and as we wandered through the maze of shelves, she said, “Why are we even here? Why don’t you just order the book online?”

“Have you no sentiment?”

“Sentiment,” she echoed. “Like a spirit of adventure? Are you going to make some heroic quest out of this or something?”

“N-no . . .” I didn’t tell her what I’d just been thinking. “No, I only meant that here, in the midst of all these books, it’s something magical, it’s an experience. Sure, you can shop online, you can browse with your head and find what you’re looking for in an instant. But here in a traditional bookstore you get to browse with your eyes, with your hands . . . you get to browse with your heart.”

“And you get to go on an adventure,” she added.

“Well . . . yeah.” We found the general fiction section rather quickly, and began looking through the aisles for the hiding place of the Gs. “I mean, it’s one thing to get to read a book,” I went on, “one of the best things I know. But it’s something else entirely just to be able to be around them. Call me crazy, but I do it at home all the time; I pick a book up, sometimes whether I’ve read it or not, just to admire it, to feel it. You know?” I held The Secret Garden and petted its cover as an example. “Just to see it, to touch it, to be with it . . . it’s magical. It’s like you’re taking a part of it into yourself even without reading it. Pretty incredible, isn’t it, what a book can do, even before you read it?

We passed a shelf where a pair of pale hands offered us an apple; nearby several books displayed, with a definite undeserved pride, the half-naked subjects of their covers. I observed sagaciously, “And some books have a knack for instilling you with intense repulsion. Not much magic offered there.” As we passed on, I swept my hands into the air, generally gesturing everywhere, adding, “But on the whole, books are beautiful. They reach out to you . . . they touch you . . . they speak to you. What’s that?” I leaned closer to a bookshelf nearby. “Uh-huh? Uh-huh? Oh, absolutely! I couldn’t agree more.” I turned back to her. “You’ll never believe what the bookshelves just told me. I mean, I knew books were wise, but I didn’t expect them to be quite this percipient.”

She smiled a charming half-smile, amused. “What did they tell you?”

“It’s nothing I didn’t already know, but I’m impressed that they knew it, too. They tell me you’re the most beautiful woman they have ever seen.”

She laughed her trilling laugh and slapped me across the chest. “Tell ‘the bookshelves’ I think they’re the sweetest.”

I couldn’t help it. Overflowing as my heart already was with the enchantment of a bibliophile in his element, the emotions inspired by her shimmering, velvety raven black hair and the light in her eyes and the light in her smile were more than I could take. I put my arms around her and kissed her. A moment later, smiling a charming full smile and laughing still, she began again,

“Anyway–I agree with you of course, but I prefer used bookstores, don’t you? You’re the first person I would expect to appreciate the stories inside a used book. And I mean the ones written in the margins. All the lives that book has touched. Tell me you don’t love that a million times more than a brand-new book.”

“A million times more, without a doubt,” I admitted.

“And I just love the smell of old books.” She opened imaginary pages in her hands and drank in the aroma. “It’s even better than the wood-shavings smell some firsthand books have. As magical as any bookstore is, a secondhand bookstore has even more magic. When you go in there, it’s more than just you and the books. Go into a used bookstore and you’re something more than just yourself, you’re a reader. You’re another one of millions of the lives touched by these books. You’re a part of all that.”

“It’s like walking through eternity,” I breathed.

She glanced at a copy of The Screwtape Letters, then put it back on the shelf, and added, “And all that for a better price . . .”

“Always the practicalist,” I joked. “However, I agree with you absolutely. The only problem with used bookstores is that there’s no guarantee you’ll find what you’re looking for.”

“Right. Here, on the other hand, it was effortless.”

“Ha, ha.”

“That’s the best part of a used bookstore, anyway. You find so much you weren’t expecting . . . where’s there’s so much history and so much–so much, well, like you say, eternity–you make new discoveries every moment. There’s so much more more to learn, so much more around you than there is here with all these brand-new books. The only lives they’ve ever touched were the printers’.”

I stood motionless, just admiring her. She noticed me watching her and met my gaze sweetly. “My marvelous fellow-poet,” I said. “May I kiss you again?”

“Later,” she laughed.

Our search yielded no more success among the Gs of general fiction that it had among the classics. As a last resort, we approached an employee.

“Good evening, J.D.,” I greeted, reading the teenager’s nametag. “Or can I call you J.?”

He stared, “hip” oversized glasses sliding down on a face lumpy with acne. He pushed his glasses back up and slurred, “C’na hel’you?”

She looked at me and I looked back with an expression that begged the question, “Is he offering his services or threatening us?” She turned to J.D. and smiled disarmingly and said, “We’re looking for a book. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. Do you know where we could find it?”

“Come wi’ me to da fron’esk, please,” he answered automatically.

At the front desk a more helpful, more vivacious young woman chipperly helped us look up the book on the store’s computers. No, she’s sorry, it’s not in stock. If we like she can put in an order– No, we’ll wait? All right. Can she ring that up for us? Have a good night.

“At least it wasn’t a total bust,” I observed as soon as we were outside, holding The Secret Garden close to my heart with one hand, and with the other holding hers.

With her free hand she was deftly navigating her iPhone. “Done,” she announced.

“Done?”

“Done. Lord of the Flies, William Golding, please allow 2-3 business days for delivery. That took, what, thirty seconds?”

The End

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Categories: Philosophia Venereum, Short Stories | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Look at This!

The stars shining in the grass, hanging in beads from each blade, inflamed by the sunlight . . .

The mountain, with its intricate web of caverns and tunnels and mines, that is each tree stump!

The epic untold story of one lonely hero despised as a villain: the misunderstood wasp . . .

The romance in a single beautiful flower!

Look at This!

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The heartrending struggle of a mosquito . . .

The tragedy of the rotting log . . .

The adventure of a raindrop . . .

O what private knowledge has the bird,
What secret has she overheard?
Why does she sing so lofty and snide,
What human folly she deride?

What dream hangs from a spider’s web?

What legend does a leaf have to tell?

All the stories that hide in a tree . . .

Have you ever stopped to watch a rose grow?

Emotion comes from within; inspiration comes from without. The things we see, and how they make us feel: this is what writing is about. This is what it means to explore. This is what it means to live. This is what it means to love.

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Categories: Imagining a Better World, Writing Passion | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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