Tag Archives: Job

…to the least of these

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

This morning I posted a link to a blog I follow and mentioned that I believed being a decent human being was our number one goal. Oh, I also mentioned something that validated other beliefs and faiths. That earned a punch back. I was breaking the first commandment and following Jesus should be my number one goal. I responded that, in my opinion, doing what Jesus said to do was an act of following him. I also referenced Matthew 25:31-46. Then I thought for a bit and decided cherry picking may not be the best approach and I should widen my response. You know me, FB posts often grow into blog posts so here we go.

I have recently completed a manuscript that studies the Book of Job. This was a years’ long project. I have been told that the book is “thoroughly researched,” that the research is “dissertation level,” and that “it is the most comprehensive treatment of the Book of Job that I have come across.” Some of the concerns expressed were whether I could connect with a general market, or if I was going to be limited to those who study these things. I hope not. You see, I still believe there are those who are not scholars of sacred texts who hear the voice of our ancestors while they try to piece together what it means to live in a world that often passes understanding, that is often beyond our reason.

My studies took me all over the world and sent me to the words of many ancient civilizations and spiritual/ethical leaders. I found a drumbeat, one that spoke deeply to who I wanted to be, and I chose to share it.

For this bit, let’s focus on the Judeo-Christian scriptures (hopefully my Jewish friends will bear with me in this usage). Scripture wars where one side says, “what about?” and the other side says, “well here’s one for you,” get us nowhere. As noted above, I responded with the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25, a favorite of mine, which talks about how we treat fellow beings as being the metric by which our soul is measured. Can I back that up with any other passage? Well, yes, several. Here are a few.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 is quoted often these days since it admonishes Israel on the doorstep of Canaan to love the resident foreigner, at least in part because once you were one.

Isaiah 10:1-4 is a declaration that those who enact unjust policies are as good as dead. That when you deprive the oppressed and steal from those who are widowed or orphaned, destruction is assured.

Matthew 5:1-12. The Sermon on the Mount would do us all good in this day and age. The common name of the Beatitudes says much about how we should view fellow beings.

Matthew 19:16-22, often interpreted as a mandate against wealth, it is really a well-defined lesson on how to apply wealth. It also has something to say about rules. The “rich man” who approached Jesus swore up and down that he was following the commandments and yet he felt something was lacking. He was told he needed to sell everything and give it to the poor.  I don’t think Jesus was trying to tell rich people to be poor, I think he was making a comparison between following all the rules and having compassion. I know a few rich folks that use great mountains of their wealth to make this world a better place. Non-believing rich people. Can a person of faith do any less?

I’ve always loved 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” I’m afraid I know a lot of clanging cymbals.

There are so many more passages that address how we treat others. Scripture also addresses the treatment of animals, and the earth that provides us with sustenance. There is a sense of responsibility when you are instructed not eat meat that was killed in a manner that poisons the flesh with the adrenaline of fear. Or, to eat those creatures which are scavengers and predators. Letting the land rest every seven years helps protect the fertility of the ground, gleaning allows those who have no other resources to find food and nourishment. Beyond the wars and smitting and flooding, there is much about how to be a decent human being; even when things are not going our way.

That’s where my hero steps in. Job tests the boundaries of what it means to live a righteous life, a life according to the rules. The rules so many treasure so dearly that humanity itself is left behind. Job demands answers, and (in my opinion) he gets answers. If the chapters referred to as the science lessons are to mean anything, it is crucial to put them in context. Once you can speak from a time and a place relevant to the author’s thoughts, wide vistas open and a light shines on an ever-creating universe. A universe where not every nanosecond or picosecond is focused on our personal wellbeing. Once we learn to see the world from a perspective Terry Pratchett called the universal view, then doing what is right in the world becomes a natural goal. You follow a Creator by becoming a positive and compassionate part of that creation.

Whether you are an academic, a curious layperson, or a member of the general public that just wants to see a different point of view on why there is suffering in the world, and what you can do in the face of it, come join me in the author’s study while we explore the riddle of Job.

Redefining Job and the Conundrum of Suffering – projected publication early 2020.

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A book review ~ sort of.

When Bad things

Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, currently published by Anchor Books. available for less than $10.00

One of the things that one must do when preparing a book proposal to market your masterpiece to the publishing world is find comparables in the market. What’s out there, what does it say, and why is your work different. In that process, I read Rabbi Kushner’s best seller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. The title has sold millions, and although I don’t aspire to such heights, I do feel there is much in his work I would agree with, and a few things I don’t.

I can understand why the Rabbi’s book has reached so many people. He builds on the interpretation that there are random events in the world, events that are caused by other people’s freedom of action, and events that we are unprepared for. He strongly believes that we should not be Job’s visitors and try to comfort those who are suffering with some unfounded bit of wisdom about how this will make the victim stronger, or God has a message, or some other bit that rarely helps. Sometimes, such ministrations make the whole matter much worse. In this I agree, at least in part.

Kushner also devotes much of his book to the idea that we must step away from the blame game. Everything that happens in our lives is not punishment by some super-spy deity that wants to ensure we pay for every infraction we have ever committed, whether the reasons are known or not. If I had to decide, one of the most critical ideas he presents in this book is to stop the blame. The universe does not turn on your every decision and sometimes you are not guilty of initiating some horrible outcome. Sometimes you are. Those instances should, however, be clear and correctable. Don’t blame God for lung cancer if you insist on smoking.

Although this thought is not discussed in his book, I believe it gave me some insight to some of the issues we are facing in society now. We are told, in scripture, to love one another as we love ourselves. On the flip side, if we are always blaming ourselves, if we believe that every bad thing that happens is punishment for something we, or someone else, did – then we must assume that folks that are in deep poverty, sick, or otherwise challenged did something to deserve it. And that’s what we do. If she had dressed differently, if he had not let people know he was gay, if he had prayed harder, if she had given more, if they had better control over their children, and a thousand other reasons why “that thing” happened to them and not us. If we do manage to escape the consequences of a catastrophe, we are somehow especially blessed and protected by God. I must ask – does that make you better than me? If I die in a plane crash and you don’t, are you somehow more holy?

This was the problem with Job’s visitors (I can’t come to a place I can call them comforters), they could not allow the world to be a random place where God’s justice and power did not reach into every detail of every life. To avoid the thought of calamity in their own lives, they had to find reason to blame Job for his.

To return to Kushner’s book, from a pastoral perspective, he does a masterful job of teaching people to let go of the anger. Anger at themselves, at others, at God, and to find some way to move forward. His position is that God is not in the event, He is the one that helps us find a way to deal with the consequences. He is there to help us convert the bad into something we can take forward. The Rabbi is not a stranger to calamity. He wrote the book to help others understand the journey he and his wife experienced as they watched their first born suffer from an incurable disease that killed him at age fourteen. He knows what it means to ask why.

Here are some excerpts I considered very much to the point:

“If we want to be able to pick up the pieces of our lives and go on living, we have to get over the irrational feeling that every misfortune is our fault, the direct result of our mistakes or misbehavior. We are really not that powerful. Not everything that happens in the world is our doing.”

One of the hardest lessons of children who have been abused in any way is, “It’s not my fault.” I would add, we need to learn the same of others. We can assess responsibility and still avoid being judgmental of other people’s choices. Learn the difference.

“If we believe in God, but we do not hold God responsible for life’s tragedies, if we believe that God wants justice and fairness but cannot always arrange for them, what are we doing when we pray to God for a favorable outcome to a crisis in our life?”

The Rabbi is very much against the “grocery list” prayer and chooses to teach an approach where we seek the strength to move through the disaster, where we find ways to accept the good or the bad outcome, without blaming persons or forces that are not responsible. If they are responsible, is it a situation that must be dealt with, was it an accident, can you move from the hurt, and even hatred? How do you release the anger so that you do not destroy yourself in the process? That is the space where Kushner feels God lives. The sum of his work teaches that suffering finds its meaning not in the why it happened, but in the what we do with it.

“God does not cause our misfortunes. Some are caused by bad luck, some are caused by bad people, and some are simply an inevitable consequence of our being human and being mortal, living in a world of inflexible natural laws. The painful things that happen to us are not punishments for our misbehavior, nor are they in any way part of some grand design on God’s part. Because the tragedy is not God’s will, we need not feel hurt or betrayed by God when tragedy strikes. We can turn to Him for help in overcoming it, precisely because we can tell ourselves that God is as outraged by it as we are.”

As noted, there is much here that is a part of my view. However, Redefining Job and the Conundrum of Suffering takes the reader in a slightly different direction. Rather than surrender to a belief that all is random and there is no cause, I prefer to see the universe with a sense of the quantum. Quantum physics works because predictable results occur. We do have a universe of laws. We do have probabilities that are within our purview to discover, to understand, to mitigate. To me the author of Job is trying to tell us that we are given the gifts to change the world. We do not live in a vacuum of circumstance, and we are not pursued daily by a vengeful god. Bad things happen, and they will continue to do so. The question is, what do we in response?

I like this bit that Kushner includes in his book. It is a Likrat Shabbat prayer by Rabbi Jack Riemer.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end war;
for we know that You have made the world in a way
That man must find his own path to peace
Within himself and with his neighbor.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end starvation;
For you have already given us the resources
With which to feed the entire world.
If we could only use them wisely.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to root out prejudice,
For You have already given us eyes
With which to see the good in all men
If we would only use them rightly.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end despair,
For you have already given us the power
To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end disease,
For you have already given us great minds with which
To search for cures and healing.
If we would only use them constructively.

Therefore, we pray to You instead, O God,
For strength, determination, and willpower,
To do instead of just to pray,
To become instead of merely to wish.

Plan a visit with me and my hero, Job. We’ll be ready very soon.

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Lessons from Job

As I scroll through my newsfeed in social media, I am often struck by this pervasive attitude that people that are poor, hungry, unemployed, homeless, or running for their lives from some violent situation here or abroad, somehow deserve what is happening to them. Headlines that imply a woman should have expected her boyfriend and her children to be murdered; because she left “him.” (A quick Google search results in a sickening number of domestic violence cases in the US). People seeking safety criminalized without consideration for what they felt was horrible enough they had to leave. (Immigration and asylum is easily one of the hottest topics in the country just now). People who don’t have jobs, or homes, are somehow beyond help. (Several posts I’ve made about work programs and tiny housing projects have received feedback that these folks can’t be helped). People who are sick, well, we just can’t afford it. People fighting for health coverage for their sick children. As I’ve mentioned a number of times, it seems that the heat in our country over protecting the unborn cools rather quickly once that embryo breeches the womb. After that, mum and child are apparently on their own. Why do we act this way toward fellow human beings? What ever side of the fence we are on, why do we continue to kick the wounded?

finger-pointing-clipart-fingerpoint

In John 9:1-3 there is a short story. It goes like this: “Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him.’”

One of the things that drew me to the Book of Job is the battle of wits between Job and his visitors. With increasing volume and verbosity, his visitors try to get him to admit that all the destruction that had been piled upon him was due to some sin he had committed, or some important task he had left undone. At one point, his visitors try to get him to admit that all his do-gooding was merely an effort to glean the favor of El Shaddai, and he was being punished for his insincerity. “What sin have you committed?”

I began to realize, as I studied this unique book, that part of the fervor expressed by Job’s visitors was very egocentric in nature and not due to a deep concern for Job’s soul. They knew Job to be an upright and devote man. If such horrible things could happen to him, what fate might await them? As the censure escalates you can almost envision the mental tally each man is building regarding his own actions and how each might be interpreted. Should they expect judgement from heaven suddenly and without warning?

Humanity does not fare well in arbitrary circumstances. Many of us demand form of the universe, predictability, reliance on things learned and experienced; we expect to be safe if we follow the rules. As long as we are safe and secure, we can hold fast to the delusion that the problems of others are a direct result of some breach of conduct – and not of our concern. Or worse, whatever calamity we face must be due to someone else’s failure – certainly not our own.

This is the attitude that causes me the most pain. This unrelenting push to blame the troubles of life on someone or something else. Everything from refusing food, shelter, and healthcare to poor, working poor, and homeless, to decrying from a pulpit that we are all going to die in a hurricane because we allow people of the same sex to love and commit to one another. Are we really that insecure? It certainly appears that way. We even apply it to women who, after years of keeping abuse to themselves are finally stepping forward and telling the world that they will no longer act like property. How difficult can it be to understand that we need to reach a point in evolution where a man does not see it as his right to perpetrate his blood line with any likely female within reach. Especially when he has no intention of hanging out to help care for that offspring.

My beloved country has exploded into a feeding frenzy of finger-pointing and blame letting. We expend vast oceans of energy trying to prove which side is the less informed, which side is the most violent, which side is responsible for problems in our country, perceived or otherwise. Most of all, we have become quite adept and the ancient skill of victim blaming. In Luke 6:41, Jesus responds to questioning with this, “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?” (NET) Why indeed. Job would feel very much at home.

The good thing about Job is that he does not remain on his ash heap, pushing back and arguing with folk that are proving with every stanza they have no intention of listening to him. Job turns to God and demands to be taught, to understand, to learn what it is he must do to move forward. I believe he gets his answer and that answer is every bit as actionable today as it was centuries ago. Within that answer is an expression of God’s displeasure with Job’s visitors. Apparently, He is not into blame gaming or into folks who believe they must defend the actions of the universe by finding nonexistent sins.

Redefining Job and the Conundrum of Suffering is now in its final editorial stages. The book was written with the understanding that the message within the book is useful to anyone, whether a believer, a non-believer, the curious, or the academic. I hope you will join me in my exploration of the tale of Job and the message the author shared.

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Reflecting on Pulse ~ By One Pissed-off Christian Lady

Pulse

It took a few days to do this. It took a few days because deep within my sadness the responses I saw flying across my newsfeed sickened me; physically took the steam out of me. Weeping in my own wine does not accomplish much. Much of what I have learned on my journey with Job demands that I do more – far more. So, here we go.

The events of June, 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida are not the product of Reason A, or Reason B, or some other simplistic, easy fix, “if only” cause. It was an event that was a culmination of many factors; all of which we share in to one degree or another. Humans do not like to think beyond the binary; it is hard work. To actually accept responsibility for tragedy is a whole different kettle of fish. There were many factors that left 50 cell phones ringing, unanswered, on a bloodied dance floor.

It is not productive to choose among the many in order to gain admittance to the wake. It is not acceptable to exclude a facet of the blood-covered stone to create a better setting for your own agenda. First, and foremost, it is about the arrogant turpitude that allows us to pick and choose those causes that best fit our own agenda. These are my picks, and there is nothing simple about them.

It’s about LBGT

No, you don’t get off the hook. You are not allowed to push this down (actually up, if you know your Native American lore) the totem. Whatever his future plans may have been, the perp saw a few guys kissing, and went ballistic. He targeted a gay club on a busy night and during a time of celebration. Word has it that it was a club that he, himself, had visited.

Did he think Americans would not care? That they might even thank him? Part of what sickened me this week is the number of pastors, and professed Christians, that stepped up to say that it was God’s judgment on the gays. Or that it was a good thing all those pedophiles were gone. (There is a vast difference, and I ought to know). Men who professed a belief in God who stood in front of congregations, and, while insisting that they did not advocate murder, suggested we should not grieve. Were there many? I have no clue. It is horrible enough that even one blasphemed his or her pulpit with this venom. They are no better than Mateem’s father who said his son should have left the murders to God.

It’s about religious fanaticism

The true believer, according to Eric Hoffer, needs the movement more than the movement needs him or her. Sometimes we cannot be driven to our worst (or our best) unless we perceive something greater than ourselves that demands it. Not always a superior being, sometimes just the mob, the organization, the belonging. But we, we of western civilized culture, do not come to the bar with clean hands. Not only is human history soaked in the blood of “others,” we light the fire brighter every time we choose to hate. Defend, yes. Hate, no thank you. Hatred changes you and takes away all that is human. Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu: it really does not matter. The founders of these faiths all spoke of something beyond the faith. Something intrinsically human. We are all selling our sacred heritage short if we choose to use it as a sword, rather than a way to support.

It’s about terrorism, domestic, foreign, and familial

If only. If only he had been dealt with when the charges of domestic violence floated around. If only the FBI had kept closer tabs, if only. If only McVey had not allowed himself to be egged on; if only there had been better communication before 9-11. When are we going to learn that we are part of the problem? If you believe the current administration is soft on terror you are sorely mistaken. Over the past 7.5 years Bin Laden is not the only target taken down. But these people don’t brag. They don’t occupy us with cheerleaders. They don’t stir up the hornets’ nest by blasting every victory across the headlines. They quietly, and efficiently, dismantle the knots of venom. The truly evil are being sought out. The war is with them, not your Muslim neighbor.

Sometimes we do win. Neighbors saw suspicious activity and reported it to police and police responded. A man from Indiana, a mid-western, white boy, was on his way to create mayhem at a Pride parade. But he was stopped. Countless other “almost events” have been stopped over the past several years. So, sometimes – whatever the threat – everything works as it should.

It’s about guns

I’m not against guns. I’m really not. I have, actually, used them and I’m not a bad shot. But, here’s the thing. We need a conversation about what is appropriate. I did some research (that’s what I do) and the AR-15 is not, I repeat not, a military-grade assault weapon. It is a modified, semi-automatic rifle that can be altered to accept a magazine of up to 100 bullets. As a semi-auto, it can be fired as quickly as the shooter can compress the trigger. One clip from Sunday morning records 20 shots within a 9 second interval. If you are going to talk about gun responsibility, and still preserve rights, then it is a good idea to know what the hell you are talking about.

Should citizens be armed with this capacity? I saw a meme float across my feed that froze my soul. “The problem was not the one bad guy with a gun, but the 103 without one.” Really? Please for the sake of all that is holy can someone tell me they don’t really believe this? Think about filling a room of over a hundred people, dancing to loud music, some of whom are at varying degrees of intoxication, and arm them. Then flip the panic button. What are the odds that the right guy gets shot, and that anyone walks out alive?

There are several timelines of the events available on line. I have relied on police reports to sort out the order. Just after 2 AM Mateen entered the club and started shooting. An off duty officer in the employ of the club immediately engaged the shooter and called for backup. Not long after backup arrives, Mateen barricades himself in one of the bathrooms and calls 911. Then he starts talking about bombs and ISIS. Swat, having already been onsite, breaches the building, and takes him down. Regaining control took a team of trained, prepared police officers, with all of the equipment available to them (including Kevlar helmets). The “good guy with a gun” was not able to control the situation; even though he was right on top of it. Some people I know might have been able to drop the perp in his tracks before he got very far. I’m not sure they are the type of folks that would have been in a gay bar at 2 in the morning.

If you are trying to protect yourself from the government I have a secret to tell you – they have drones, and black helicopters, and bigger bombs than you. If you are trying to protect your family in an event such as Sunday morning suggests? Then be trained, be smart and don’t complain when folks with appropriate credentials want to know where those weapons are and who had them last.

 

And here is the punch line. If you really, sincerely, want to be part of the solution. If you want to make sure that nutcases are not able to use hatred and turmoil to achieve their goals, if you want to be the humanitarian, the Christian, the believer you profess to be, then do something with value.

Stop “loving the person and hating the sin” and just love the person. Educate yourself about the LBGT community, and the issues they face. It is not a choice, people. All of the colors of the rainbow involve a complex combination of hormones, brain patterns, physiology, and plain old fashioned self-image.

If you want to be intolerant, be intolerant of violence, be it domestic, work place, any place. Do not let monsters grow in our midst. Get them help, or get them somewhere safer for us all.

Support those in desperate need. Please check before you give. I know of one GoFundMe that raised some $3,509,556 as of noon PT Tuesday. Find a way to put motion into your rhetoric; motion that says you really do care. Not just for gays, for every human soul that crosses your path. Be the change you want to see.

#onepulse
#BreakTheBox

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Reflections ~ How we think.

This is an exploring post. I have only just begun to read the things necessary to build these concepts in my own mind, but I so wanted to share what I have found. So, here we be in our own quiet alcove, discussing the workings of the mind, again. These are really important ideas, so join me for the hunt – a hunt for how we think and why it matters.

In the process of finishing my manuscript on the Book of Job, I have been researching what makes us tick. Why do we perceive an event, a person, a situation as we do? What is it that makes us believe that we are accurate in our assumptions and interpretations? Is there a way that we can test those assumptions and conclusions while still believing that we are right – and, perhaps, most of the rest of the world is wrong?

I have recently started a hashtag on Facebook, #BreakTheBox. I did this because I like to challenge commonly held presumptions. Not always because I think they are wrong, in whole or in part, but because I firmly believe that whatever you believe, you should know why you believe. That is very hard work – and here is the reason why.

Thnking

I am currently reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. Professor Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002 for his work on decision making. Along with his research partner, Amos Tversky, he revolutionized what we know about how we think, how we make decisions. Professor Tversky would have shared the prize, if he had still been living.

Here are the basics. Our perceptions of subconscious and conscious thought go far deeper than what we may expect. Kahneman uses terms fairly common in the field; System 1 (the subconscious) and System 2 (the conscious). How these two systems interact is the basis of everything we do and think – everything. That makes it critical to understand that interaction if you truly want to be the master of your fate, the owner of your mind.

System 1 is the quick thinker. By accumulating all of the information that you are in contact with, the things your senses bring to you, and sorting through that sea of data to arrive at – what makes you comfortable, what feels right. As you can see, this is the basis of our intuitive thought. It is an efficient way for our brains to work because it happens quickly and, for the most part, the reactions are based on past experience. It also allows us to make seemingly instantaneous decisions for our own safety or well-being – such as flight or fight choices.

This is also, at times, an unreliable decision-making process. It can be influenced by such things as presentation of the data (was it in a clear font with soothing colors and using grammar in the comfort zone of the reader). Or, how often the data, or something similar, is encountered. Such as a surprise meeting in one location being less surprising the second time in a different location. System 1 is all about averaging things out and making quick decisions based on, well, gut.

Although not strictly statistical in its processes, for the sake of efficiency, this System 1 also relies on a short-hand version of the data. For instance, in the drafting of a bell curve (natural distribution), once the information regarding probability is acquired, our mind locks on to the higher probabilities and ignores the possibilities. So, once we determine that the incarceration rate of young black men in American is statically higher than whites, Asians or Hispanics, we assume that ALL young black men are prison candidates. Consequently, when events happen in the conscious world, our decisions are guided by a presumption made on incomplete data. This becomes an even stronger influence as we gravitate to information that reinforces what we already know, beliefs and interpretations that are within our comfort zone.

Kahneman describes System 1 as highly associative. It links bits of data to previous information and then builds on that link, whether or not there is a clear correlation. In one example he mentions a test question asking the reader if a man who is described as quiet, introspective, and a loner would most likely be a farmer or a librarian. Statistically, there is an overwhelming response that this is a librarian. Here’s the catch. In my mind it was the farmer. Why? I know both, but I am as familiar with farmers as I am with librarians and so I had a wider associative memory on which to base my assessment. Statistically, there are more farmers than librarians meaning that the probability is higher that the person described is a farmer. That, however, is something that System 2 must discover.

This is not a condemnation of our subconscious mind. This is how our minds are built and it works this way to be efficient with the resources at hand. Here, then, is the catch. Unless you want to be guided by your over-reactive, intuitive subconscious, you need to more actively pursue thinking with System 2. This takes work and our minds are notoriously lazy — they like to find the easy way out. And it does not matter how intelligent the thinker is. There are also physiological reasons why our conscious minds cannot maintain a constant level of focused attention. What, then, is the answer?

We can engage in reprogramming our subconscious. This doesn’t mean we have to question each and every thought and impulse. What it does mean is that we should actively pursue the verification of the associative influence on which our decisions are made. When we hear something that seems right, we should try to understand why this is so. Have we actually thought about the logical end result of our decision or association? How much dis-information is shared on social networks without verification because the piece at least sounds like what the person wants to hear?

To give you food for thought, I leave you with this:

Roses are flowers.
Some flowers fade quickly.
Therefore some roses fade quickly.

Well, maybe, maybe not… Some roses might fade quickly, but the presumptions detailed here which led to that conclusion are not directly related; and therefore, not a basis to decide. You see, the fading flowers might not be roses…

Rose dl

Photo Credit: JM Randolph, WANA Commons, Flickr

#BreakTheBox

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The World of Job and Thanksgiving

This four-day weekend is, for me, a bit of a marathon. It is true that I have plans for more than sitting in front of my computer and typing away at my manuscript. I have made a great deal of progress. Adding close to 20,000 words this month and taking the time to review and refine what is already written.  This is critical since the more information I gather, well, the more accurate I can be. And I don’t want to miss incorporating some new bit or correcting previous assumptions.

Thanksgiving

 

At this point I have outlined the manuscript to the end. The last chapters are sketched and I was in the process of moving notes from various note pages collected over the past few years into the spot they will be the most help. I ran across this quote I had saved from Clive Barker.

“Thence, one of my mantras as an author, although it doesn’t really speak directly of character creation: “I am a man, and men are animals who tell stories. This is a gift from God, who spoke our species into being, but left the end of our story untold. That mystery is troubling to us. How could it be otherwise? Without the final part, we think, how are we to make sense of all that went before: which is to say, our lives?

So we make stories of our own, in fevered and envious imitation of our Maker, hoping that we’ll tell, by chance, what God left untold. And finishing our tale, come to understand why we were born.”

I may not hit my goal in word count or timing for completion of the draft; but I have found that my enthusiasm for the subject is still strong and bits and pieces of ideas I have had for years are falling into place. I have several people to thank for the inspiration to move forward with this project. As you all well know this has been a year of major changes for me.

So this is my Thanksgiving. For friends and family that have supported me and comforted me during one of the most difficult times of my life; and who have encouraged me to seek my path forward.

Wishing you holidays that bring you peace if not joy, comfort if not cheer.

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My Journey with Job ~ Inspiration

This past week I have devoted time to prepare for the 30-day challenge known in writing circles as NanoWrimo. Or, National Novel Writing Month. As it happens there is also a site for nonfiction writers. I signed up for both, mostly because nonfiction inspires me, but the fiction site has better progress tracking devices. And easier communication between participants. In any case, I am going to make a concerted effort to develop the rough draft for the balance of my manuscript, Why Me?

Which brings me to the thoughts which have followed me about during this time of preparation. The first has to do with how we master, or remaster a skill or character attribute, or how we manage the time allotted for all our pursuits. For this I have my wood stove to thank. Many years ago I lived in Montana and wood stoves were an everyday part of life. In the morning you check the coals, stuffed the box and urged it to full flame, closed the door and forgot about it until early afternoon. Then you stuffed more wood in, closed the door and ignored it until bedtime. At that point you damped things down, and, well, in the morning you likely had nice hot coals to start all over. Easy. Well, maybe not.

Fire

My new home has a wood stove. It’s a monster of a thing that at full throttle can run me out of the house. But it, in combination with the softwoods of the Pacific Northwest, can be temperamental. It is not unusual to check the box in the morning to find a cold, half burned log resting in the grate. I have learned, after a bit of instruction from a neighbor, how to nurture my fire during the day so that it neither gets over excited with roaring flames seeking the free air above the roof line, nor dies a sudden death leaving me with cold, charred, logs.

Writing and research are a bit like that. If you want to contribute something of value in the world of nonfiction (or fiction), you need to nurture the flame. It is of no help to run off on a tangent exhausting yourself and ending up with pages of barely intelligible musings with no basis in facts or logic or anything slightly related to acceptable story structure. Nor can you afford to be so remote that passion for the subject dies a cold, charred death rotting away somewhere on your hard drive. Nanowrimo is the starter log for many writers, the initial flame that helps build the fire to a level that can be maintained by adding fuel and substance in a regular and productive manner.

That brings us to thought two, inspiration. Webster defines it as “something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create: a force or influence that inspires someone.” Yeah, that.

Some years ago when I was going through a particularly difficult time, my husband-to-be suggested that I look for a book to read. Not just any book, but something that was connected to the things I like to learn. I chose a book about Hatshepsut. Within a few days I was back on the phone chattering away about some correlations I had found between the information provided and something else I had tucked away from some other reference. In the middle of a conversation he started to laugh. Then he explained. Whatever had been depressing me was long gone. As soon as I was back in my own world the pull of research, the love of the hunt for knowledge, well, consumed me.

This past week that feeling has been growing again. As I begin to collect the references and support that I need to build my manuscript, the more I felt drawn into that special space where ideas begin to link, to spark, to grow into a fire. I do have a rather extensive library in my own home on many of the subjects that are dear to me, but some of the material does not include the latest findings or developments, and well, it certainly isn’t a university library. That requires time on the web seeking sources that carry weight or lead to something that does. Rather than grow weary of sorting through the fluff, I find myself having a wonderful time tracking down men and women who have thought similar thoughts, who have been closer to source material, and who have developed worldviews close to or diametrically opposed to mine.

This is the thrill of creation. Taking the materials at hand and molding something unique that can be shared. I have received supportive commentary based on the first half or so of the manuscript. That is encouraging. Many folks that are familiar with my general thoughts on subjects related to Job do want to see me develop these into something cohesive. I do, of course, hope that others (even those that don’t know me personally) will find this work of value. In the meantime, I intend to enjoy the journey from scribbled notes, to polished manuscript.

Keep the flame burning.

National Novel Writing Month: http://nanowrimo.org/

Write Nonfiction Now: http://writenonfictionnow.com/about-write-nonfiction-in-november/wnfinnanonfiwrimo/

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Filed under Authored Works, My Journey with Job, Stuff about Writing ~ Tips and Tools