Saturday, February 28, 2015

Color me itinerant

On the authority of Abdullah ibn Umar (ra), who said:

The Messenger of Allah (saw) took me by the shoulder and said, “Be in this world as though you were a stranger or a wayfarer.”
And Ibn Umar (ra) used to say, “In the evening do not expect [to live until] the morning, and in the morning do not expect [to live until] the evening. Take [advantage of] your health before times of sickness, and [take advantage of] your life before your death.”


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Possibility and JIHADI: A LOVE STORY

I am creating the possibility of harmonious acceptance in the Middle East, USA, and Europe via literature and a powerful global conversation about coexistence.

A US intelligence agent, accused of terrorism, dies in a secret prison. Was he innocent?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

11 insights from Werner Erhard that made a difference for me

1. “Even the truth, when believed, is a lie. You must experience the truth, not believe it.”

2. "There is a discipline to Being, to creation. The domain of Being has its own rigor; Being is approachable, it is masterable; it’s not nebulous."

3. "One creates from nothing.  If you try to create from something you're just changing something.  So in order to create something you first have to be able to create nothing."

4."Create your future from your future, not your past."

5. "The truth is not found in a different set of circumstances. The truth is always and only found in the circumstances you’ve got." 

6. “Living is really pretty simple. Living happens right now; it doesn’t happen back then, and it doesn’t happen out there. Living is not the story of your life. Living is the process of experiencing right now.”

7. "Life works when you choose what you got."

8. "At all times and under all circumstances, we have the power to transform the quality of our lives."

9. "We live in a condition in which nobody counts, therefore you can't count, therefore who you are doesn't matter.... We live inside that box."

10. "To take a stand that you are cause in the matter contrasts with it being your fault, or that you failed, or that you are to blame, or even that you did it. That you are the cause of everything in your life is a place to stand from which to view and deal with life – a place that exists solely as a matter of your choice. The stand that one is cause in the matter is a declaration, not an assertion of fact. It simply says, 'you can count on me (and I can count on you) to look at and deal with life from the perspective of my being cause in the matter.' When you have taken the stand (declared) that you are cause in the matter of your life it means that you give up the right to assign cause to the circumstances, or to others. That is, you give up the right to be a victim. You also give up the right to assign cause to the waxing and waning of your state of mind – all of which, while undoubtedly soothing, leave you helpless (at the effect of). At the same time, taking this stand does not prevent you from holding others responsible."

11. "If you know you have the ability to transform your life, you are transformed."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Writing fiction is the only socially acceptable form of schizophrenia

Easier (for the reader, anyway) than direct interaction with us. I suppose that's the reason.

The Beatles, Live at the Star Club in Hamburg

As I understand it. the first track, "Be-Bop-A-Lula," is sung by the waiter, one Horst Ober. As is "Hallelujah, I love her so." It was that kind of gig.

Your basic historical document.

I've got them playing in the background during several chapters of FREED that happen to be set in Hamburg.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The List

(4-6-2015:) At any given moment I am reading five or so books with a firm intention of completing them. There is a pretty good track record of following through on that intention. I thought I might, from update the books in question here. Right now the five on the list are...

The Holy Qur'an (Always on the list; a book that reads the reader. I don't know how many times I've read this book. This rereading has me at 7:162.)

War and Peace (Tolstoy.)

Les Miserables (Hugo, usually on the list. Third time through.)

On Writing (King. I want it to always be on the list, and I think it will be.)

The Sea (John Banville. Just an extraordinary prose stylist. I'm about a third of the way in.)

Since the last update, I finished Seymour: An Introduction, which was brilliant and strange and loving.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

In the zone ...

This is it.

Right now.

And it's perfect.

From nothing, who I am is the possibility of creativity, resourcefulness, prosperity, and unstoppability.

"Hmm, I wonder what he's getting at..."

Sunday, February 8, 2015

On the deficiency of Irish soymilk

It came to my attention last month, both via a Reliable Source and my own direct experience, that Irish soymilk is deficient. It curdles when you introduce it to coffee.

"Grossitosis," I said to my Reliable Source, who had, the day before, opened his very refrigerator to my groceries and warned me about this. "What possible use could such soymilk be to a groggy caffeine addict?" We started at the coffee I had just befouled, heedless of his warning.

Having barely forestalled nausea, I mentioned that American soymilk, or at least my favorite variety of it, does not curdle disgustingly when poured into coffee. Pressed for a brand name, I could not provide one.

A certain skeptical facial expression presented itself, and there was a moment of obscure but detectable tension in the exchange. Perhaps Reliable Source doubted my veracity or experience. Perhaps he left this discussion unconvinced that any nation could produce viable soymilk for coffee drinkers.

Let the record show that the Irish, despite their innumerable cultural and literary triumphs, still live in a dark age when it comes to the production of soymilk. Their swill (undrinkable straight, by the way) does not improve either the taste or the visual appeal of any hot cup of java. Although we Americans must follow their lead when it comes to excellence in writing -- Joyce, Wilde, Shaw, Beckett, Banville, and on and on, yeah, yeah -- the Hibernians must follow our lead here.

The better-engineered American soymilk brand in question is not and never was a figment of my imagination. It is, I can now report, called Silk.

Silk is battle-tested. It is delicious. It is superior to the nasty Irish soymilk I was able to procure. I hereby swear that I put Silk in my coffee today, and that nothing happened that unsettled my stomach or necessitated the discarding of precious liquids. I did, however, in remembering this curdled-soymilk episode, miss Ireland and its good company.

Let this be a lesson to Ireland: No matter how good your writing is, you should arrange for the importation of American soymilk. Quick. And you should get me back there. So I can argue with you about something else.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

ON WRITING: Get off it and play big.

Finishing and then rereading Stephen King's unexpectedly moving book -- a combination memoir and treatise on the craft of creating good fiction -- was a breakthrough. If you expect to write anything worth reading, maybe it's time to buy this book and read it twice.

My Landmark Forum summary of King's gift to writers would be: "Get off it and play big." Meaning: No more excuses. No more distractions. Get to work. This is it, right now. Did you write your thousand words today or not? If you did, great, you're creating possibility. If you didn't, you're not a writer, so please don't bullshit anyone and say you are. Not right now, anyway. No blame. You're just not writing.

Quotes from the book that really hit me include:

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.” 

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” 

"Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.” 

"Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” 

"Kill your darlings."

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.” 

“Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” 

“Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.”

"It's writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can't or won't, it's time for you to close the book and do something else. Wash the car, maybe.”

By the way, those last two, contextually, are about setting and exceeding a mandatory daily word count -- say, 1000 words -- and reading something important every day. Good advice.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Darussalam has come out with a Kindle version of my book BEYOND MERE CHRISTIANITY

This book seems to have found a more friendly reception among Muslims than Christians over the years. That's not what I imagined I had in mind as I wrote it, but it seems inevitable in hindsight, given the combative tone I struck back then. It wasn't clear to me at the time how harsh it came off. I would write it differently now, I think. Maybe not write it at all. A snapshot of 2006, I guess.

Finished off Turgenev's FATHERS AND SONS several weeks back

What a magnificent piece of work. All kinds of proto-Hemingway magic. It was comforting to examine a bag of tricks that Papa had not only stolen but resorted to often. That gave me a feeling of liberation.

Any hesitation I had about "Russian novels" (too complex, too many characters with multiple, impossible-to-sort-out names) vanished after the first few pages.

Quite a trick: This book is both timeless and deeply connected to the decades preceding the Russian Revolution. It really felt like the bedrock of something bigger than Turgenev, bigger than any of us. I suspect fiction writers need to read Turgenev in the same sense that
rock-and-rollers need to listen to Robert Johnson. If you want to know what Hemingway was shooting for, read this.