Links to my Books

Links to My Writings

Third Daughters at Smashwords
Meditations on Maintenance for the Kindle
Memoirs of a Super Criminal for the Kindle, Nook or Smashwords
One Year in the Mountains for the Kindle, Nook or Smashwords
Adventures of Erkulys & Uryon for the Kindle and Nook

Thursday, February 28, 2008

World Literature

So I have decided to undertake a rather massive project. I want to organize a list and then read as much of what is contained on that list as possible. The list will consist of all the literature of the world organized in chronological order. And when I say literature I don't just mean fiction. I mean anything and everything that has been written down and preserved through the ages. That in and of itself is daunting. The most ancient texts are easy because there are so few of them that have survived the centuries. But once you get into the middle ages and cultures with writing abound it is going to become an organizational nightmare. Not only do you have the West (Greek,Latin, French, German, English language writers), but I am also searching out the Middle East. Also, at the height of the Islamic culture there was just as much if not more writing taking place in all subjects than ever in the west. And then there is the far east: China, Japan, etc. Those empires had their scholars, philosophers and writers as well. So this raises the next problem: finding readable English translations for the works. I could read them in their original languages (and for this project to have much scholarly application I probably should) but I don't think I have the time to learn all those languages as well.

Why would I want to undertake such a task? Does it have any merit? I think the list itself would have some use. (I am secretly hoping it already exists some place and I will find it in one of my searches. So far I have only found lists segregated by their respective cultures or time periods). I think that human culture is more connected than we might at first assume. I think the segregation by culture or time period is artificial to how things really work. I think that ideas, concepts, philosophies, stories, fictions, etc. travel and flow with the human populations. I think that in the past, humanity traveled and with them so did their ideas. And as such through the study of what was preserved in writing we can get a glimpse of how ideas spread about the globe. Did the idea of monotheism spring up naturally in various places, or was it brought from one to another? Or the idea of democracy? Or the way in which armies waged battles and conquered lands? I think a project like this could have many different applications even though it is going to be daunting and I doubt I will get much past the first few centuries of the common era (CE).

So far, I have listed with mostly accurate dating writings from the Greeks and Latins before the common era (BCE). I also have a start into Sumerian and Egyptian literature. The most ancient text that has survived to date appears to be "The Code of Hammurabi" followed closely by the "Epic of Gilgamesh." Both of which seem to come from a pre-Babylonian era (that is from the land of Iraq). It is five centuries before you get to Homer and the Greek classics. There are writings in Asia and Egypt that seem to come from this same era (2500-900 BCE). After 900 BCE, writing seems to begin to grow in volume. But even then each century only has a few surviving authors, thinkers or works.

And so my first insights are:
  1. Writing seems to have appeared in various cultures around the same time.
  2. The fact that more of the written record is available the further forward you move in history may stem from either or both of the following: more people are writing and/or less time has elapsed for the record to be lost.
  3. Humans feel the need to preserve what they deem as important.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cultural malaise

I was recently reading the surrealist romance novel, "Nadja." The author of this book was also one of the founders of surrealism (if being found surreal means anything). He wrote the "Surrealist Manifesto." This got me thinking about movements in the arts: Dada, surrealism, modernism, expressionism, impressionism, etc. Some of these movements have their political component as well as their cultural aspects. When I pull an art history book off my bookshelf and flip through it, it is divided up into nice little sections devoted to "movements." Some of these movements come with their own manifestos, some with their own communities (i.e. the Bauhaus) and some are just loose schools of trends.

But as I look around today I don't see too many manifestos being written about the arts, culture, society, etc. Nor do I see schools and communites working in harmony under one direction towards a common goal or understanding. Maybe I am just out of the loop and these things are going strong, but it seems that culture has hit an apathetic stretch. The 20th century has just fragmented the continuum, destroyed the chronological continuity. Or perhaps I am just standing too close in history.

History takes time to reveal that which will be kept and that which will be tossed a side. When we stand close to the moment it is hard to determine how that moment will unfold. Kierkegaard was ignored in his day but a century later impacted the philosophical world greatly. Today it is hard to tell what effects that the modern authors, thinkers, artists will have on tomorrow. Gresham is a prolific writer. Is he who the future will remember as great literature of the 20-21st century? (Is Shakespear great because he survived the ages, or did he survive the ages because he is great)? I mean is Thomas Kinkade and his millions of prints going to define the artistic life of the West for the 24th century art historian? Is that what is becoming of art? The best marketing team gets to write the history? (Not that I want to debate the artistic merit of Kinkade at this point). Maybe that is the way it always has been: wars and the PR teams who champion their causes. Maybe the manifestos and the current schools do exist. They just can't get the big time marketers to back them.

So what does that mean to me (or to you)?
Let us search out the cracks and nooks of life to see who is there doing what. Let us go off the beaten path and into those back alley galleries, those little art school showings, those coffee house colletions. Let us set aside the obvious PR/Marketing of the big time press and turn to the lesser publishing houses. Let us support the local arts, search out the local bookstores for the local authors and musicians and artists. And above all let us learn to create from the heart with purpose, style, and distinction. Maybe you can write the next manifesto about how art and life should relate.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Spirit and Matter

The supposed duality of spirit/matter used to be easy to phathom and we may be returning to a time where it will no longer be a problem. Until the 19th century it was assumed that the spirit world existed and in some ways interacted and affected the material world. But as natural philosophers became scientists, alchemists became chemists and universities added science as a course of study besides the humanities, the spiritual world became suspect. If it could not be weighed, measured, or observed then it did not in fact exist. The material realm became supreme and the spiritual realm was to slip quietly away. But then philosophy split again and gave birth to psychology. The study of human emotion and the human mind led down all sorts of crazy paths. Some of those paths died off and others are still walked today. And one of the most probing questions that philosophy and psychology asks is, "What does it mean to be human?" or more exactly, "What is consiousness?" And this question gave birth to neuroscience, the study of the brain. But it is much more then just the study of the physical stuff held in the head, it is also the study of the mind; how that physical stuff makes thoughts, emotions, memories, etc. And that is the turning point. That brings us full circle. In the brain is the mind. In the material universe is the immaterial consciousness. How the brain creates the mind or how the mind creates the brain is still a mystery. There has not yet been found that mechanism that creates, controls or maintains the conscious. We know that we are self aware we just don't know HOW we know we are aware. And if this self evident awareness is immaterial and not prone to the same type of materialist science that brought the supposed death to the spirit, then perhaps it is wrong and the spirit world still exists and still has some effect on us today. Perhaps just as a science of the mind was created, we now need a science of the spirit to explore such things. Not a theology or a religion, but a skeptical (read: objective) approach searching for methods to resolve questions of the spirit. (I believe that if such a science was created there would be great interest in its fellowship with some of the current trends in quantum physics).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Entropy

Entropy is a term used to define the movement towards being inert; it is a definition of potential energy available for work. As a system uses energy it moves towards inertia. Once all the energy is used and if more energy is not put in to the system, then the system ends. Think of a wind up toy running down until someone turns the key to add more energy. I think life is the same way. I don't mean biological life (although if we stop eating or adding energy through food, then our systems come to an end in death), I mean psychological life: the power to be.

Some people seem to have an overabundance of psychic energy and life comes easily to them. They can see the possibilites before them and they plan how to capitalize on it. They can see life as it opens before them and they have the energy, discipline and orginizational skills to take full advantage of it. Little seems to bring them down. How do they do this? Where do they get the energy to sustain themselves?

Other people always seem to be fighting entropy. Life is always on the down-and-out regardless of how hard they try. The energy is just not available to move forward with plans and decisions. Entropy is always a constant worry. Life seems to always take more than it gives. Why do some people always lack the energy needed to get ahead, or even to stay the same? Why is life always pulling them down?

Energy is a slippery substance. It can't be grasped. It is elusive. I think that when it comes to psychic entropy it has a lot to do with the wiring in the system. There seems to be three types of people: the selfish energy suckers, the selfless energy givers, and the balanced few. I should say these three types are predominant on a continuum.
  1. The selfish energy suckers: Some of us consume most of the available energy on our selves and have little to give others. This becomes cyclical until we run out of energy. It is hard to be around people who are consumed with themselves and their need to suck up all the energy. After awhile they are left alone, resulting in a system with no one to draw energy from.
  2. The selfless energy givers: There are others who always give all their energy away and have little left for themselves. Often they become entrapped with people who tend to need energy and always suck it from them. Eventually, they are drained dry and wilt.
  3. The balanced few: We can't spend all our energy on ourselves and yet we can't give it all away either. A balance has to be reached, a give and take. I think some people have that natural balance and they proceed well with life.

It is hard to tell the type of person from just the outward appearance. But in the end it always becomes known by the ultimate results. Learning to have a balance is most difficult. Those that come by it naturally cannot understand the struggle of those who must work hard to maintain it. And those who struggle to move into a position of balance know how hard they must work to maintain it; seemingly that in one lax moment, entropy wins.

This psychic energy comes from various sources. Some of it comes internally, especially with the introvert who needs time alone to recharge their batteries. Some of it comes externally from others, especially with the extrovert who needs crowds to recharge their batteries. Some of the energy comes from a will to be, the courage to triumph and move ahead with life. All of this is filtered through the individuals psychic and physical predispositions. It is not an easy form to color because of the multiple shades of personality and physical characteristics that come into play.

I find that in my own life I feel that I must fight entropy often. I must maintain discipline until that discipline becomes habit, but if that habit is broken then entropy takes over quickly. I can find a million and one excuses to not paint, or write or exercise. I must then make the concerted effort to regain the discipline and reform the habits. Things like life changes, disruptions in routines, change of location or job, etc. are all causes for me to waver in my healthy habits and disciplines. It then takes weeks (if I work hard at it) or months to recover to the place I was previously. That is one reason I dislike change. My natural state seems to be one of low energy. So to take on tasks that require high energy I have to work extra hard and it takes an extra toll. I then need more time to recover my energy, being an introvert that means hiding away. But that time has to be spent in rebuilding my energy, doing things that give me meaning and fill me up, not just vegging out on TV. I have to find that balance between gaining energy and using energy. It is difficult.

Ok I have wandered on long enough. Any thoughts or comments?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Life Stages

Life has definite stages. When you are young they are not so obvious, but as you age and pass from one stage to the next to the next those stages become more evident. It is not as if you walk from one room to the next. It is more like changing seasons, the signs are evident if you are looking; but if you are not then suddenly you are in the midst of winter and not sure how it happened. Being self aware can go along way in preparing for the next season of life, and for making it through your current season with a little grace and wisdom.

Today my wife and I saw the ultrasound of our baby. This is a planned preganacy so we are happy that it is happening. But even so no amount of forethought can adequately prepare you for a new born coming into the world. We still have four months to go... and already we have a video of the boy moving about in his mommies tummy. Yes it is a baby boy. A new stage in life is developing before our eyes. We know it, see it, plan for it. but wow!!!

There are a million little things that you cannot even think of, let alone prepare for when a life change of this magnitude comes along. You just have to take it one day at a time with an eye towards tomorrow, do the best you can and then hold on tight. If you allow it, life can take you to amazing places.