Archive for April, 2013

The Idea Machine

Andy Rooney said it best: “I sit down at my typewriter, or my computer now, and I damn well decide to have an idea. That’s how you get an idea. They do not strike you very often in the middle of the night or when you’re doing something else. . .Ideas are amorphous, but you have to work on having one. The don’t just come out of the blue.”

Today I celebrate six years sober, six years since I last fell down drunk. It’s hard for me to take in that six years ago I traded Budweiser and gin and tonics for a life lived deliberately.

The reason this is relevant to Andy Rooney is that a little over six years ago I had this dream of becoming a writer, this vision of putting one word after another on paper until I had produced a novel, but nothing was getting done. I worried that if I quit drinking, I would no longer be creative, but the hard facts bore out a different truth. Many people out there can have one or two drinks, then sit down at their computer and write. That wasn’t my reality. I had big dreams, but nothing was being done to achieve them.

I’m not saying that everything has been easy since I quit drinking. I still haven’t finished that novel yet, but I have made significant progress. I have also started a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program at Northwestern University a little over a year ago. It’s been baby steps, but to me baby steps are better than no steps at all.

None of this would have been possible had I been drinking, of that I am sure. For that reason, if for no other, today is an important day for me. There’s that old saying: Do the footwork and leave the results up to God. And Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, says it a different way: “Leap, and the net will appear.” So now, even though it isn’t New Year’s Eve, I renew my commitment to my creativity, and renew my commitment to finishing my novel this coming year.

Wish me luck, if you’re so inclined.


McLibrary Science

I live in a small town in the midwest, a village, really. It’s the kind of place that still elects village trustees and a village president rather than a mayor. This quaint Agatha Christie village just recently installed its first fast food franchise, a twenty-four hour McDonald’s.

This evidence of “progress” in our Thornton Wilder-esque town is not only bad for my waistline, it’s Mcgreasy ease and convenience stands in marked contrast to the other sign of progress in our village, our newly built, slowly expanding library. The community passed a referendum to build the library, but still, after numerous, numerous (and I mean, numerous) attempts, has failed to pass a second referendum to stock and run it, and the librarians have been forced to be highly creative to figure out how to fill the shelves and offer relevant, interesting programming that appeals to its citizens.

In my mind, a library reflects a community’s values, is emblematic of a sense of a burgeoning intellectual curiosity among these small-town midwesterners. It is the real sign of progress in our little world, in contrast to the open-all-night fast food joint. The success in even getting this library built proudly demonstrates that my little village values knowledge and intellectual pursuits.

I myself am in a fortunate position to have some discretionary income, and the bulk of that income goes toward purchasing and filling bookshelves in virtually every room of my home. I stalk library sales, and add to my collection. I don’t get around to reading even half the books I own, but for a wannabe writer, I only feel comfortable and truly at home when I am surrounded by novels, poetry, and works of nonfiction.

There’s a saying, the more bad books I finish, the less good books I have time to start so I try to utilize my reading time to best effect. I follow the advice of the so-called experts, and try to “read actively,” underlining passages and making notes in the margin, writing down words on the first few pages to look up later. This kind of behavior is generally frowned upon by those dedicated librarians who work in what is definitely an underpaid profession. Playwright Joe Orton, famous for writing both “Loot” and “Entertaining Mr. Sloan,” went to jail for this very anti-social behavior, underlining and defacing library books, and I have no interest in following in his footsteps so I keep to marking up my own books rather than the library’s. Nevertheless, I do check out books occasionally, especially audio books to listen to on my way into the city for my classes.

Whether or not I check out as many books, CDs, or DVDs as my fellow villagers, I like having the option of going somewhere where “Everyone Knows My Name,” a place where I can hang out, bring a coffee and my laptop, and write or just listen for the echo of the voices of those writers who cry out for me to scour the shelves and find that one story that needs to be read or reread, listen for the voice of those long dead authors who seeks to speak again through the pages of their work.

We live in a hyper-convenient McSociety, but it’s reassuring in this small midwest town to have successfully built a library as a representation of those crucial values in a cultured, relevant society, the values of intellectual curiosity and a search for knowledge.

Saint Michael the Archangel,

Defend us in battle.
Be Our Protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray.
And do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host–
by the Divine power of God–
cast into hell, satan, and all the evil spirits
who roam throughout the world
seeking the ruination of souls.


Equal Under The Sun

2 Corinthians 4:6

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

“Always carrying about in the body, the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

2 Corinthians:16

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

“While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Robertson: God gives less miracles to ‘too-educated Americans’ who learn science (via Raw Story )

Televangelist Pat Robertson on Monday explained to his viewers that “sophisticated” Americans received less miracles because they had learned “things that says God isn’t real” like evolution. On Monday’s episode of CBN’s The 700 Club, Robertson responded to a viewer who wanted to know…

At the risk of boring you, dear reader, I want to quote and write about the importance and impact of the life of Mexican Socialist leader Cesar Chavez.

He famously noted, “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people that are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, AND THE FUTURE IS OURS.”

Just this past year, President Barack Obama, declared a day dedicated to recognizing the effort of Cesar Chavez, marking March 29th, 2013 as an honorarium for Chavez, celebrating his life.

Chavez was born March 31, 1927, and were he still alive, would be eighty-six yesterday. Echoing the efforts of our current pope, Francis I, Chavez dedicated his life to working with the poor, uneducated, and underprivileged. Cesar Chavez was a devout Catholic, and helped found what has evolved into the United Farmworker of America.

Ironically, Chavez’s birthday fell on Easter Sunday this year. The Contra Costa Times quoted a representative of the Chavez family as stating, “Cesar lived the gospel according to Jesus Christ: he helped the poor and outcast.”

My question for you today, dear readers: what have you done today to make the world a better place?

My dad cajoles me, “Let’s have a good breakfast, and then go out and change the world.”