The Writer’s Game

ahamomentTwice a month a member of my writing group comes up with a sentence, piece of dialogue, phrase, or concept and challenges us to use it to create a short story, poem, or opening chapter to a book in any genre.

It’s a fun way to push ourselves and stretch our writing talents. It’s also a fun way to give ourselves permission to try out genres that we might otherwise shy away from. For instance, I primarily write fantasy and paranormal books, but I love to read mysteries and thrillers. This little game gives me a chance to try writing the opening for a mystery, thriller, western, or any other type of book without the pressure. After all, it’s a game…it’s all in fun. And if it happens to lead to another book or a publishable short story, then all the better.

What I also love about this game is how many ideas can spring from a simple sentence, phrase, or piece of dialogue. We each get about a week to come up with an idea and rough it out before presenting our results to the group. Some writers may have a single idea; others, two or three ideas; and still others, may come up blank. It’s okay, though, because it’s not a contest, just a helpful exercise to get your brain thinking in different ways.

“I’m gonna count to 3, and then I start shooting!”

That was the prompt for the game we got at our last meeting. What can you come up with using that? What story or images does that bit of dialogue spark in your mind?

In a couple of days I will present three of the results based on this bit of dialogue. In the meantime, see what you can come up with, and feel free to post them as part of the comments, or on your own blog…

I always love to see what ideas people can find in something so simple as the sentence above.

 

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Poetry Corner

Last night did I spy
a star in silence streak.
Through the vastness of the sky,
I heard its wordless sentence speak.

I shivered with the thought of how frightened it must be,
So cold and all alone, with no one except me.
Reaching out I cradled it, suspended in my hand.
There it faded, as was writ it’s song upon the land–

A song of love, a song of loss, a melody of light.
With harmonies of pain and cost, the words were lost in flight.
But never is the song itself, missing or corrupt,
For each of us is a song of hope, a song we don’t give up.

Even as we die,
Our soul in music speaks
Through the vastness of the sky
We hear its timeless message streak. 

& & &

I live in two worlds that exist side by side.
I live in two worlds, but in neither abide.
A world of shades, another of shadows.
A world of happiness, another of sorrows.
Two worlds do I dwell in, but in neither reside,
I’m a wraith, I’m a reaper, I’m your death-knell guide.

& & & 

I grasp for knowledge, but hold only mist.
I seek for answers, but find there are none.
The books are unwritten;
The stories unknown;
And my dreams are but stardust, scattered and gone.

Peel back the shroud…

I think it’s about time that we brought death out of the coffin (so to speak). We need to pull back the shroud and take a good hard look at why it bothers us so much that most of us won’t even discuss it. When someone does occasionally bring up the topic, they do so in hushed voices, as if by speaking normally they may actually awaken some grim reaper from its stygian depths that will spirit them away into that frightening world of the unknown, that world into which all who are dead disappear.

What are we really so frightened of, anyway? After all, death is, in dictionary terms, the state of non-being. However, logic, common sense, science, and religion all tell us that there is no such state. They all say that although the physical form ceases to function, another part of us lives on; therefore, you can never not be.

That part of us that continues to exist is referred to by religion as the soul, the core, essence, the spirit, and the chi, and science calls it the psyche, the aura, a vibrational frequency, and a type of energy. Whatever name you give it, something of us remains once the body ceases to be. So, death is really just an altered state of being, a state in which matter ceases to function, but awareness continues.

So, while the physical presence of the person ceases to be, the true person lives on, just in a state of being that most of us refuse to recognize. (Yes, I said refuse. After all, we can choose to see beyond the boundaries of our physical world, but most of us do not because it would “ruin” the “dramas”, the “plays” we call life.) Therefore, while the person we knew and interacted with is no longer available to us, while we can no longer pick up a phone and call or text them, receive emails from them, or see their smiling face, they still exist.

But where do they exist? In what form do they exist? Why can’t we see them, hear them, interact with them?

Every culture, religion, family or tribe, has their own way of answering those questions—and sometimes even more than one answer. The Mayans believed that the underworld had nine layers and their version of heaven had 13 layers.

The Ancient Egyptians conceived of an afterlife as quite similar to normal physical existence — but with a difference. The model for this new existence was the journey of the Sun. At night the Sun descended into the Duat (the underworld). Eventually the Sun meets the body of the mummified Osiris, and Osiris and the Sun, re-energized by each other, rise to a new life for another day. For the deceased, their body and their tomb were their personal Osiris and a personal Duat. For this reason they were often addressed as “Osiris”. For this process to work, some sort of bodily preservation was required, to allow the Ba to return during the night, and to rise to a new life in the morning. However, the complete Akhu was also thought to appear as stars.

Today, the beliefs are as myriad as the stars above. Most Christians believe in some form of heaven (complete with angels, cherubs, heavenly choirs, and a long-bearded, robed man waiting at the entrance to a large golden gate) or hell (being either torridly hot or frigidly cold and containing pitch-forked laden, goat-eyed, horned and tailed half-men to provoke them).

While many who believe in Wicca, Buddhism, and other religions believe that at death the dying consciousness of the body moves to a new biological structure (usually another human body, but some believe that the consciousness can be reborn as animal) and continues their cycle of lives with little interruption. For them, an afterlife only occurs once all the levels of living have been completed.

For others, there is no afterlife at all. Life simply ends when the body dies, and that’s it. Still others believe that the afterlife is simply one-step removed from our own world, sharing the same space as our world, but not viewable (except by a few “chosen” who see and speak to spirits).

And just maybe that’s why we’re so frightened. There are so many possibilities, so many beliefs, that we don’t know what to think. We start second-guessing ourselves and wondering what’s real. Are our loved ones in heaven (or hell), or is that just a platitude that others tell us to comfort us during our bereavement? Do people really come back? Or are they just hanging around, just out of sight, waiting for us physicals to notice them (can you imagine just how crowded that would make their reality?).

So, then we start thinking that maybe we’re just fooling ourselves; maybe there really isn’t any kind of afterlife, after all. Well, considering we each create our own world, we could be “fooling” ourselves, but how would we know?

But just because we can’t get our minds around the type of world that could actually exist outside of our own, doesn’t mean that some type of afterlife doesn’t exist.

So why not talk about it. Let’s bring it out into the open. It’s not morbid, sick, frightening, or depressing. In fact, death is just another type of life waiting to be created and explored by each of us. So, rather than being frightened by the idea of death, try thinking of death as a vacation from life. (Of course, like all vacations, death also ends when you decide to take on a new life, in a new body, with a new family, and a whole new set of dramas to participate in.)

Listen…

If more people would actually listen to themselves, the world would be a lot quieter.

“Huh?!”  That’s the response I hear after making that statement. Yet, all it really means is that most people are so afraid of just being still, that they surround themselves with noise. To sit quietly and just listen to their own soul—that tiny internal voice that knows so much and can help make our lives so much easier if we’d only pay attention—is  a concept that most people just can’t grasp.

Most of the time these subtleties are lost in today’s rush to know everything all the time. People are so busy texting, phoning, cruising the internet, playing computer games, watching TV, listening to their music, or even reading books that they can’t possibly focus on or “hear” anything else.

Yet, there is more information to be gained by simply listening to yourself than you could ever glean from any of these other sources. Still, most people fear the “silence of their inner being”, because they don’t want to hear that little voice of their soul. So, they keep themselves hooked up, plugged in, and tuned into that extraneous noise and they let it fill their minds, ears, and hearts. They let it block their soul’s voice from being heard.

They claim they’re too uncomfortable just sitting around doing “nothing”, or they’ll say that listening for some small inner voice makes them feel too cut off, too out of touch. Truthfully, they’re simply too afraid of what that voice might be trying to tell them. So they tell themselves that they don’t need or want to know what their soul is saying to them; that they’re fine without it. In fact, some people are so afraid of hearing what their soul has to say that they even block their dreams from their minds.

It seems surprising to me that so many people can harbor so much fear of such a simple, little voice. After all, the soul is you, so why wouldn’t you want to hear from yourself? And it’s not as if the soul is a chatty little thing always yapping and gossiping. Mostly it talks to you when you need guidance, when you need warnings, and when you need praise—and who doesn’t want to hear praise, really? The soul’s voice isn’t frightening, it’s actually quite loving.

Just take a moment to put down the iPod, the iPhone, or the book; turn off the TV, radio, or computer, and just listen. Really listen. Do you hear it? That tiny little voice struggling to be heard? Yes, that’s right, that’s your soul, the essence of who you really are. Can you hear what it’s saying? Isn’t it beautiful?

As you focus on that voice, you’ll hear all kinds of wondrous and wonderful things, and you’ll begin to see what a wondrous and wonderful person you really are. Admit it now, isn’t it more compelling, and more beautiful than any story on your Kindle or any song on your MP3 player?

Pendulum swings…

It seems that the acceptance and understanding of those with psychic talents is like a pendulum. It swings from acceptance to fear and back again.

In “ancient” times the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all had their prophets, oracles, and “speakers” (the folks who spoke with the gods or with the spirits). [pendulum forward]

Then organized religion took hold in Europe and North America, and anything smacking of witchcraft got you a death sentence. [pendulum backward]

In the mid-1800’s occultism gripped Europe and the US, and suddenly those with the POWER, or thought to have the POWER, were back in favor. [pendulum forward]

With the advent of World War I, occultism and spiritualism again fell out of favor. However, this time the threat of death was not so prevalent. It just became unacceptable by society to be “different”. [pendulum back]

In the turbulent 1960’s, it all collided – the pendulum became tangled. Those born in the 1940’s and 1950’s wanted to embrace enlightenment and all that it entailed, including psychic talents. However, their parents and grandparents (mostly) wanted to continue ignoring the possibility of all that frightening stuff. Half the world embraced the concepts and pushed forward toward enlightenment, while the other half fought madly to stay in the dark as they had been. It was safe there, it was easy there. [pendulum stuck]

Come the mid-1980’s, the pendulum untangled, and initially it swung backward. People took refuge in religion and science. They hid away from anything smacking of paranormal, and drew away from fringe sciences and marginal belief systems. However, it is now moving forward again. Slowly; ever so slowly; but it is moving.

Scientists, neurologists, cosmologists, and psychologists, along with some of the leaders in the world of faith and belief are all now pushing the pendulum forward again. They push quietly but steadily, so the pendulum continues to move inexorably toward that point where science and faith combine.

It used to be called metaphysics—or quite literally, beyond physics—but now the terms being used are those that are less controversial, which is probably helping this steady swing forward. Terms like unconscious knowing or extraordinary knowing, which is the practice or skill of knowing things that are beyond the 5 senses ability to know, are some of the terms being used today.

Papers have been published in well-known (and respected) scientific journals showing that prayer and meditation actually work. Scientists have conducted studies on those suffering from a type of inoperable cancer. One group received focused thoughts (prayers), and one group did not. They found that those in the group receiving focused thought (prayers) had a greater recovery rate than normal, whereas those in the group who didn’t receive the focused thoughts, maintained the same recovery rate as any other group with that particular disease.

There have also been papers showing how different sections of the brain are used when different psychic skills are being used—remote viewing, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and ESP. Another paper actually showed the changes in the physiometry of people who were being healed by a psychic healer.

So, although it may seem at times, that our society is as backward as in the days when witch hunts were considered a sport, we really are moving forward. [pendulum forward]

Answering the Question

Most of us have questions; questions that we may not ask out loud, but they’re questions that we ask ourselves all the same. For some, the questions only appear once in a while, and are quickly dismissed, for others the questions seem like a constant yapping and their silence isn’t so easily gained. For some of us, the questions are as fundamental as “why are we here?”, but for others, the questions may be even more intrinsic to their lives.

It’s these internal questions that send us seeking; seeking for those elusive answers. But maybe the answers aren’t as elusive as we think; maybe it’s just that we can’t see the answers for what they are. I believe the answers are there, everywhere, all around us; we simply need to recognize them. Many times, though, it’s just not as easy as it sounds.

For the most part, the more insistent the questions are in your life, the more likely you are to notice the bits of knowledge or “clues” that litter your path. These “clues”, these bits of knowledge, are any piece of information that makes you stop and rethink how your world, your reality, works. It’s a bit of information that brings you insight; it’s something that gives you an “Aha!” moment (big or small).

Perhaps, you hear something on TV, maybe it’s something just in passing as you’re skipping channels, and even though it seems totally contrary to what you “know to be true”, it resonates with you. So, you find yourself searching for more information about it. Maybe you find the TV show online and watch it. Perhaps doing that makes you want to know more, so you dig out books and articles to learn more. Then, you find that the more you discover about this topic, the more your own previous convictions begin to crumble. Suddenly, you realize that you’re seeing the world from a whole new perspective; you’re seeing the world in a new and different way.

We each do this; every day we do this. We hear, see, or read something that intrigues us, piques our curiosity, or just sticks with us—nibbling at the corners of our mind. We bring it out and puzzle over it, and sometimes we even go so far as to discuss it with others to see what they might think about it. Eventually, we either throw it out because to accept it creates too much fear, too much of a dichotomy with what we “know to be true” and what we want to “believe to be true”, or we accept it, thereby, pushing out the old truth/beliefs and opening our minds, hearts, and eyes to new possibilities, new ideas, and new experiences.

These bits of insights can come from anywhere or anyone. Someone in the line at the grocery store might say something to you, and while during the encounter you barely paid attention, you now find yourself thinking about it. Maybe you even wish you’d paid more attention so that you could have asked a question or two. Or maybe you read something in a magazine while waiting at the dentist’s office. You catch a quick snatch of conversation between a couple people at the bus stop or waiting at the elevator. Or it might even be a tricky turn of phrase in a blog or online story.

As I said, the clues, insights, and bits of knowledge can come from anywhere. They’re easy to overlook, but then that’s why there are so many of them. You might miss half a dozen of small ones, but trip over one nugget of information that encompasses all of the insights of those that you previously bypassed. But even tripping over a nugget of information is no guarantee that you’ll pick it up and pay attention to it.

After all, it’s scary every time you pick up one of those nuggets of information with all its new concepts, and start looking it over. But then new concepts and new ideas are always scary, because you don’t have a knowledge base that can tell you what might happen if you follow this new idea or accept this new concept.

However, if your need for answers to the questions that keep plaguing you is stronger than your fears of anything new, then you’ll let that new concept in and accept the “Aha!” moment. And every time you have an “Aha!” moment, it makes it easier to overcome the fear the next time. After a while, you’ll find that each piece of insight, each new concept isn’t really so scary after all. In fact, you’ll start to see that it really offers hope, confirmation, and assurance, not fear.

It’s all about the story

In a recent post (What’s it all about?) I spoke about frameworks (monads) and even named a few such as loved/unloved, dependent/independent, supported/supporter, and so on. One that has been made famous through its literary rendition is the love/hate story. You have two large groups feuding or angry with each other, a feud or hatred that has continued for decades. However, in the midst of all this, a member from each of the feuding factions meets and falls in love with each other. They defy their families to be together and it all ends tragically. Yes, I’m referring to the story of Romeo and Juliet. But Romeo and Juliet is a no-win version of the story.  

There are other versions, such as West Side Story…at least in that one, only one of the lovers dies. In the movie, Angel on my Shoulder, there is a similar scenario, but in this one the lovers simply continue to meet secretly until well into their middle years when they are discovered by the new pastor. He defies the feuding families and marries the couple. Bittersweet pathos instead of all out tragedy.  

James Cameron’s Titanic is another good example of a framework in action. In this instance it highlights the rescued/rescuer monad. In Titanic, the male lead not only physically rescues the girl, but also rescues her mentally and emotionally. I find this movie an especially good example of this monad, since most of these types of frameworks take a complete lifetime to fulfill, but by putting it in the context of this disaster, it speeds the monad up and makes it that much easier to spot (but without comprising the movie in any way). If anything, in this particular instance, the monad actually adds to the movie’s realism and tension.

Christopher Reeve, the actor who played Superman back in 1978, went through the supported/supporter monad. He got thrown by a horse and so became incapacitated and required support. He could have given up, and his wife could have left the other half of the monad (the role of supporter) for someone else to complete, but they didn’t. She could have given him just physical support and left him emotionally starved, but she didn’t. There were a lot of choices that both of them could have made. But he chose to be supported and she chose to support him, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In the Harry Potter books, Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter are actually fulfilling the father/son monad. Now, Dumbledore isn’t Harry’s father, and Harry’s not Dumbledore’s son, but they have created that framework around their relationship and that is how they are relating to one another.  

The relationship monads (parent/child, brother/sister, sister/sister, brother/brother) do not require that you actually be part of the same family. It simply means that you each fulfill the emotional and mental equivalent of that familial role. So, while you might have a sister by blood, you may feel more sisterly toward your best friend, a co-worker, or your sister-in-law.

I use examples of movies, books, and biographies to highlight and speak to this information, because for most people it’s the easiest way to see and understand the concept I am referring to. Just as most plots (movie or book) are a framework, so is life surrounded by a framework. Most of us may not be able to see it, but that’s okay, because if you can see it in your own life, then you’re not immersed in the drama of your life. It would be as if you had suddenly awoken from a dream (Your Life) and now saw only sets and actors instead of “reality”.

Frameworks or monads are a two-person outline of a scenario that we (the players) want to participate in during our lifetimes. The number and type of frameworks is astonishingly huge, but they are only frameworks. The freedom to select how you will react and the choices you will make are all yours. It’s like being an actor with only the outline of a script:  person 1 falls in love with person 2. Person 2 does not share this feeling for person 1.  (unrequited love).  That’s it, the rest of the action is up to the two players. Person 1 can moon around and never really make anything of their life; Person 2 can tell off person 1; Person 1 can stalk person 2 killing everyone that gets near person 2; person 2 can suddenly decide that they do love person 1; etc. The variations are endless. 

So try to see the frameworks that comprise the story in which your favorite movie characters are acting, or that surround the characters in your favorite stories. Once you start to recognize those, it becomes easier to start recognizing the frameworks in day-to-day life, too.

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