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The Books of this Literary Expedition are:


The Story of B by Daniel Quinn

The Chalice & The Blade (Our History, Our Future) by Riane Eisler

Adventures Beyond the Body by William Buhlman

The Eagle's Gift by Carlos Castaneda


Expeditions are often undertaken to find something. It might be something (or someone) that has been lost. Or something known only vaguely or that has only a suspected value that needs to be discovered. The expedition to find this thing is likely part of a larger journey.

In this particular expedition, we've discovered a compelling narrative of the origins of humanity's present condition. Based on anthropology, archeology, art, and history, it tells us that world culture was hijacked, millennia ago, by a very prolific, but destructive, ideology. It is one that is very materialistic and that rewards the brute. But there are contrasts to this ideology and the views it supplanted were not extinguished. People who are not among our wealthy rulers still believe that life is spiritual at its core and that it has value rather than profit. We have even found evidence for that higher level of life in the tales and techniques of out-of-body travel.

The last book in this literary expedition is The Eagle's Gift by Carlos Castaneda. It is essentially a tale about learning to live in the awareness of the greater spiritual dimension. Mr. Castaneda relates his experience of discovering that dimension and learning about it from Mexican Indian teachers. In my review of Mr. Castaneda's book, I talk about what he learned, and how it relates to what others have written about such spiritual matters. Let me give another summary here:

* People (and all living creatures, actually) are multidimensional beings that can be broadly considered to be a fusion of spiritual and physical natures. Another description of the same thing is that we are spiritual beings expressing themselves in this physical dimension through physical bodies. Reaching the spiritual part is accomplished through meditation and other techniques that are basically developing intense levels of concentration. It may be that sheer concentration is the most important key to self-development, especially of your spiritual aspects. Mr. Castaneda refers to a person's spiritual body as their luminous body.

* There are levels of spiritual development and consciousness, all the way from the physical to the numinous. Mr. Castaneda's teachers referred to these levels as the first attention, the second attention, and the third attention. They correspond roughly to normal consciousness, awareness of the luminous body (the spiritual), and a level of such heightened awareness (i.e, "vibration") that the person exits (or can exit) the physical world. This progression is famously illustrated in the Nine Insights of James Redfield's spiritually brilliant (and literarily dubious) book, The Celestine Prophecy. And G. I. Gurdjieff's idea about this progression was one of varying levels of being asleep.

* It is best not to attach too strongly to material things (designated as "shields" by Castaneda's teachers).

* There is far more to the world (i.e., universe) than normally perceived by people. Nonhuman entities are at large on the earth, in this physical plane.

* Stay positive, or at least, not negative.

* It is possible, even natural, for people (and likely, animals) to move through the numinous world outside of their bodies. This can occur spontaneously in sleep (remembered as lucid dreams) or deliberately induced. This state, and the control of it, is referred to by Castaneda's teachers as dreaming (though more is implied in their use of this term).

* Physical success and comfort in the world can impede spiritual development.

There's much food for thought here for the serious spiritual seeker. In these literary works I've mentioned (and many others), guidelines and practices can be gleaned to help us, but it takes an open-minded effort at discovering them. And then, it takes a great effort at absorbing the knowledge and putting the techniques (meditation, self-remembering, exercise, etc) into practice.

So we've used the books of this literary expedition to take us from prehistory, through myth and history, to the edge of the numinous to discover truths and clues that tell us where we have come from, why we have such problems, reveal some mitigating comforts, and suggest a strategy for living to help us through.

I think the most important part of this strategy is the idea of awareness or concentration that becomes evidenced in a person's level of consciousness. If we wish to transcend the Taker, Dominator culture that has all but doomed the earth and oppressed all life, then we need to shed our delusions and rise above the physical by recognizing and developing our spiritual sides. Greater awareness (of everything!) is the key.

Mr. Castaneda's teachers described the "power that governs the destiny of all living beings" as the Eagle. They said:

The Eagle is devouring the awareness of all the creatures that, alive on earth a moment before and now dead, have floated to the Eagle's beak, like a ceaseless swarm of fireflies, to meet their owner, their reason for having had life...awareness is the Eagle's food.

G.I. Gurdjieff painted a similar picture but his devouring image was "the Moon." It is the idea of people going through life never aware of any more than the physical, and so never developing that part of themselves that is the most real. What's left of them beyond death then is, not much. Hopefully, it's enough to reincarnate and take another shot at development, until they escape that wheel, which is the Eagle or the Moon--the devourer of awareness.

This should be a motivation to try to develop as much as we can in this life; to be the best that we can in all respects. It takes much work and courage. Losing delusions and seeing the world as it is, is not easy. But the effort can reward us with true personhood, aware of our connection to all other life. As Mr. Castaneda says:

To die and be eaten by the Eagle is no challenge. On the other hand, to sneak around the Eagle and be free is the ultimate audacity.


 
 
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The books I'm using as maps for this literary expedition are:

  • The Story of B by Daniel Quinn
  • The Chalice & The Blade (Our History, Our Future) by Riane Eisler
  • Adventures Beyond the Body by William Buhlman
  • The Eagle's Gift by Carlos Castaneda

The first two (Quinn and Eisler) are strong clues of where the human race has come from and, most significantly, of what happened to create our civilization where evil flourishes and that has developed to this time when our destruction seems assured. What they say, in a nutshell, is that a portion of humanity living on the outskirts of the predominate culture of about ten thousand years ago, gained enough consensus and strength to impose their view of things on everybody. Their view was a "Dominator" belief in might-making-right and over the succeeding centuries it fought all other views to near extinction (today, only scattered tribal cultures retain the previous, alternate culture of cooperation). I discussed all this in my reviews of those books and in my previous journal entry.

So with that insight into where we came from and where we are, how now should we live? That is, how should we live in a culture where the odds for living a happy, effective life are way stacked against us?

We will not find the answer to those questions in this expedition, but we will uncover some clues to guide our thinking and so help us to find our personal answers. Making that exploration is the purpose of these journal entries, and is ultimately the purpose of everything I write, and is certainly what Dentville will be about.

Now the next book in this journey is Adventures Beyond the Body by William Buhlman. It is a very readable account of the author's experiences with traveling the higher dimensions in his energetic form, outside of his physical body. This is subject matter very akin to Near Death Experiences (NDE) and communication with the dead. These are usually regarded as spooky, "woo woo" subjects but Mr. Buhlman does a great job of bringing the OBE out of that realm and discusses it as an ability natural to all humanity because we actually spiritual beings. You find my Goodreads review of Adventures Beyond the Body here.

The implication of Adventures Beyond the Body is that the universe is a very extensively multidimensional place and we inhabit only one small, very dense, dimension. Of course, that idea has been the foundation of mystic beliefs for many years but now books such as Mr. Buhlman's put a modern, more scientific face on it. The idea that we live in such a multidimensional universe puts a much larger framework around our physical lives and offers a foundation for psychic phenomena and the beliefs of folklore. That's why I posit such a universe in my Dentville saga where I feature a general acceptance of the numinous world by people living, once again, very close to nature.

For the sake of this journal entry and to advance our expedition, however, I only want to focus on one feature of the numinous world brought out in Adventures Beyond the Body. That feature is the malleability of the higher dimensions by sheer thought and the implications of that. Mr. Buhlman says that all matter is energy and energy is susceptible to manipulation by thought to some degree. The denser the matter, the less susceptible but still, it implies that the power of thought can influence our physical world. In Mr. Buhlman's words:

Negative and self-limiting thoughts are the real enemy we must face. Within the inner dimensions of the universe, our thoughts, both good and bad, exert a powerful creative influence upon our immediate environment.

Following world events and seeking to understand the reality of the way our civilization works, and the truth of historical and current events can lead down a very dark road. A person can get lost in that darkness and some very good people have in recent years. Very often, such seekers-of-truth will pooh-pooh a positive attitude as "wishful thinking," but being positive, even happy, is not necessarily the same as being deluded. It may be that we construct our world to a very large extent from the energies we send out into it. Certainly, the dominators of the world send out much negative energy with all their dark machinations, and so make the world dark. We seek to be lights in that darkness.

And so maintaining a positive outlook, even in the face of dire times, could be a more effective strategy for living than is generally imagined. If our thoughts and attitudes can affect our world, then the Golden Rule becomes a very sound baseline for morality.

I am currently reading the last book in my list for this literary expedition. It is The Eagle's Gift by Carlos Castaneda. One passage in it strikes me as very relevant to the theme of this journal entry. At one point in the book, Castaneda and his shaman-apprentice-girlfriend become very disillusioned and negative. They have been pondering mysteries and dark questions to the point that they are miserable. Then Castaneda is hit with an insight that is simple but powerful. He suggests that they stop focusing their energies on the dark questions and concentrate on the ideas of wonder and mystery that had originally brought them all into the study of shamanism. They jumped on this suggestion and their mood instantly changed for the better and they found the joy in their work again.

This idea of positive thinking (or at least not being negative) is simple but powerful. It is often not easy. When practiced honestly and with integrity, it is not delusion. In the face of evil, it can even be an act of defiance.

I take from this that the best strategy for exploring the numinous world is also the best for living in the physical--strive to keep the negative from dominating you, don't express negativity, and believe in yourself. Whether flying through the higher dimensions or slugging it out in the flesh-and-blood, its best to remain positive.

 
 
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"What happened?" is a natural question, a nearly automatic question, when you come upon a scene of destruction, extreme disorder, or just something that is obviously not right. It's the question begged when a bad result is seen with no obvious cause (like the proverbial train wreck).

The books I have examined so far in our literary expedition (The Story of B, The Chalice & The Blade) have centered around this question as applied to the sight of the current condition of human Industrial-Technical civilization. The loss of freedom by peoples around the world (especially in the US), the suffering caused by extreme weather aberrations (natural and human-made), the extreme disparities in living conditions between the haves and have-nots (wealth inequalities), the promulgation of open-ended war, the rise of brutal political extremes, the depletion of fossil fuels, and the economic collapse of the "first world" are elements of the (impending) scene of destruction to be explained. That explanation is their primary theme and concern.

We have learned from these books that humanity's problem is that it is, indeed, fallen. This fall, however, is a matter of culture, that is, it was a change in the overriding structure of the beliefs and directions that govern people. This change was from one of peaceful equalitarianism and partnering relations among people (and among the sexes) to one of domination (by the males over women and by one group over another) and competitive hierarchy. This change was (to use Daniel Quinn's terms) from a culture of Leavers (leaving world rule to the gods) to one of Takers (taking world rule from the gods).

The authors of these books (Daniel Quinn and Riane Eisler) indicate that there is no flaw within human beings, but rather, the flaw is in the Taker (or dominator) culture that is the prevalent culture over all the earth. In fact, Quinn makes quite a point of this, especially in My Ishmael. But if that be so, then why has humanity remained in thrall of the Taker culture--a culture oppressive of most humans and destructive to the earth--for some ten thousand years? I believe, as I noted in my previous journal entry, that it is because the Taker culture rewards and promotes psychopaths. So, generally, those at the top of the pyramid are the worst of us, and they now have the power and the tools to keep the rest of us (though greater in number) under control.

But the arrogance and God-complex of these ruling elites (declaring with Lucifer: "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High") has reached a point of destructiveness such that life on earth may not survive. Ms Eisler saw this some twenty years ago:

What may lie ahead is the final bloodbath of this dying system's violent efforts to maintain its hold.

And this is the point in our journey that looks most bleak to me. I see the oligarchs that rule the world as fighting hard against the limits of growth heralded by the depletion of cheap fossil fuels and sheer over-population. They have very powerful tools now, powerful enough to take us all down with them, and that seems to be their intent. They are still eating of that fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, imagining themselves as gods, and deciding who lives and who dies.

At this point, I could down a very dark road, indeed. But I will not do that. I want to travel a higher road.

In writing my Dentville novels, I am envisioning a time beyond this present darkness. I see us as having made it, and being forced to face the consequences of the long reign of Taker culture and living at a much simpler level (that I believe will be at a roughly Neolithic level). Our fight at that time will be against the resurgence of the Taker culture.

So if humanity survives, it will be because of a brightening of a light from our higher natures to a point of prevalence, perhaps aided by Gaia herself.

My next book in this expedition speaks of the higher nature in all of us, though in many of us it is buried deep. That book is Adventures Beyond the Body by William Buhlman and is a chronicle of his out-of-body experiences. The hope I pull from books of this sort is the idea that we are more than the physical. The greater truth of our existence is the higher, spiritual one that expresses itself through our physical bodies in this dense, physical dimension. It is the realization of the truth of this spiritual side that will, I believe, get us through this time, if anything does.

There are a number of books I could have chosen that deal with the expression of this spiritual side of our life, day-to-day. I probably will write about them in the future, but for now, for this expedition, I'm reading what I believe is the last of the books on shamanism by Carlos Castaneda: The Eagle's Gift.

I've read about Castaneda but I've never read any of his writings until now. Though a lot of doubt is cast on the story he tells, his writings are generally regarded as instructional in the basics of shamanism. I'm interested in that because shamanism is the fundamental spiritual belief of indigenous Americans. It represents, for me, the baseline belief that arise in a people living close to nature, much like the druid beliefs among the Celts in ancient Ireland.

In Dentville, the spiritual beliefs of people, especially as expressed through the sages and the Order of Gaia, are based on folk beliefs as I understand them. The sages in my stories are shamans, working as liaisons between people in the physical life and the spirits. People struggle through this physical existence with hardship and fear, and look to what's beyond to provide meaning and support. We'll need that as we go along, struggling into our future.

Understanding how we got to this place, in this mess, can help with our struggle. The explanations of Ms Eisler and Mr. Quinn have been a revelation to me in that regards. Both mesh nicely with my view of the world that has evolved from my early, very religious, years through my scientific phase, and into my more spiritual time. I'm sure I'm not unique and many others will catch the same resonance when reading their work. If you're so inclined, I highly recommend both.

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You can find my review of The Chalice and the Blade here (Goodreads).


 
 
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I recently purchased three books that I had put on my Amazon.com wishlist and they represent a certain path that I want to explore, even as I work hard on my first Dentville novel. That path is a consideration of "why things are the way they are." That is, it is an attempt to answer the questions: Why is the world like it is? Why such ignorant cruelty at work in human affairs? Why does it seem for real that we are living the apocalypse? Is there hope for humanity?

Heavy stuff, I realize, but these times call for it. Also, in seeking to create dramatic works, I can't ignore the darker side of reality when it's pressing in on all sides every day. In fact, everything I've done so far in writing fiction has been my attempt at reconciling, or at least understanding, good and evil. This theme is even in my lighter writings and it would be disingenuous of me to abandon it for the sake of "sounding good" or not offending (though I certainly don't intend to offend anyone).

It has long been my desire to not live in a deluded state, never seeing beyond the immediate locus of my day-to-day life and accepting the popular beliefs about what's happening in the rest of the world (which is at best based on propaganda and always qualified so as to be safely ignored). This delusion extends into the stories we as a society tell ourselves about who we are and where we come from. For the first two-thirds of my life I pretty much accepted the delusion, or at least, shed it only slowly. Shedding delusions can be painful. The truth revealed can be hard to deal with, but once you've seen it, you can't go back.

If you follow my journal and my reviews, you'll explore this path with me and if you find the journey to your liking, I would encourage you to read the books I mention. You'll undoubtedly see things I miss, and you'll find your own message in these works that enriches you (even if some of the material disturbs you). But let us proceed with the foundational insight that you have start moving to get somewhere.

 Let's start with the three books I moved from my wish list to my reading list. They are:

The Story of B by Daniel Quinn

The Chalice & The Blade (Our History, Our Future) by Riane Eisler

Adventures Beyond the Body by William Buhlman

I recently finished The Story of B and posted my review of it on GoodReads here. The Story of B is part of Daniel Quinn's Ishmael trilogy and I like that work because it hits an important nail on the head in understanding the antecedents to our current predicament.

Through his teacher characters in his books (especially Ishmael) Mr. Quinn points out that our culture--the one that dominates the world today--had its beginnings in the Neolithic era some 10,000 years ago. It was one among many practicing the domestication of plants and animals and living a settled, agricultural life as opposed to hunting and gathering (foraging). This led to food surpluses, spare time, cities, specialization of labor, and population increases.

This was very nice for humanity. People generally lived longer and better though they (arguably) worked harder. Still, they lived peaceably. Their cities were not fortified and excavations show no signs of martial destruction during this time period. Evidence from their art and funeral practices indicates an equality of the sexes in their societies and even a sophisticated religion of goddess worship (see The Chalice & The Blade by Eisler).

Then our ancestors had a bright idea. They decided that they "could have it all" by refusing to follow the law of limited competition. This law is Mr. Quinn's term for a natural law that all life on earth, including humans, followed up until the "agricultural revolution." This law says:

You may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food.

This law (followed naturally, no committees of cavemen drafted it) allowed life on earth to live sustainably within the bounds of the food resources their environment could produce. This is the natural "law of the gods" that allows life on earth to exist in a harmonious balance. Humans came into existence following this law and their early cultures are called "Leavers" by Mr. Quinn because they left the rule of the world in the hands of the gods (see The Story of B).

Our ancestors' culture (that is, some group of Neolithic people among all the others) decided they would take the rule of the world into their own hands. They would be like the gods. Mr. Quinn calls them "Takers." The Takers then began to practice totalitarian agriculture where they violated the law of limited competition at every turn. They hunted down their competitors, destroyed their food and denied them access to their food (i.e., they waged war). And so they subdued the earth, were fruitful, and multiplied.

The Taker culture extended their method of totalitarian agriculture to their own people in denying access to food to their own population unless they worked for it. This went along with the stratification of society into specialists and managers (rulers) and launched a "limitless growth" model. That model was given a tremendous boost by the industrial revolution a couple of hundred years ago. The boost came from the application of fossil fuels to technology that allowed more food production until now when the earth is literally filled with people and is dying from our wastes.

Mr. Quinn makes (to me) the brilliant application of this narrative of human history to the stories in Genesis. The story of the Fall is picture of the emergence of the Taker culture. In eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil (abandoning the law of limited competition) Adam and Eve became like the gods (deciding who would live and who would die by practicing totalitarian agriculture), began a life of toil ("the most laborious lifestyle ever practiced on this planet) and were subject to death (the Taker life "bears with it its own seeds of destruction").

Also the story of Cain and Abel is a picture of the agriculturalist (Cain) killing the herdsman (Abel). They are brothers, but the one took on the power of the gods and decided the other must die. The Takers have been killing the Leavers for ten thousand years.

This is basically the picture presented by Mr. Quinn in his Ishmael books describing why the world is like it is and why we've reached this point. I would add that the Taker culture (called "Dominator" by Eisler), with its emphasis on hierarchy and acquisition of power, rewards sociopathic behavior. So the premise that "the world is run by psychopaths" gains much credence. Is there any greater demonstration of psychopathic behavior in playing God with no concern for human life than geoengineering the planet?

I've begun reading Riane Eisler's The Chalice & The Blade and I see that it supports the basic premises of Mr. Quinn's books. From both, it is easy to see and understand the impetus of Taker culture that has brought us right through the limits of growth to the climax of Taker (if not human) history.

My Dentville books will explore the world beyond that climax and will represent the most positive slant of future events I can imagine. In other words, if the world reaches a Dentville level of existence, it will be by the slimmest of margins.

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Here are links to my GoodReads reviews of Daniel Quinn's Ishmael books:

Ishmael

My Ishmael

The Story of B


 
 
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Life is a blend of good and bad, like a sweet-and-sour sauce. Usually the net effect is more to one pole or the other, and strive for the good side--sweet-and-sour sauces are very good tasting. But in cooking and in wines, the product is usually a result of blends that be quite complex, and much of the reward in consuming it is appreciating the blends of flavors and textures.

Sometimes the blends are extreme. It is said that some very exotic oriental dishes include ingredients that, taken alone, are poisonous. The rising sun was beautiful this morning, shining through the bright haze of the geoengineers' spraying. In both cases, while I may be able to detect the constituents of the whole, I'd rather there not be the poison to detect.

There are blends in my work, as there are in yours. The novel I'm working on is shaping up, but it's hard work done at the end of my "regular" job's day, when I'm not fresh. I have an "activist" story in mind (whether novel or novella; see my previous journal entry) that I much desire to do but find it hard to get to (and it will be a balance of inspiration and warning).

But the best blends are of desirable, positive ingredients, especially where there is the subtle ambiance of something special that instills a joyful inspiration to the whole--like the hint of French oak in Ca De Calle. In my work, that special hint comes from a love of storytelling and a desire for travel.

So what's the subtle flavor that lends joy to the whole in your life? What always provides a positive infusion to  your circumstances, even when they are bad? I urge you to find it. Develop the sensitivity of your palate to the point you can always detect that gentle, positive spice that flavors your life, and savor it.

Of course, sometimes we work to savor a good thing and it turns sour. That's life and we just have to carry on and do better next time. Dillon discovered that in regards to storing wine.


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Dillon's Pick – Spoiled Wine


In the time since my last post, I have learned the importance of keeping your wines in a dark, cool place the hard way. I had a nice lineup of wines to taste for my education, but I kept them on my desk which is close to a window. Well, the sun streaming through the glass panes turned my wines sour. A soured wine is a terrible thing to taste. They all finished so sour that I just had to pour them out.

So don't make my mistake; you've been warned. I will be getting a wine cooler as soon as I can afford it.

Temperature is an important factor when keeping wine. For the more full-bodied reds, it is best to serve them at 60-65 degrees. For the lighter reds, like a Burgundy red, you'll want to keep them at 57-60 degrees. White wines should be kept cooler. The optimal storage for white wines will be around 50-55 degrees.

I hope this helps you avoid accidents like mine.

 
 
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I've been reading Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls. I haven't done a review of it yet; I haven't finished it yet, but I'm enjoying the read and I see why it's a classic. There's much fodder for thought in it that I'll treat in future journal entries, and maybe Dillon can pair it with a good Spanish wine.

The book is set during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and one theme in it is the role of courage among the partisans fighting the fascists (corporate powers who were the "rebels" in this war). In chapter 34 a partisan fighter, Andres, is musing over his own courage. He has taken on an assignment as messenger that he could use to avoid the upcoming battle. It reminds him of the times in his youth when he would be glad of seeing it rain so that his village's bull-baiting event would be canceled and he wouldn't have to participate in that dangerous "sport." In deciding whether to tarry in delivering his message, he considers how fate has placed him in this situation, where he must be brave and risk death, when he would rather be living a peaceful, normal life.

I've had similar thoughts and the conflict has kept me from getting too political or activist in this journal. After all, my desire is to write fiction--stories that excite emotions and imagination, and that inspire thoughtfulness. I've tried to do that in what I've put out and, so far, it's been well received. But taking a stand for anything, can be polarizing and risky.

In the last few weeks I've had some positive feedbacks that have been encouraging. The "Wine & Lit" journal entries I've done with my son, Dillon, have been well received and opened my "network" to new readers. I also expanded my network to people who liked Ben Stiller's Walter Mitty movie and who also liked my journal entry about it. All this has brought more visits to my website and more downloads of my stories. It has even led to all my stories on Barnes and Noble being rated and reviewed quite positively. I'm very grateful for all this and it encourages me to carry on with my other projects, especially the first Dentville novel.

These projects include a short story I have in mind, and a novella (possibly novel) that I really want to do. I want to revamp my website and do a newsletter of some sort. I want to continue the Wine & Lit journal entries and evolve them into something. But all this is not being done in a place of sunshine with unlimited potential. I work in a shadow, as we all do, that grows darker by the hour.

That darkness comes from the same evil that the partisans of the Spanish Civil War fought. In that time, the enemy was simply "the fascists," and we think of them as Franco and Hitler and Mussolini. But those were just agents of a larger evil that seeks to own the earth and every thing in it--from people to the smallest microbe and even the weather. To the larger evil, the cosmos is just a collection of commodities to be consumed to the final dregs. In the mid twentieth century, there were boundaries on this evil. You could get away from it and define life as your space and its space. If you wanted to fight the fascists, you had to go to Spain. Today, there are no such boundaries.

The struggle of the good against this great evil has come to our time as a final great battle called, Collapse. I mean by this the collapse of industrial civilization because it operates on principles that are self-destructive and unsustainable.  These principles include the idea of "infinite growth," hierarchy ("I'm the boss and therefore am better than you!"), privilege, materialism, militarism, and sheer greed. Evidence of the working out of these principles is seen in the endless push for more and greater wars, and in exploiting the natural world for profit to the point that our oceans are nearly lifeless and our planet's atmosphere is poisoned and shredded.

I see evidence of the latter every day. Aircraft are constantly plying the sky and leaving horizon-to-horizon trails of chemical death for the sake of weather control. There are no longer clear skies, only varying degrees of haze. Clouds are flattened, ragged, and nucleated with particulates to drop rain and snow when and where directed. This is geoengineering and it is NOT something "being considered" to fight global warming. It has been going on for years for the sake of using weather as a weapon, and it has been ramped up to a fury over the last year. The working of geoengineering is obvious (just observe the skies) and the evidence for what they are doing is solid.

So I cannot carry on without acknowledging this fight that is going on all around us. I cannot just live in the delusion that provides comfort to so many around me. If you understand what I'm saying and want to take the risk of stepping out-of-doors into reality, then I suggest you read the primer at this link. But I must warn you: this material is very, very hard to take, but I believe it to be true.

This fight tests our courage. It certainly tests mine and I would rather ignore it. I think Mr. Hemingway understood that. In For Whom The Bell Tolls, he says through his character, Andres:

I think that we are born into a time of great difficulty, he thought. I think any other time was probably easier...But it is a time of difficult decisions. The fascists attacked and made our decision for us. We fight to live.

I intend to carry on, to the best of my ability, with the literary work I've started here. It is my passion and I can't not do it. But in my work, I want also to raise the awareness of those who take interest in it, and fight the fight that is brought to us. Stopping geoengineering is the battle we must win, as partisans for the earth and humanity, or else no one will win anything, ever again.


 
 
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Finding something good when you weren't looking for it--that's the theme of this week's journal and wine pick. Dillon found a really good wine in the vintage he selected and he really wasn't expecting that. He also found an association in it with familial sharing (we were all tasting it late one night) that he liked. All this struck me as being sympathetic with Ann Patchett's novel, Run.

I bought Run after having enjoyed Patchett's novel, Bel Canto. I actually bought it for my wife after reading a good review of it. Still, it was an unknown quantity for me and it was some time before I got around to reading it myself. Though the book has its flaws that I point out in my review, it has strong points and images that are enjoyable and linger.

The overall ambiance of Run is "family." It shows a family, the Doyles, that is "made" rather than "born." Though disparate in a number of ways, the Doyles share a foundational love that keeps them together when circumstances and desires would pull them apart. Seeing that love prevail and promote the character's reconciliations and mutual supports as they weather their trials is the biggest joy of the novel. I could easily see them sitting before a fireplace during a New England snowstorm, talking about their days and ambitions, and enjoying glasses of Ca De Calle.

Run was a good read that I wasn't expecting, like an inexpensive wine that delivers levels of taste you didn't know were there.



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Dillon's Pick – Ca de Calle

I hadn't planned to write about this wine when I bought it, but I knew I had to when I tasted it. It is an Argentinian red blend called Ca de Calle. It was aged for 12 months in French oak. If you can't smell the oak very well at first, then smell the glass after you've finished it. I find that the oak smell is strongest in the drained glass.

The bouquet is kinda small, but it prompts pleasant memories, like good times when I'm with friends wine-tasting and eating. This would be a good wine with cheeses. The spices are kinda strong, but I find they give the wine its character. It is not very fruit forward (fruity), but I can taste a small amount of the grape varietals in it--mostly malbec with cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot. This is a great wine for sipping and nibbling, and sharing with friends.


 
 
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For the first of our Wine & Lit series of journal entries, Dillon has picked a Spanish wine, Cara Bassa 2012. In thinking about a complementary literary work for it, I did a little Internet research. I found that Cara Bassa is the name of a site in Sardina (island region of Italy) where there are a number of neolithic era "standing stones." These stones were carved into megalithic monuments by ancient peoples and often inscribed with mysterious symbols. The larger, more complex sites (i.e., Stonehenge) are associated with the Celts.

But that's an Italian connection. The only Spanish connection I could find was on a website that offers horseback riding trips in Spain (interesting idea). The site implies that there is a trail through the Pyrenees mountains called the Cara Bassa.

So themes of New Age and journeys led me to a book that has spoken to me over the years. It's The Camino by Shirley MacLaine, about her 500 mile trek over the ancient pilgrimage trail called the Santiago de Compostela Camino that stretches across northern Spain. It was a journey of spiritual discovery for her, as it has been for seekers over the centuries.

The Camino has a very New Age flavor to it, which is not a taste for everyone, but its ambiance of mystery, travel and exploration and even facing fears make it very palatable to the open-minded reader. It's one of my favorite books and it always prompts my old urge to travel and explore, and at the end of the day, to kick back with a glass of Cara Bassa and recount the day's journey with friends.

You can find my review of The Camino here.

And here's Dillon's Pick for the wine we can enjoy as we contemplate the mystery of the Santiago de Compostela Camino.


Dillon's Pick – Cara Bassa 2012

Hello fellow wine lovers, I am Dillon. I have recently begun my exploration of the world's wines, and will be sharing with you my experiences. So far, I find I prefer wines that are boldly fruity, with a slightly dry finish, but I'm sure my tastes will evolve as I go.

My first pick for Wine & Lit is a Spanish wine that was recommended by my boss (I work at a Wine and Spirits store). It was an amazing wine for the price. I believe it is about 8 dollars, but it tastes more expensive. It has a deep red color and an amazing bouquet. I detect blackberry and maybe some dark cherry in it. It was not aged in oak, though, and I usually prefer oak-aged, but this wine does well without it. The first taste is quite impressive. It's not sweet, and it starts with a slightly acidic mouth-feel with little fruit-forward. It finishes with some tannins so this isn't for someone who get headaches or prefers sweeter wines.

I'm impressed with Spanish wine, and Cara Bassa is a good one to start us on our long journey of wine discovery.


 
 
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There is a decided therapeutic value in savoring the good things of this life--love of family, fellowship of friends, a job well done, a meal well cooked, books, movies, plays, concerts, travel, coffee, and wine. This is just my partial list of things that make being here worthwhile. You have your own list, of course, and it's good to review it from time-to-time. Today, I want to concentrate on two items that I expect will appear on the personal lists of most followers of this journal: books and wine.

Books are great because they are an efficient way to use language and writing to convey information and inspiration widely. This conveyance is facilitated these days by electronic means--computers and the Internet--but it's still reading, and it's how Hemingway, and Dante, Arrian, and other voices, spread across time, speak to us. Their words are contained in books and we find those that speak best to us. We seek them out, and that makes us book-lovers.

I've written a lot of book reviews about books I've read that have especially touched me, both fiction and nonfiction. I've posted most of them on the Goodreads website (you can find them here; I've just opened an account on the Book Likes website and imported my reviews to it; look here). Writing a review is, for me, a way to savor what I've gotten from a book, especially fiction. It's how I appreciate its aroma, its texture and the nuances of its flavor. You know, it's a lot like appreciating wine.

I've long had a fondness for wine with an experiential appreciation for the differences among vintages, but nothing really deep. My sons, however, are much further along in attaining a connoisseur's appreciation. Having returned from the university, they are applying the knowledge gleaned from their biology studies to pursuing an education in the production, marketing, and appreciation of wine. Dillon has a job that is facilitating this education, and Thomas is helping him.

There are a lot of aspects to appreciating a wine. Subtle variations in aroma, texture, weight, mixture with other fruits, aging and storage, create a complexity of taste that is a challenge and joy to discover. It's like studying the themes and techniques of literature to the point that you can appreciate the works of Shakespeare, Laotze, Homer, and Cervantes. You hear the voices of these authors in a richness that you don't get from a surface reading, and they touch your soul at a deeper level. Similarly, an educational effort can take you from just tasting a wine, to experiencing it.

Considering the similarities between these two of our favorite things, I think it appropriate to give a greater voice to the wine side and pair it with the literary. From time-to-time, I'll do a journal entry inspired from a book (especially if I've written a review) and let Dillon add an accompanying entry on a wine that has a connection (Dillon's Picks). They synergy should be interesting and perhaps, enlightening.

Appreciating a really good wine is appreciating a moment. When enjoyed among friends or at an occasion, it can enhance the experience, enriching the memory of it. It should never be taken to excess; that's like reading to exhaustion. You want to read and reflect, sip and savor.

So as we continue our journey, seeking the inspiration and knowledge we need for navigation, let's indulge a bit in spirits for our spirit. It'll be fun.


 
 
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Writing a book is just a neat thing to do. It's hard work, especially for a novel-length story, but having a completed piece that speaks your intent gives you the artisan's reward. Like a painter depicting emotion through a landscape, or a woodworker making a fine roll-topped desk, or just the desired accomplishment in doing whatever it is you have taken upon yourself to do, it is satisfaction in the act of creation. Your child is born and you send her out into the world to speak.

That's writing a book. And as with all art, I see it in two main components: what you're expressing (the art), and how you go about expressing it (the tools). The first is art and the second is craft. You learn to use the tools of the craft in order to release the art.

There are reasons I try to write, and I'll do a journal entry about that in the future. Today I want to talk about the tools, though in truth, the topics do overlap.

Yesterday, I attended a one-day class on self-publishing that is a part of the Milsaps College Community Enrichment program. It was actually more of a 3-hour workshop in using CreateSpace to self-publish your book. In my quest to produce a novel, publish and distribute it, I've studied the publishing process from the traditional to the electronic (reading on computers, Kindles, iPads, etc). I've had some success in both for short stories and novellas and, all the while, I've been working on making my post-apocalypse novel, Dentville, a reality with one eye on how I would publish it.

Ten or so years ago, I would have gone the traditional publishing route without question, and that was indeed my thoughts then. But things have changed. Corporate publishing is in as much flux as everything else and the big houses work under the same "infinite growth" paradigm as the rest of the capitalist world. In publishing, that works out as "you gotta be Stephen King" to get their support, or even their attention. And then, you're still pretty much left to promote yourself.

So, as in so many other areas, the Internet and digital technology provide an alternative. Print On Demand (POD) publishing supported by the web and social media give a writer a means to produce quality books (materially anyway) made available through mass outlets (on the web) at a (potentially) reasonable cost. It has become more and more apparent to me that that is the way I should go (pretty much "forced" to go). Though self-publishing has its own trials, the traditional route is just too long and difficult if you're not already established. The odds are against you (as at a casino). In taking this class, I wanted to get a closer look at the process and hear from someone who has done it.

Most of the class was a demonstration of Createspace by the teacher. With the website projected at the front of the room, she stepped us through the process of creating a sample book (A Day in the Life) using the website. It was easily done and produced a book (though she didn't take it all the way to publication, of course) for no cost. There were points along the way where you could purchase professional services (like artwork and book design) and so would have incurred some costs comparable to the charges of other POD companies. Still, she demonstrated how it is possible to publish a book for free and have it distributed online through Amazon by making clever use of freely available tools on the Internet.

Actually, it's not completely free, Amazon will get their percentage when the book is published. There is a royalty schedule (I didn't note the specifics) and an author's discount (so you can order POD hard-copies for author sales). I saw that self-publishing can work, especially if your goals are well-defined. For instance, the class teacher is an English professor at a local university and she publishes her own textbook this way. Her students can purchase it online or she has placed it in the university's bookstore (I believe it sold out). So this works for her in her world.

Regarding quality, I have seen that Createspace can produce a quality product. My story, Davis and the Goth was published as part of the Createspace-published anthology, While the Morning Stars Sing and the book it produced is very nice.

But I have serious reservations about Amazon.com, the corp that is behind Createspace. Being the online publishing giant, they seem to want to rule the publishing world (infinite growth again--they can't just do well, they have to dominate the world). Their push for exclusive rights to e-books has earned them much enmity among bookstores to the point that many refuse to sell Amazon-published titles (see this article in Publisher's Weekly). Even the self-publishing teacher pointed out that selecting one of the Kindle options in Createspace will result in Amazon taking exclusive rights to your ebook edition and so prevent you from marketing it elsewhere. She recommended not doing that.

So I can pretty much guarantee that Dentville will not be published with Createspace. I do have other POD publishers in mind. But the class was very helpful in demonstrating the current mechanisms of online and POD publishing and how a person can do much with digital and Internet-based tools. And the teacher's love of her work and enthusiasm for books and writing was inspirational.

Speaking of tools, I think I mentioned that I'm using a software product called Writeway to write (actually, "build") my first Dentville novel. I've found it extremely helpful and it has enabled me to make much headway on the book. I'm working on it every day and the completion of it feels more real to me now than ever before. And then the self-publishing class gave me the feeling that the publishing of it is "doable."

I'll have much more to say in future entries about the development of Dentville. I won't talk about writing mechanics but about the evolution of the story, its themes, and the current trends and events I'm drawing from. My journal entries should reflect the story's development and I hope for this website to develop along with it.

And I hope you'll follow me as I write this book, and can find sympathy for what I'm trying to say with it (more on that coming) and inspiration when you finally read it. I think that would be pretty neat.