I’ve written a lot of book reviews in the last few years, mostly as a writing exercise and because I like to read. I’ve generally gotten good comments and “likes” for the reviews, so I decided to compile a lot of them into a single volume, arranged into categories. It was pretty easy to create the categories, since my reading tends to be of specific subjects (my themes). The same goes for my journal entries so for each category, I selected journal entries (blog posts) that were related in one way or another. And on top of all that, I wrote new essays and included them for each category subject. The result was Ray-views Volume 1: Book Reviews by Category (available via Arbordin Park Press).

If you follow and like my work, I think you’ll find Ray-views a good read. The essays will give you a distillation of my thinking on the category subjects and provide a springboard for your own investigations, or simply reading pleasure.

To help you determine if Ray-views is worth adding to your library, I’ve posted a couple of excerpts. One is the essay for the “Inspiration” category. You can find it here. I’ve also posted the book’s Foreword. I thought that would best explain what I hope to accomplish with the book and also provide an overview of the categories. You can find the Foreword posted here.

Through reading we find inspiration and knowledge. We commune with those authors we relate to and we meet the challenge of contradiction from those authors we don’t. I hope Ray-views will point you to literary works that do both. It is available in print and electronic formats (I’ve priced both as inexpensively as I can). You can purchase either format here.

With my two Arbordin Park Press “flagship” books launched, I will turn my attention back to novel-writing. It is my hope to have my first Dentville novel, Power of the Ancients, out sometime in 2016. Of course, that is one of many projects on my plate. Please hang with me.

Here's come Inspiration,
walking through the door,
Bringing back a thousand dreams
I thought I'd lost for shore...

(Paul Williams, Inspiration)

WHENI look back on all the stuff I've written over the past few years--Journal entries, book reviews, short stories, novellas--I see it's pretty easy to spot my themes. Because that's the case, I was able to sort all my book reviews into categories and compile them into a book that I call, Ray-views: Volume 1 (soon to be published via Arbordin Park Press; Should be available by Dec 22). The categories I came up with are:

  • Beyond the Usual
  • The Human Problem
  • On Prophecy
  • The Dystopian Potential
  • Inspiration
  • Storytelling

Of these, the most popular pieces are those I put in the Inspiration category. Those received the most "likes" and comments, and almost always generated more web traffic to my blog. I can understand why. Inspiration is hard to come by in these dark times. I know I wrestle with depression when just reading the news (the real news; not the mainstream media) and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. Somehow though, inspiration still finds me, and when it does, I like to share it.

In Ray-views, I include essays of my thoughts on the subject matter of each category, and how the books Ray-viewed in them relate. As a teaser for the book, I've published the essay I wrote for its Inspiration category on the Arbordin Park Press website. You can find it here.

Inspiration is what Ray-views is about. I've included over 40 of my book reviews plus related entries from my online journal and some suggestions for other books to read for each category. All the books I've reviewed have inspired me in one way or another, even where the subject was dark. Many of those inspirations led me to write the stories in The Wider World, and in Ray-views, I share those inspirations with you.

I hope to have Ray-views out by mid December (in time for Christmas!). Watch my website and the Arbordin website for news of its release. I hope you'll buy it and let it be your springboard for your own research into the category subjects, and so find your own inspirations.

The flow of moisture from hurricane Joaquin was manipulated between a clockwise spinning high pressure zone to the north of Joaquin and a counterclockwise spinning low pressure zone to the west of Joaquin.  (Geoengineering Watch website)

It is the following Tuesday after the great South Carolina deluge. In Columbia, we're seeing sunshine for the first time in about five days. Helicopters are pretty much a constant overhead as news stations, government agencies, and Lord-knows-who-else survey the scene from the air.

I live in northeast Columbia with my family and the destruction is not so obvious here. I suppose we must be on relatively high ground and so we weren't flooded out as much as the rest of the city. From Saturday night through midday Monday, we had a pretty steady rain. It wasn't storming, or even a particularly hard rain, just constant--especially Sunday (Oct 4). In fact, it's been several years since I've seen rain that constant, falling in big, heavy drops. It wasn't really scary while it was happening; more depressing.

Outside of the news reports, I would not have noted this rain as being anything out of the ordinary (we went to grocery in the midst of it, which isn't far from home) except for when I got up early Monday morning to feed the dog. The water running through the "ditch" that is our abbreviated back yard was up and rushing, though it did not reach the house or even cover the back porch. The french drain was able to handle the excess and channel it out to the street.

We suffered no flood damage and never even lost electricity (as of this writing), so we were pretty fortunate. Judging from the news, a number of streets and portions of the Interstates (I-20 and I-77) around us were closed. Dams and canals were breeched causing a lot of flooding in the southeast part of the city and keeping schools and businesses closed into the first of the work-week. Evacuations were forced in some areas. It seems we are on a high island of relative stability in the midst of a lot of calamity.

Out-of-state family and friends have been texting and calling to verify our well-being, so let me say that, at this point, we're OK. Our unknowns right now are: how long will my wife's workplace be closed, and, will we experience a loss of supplies (the grocery store was being cleared of bread and water) before this is "over."

The news media is calling this a "1000 year flooding event." From a statistical standpoint that's probably true, but the implication is of a natural event and I think there's little doubt of the human input. Some commentators will even concede that this event, like the California drought, is a byproduct of "climate change" or even "global warming." I think that's true, but there is more to the story.

All this was presaged by the passage of Hurricane Joaquin, which was at first "predicted" to make landfall on the US east coast and move over the Carolinas. Instead, it battered the Bahamas and then moved out over the Atlantic where it continues to weaken. It is apparently supposed to have contributed someway to bringing the huge load of moisture over the Carolinas that fell in the intense rains of the last few days. I say "apparently" because it looks to me like the two weather systems are pretty far separated.

So was there a causal connection between the hurricane and the rain? Probably of some sort, but I don't trust the Weather Channel to tell us the straight poop. I think the rain dumped on South Carolina was basically "stolen" from California. If you have trouble believing that weather is manipulated, I suggest you spend some time researching here.

Long ago, a Sumerian city-king (Gilgamesh, aka: Noah) survived a contrived flood and saw his thankfulness and hope for the future expressed as a rainbow. After our flood, I stood on my back porch in cooler air and looked up into slightly less pale blue skies and watched the SAG trails spreading into cirrus clouds.


The anomalous nature of the South Carolina deluge is very apparent to me. I don't see how anyone can spend any time watching the sky and not see that some huge program involving massive spraying from high-flying airplanes is going on. The sky is not as blue and the clouds are not as full as they were when I was young. The evidence is strong that the ruling powers have been perpetrating a program of geoengineering in a big way since about 1998. It is not a benign program, it seems mostly to be a militarization of the science of weather/climate control (according to the military's own documents). So why should they cause such grief for South Carolina (and California)? Why build more nuclear power plants when the meltdown of one (Fukishima) threatens all life on earth? Why explode some 2000 nuclear bombs and poison the land/atmosphere? Why use depleted uranium in munitions that sicken our own military? Why confront Russia and China with a nuclear war that can't be won? Don't expect sense from any of this. Geoengineering Watch has an insightful take on the South Caroline deluge here.

Casablanca is one of my favorite movies of all time. It's set in a time and place that speaks uniquely to the American mythos: just prior to WWII in the fight against facisim in an exotic, international place with a band of international characters led by a disillusioned, lovelorned, American tough-guy who doesn't "buy and sell people." But I have to admit, as much as I admire the Humphrey Bogart character, Rick Blaine, I tend to identify more with the nerdy writer, Victor Laszlo.

Of course, in the movie, Laszlo is a hero of the Czechoslovakian resistence (well before the term, "nerd," was known). Why nerdy? Well, Laszlo was portrayed in the movie, not as a soldier but as a writer; acutally, the editor of an underground newspaper in Prague after the Nazi occupation. He wrote truth about the Nazis and that made them hate him and want to throw him in prison, or worse (things aren't so different these days). Now this is admirable in real life and very dangerous if really practiced. Journalists get dead now, just as then, for saying unpopular things to mass audiences. Still, I have this heroic image of Victor Laszlo punching away at his portable typewriter in a dingy basement, while Nazi soldiers patrol the streets above, as he turns out page-after-page of copy that acuses Hitler of murdering innocents, and of having a goofy moustache! (No, Victor didn't get that scar in battle; he was hit in the head when his stuck typewriter carriage unfroze suddenly).

Yeah, Rick's the strong, cool, dude with the heart of gold that Ms Ilsa really loves, but the plot hinges on Victor Laszlo! Getting him away from the Nazis is what puts Ilsa in Casablanca and back to Rick in the first place. And in the end, the cause Laszlo is working for trumps everything else! This is the first revenge of the nerd!

What prompted that rant was my recent review of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Like Stieg Larsson's other "Lisbeth Salander books," Hornet's Nest is a computer/writer nerd's delight. You have a quirky antihero with killer computer skills and kick-butt martial arts skills, but on top of it all, she's a super kick-butt researcher and her sidekick is a major author and publisher of a Swedish magazine! Salander can go anywhere online and find stuff, clone hard drives, and even pull down evidence against serial killers and corrupt government officials. And then her journalist sidekick can publish it all into a world-wide best seller. You just don't get any more nerdy kick-butt than that!

So here we have a direct line in drama from Victor Laszlo to Lisbeth Salander (there's an alliteration between his last name and her first name; surely not coincidence). He is a straight-laced hero of the Czech resistence with a typewriter. She is an antisocial, antihero of cyberpunks with a keyboard. There does, however, seems to be some difference in scale there. Is Laszlo's cause loftier? The characters around him certainly considered it lofty, and they make great sacrifice for his safety so he can continue his work (in private Victor muses: "People are risking their lives so I can indulge my compulsion to write on my typewriter and make pages and pages...." Salander doesn't have to keep such things to herself. She's an antihero so she doesn't care. She hacks and gets around on the Internet because she can. If she tends to solve crimes, it's because she happens to hate bad-guy-low-lifes, especially women-abusers, and she has the tools to do it. Whatever ideological drive she has is much more below surface than Laszlo's. Maybe she's more honest.

I grew up watching two-fisted heroes on TV and the movies. I've loved the khaki-clad jungle explorer fighting crocodiles and hostile natives to find some unknown. But in the end, I'm too reticent for all that. I'm more of a Laszlo-Salander combo, plunking away trying to write something that's worth something and make a difference from the seat of my leather-bound office chair. I'm alternately driven between motivations like Laszlo, who fights for the right out of ideology, and like Salander, who fights out of reaction against injury to herself or others. In either case, my weapon of choice is the keyboard or pencil striking blows in passionate prose.

Maybe you feel that way too. If so, you're my fellow warrior in the fight against the lies of those who would rule through deception, or any who would destroy the Good for the sake of meglomanic agrandizement of Self at the expense of everyone else. Brandish your pencil and plink your keyboard for the sake of the common good, and stick your neck out for somebody. Even Rick came around.

It has been a busy last couple of weeks for me. I was finally able to complete pulling together my collection of short stories into a volume I call, The Wider World, and publish it through my own little imprint, Arbordin Park Press, and distribute it in print and Kindle editions through Amazon.com. All this involved learning the CreateSpace tools, setting up the Arbordin site and writing its first blog post, and then dealing with some devilish and stupid errors in the manuscript at the last minute. But, at last, the book is out there and its supporting business entity is operational and ready to facilitate the publication of the other projects I want to do.

As it happened, I was able to get all that done and then take a little trip with my wife to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

So we headed northwest towards the Blue Ridge Mountains where, after an overnight in Charlotte, NC, we spent a few days in the little mountain town of Blowing rock, NC. It was the first time I had been to any mountains since a trip to the Rockies when I was 17. Well, we were surrounded by mountains when we visited Puerto Vallarta, Mexico three years ago, but we didn't explore them.

Blowing Rock (named for its main attraction--a 3000 foot cliff that channels wind up its face) is a "quaint" little town that is probably as village-like as you see these days. It has a walkable Main Street full of shops and restaurants, including an English pub. We strolled the streets, shopped, and enjoyed the cooler air of the town's 4000 foot elevation.

On our first day there, we visited the nearby wild west theme park called, Tweetsie Railroad. Part of that visit was a ride on a 1943 vintage steam-powered train. It burned coal, blew its steam whistle and chugged along just like you see in the movies. Of course, it stopped for requisite show of cowboy and Indian doings with shoot-outs, fist-fights, a horse, and a fort. For me, though, I just let myself get lost in the rhythm of the train, the smell of burning coal, and a trail of embers in the air that prompted the wearing of sunglasses for protection.

The train steamed over a high tressle and around the steep hillsides through woods and over creeks. At times, I got views of the engine making the curve ahead of us (we were in the last car) in the classic scene of a train rounding the bend.

I also got a look at an old source of steam and the smoke from burning a major fossil fuel, like they did it a hundred years ago to kick off the Industrial Age. That was a first step in the warming of the atmosphere into the current hot-house. To me, all the wild west trappings were mostly from the movies and TV depictions of the US frontier in the nineteenth century. I think what you find in such theme parks is really more nostalgia for the 1950s and 1960s than the old west. The reality was different.

The next day, we went tubing down the New River. Rafting and kayaking are big in this area and there are plenty of stretches of white water to get your pulse up, but I didn't feel we were ready for that, so we just took a leisurely drift down a lazy stretch of water. Still, it was enough of a change of pace for us to challenge our comfort and deal with life from a more elemental perspective.

We each had a tube (with a bottom) to float in and they were tied together. We mostly just drifted as we had no means to fight the current if we wanted to, but we learned to use our arms to paddle together and stay in the middle of the river and avoid rocks and getting stuck on the bank.

Life is a River of Dreams as Billy Joel tells us. And a lot of it is dreaming, as we try to keep our courage up, and our hope alive as we travel on. I mean, it was great to drift down the river with my Love; it was a break from the demands of modern life. We arrived at our starting point, fiercely sunburned, but still feeling all the better for our trip.

We enjoyed the trip and being in the mountains. I hope to go back and maybe do some backpacking and horseback riding. Such activities add fuel to the fire of our inspiration and ultimately infuse my writing. We need to find our fun, and our inspirations, when and where we can.

SEEKERS look for the transcendent truth they suspect lies beyond the common experience of physical existence.

So begins the Foreword to my just released collection of speculative fiction, The Wider World. Discovering that greater reality is what happens to the characters in the collection's nine stories. What they all find is good, bad, and in-between.

I've written a lot about my book in the last few days and I hope you've read most of that and become interested. If not, let me refer you to the book's publisher's page where you'll find an overview. Then there's further write-ups on the Print Edition and eBook Edition (Kindle) pages (there are links to these pages on the publisher's page).

With the launch of The Wider World, I've also revised my Author's webpage (I guess you've noticed, since you're reading this) and launched the publisher's website--Arbordin Park Press. The inspiration for APP came from one of the stories in The Wider World entitled, The Spark: A Christmas Story. The APP blog will tell you some more about that.

In the Arbordin Park Press site's blog, I'll make posts of a literary nature--book reviews, publishing news, commentaries on writing and publishing, etc. I'll post all my other blog subjects on my Author's site. Currently, APP has only The Wider World on its catalogue page, though I hope to add more soon. While APP is the imprint publisher for The Wider World, payment and fulfillment are handled by Amazon.com for both the print and Kindle editions.

So while I intend to add much more to APP's catalogue, for now, let me further entice you to check out The Wider World by repeating a quote from the book's Foreword:

Seeking the wider world is the ultimate quest and is at the heart of all existential searches. It is also at the heart of the stories that comprise this collection. Though the writing of each was motivated by the exploration of some facet of plot or character, or the desire to express some theme, they all examine someone's journey to the wider world, or their sudden discovery of it.

And here's the Table of Contents (for the print edition):

My Christmas Carol....................................................5
Author’s Note: My Christmas Carol..........................13
Author’s Note: Supernal............................................21
The Spark...................................................................23
Author’s Note: The Spark: A Christmas Story..........76
Madam President.......................................................79
Author’s Note: Madam President..............................92
Davis and the Goth....................................................95
Author’s Note: Davis and the Goth.........................106
Fire Dance................................................................109
Author’s Note: Fire Dance.......................................124
Life Cost...................................................................127
Author’s Note: Life Cost..........................................137
Apocalypse Diary.....................................................139
Author’s Note: Apocalypse Diary.............................161
Professor Ladner’s Journal......................................163
Author’s Note: Professor Ladner’s Journal............208

And here's an excerpt from the Kindle edition's page, "From the Author" section:

The Wider World is a collection of short stories I've written over the last several years plus a couple of new ones of novella length. They are all of the speculative fiction genre in that they all have some "what if" element, or a spiritual aspect with paranormal overtones. One is an outright ghost story ("Supernal"). Two are outright Christmas stories ("My Christmas Carol" and "The Spark"). One is a confrontation with the darkest evil ("Madam President"). One was inspired by my early life engulfed in a fundamentalist religion while also being bully-bait ("Davis and the Goth"). One expresses my fear of civilization's coming collapse and how it will expose the frailty of our life supports ("Apocalypse Diary"). And in the last one, I examine the costs of making a sudden turn in the way you live. This one ("Professor Ladner's Journal") is a "pilgrimage" story and probably my most hopeful one.

And finally:

Reader comments for stories that make up The Wider World collection:

Davis and the Goth
"Well written short story about being a bully and lessons learned. Has a touch of a sci-fi twist."
"Very realistic story of bullies and an intended "victim" with a really surprising ending!! Well written."

Fire Dance
"This was an enjoyable story set in a world I would like to hear more about."

"This short story had a look of a novel...it was very good."

"Another good short story by this author."

Madam President
"This is a provocative story given today's political atmosphere and corruption...this one will remain in my mind for a long time."

The Spark
"It was marvelous, both in feeling the pain, joy, and hope that this story discussed. The characters were real and...I will definitely read this author again."

"A great read. This novelette was truly inspiring."

"The Spark is an updated blend of the stories of Santa and the Nativity. Well done with believable characters and that touch of magic surrounding Santa that we all experienced as a child. I was hooked from page one."

My Christmas Carol
 "I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will probably make reading this a yearly Christmas tradition. Great for young and old alike. Highly recommended."

So now I hope I've hooked you on checking out The Wider World and following the blog on my site and on the Arbordin Park Press site. I've added NEWS sections to the home page of both sites, so check that frequently for a quick update on what's happening in both worlds. The blogs will be updated most every week (I'm only human).

For those who have been following me for a while now, I thank you. For the newcomers, welcome and thanks for dropping by. I hope you'll all walk with me on this literary pilgrimage. As my protag in Professor Ladner's Journal discovers, once you've found the wider world, there's no going back.

* * *
The WiderWorld Availability:

Arbordin Park Press eStore:   NOW

Kindle store: NOW

Amazon.com:  08/21/2015 (estimate)


If you read The Wider World and like it, and feel my literary efforts are worthwhile, then please consider writing a few words of review on the book's Amazon.com page (where you made the purchase). Thank you in advance, so very much.


The Wider World on the Arbordin Park Press site (with links to purchase)

The Arbordin Park Press blog

My Author's website (contains this blog: Ray's Journal)

In this journal for the last few months, I've alluded to changes I intended to implement on my website towards the end of August, and also a book coming out by then. Well, I've been working hard to make that happen and it looks like I'll be able to meet my deadline.

I'll give you details later, but the launch will center around an anthology I've compiled called, The Wider World. It's a compilation of the short (and not so short) stories I've done, plus some new material. All have been revised to correct errors, improve readability, and just better express what I was trying to say. And then there are two new novellas (Apocalypse Diary and Professor Ladner's Journal) that together take up about one third of the book. It'll be available as a printed book through Amazon.com and also as a Kindle ebook.

I selected the book's title as a description of that place we're all looking for. It's the destination for that journey we're on, the enlightenment we seek on our pilgrimage, and the greater reality we find when we discover how to open ourselves to it. That's the hope I tend to write about, even in the face of the world's darkness, and it's the theme I saw running through the stories.

In 2013 I posted a series of journal entries that described my own seeking of the wider world. They came from remembrances of some old inspirations, some current literary inspirations, and some life events. My story, Life Cost, came from that time. It all culminated in my journal entry that inspired the book's title.

Then, from 2014 to now, I morphed into considerations of "the journey," that complimented my move across country to a new home and life. What I've learned in all this, and am still learning, is what I've tried to share with you in my journal, and now in this new book. As I say in the Forward:

Seeking the wider world is the ultimate quest and is at the heart of all existential searches. It is also at the heart of the stories that comprise this anthology. Though the writing of each was motivated by the exploration of some facet of plot or character, or the desire to express some theme, they all examine someone's journey to the wider world, or their sudden discovery of it.

It is my great hope that you'll find The Wider World entertaining and inspiring. Watch this website, and my Facebook page for word of the book's availability.

The Buddhists tell us that the root of our basic unhappiness in this life is its impermanence. In other words, "all good things got to come to an end." Life goes on, our best times pass, and our natural force abates. Downer thoughts, yes, and less easily pushed aside as we get older. This past week, I got an interesting perspective on this "getting older" business when my wife and I attended a James Taylor concert.

The concert was held at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC. This is a 3800 seat capacity sports-and-show coliseum and it was pretty well packed. As we walked into the place, I was struck by the age level of the vast majority of attendants. That is, it was an older crowd of solid baby-boomers (the children of the WWII generation; born from about 1946 to 1964). It's been a while since I've been to a concert and I usually think of them as being attended by people my age or younger (sometimes much younger, as when we saw Nickelback about ten years ago). Though it made sense that this would be an older crowd (James Taylor is 67), it was a bit of a shock to see it. It made me feel my age, though I'm in roughly the middle of the boomer age range. It seemed a lot of the attendees were at the older end.

So there was a lot of gray hair, beards, and pony tails among people who looked like grandparents but dressed hippyish (some did, anyway; nostalgia, I guess). At least one other person noticed the older nature of the crowd. In the men's room, I heard one extrovert say to the room something like: "Looks like the James Taylor crowd is older these days."

We found our seats on the ground floor section in front of the stage (though we were on the furtherest row back). These were the most expensive seats, and though they were relatively close to the stage, it was hard to see. Next time, I'll get seats in the elevated side areas. At least they had big screens hanging from the ceiling where video images of JT and the band were projected.

I did feel the energy of the place rising as we waited. These folks were long-time fans and they were anticipating the show. When the lights went down and Mr. Taylor came onto the stage, the communion between fans and performer flowed as it has for forty years. Mr. Taylor started with some mellow songs to ease everyone into things. Then he picked up the tempo, interspersing songs from his recent album with old favorites. Everyone got into it, including my wife and me. Smartphones were snapping pictures, people were raising their arms, swaying to the music, and singing along.

It didn't take long for me to see that Mr. Taylor hasn't lost it. I thought his distinctive voice was as good as it ever was, and he was backed up by cadre of excellent musicians and singers. He introduced them all over the course of the concert and noted that a number of them were recording artists themselves, and had recently come out with their own albums.

Throughout the evening (about 3 hours), Mr. Taylor used several different guitars to support the sets and demonstrated that he is, indeed, a talented musician. His band consisted of drums (tall, self-standing ones that the drummer played mostly with his hands rather than sticks), a couple of guitars, keyboards, and 4 vocalists. The sound they produced was awesome, filling the arena but without overpowering it. The sound level complemented Mr. Taylor's generally mellow compositions very well. I couldn't tell if there were any electronic enhancements, but there didn't seem to be.

Halfway through the show, just before the intermission, Mr. Taylor brought a choir on-stage that he said was from Charleston. He introduced them as the "Lowcountry Voices" and "Together, they dedicated Taylor’s 'Shed a Little Light' to the memory of the victims of the Charleston shooting and their families." The crowd stood for the performance and offered a huge applause afterwards in sympathy for the victims of the senseless tragedy. The arena released a video of this performance on YouTube and you can find it here. It will give you a feel for the ambiance of the concert, though the sound quality is far inferior to actually being there.

In the concert's second half, Mr. Taylor and his band nailed it with big-time deliveries of the first half's promise. He led off with a get-down, rock-and-blues rendition of "Steamroller" that was punctuated with heavy guitar and keyboard solos. Former flower children swayed, sang, and raised their hands as they caught the band's energy. I even thought I might catch some whiffs of drifting doobie smoke, but I didn't notice any. I guess security was tight.

Then there were extended versions of "Mexico" and "How Sweet It Is" that the crowd really grooved to. Overall, it was a great concert, expertly performed by a music legend who was obviously enjoying himself.

My takeaway for the evening was that "boomers can still rock, and their performers can still perform." You keep doing what you do, until you can't. That may not be very Buddhist, or an answer for the sadness of impermanence, but it can help keep us going with the implied prompt to just, "keep going."

I hope James Taylor keeps going. Maybe I can too.





This week, a skirmish was won by the worker's side in The War of the Damned. The skirmish was the referendum in Greece last Sunday (Jul 05) about whether or not to accept the last "bailout" package offered by the European Troika (aka, "the European banks, the Institutions," i.e., the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)). Ever since the Greek government announced that a referendum would be held to get the will of the Greek people on the matter, Greece has been hit with a fierce campaign of fear and disinformation (i.e., voting "No" will push Greece out of the EU and the Euro; people will loose all their savings and their jobs, etc). It was also reported that polls showed that the referendum vote would be very close because most Greeks didn't want to leave the EU.

But when the rubber hit the road and the Greek people voted, the result was an overwhelming "No" ("OXI"). 61.3% of voters voted "No" and it would likely been more but for the fear campaign. This referendum was important because it expressed, once again, the groundswell of opposition by the common folk of Greece against the neoliberal policies of austerity pushed by the financial institutions of the ruling oligarchs. The vote does not change anything in that it will not force the oligarchs to back down or in any way mitigate austerity, but it clearly marks the lines between oppressors and the oppressed.

The oppressors were pretty quiet about the referendum results except for a few snide comments from the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her office. Merkel said "Athens had wrecked any hope of compromise with its euro zone partners by overwhelmingly rejecting further austerity." The most overwhelming aspect of her statement is its hypocrisy. Athens has offered nothing but compromises to the point that they were betraying their mandate, and the troika (Merkel's bunch) rejected it all and refused to give an inch on their demands.

That silence extended to the US presidential candidates, none of whom said anything of substance about the vote, except for, of course, Bernie Sanders (Independent running for the Democratic nomination), who said:

I applaud the people of Greece for saying ‘no’ to more austerity for the poor, the children, the sick and the elderly...In a world of massive wealth and income inequality Europe must support Greece's efforts to build an economy which creates more jobs and income, not more unemployment and suffering.

I can't imagine, say, Jeb Bush or even President Obama saying such a thing, and neither did. However, Jill Stein (Green Party presidential candidate) said:

"From the cradle of Democracy comes the roar of the people!"

Ms Stein also offered a letter of solidarity on her website for people to sign in an expression of standing with the Greek people against the troika. The petition says:

We stand in solidarity with the people of Greece, for standing up to the extortion tactics of the big banks and saying no to austerity and no to the demands of the EU and IMF.

If you agree with the Greek referendum outcome, I urge you to sign Ms Stein's letter.

Without question, Greece is being punished for their defiance of austerity. Because the troika will not extend Greece time to meet its IMF payment, and because "the European Central Bank on Monday decided not to expand an emergency assistance program," and Greek banks have been closed since the week before the referendum. The Greeks, who have been suffering under austerity, will suffer even more to throw it off. But it seems they are willing to do just that to break free.

The biggest problem the oligarchs have with Greece is the example they are setting for other peoples. If they break free of austerity, others will want to do the same. Already, the citizens of Austria are seeking a referendum on leaving the EU, and the British people are petitioning their government for a referendum on austerity just like the Greeks. And then there are SYRIZA-like political parties in Spain, Portugal, and Ireland that are left-leaning and seeking to restore democracy to their countries.

I was delighted to see the Greeks' landslide rejection of neoliberal austerity. I know it will only stiffen the oligarchs' resolve to crush democracy and the Greek people's resistance, but this is a fight for survival that is forced on the common people of the world. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway said:

...it is a time of difficult decisions. The fascists attacked and made our decision for us. We fight to live.

It is the same today. In fact, today's War of the Damned is a continuation of the one raging since at least Spartacus and through the Spanish Civil War. Every generation is forced to fight it in one way or other. I hope that the Greek referendum has opened the door to a spreading resistance. It may be that in the resisting, oligarch crimes such as climate engineering will be exposed and eventually stopped.

Whatever happens from here out, life will only get more difficult for everyone. The stakes are no less than the future of humanity and all life on earth. How will it play out? Who can say. These are unprecedented times. But I believe that staying on the high road of affirmation that life should go on and that people have the right to live free, requires that the importunities of evil be replied to with a firm and resounding, "NO!"

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PS  Fri 10-Jul-2015 16:11 EST
It has just been reported that the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, has offered the Troika a deal that basically accepts their last austerity package. It includes $13 billion in budget cuts, increasing taxes (on the commoners), and increasing the retirement age--all the things the Greek people just voted against. The EU Finance Ministers will review the package on Saturday (Jul 11). If the Troika follows form, they'll reject this offer and demand even greater austerity. But even if they accept it, it will be clear that the referendum was futile in regards to the Greeks struggle for relief. I expect they will take to the streets again. and their fervor for revolt will spread.

This week I received an email from Mountain Travel Sobek (an adventure travel company) that featured some of their European trips. One of them was Spain's Camino de Santiago. The trip they offer takes a group down the length of the Santiago de Compostela Camino in ten days. It's a combination of hiking, driving, touring historic sites, and staying in hotels over the whole five hundred mile route. I'm sure it's an interesting trip at over $5K plus plane fare per person, but I would not consider it to be "making the pilgrimage."

I won't be making that MTS trip, but just seeing the ad reminded me that I've written a good bit about pilgrimages and journeys of self-discovery in book reviews and in these journal entries. I'm even writing a fictional account of such a journey for my coming short stories anthology. It's apparently a major theme for me, but then, it has long been a major theme for storytellers since Homer. Characters making a journey where they end up being different from when they started, is just too powerful a metaphor for the journey of life for the storyteller to ignore. When the journeyer's change is for the better, their story is an inspiration. When it's for the worse, it's a warning. When people purposefully enact the journey in their lives by deliberately going somewhere for the sake of spiritual discovery, then the journey becomes a pilgrimage.

Such journeys, by definition, involve the pilgrim's finding a higher reality--God, nature, spiritual powers, the oversoul. Indeed, that finding is the pilgrim's very purpose. In literature, it often involves tests of the pilgrim's resolve and mettle that he must pass before being rewarded with the reaching of his goal, or the solving of his problem (often via a new insight). Such testing implies refinement so that the pilgrim is a better person by journey's end (or has reached a "higher level" in one way or another). Such testing and refinement with reward is seen in the classic journey-tales of The Odessy and The Lord of the Rings, and is a large feature of Paulo Coelho's account of his journey down the Spanish Camino in The Pilgrimage.

It seems that people of a certain level of thoughtfulness reach a point where they want answers or insights that have eluded them so far. Whether young or older in age, they have often been challenged by events that engender loss and deep questioning. I described this prompt for pilgrimaging in my review of Cheryl Strayed's book, Wild, as:

In such a work, you won't find definitive answers or endorsements of anybody's dogmas. But in looking at the collective of such works, you'll find a literature that is spiritually infused. And that spirit is simply asking the question: "What the Hell is this all about?"

The answer is not usually a definite one, such as "forty-two" in Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Rather, the answer revealed by the journey is an enlightenment that guides the pilgrim through the remainder of her life journey. Even when there is a definite solution found or act performed in the journey, such as in LOTR where the goal is to throw the ring in Mount Doom's fires, the pilgrim is left for the better (so the hobbits are able to "scour the Shire" of ruffians when they return home).

These are the attributes I've observed in the "journey" stories (fiction and nonfiction) I have reviewed and pondered. Whether the pilgrimage is one involving esoteric trials and communion with powerful spiritual forces (re: The Pilgrimage, The Camino), or is a more mundane hike that produces insight very personal to the pilgrim through the physical challenges of the journey and opportunity for introspection (re: The Way, Wild), it is in its very essence the meeting of the pilgrim seeker with the wider world, from which, up to this point, she has been estranged.

Though I have found much inspiration in the works I've cited so far (even Douglas' comedy), I think Wild is the most definitive of what I'm talking about because it is so very gritty and down-to-earth. Ms Strayed was prompted to her pilgrimage by life problems she was failing at dealing with, and her resolution-journey was a pause, or reset, that brought her to a point of enlightenment where she became able to cope. Her insight came from the physical challenge and communion with nature that represented her engagement with the wider world. My question, though, is whether such a journey today is even possible.

Ms Strayed's journey was up the Pacific Crest Trail, which is a 1000+ mile trail that follows the ridge of volcanic mountains that span the western coast of the US. She made the trip in 1995. How different would such a journey be today when California is suffering a monstrous drought with no break in sight? Would the higher elevations have less snow but be more treacherous where the ice is there but thin? Would streams and lakes be so toxic from SAG-sprayed aluminum, barium, and mercury to render purification systems useless? Would intense UV levels from a depleted ozone layer make extended time in the sun too dangerous? Would the vista of Crater Lake be marred and choked of inspiration by persistent SAG lines overhead (assuming the pilgrim is awake enough to see them)? How would all this alter the pilgrimage's potential for insight?

These questions are just as applicable to any of the classic pilgrimages, such as Spain's Camino, and to any engagement with the wider world. Beyond a lack of resources, my basic hesitancy about making any "bucket list" travels (such as to Machu Pichu) is the anticipation of sorrow from seeing the geoengineering happening at a sacred place, and being subjected to concentrated levels of the aerosols in airplanes.

So where does this leave the seeker? Is the pilgrim's path to God forever obscured by a haze of toxic nanoparticulates?

I think these questions lead us to the larger consideration of humanity's struggle with evil. It is simply a struggle that has become so pervasive on earth that we cannot avoid it. We can pretend it does not exist, so that even as we suffer from its relentless destruction, we live (or fail to live) in the consequences of that thing we refuse to name.

Even so, I believe that humans will continue to pilgrimage because their drive for understanding and need for insight is so strong. In the face of evil, and in the spite of it, they will make their journeys because they reach a point where they just can't go on as before. It's just that now, if the pilgrim is honest, she will find in addition to her insight that there is a struggle that has been brought to her. She must deal with it, or else the meaning of her pilgrimage will be lost.

I think it is my fate that my pilgrimage be a literary one. If so, then I hope it is a trail that is helpful to others making a more physical journey. It is no less daunting in scope and just as prospective for insight.