Amazon Freebie

From April 6-10, The Minaverse will be free on Amazon. There is a link to the Amazon page below on the book cover, but I will also give an update and reminder on Monday, complete with a link. Please tell your friends it will be free. If they’re like me right now, they’re blowing through books they never had the time to read before. So this is my offering to those with a fast dwindling book fund: androids and humor set in enchanting New Mexico.


Making Movies

That’s a Dire Straits album. On it, you’ll find a song I always found appropriate to the writing life: Skateaway. There are a few others out there, like Tracy Chapman’s Telling Stories (There is fiction in the space between). Writing books literally happens in the space between for most of us. I’ve always liked Dire Straits, though, and Skateaway is special to me. I picture a girl rollerskating around town, lost in her own mental world as the music plays the theme songs in the background. And of course, that song is one of my theme songs, so all this becomes meta. The story of my life is boring, but at least the theme song isn’t.

Not unbelievably, that last paragraph has nothing at all to do with what I’d come here to write about this afternoon. I’ve had a good run working on my book and avoiding social media. I don’t avoid news, though; thus, I’m not living in darkness, hiding my head in the sand. In fact, lest somebody accuse me of reading only Faux News (or whatever the latest insult is) I read the stream that Yahoo News sends me on my phone all day. It’s a mix of everything: The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post. You get the idea. Mainstream news sources, some tipping right and others tipping left. I’ve also been keeping up with Trump’s updates. And I’ve been feeling all right about the world. Things are a little weird, as we’re hunkered down and only going out to walk the dog or buy groceries. My husband, of course, still goes to work, being an essential worker (firefighter). In general, though, my friends and family are well and surviving this pandemic one way or another. This isn’t meant to downplay others’ pain, sickness, or loss. It’s merely meant to say that I’m weathering it and not panicking, even though newspapers like The Atlantic would like for me to be scared.

From my perspective, the president has been doing a reasonable job at responding to the country’s needs and listening to his expert advisers. I find little fault with him regarding this virus. And then…I logged back on to Facebook to check up on extended family members, and I realized Trump was evil and everything was wrong and terrible and if we don’t all die because of Trump and how evil he is, our economy is going to implode and then he will shut down the elections and become a dictator. Also, racism. Everywhere. Especially in American Christianity. Gloom threatened to overwhelm me almost instantly. It was like being in an airless room. Even the people who were applauding Trump were racked in agony and terror. E.g. I have a very outspoken, brash and opinionated New York Jewish friend who is pro Trump all the way; she loves him, but she has a compromised immune system and unwittingly does pass along her terror to the Facebook world.

It’s like we’re all watching different movies of the world around us. In this case, it isn’t experience that changes the story. Nobody on my Facebook has gotten Coronavirus. They don’t even know people who’ve contracted it. It can’t simply be the media they’re reading — I read all media sources except those I do not trust to be factual (e.g. Raw Story or Zero Hedge). I’ve been struck with similar thoughts before this, that we’re all watching different movies when it comes to the same events. It really popped out at me this time back on Facebook, though. I go on and off and am generally lured back on only because I miss the friends and family I can’t visit regularly. I’m gong to start calling it Facebook’s Cave. The same reality, the same news, filtered through Facebook casts a strange series of shadows on the wall that aren’t visible to me while out of the cave.* I mean, there are people like my dad who does nothing but share his artwork and jokes and puns and poems and stories, but there is always someone else around to dump cold water all over it. The strange shadows are like little goblins casting projections. Theater goblins, of course. And when we veer off-script, they have to reel us back somehow. Oh dear, I think I’ve been living my book for too long. Except in my book, they aren’t goblins but aliens. Help!

I’m going to leave the house now. Walk the dog, I think. I can’t do much else, and I need a larger screen for my movies to play. The brilliant blue sky will answer my need. Too bad I don’t have any skates, but if I did my movie would end in tragedy because my dog is a spaz.

*My husband pointed out that he’s friends with First Responders instead of writers and artists, and all they do is share dumb jokes all day. They are a breed, you know. They’ve seen it all, and if they can’t crack jokes, they won’t stay in the career.


Tales From the Apocalypse

These are my simple observations about people and the world we live in:

  1. People might wake up due to the Coronavirus — might. In my town, most do not prepare for the next 24 hours, let alone for the next week or month. They live day to day, working and coming home and wondering what they will eat for dinner. This is what keeps the pizza and fast food restaurants going. Pizza could loosely be described as reasonable food, but — and don’t argue with me on this — there is nothing appetizing about stale fries cooked in oil that tastes like fusty socks alongside a mediocre burger. In the first wave of clearing the store shelves, the shoppers purchased essential staples. Yes, unbelievably, they wiped out the beans and rice and frozen vegetables first, as well as salt and some popular spices such as garlic powder. Hey, if you’re stuck eating beans and rice, you’re going to want salt and flavor in it. I would add olive oil to the list of flavor-enhancers, but the oil aisle wasn’t as wiped out as the salt and garlic. In the following waves, locals cleared out everything else from shelves and freezers, such that we’ve been put on rationing. My generation does not know what rationing is. This is a blip, of course, and nothing like the rationing our grandparents experienced during World War II, but being only allowed two packets of meat total (of any variety) and one container of milk is kind of shocking to gen X and younger. At my last shopping trip, the lady in front of me had picked up two packages of every kind of meat only to be told, no, two total.
  2. The Democrats are really driving the nails in their own coffins when they put their feet down on Trump’s stimulus package. We have so much national debt — debt we should have dealt with years ago, perhaps even when a Democrat was in the White House — and now is the time they decide to stubbornly oppose more debt that will keep businesses going and give people money to pay their bills during a national crisis? The Democrat politicians are stupid, evil little shrews. Please believe me, I am not pro-debt. But for heaven’s sake, an economy built on smoke, mirrors, and positive attitudes will crumble when these tricks disappear. And this reminds me…
  3. …if there is a time for positivity, it is now. In fact, I’d go further than the economic stimulus package. That is a stop-gap measure to keep things moving along. What we need, what we actually need, is to erase the debts of the average American citizen. Just erase it. Set the people free, as Moses did in the Bible, from the debt lords. It has gotten to the point where nobody can obtain higher education, buy a non-luxury economy car, and sometimes even pay for non-budgeted items like school clothes for the children without going into debt. Erasing some of this debt would be a giant step forward for the people who’ve been enslaved by it. And for those who want to put their feet down on it (and be stubborn like the Dems) because people ought to just pull up their bootstraps and stop buying the lowest-end car on the lot unless they’ve managed to save the requisite $20,000, erasing debt is a biblical concept. It’s called the debt jubilee, and it frees up citizens to actually be productive again, and not just working to pay off debts. I was thinking about this yesterday. They were thoughts brought on by the stimulus package drama, and then this morning I found that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts on a debt jubilee to really stimulate the economy after this Coronavirus nightmare. Other people are thinking along the same lines. I can’t imagine it happening, though. The bankers would come unglued.
  4. On social media yesterday, some people were calling for tired and stressed grocery workers to take Sundays off for a while, as they used to do in the past. People were also calling for buying local to keep our local businesses from falling under after being forced by the governors of multiple states to close down temporarily. I like the way people are thinking. I don’t know that we can create an idealized Mayberry, but the closer we get to supporting our own communities, recreating the free market here rather than sending it abroad, the better. I have hope. I always have hope, as cynical as I am.

The Theotokos As a Balm

Before the social distancing, I had coffee with my Catholic confirmation sponsor. It was a lovely day; we sat outside at the coffee shop and had a good conversation. Later that weekend, my husband and I went to the art museum, and I attended Mass at the NMMI chapel with my sponsor and her family. I now cherish that weekend, as all city buildings have been shuttered temporarily, including the museum, and the coffee shop is only open for pickup through the drive-thru. Also, public Masses have been suspended in my diocese. Someday, a breezy sunny day on a patio drinking coffee will happen in a public place once again. For now, I’ll drink my coffee from home, on my own patio or indoors while looking out at the flowering apricot tree. The same goes for Mass. I love Mass; I miss it already, but I can be in fellowship with God at my home.

Because this is supposed to be the year I am finally confirmed (with the Coronavirus shut-downs, that’s up in the air, of course), my sponsor asked me if there were any questions that weren’t fully answered for me in RCIA. She gave the example of Marian doctrines as being a stumbling block for her initially. It’s that way for many Protestants or former Protestants, she said. Surprisingly, Marian doctrines have attracted me to Catholicism rather than the other way around. Long before I considered attending RCIA, I had done my due diligence. I had read the relevant parts of the RC catechism to learn what Catholics actually believe. I did have some hesitations going in, mainly about indulgences. RCIA, unfortunately, didn’t provide a clear and concise answer to my question about what indulgences were and why the church practiced them, mainly because they are rarely used anymore, at least in mainstream American churches. The RCIA teacher said as much. I already knew the church had never officially supported the selling of them; what I was after was a definition of what they were in the first place. And I wanted that answer given in plain language, rather than in the language of the catechism. But I digress (as usual).

To reiterate, Marian doctrines weren’t a stumbling block for me. Let me explain why. Growing up in Protestant churches, there was always the sense that women were inferior to men, that it was more shameful to be a woman than to be a man. I believe that’s the reason a Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was conducted by the Evangelical Theological Society in the first place. Feminism had changed the way women and men interacted in society, and the ripples of it had reached the Christian churches. There was going to be some push-back, obviously. The church had a history of treating women as inferior beings. As far as I’m concerned, Christ offered a different perspective for Christians, and the scathing attitudes towards women largely came from the surrounding pagan cultures. You can find these attitudes reflected in some of the greats of the church, the most influential being St. Augustine. To be more specific, women were considered to be apt helpers to men in so much as they were the bearers of offspring. They were rarely valued for their intelligence or spirituality; men were superior in that regard, so what was the worth of womankind beyond her ability to keep families going? Some explored the idea that women were not created in God’s image as man was, using 1 Corinthians 11:7 as a starting point. Augustine was one — however, I use the word ‘explored’ because Augustine was a philosopher who sought the truth, and the truth of the Bible did not lend itself to this idea.

It is often very difficult for us to shake off the cultural ideas that we’ve been inculcated with from birth. Most of us don’t, really. Even those who seek truth don’t always recognize when our accepted cultural truths have influenced our ideas. Although Augustine-bashing is a trend among more feminist leaning Christians, credit where credit is due: Augustine unpacked his cultural ideas and examined them against the Bible using logic to do so. By the way, you have to be very careful when finding shocking quotes by historical greats on the internet; they are generally ripped from context and/or translated in such a way as to make them appear worse than they actually are. E.g., when Augustine is quoted as saying that women are only a complete image of God when they are joined with a man, but that a man is complete without a woman (a quote often used against him), it is at the beginning of a logical progression that concludes thus: “Why, then, is the man on that account not bound to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, while the woman is bound to do so, because she is the glory of the man; as though the woman were not renewed in the spirit of her mind, which spirit is renewed to the knowledge of God after the image of Him who created him? But because she differs from the man in bodily sex, it was possible rightly to represent under her bodily covering that part of the reason which is diverted to the government of temporal things; so that the image of God may remain on that side of the mind of man on which it cleaves to the beholding or the consulting of the eternal reasons of things; and this, it is clear, not men only, but also women have.”

Unfortunately, the average person will not be able to parse these sentences. I have difficulty parsing them, and parsing is a skill I possess. However, it is obvious he’s attempting to parse Paul’s words on men being the image and glory of God and women being the glory of man, which created the original difficulty. Paul is not easy at the best of times. Nevertheless, Augustine comes to the right conclusion, that women have a mind that is able to consult the “eternal reasons of things” just as men have. Augustine did not come down on the side of women lacking the image of God, as far as I can tell. Yet, his initial starting point — that of the inferiority of women — still remains in churches despite the feminist movement. Most people are not as intelligent as Augustine; most aren’t as learned in logic. And remember, his starting point was that of female inferiority. I doubt he fully eradicated those ideas from his thinking, though I’m not an Augustine scholar by any stretch. My point is that having to debate this in the first place says something about the thinking in Christianity. That most people aren’t intelligent and lack the basic tenets of logic and come from a position of female inferiority owing to our emphasis on “classical thinking” means women still have the poisonous seeds of self-loathing inside them. When that is combined with modern feminism, it creates cognitive dissonance, which is painful to our souls. Most people will end up choosing one or the other path to avoid the cognitive dissonance.

I’m not the first person who has conjectured that Mary is the answer to this cognitive dissonance. The fact that God chose her cuts through the errors in mankind and the sinfulness of our thoughts. Mary was a woman who said yes to God, which is not an easy thing to do. In this regard, she is a model for men and women alike. She is, therefore, worthy of an appropriate level of honor. The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have honored her for centuries in a right way, and Protestants lost much when they chose to cast her aside. That doesn’t mean Marian idolatry doesn’t occur, but idolatry is hardly a sin that is confined to Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It’s a sin all humans are prone to.* It’s a fine line we walk when we honor great men and women of the faith. And it doesn’t stop at Mary. Honoring the saints can bring much to our lives, but can also cause us to stumble into worship and undo reverence for other human beings. In the end, I still think it’s worth it to use these people as models for us, allowing their lives and stories to soothe our souls from modernity. Among those honored saints, there are numerous women and girls. Mary is the peak of female sainthood, perhaps, but she is followed by many more. As far as I know, Catholicism has adopted the complementarian philosophy, but in name only. They don’t really need it. They’ve been giving women due respect for centuries, for the same reason they give respect to men: having the simple faith to say yes to whatever God has given them to do.

*Idolatry being a general human failing, a bigger problem for me is remaining unconvinced on the necessity for such doctrines as Mary’s perpetual virginity or her assumption into heaven. And yes, I mean necessity, not veracity. They might or might not be true, but they are irrelevant to me. Apparently, they seemed very relevant to someone at some point — I often call this “kicking the can farther down the road.” These are not primary doctrines; that is why I consider them irrelevant. They have nothing to do with the salvation of the believer or how he is to live his life after salvation. They are, at best, secondary or even tertiary doctrines. And until or unless my status in the church is dependent on them, or God gives me deeper insight, they will remain in that status.


The End Is In Sight

No, not the end of the world. My book, Order of the PenTriagon. I know there have been many people claiming the rapture will happen at any moment now due to the stores being empty of toilet paper, but I’m not one of them. Even though I have weird glimpses into the future (see previous post), I’m not a prophet. I’m just weird.

I’ve been busy working on the tail end of my book the past couple days, which accounts for no warm-up post. I’m on a roll, you see. Today, I want to be able to give the happy news in an edited update to this post that I’ve finished the final scene. Of course, being a loose plotter, I will have to go back through and change a few things near the beginning. I don’t need to change anything major, however, just a few little things. So when I hit the end, I’ll still throw myself a party.

I have a number of books in the works, but as I was listening to Daft Punk’s Give Yourself to Dance yesterday (Random Access Memories is my favorite album for writing), I decided I would focus on my breakdancing cyber punk novel next. I didn’t make New Year’s resolutions this year; I already discussed this in a post a while back. But in order to make it through my fit of pique (brought on by my own onslaught of self-berating), I incorporated a bare minimum of writing 1000 words a day, Monday through Friday. Now that my 1000 daily words is a developed habit, I have hopefully worked my way into finishing a second book this year rather than waiting for another three to finish the next. By the way, 1000 words a day, five days a week is approximately 20,000 words a month. That’s plenty to finish the first draft of a novel in about four months. It doesn’t take that much effort to write a book, after all. Depending on the day, 1000 words will take between a half hour and three hours. Oh, sure, the sweating through pre-plotting and post-editing might seem like an extreme effort, but the actual rough-draft writing is fairly breezy.

I don’t have much else to say; all my work has been cancelled for three weeks due to Coronavirus. My tutoring work is cancelled as schools are closed down, but I don’t have an editing project scheduled for another three weeks (one doesn’t usually need to quarantine oneself from e-documents). It’s almost as if I’m being given a break from on high, as if God really can work things together for the good of those who love him and are called to his purpose. Please believe me, I don’t think the Coronavirus is a punishment by God to an ungodly world. It is an effect of nature, which God created. If you believe in conspiracy theories, it was created by humans…who are given to evil human nature. Whatever the source of the virus, I don’t believe God reaches down his hand and intervenes in nature, even though he can. From what I see around me, his hand in the lives of the saints is a bit more fluid than that. He gives us the opportunity to complete our purpose(s), even if we are ultimately not immune to the tragedies of nature. I’m going to use this time to restart my YouTube channel and edit PenTriagon because that is what I believe I’m supposed to do at this time. And pray. God wants all of us to pray.

***I did finish the final scene today, at around 10 p.m. MT. It needs an epilogue and some minor additions and rewrites, but it is done.***