Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: `Abdu’l-Bahá

Is There Any “Moral” Merit In Reading Fiction?

Why do you read fiction?


Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski ~

I think there are as many reasons to read fiction as there are people on this earth.

Sure, some of those reasons are common to lots of people — entertainment, pleasure, exploration, excitement.

But, reading fiction to become more moral?

Perhaps a bit of definition is called for

My dictionary says moral means:

“Concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character”

Some folks like to split hairs over whether something is moral or ethical yet the etymology of ethics says it’s “the science of morals”.

Then there are the arguments about what “good” and “bad” mean.

And, there are the philosophers who would have you believe that all morals are merely relative—there is no firm standard of morality—quite popular now in our heavily materialistic culture

Naturally, I have my own hard won ideas about ethics and morality and their place in fiction.

The easiest way to find out what I think is to read my short novel, Notes from An Alien <— Free :-)

Recently, a  Stanford University news article said:

“The relationship between literature and morality – and the proper role of both – has long engaged philosophers, critics and writers. But at a recent event hosted by the Stanford McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, Stanford humanities scholars said that while literature is capable of providing new perspectives and challenging our assumptions, imparting morality might not be one of its strong suits.”

A few comments from participants at that event:

“The best we can say about literature is that its effects are not reliable

“Literary fiction helps us develop additional schemas, other ways of seeing the world different from our own

literature plays on our emotions instead of giving us rational reasons to adopt new beliefs, so we can easily be manipulated by it.”

“Let the truth do its work. And if people aren’t yet capable of discerning truth from lies, help them. Cultivate their ability to separate good from bad arguments.”

I put a video of the event below


There was a man named ‘Abdu’l-Bahá who spent 40 years in prison because of his moral beliefs.

He gave a talk at Stanford University back in 1912.

Here’s an excerpt from that talk:

“If the animals are savage and ferocious, it is simply a means for their subsistence and preservation. They are deprived of that degree of intellect which can reason and discriminate between right and wrong, justice and injustice; they are justified in their actions and not responsible. When man is ferocious and cruel toward his fellowman, it is not for subsistence or safety. His motive is selfish advantage and willful wrong.”

If you’d like to read the whole talk, you can download it as a Word .doc or an Adobe .pdf.


If you happen to watch the video, I’d love to know in the Comments what you thought/felt…
If your mobile device isn’t showing the video, here’s its YouTube address

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Religion & Fiction ~ Can They Coexist?

Some folks think religion is all lies.

Some folks think fiction is all lies.

Perhaps, if you think like those folks, religion and fiction are exactly the same phenomenon

Some folks think religion and spirituality are different—some even say spirituality is good for you and religion is poison.

Then, there are the folks who think most religions lack spirituality—full of dogma and nothing else—but religions that foster spirituality are the best solution

I published my short novel, Notes from An Alien, in 2011 and it contains four religions—two, absolutely horrible; one, not all that bad; and, one, as good as my ability to write fiction could make it

Then you have quotes like these from `Abdu’l-Bahá:

“If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure; but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion.”

“The differences among the religions of the world are due to the varying types of minds. So long as the powers of the mind are various, it is certain that men’s judgements and opinions will differ one from another. If, however, one single, universal perceptive power be introduced—a power encompassing all the rest—those differing opinions will merge, and a spiritual harmony and oneness will become apparent.”

My Best Friend recently drew my attention to an article in the Shambhala Sun called Pure Fiction.

It gives a refreshing introduction to the work of Susan Dunlap, Cary Groner, and Kim Stanley Robinson—“three Buddhist-inspired novelists who make up stories to tell the truth about our world.”

I do hope you’ll read the whole article; and, here are a few excerpts to help you decide to click its link :-)

“You could call fiction a lie. It’s an invention, a fantasy. But fiction writers are using their ‘lies’ to tell the truth—as they see it—about our world. And in showing us their truth, they offer us a path to compassion.”

“…since Buddhism rests on a foundation of universal human truths, it’s common for writers of all faiths and traditions to express some Buddhist ideas in their work, even if they are unschooled in Buddhism.”

“Buddhism and mysteries make a good pairing, says Dunlap, because both ask you ‘to dismiss what is inessential. To look at what is. In a mystery, things are not as they seem, so what the detective is trying to do is see what the real facts are as opposed to all the things that cover up those facts. That is, the things that other people intend to make the detective believe, the things that the detective herself assumes.’”

“‘When I started writing Exiles, I was interested in the overlap between Buddhist thought and the sciences’, says Groner. ‘So my idea was to write an epistolary novel, an exchange of letters between a Tibetan lama and an evolutionary biologist. But it didn’t take long to realize that would be interesting to me and about five other people on earth. If I wanted anyone to actually read the thing, I had to come up with a narrative.’”

“‘Literature is my religion’, says Kim Stanley Robinson. ‘The novel is my way of making sense of things.’ He doesn’t meditate, nor does he call himself a Buddhist. Nonetheless, he’s quick to acknowledge that Buddhism has had a profound impact on him and his writing.”


Three novelists who infuse their work with Buddhist Principles

What do you think?

Can fiction and religion coexist?

Should they?

Can religion and spirituality coexist?

Should they?

Are fiction and religion both just a pack of lies?

Is it possible they both can contain enduring Truths?
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Can Fiction Aid Global Peace?

I certainly hope the answer to that Title Question is yes—my recently published novel, Notes from An Alien, tries to do just that.

In fact, I lead discussions on Book Island in the virtual world, Second Life, based on issues raised in the novel.

I’ve even created a special page on this blog with the discussion topics we use on Book Island.

In a private discussion with Arton Tripsa, our Island’s Manager, I related that the crucial part women can play in aiding Global Peace isn’t on the list of discussion topics but is in the book since most of the decision-making central characters are women.

In my experience, most men will talk about Peace but women, in general, live it and show it—even when a relationship turns violent

‘Abdu’l-Baha, in the early 1900s, said, “…when perfect equality shall be established between men and women, peace may be realized for the simple reason that womankind in general will never favor warfare. Women will not be willing to allow those whom they have so tenderly cared for to go to the battlefield.”

Three women recently demonstrated their peace-creating power; so well, in fact, that they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In news coverage of these women, the use of non-violent action was stressed.

In support of their methods and peace, in general, I want to share a list of 198 Methods of Non-Violent Action—you can download a Word .doc or an Adobe .pdf.

I hope this post has given a few writers the urge to try their hand at creating fiction that can aid Global Peace.

I leave you for today with a quote from Lord Byron:

‘ Tis strange – but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction; if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange!
How differently the world would men behold!
How oft would vice and virtue places change!
The new world would be nothing to the old,
If some Columbus of the moral seas
Would show mankind their souls’ antipodes.

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For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

We’re Infected by Materiality . . .

Our last post, was a setup to prepare for a series of posts dealing with the tragic split between Body and Soul.

If for some technological reason you can’t scroll down to read that post (and, I hope you have read that post before you continue with this one), it’s also right here.

I usually write these posts in a way that can include the perceptions and sentiments of most people. Today, I must be rather specific in my offering and I may lose a few readers

It began in earnest around 600 years ago. Science, in it’s newest garb was “born”.

It took a little while, since the earliest “modern” scientists still held metaphysics to be an important part of their mental equipment, but a war broke out between the entrenched and materialistic religionists and the new breed of rational explorers.

If the proponents of religion back then had been able to be more rational, science and metaphysics could have had a very fruitful marriage and we might not have inherited metaphysical practices that are completely irrational and scientific establishments that are more concerned with prestige and money than the honesty of actually submitting their “theories” to the rigor of experimentation.

Perhaps you don’t know that much of “science” these days is an orgy of mathematical computation that feeds speculation into the equations then uses the resultant answers as proof.

Perhaps you don’t know that much of religion and metaphysics is floating free of rational thought, lost in a fog of self-importance that preys on people’s fears and insecurities.

“What the heck does any of this have to do with Reading, Writing, and Publishing??

All three of the raisons d’être of this blog depend on words and words are what we think with and respond to emotionally.

In a culture that has hobbled any appreciation for what lies beyond the merely physical and has become attached to a priesthood of materialistic scientists who have abandoned their own best practices, words have their meaning warped–words, too often, are used to attack and befuddle rather than enlighten and comfort.

How would most present-day scientists define the word “value”? What are their thoughts on the word “moral”? Can they, without clear and precise language, think rationally about the forces that effect us but can’t be seen–like gravity?

How do most present-day religionists expect us to respond to a world ordered on the principles of production and consumption of material goods? Shall we shun our bodies? Should we just pray and wait to die? Should we kill other religionists for the sake of our “God”?

I want to quote one of the most practical yet mystical men I have ever read. He uses the word “religion” in this quote but, due to the extreme opinions about that word in our culture, if you need to substitute the word “spirituality” to have it make sense, feel free:

“Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism.”

~~~ Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 143

So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and ask my readers to tell me what this post really has to do with words and their use in reading, writing, and publishing.

Care to comment?
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