Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: faith

Do I Celebrate Christmas?

I may completely lose a few of my readers today……… 

In fact, many folks who trusted me to post reasonable things might think I’m bonkers.


Judging from most of the mainstream media, Christmas is just the modern incarnation of some ancient ritual; or, it’s the season of festivity, happiness, and gift-giving; or, it’s a time to be with family and friends to warm-up before the cold sets in, in earnest

Of course, folks in the Southern Hemisphere are in their Summer

And, my Best Friend, in Australia, celebrated Christmas yesterday :-)

Sure, a few people know what Christmas really stands for

Actually, most people probably know but let the media steer them away from the truth.

I was raised in a Christian family—Mom and Dad were both ministers.

When I left home, I became quite non-religious

In my early forties, I discovered the Bahá’í Faith.

It taught me things about Jesus the Christ that most Christians never suspect.

It taught me that, if I celebrate the birth of Christ, I should also celebrate the birth of Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, and all the other Manifestations.

Of course, recorded history shows the tragedy of the “believers” of most Faiths treating those of a different Faith with disdain and contempt, or covering that ill-will with a mock good-will, or just harming or killing them

My Faith teaches me that all the Manifestations had the Truth and brought it to Humanity at different stages in its evolution.

Now, I’ll share the etymology of “Celebrate”:

“…from Latin celebratus ‘much-frequented; kept solemn; famous’, past participle of celebrare ‘assemble to honor’, also ‘to publish; sing praises of; practice often’, originally ‘to frequent in great numbers’, from celeber ‘frequented, populous, crowded’; with transferred senses of ‘well-attended; famous; often-repeated’.”

So, if Christmas is the birth of Jesus, I celebrate it—I celebrate the birth of every Manifestation, even the Ones I know nothing of

I celebrate the concept that there is a Manual for Living, taught by all the Manifestations—embracing Virtues like Honesty, Love, Justice, Courtesy, Joyfulness, Nobility, Truthfulness, and Gratitude.

Sure, to admit that one is religious can bring scorn, ridicule, and even death.

But, to ignore what religion really teaches (not what any given believer teaches) is, at least, as dangerous as ignoring the laws of science

That last sentence could make some think I’m rather odd, that I base my life on principles that come from people who say they have a message direct from God—yet, the Manifestations aren’t just “people”; their Lives show that and their Words support it.

That’s not easy to believe and, from my experience, interpreting any Scripture is about as easy as figuring out what the great poets write—it can be done, it usually leads to more than one interpretation, it depends on good sense and an open heart

I’ve spent 26 years as a Bahá’í and I’m still taking baby-steps; but, those steps are much better for me than the sleazy crawl and the pompous strut I used to do.

Let me share a quote from the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh.

It’s about Jesus but could apply to all the Manifestations:

“We testify that when He came into the world, He shed the splendor of His glory upon all created things. Through Him the leper recovered from the leprosy of perversity and ignorance. Through Him, the unchaste and wayward were healed. Through His power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened, and the soul of the sinner sanctified… We bear witness that through the power of the Word of God every leper was cleansed, every sickness was healed, every human infirmity was banished. He it is Who purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him.”

Dear reader, if you’ve gotten this far in the post, let me repeat the caution that a true understanding of religion does not come from what the believers say.

True understanding comes from an Independent Investigation of Truth
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Write It And They Will Come??

Faith and Hope are delightfully dealt with by Emily Dickinson.

Faith and Hope can seem useless in a world where success is married to money and cheating with politics.

Faith and Hope are what writers have always needed: while writing, while deciding who should publish their work, and while doing what they must to find readers.

If what the author writes has no power to inspire them to faith and hope that folks will read it, folks will probably never read it.

That last sentence has another ending: If what the author writes has no power to inspire them to faith and hope that folks will read it, it still may be read widely if the publisher markets it to the right people.

What about self-published authors?

Both sentences are, I believe, still true

Some authors, like me, feel that if enough people read the book it just may start selling through word-of-mouth.

Therefore, since people reading the book are the Cake and books-sold is the Icing, though my novel is for sale, I still give it away

So, I feel the title of this post should be rewritten. How about this?

Write It And They Will Come
If You Have Enough Faith
To Give The Book Away Until It Begins To Sell Well.

A bit long? :-)

And, since I’m a self-professed maverick who self-published a novel that certainly doesn’t fit into any of the “popular” genres, I must either be profoundly insane to think my book will ever gain a wide readership, or………

I have a deep faith in the book’s worth and very high hopes that word-of-mouth will makes its worth well-known.

Naturally, anyone can comment on this post but I sure am encouraging any of you who have read the book to add your appraisal of what I’ve tried to convey.
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Mind/Reality & Writers

Yesterday I posed a number of questions about mind and reality and got some fascinating comments from a group of writers.

I promised a follow-up post and feel very good that I didn’t have to weave it out of thin air :-)

The thin air my mind is in now is a rarified state of reality I like to call metaphysical funk.

The comments from yesterday began to fill that mental reality with urges and pokes that are helping me turn the funk into a faith that I can make the walking woundedness of pervasive grief over the death of a friend an experience rich with fertile futurity.

If that last sentence made some sense to you, we could probably enjoy a chat in some groovy coffee house :-)

I decided the best I could do, right now, to indicate how helpful all the comments were is to put the urges and pokes here, hoping they prod my readers to check back with yesterday’s post and read all the comments

Shalon said:

“My take on this, Alexander, is that we can’t know what’s real or what’s not real, and that the blind commitment to one form of reality is a type of zombie-hood that sucks your brain out of your mind and eats it….

“I also feel that since reality is unknowable, the smartest thing to do is give it the benefit of the doubt….

“…I’m not saying that there isn’t a real ‘reality’ out there, but that despite the possibility of a ‘true’ and ‘real’ reality, there still exists a choice. I believe that this requirement to choose one reality over another means, to me, that reality is unknowable.”

Karla> said:

“The brain is an elegant and amazing organ, constantly gathering input from our environment and processing it according to ever evolving life lessons. I don’t see why we feel the need to attribute reality to anything more than that.”

Simone said:

“Well, a couple of children’s stories come to mind. One is The Emperor’s New Clothes. The other is about the blind men and the elephant.”

John said:

“The questions on the floor, of course, are so elephantine (speaking of “the blind men and the elephant”) that I doubt I could make much more than a stab in the direction of actually unraveling the questions of “mind” and “reality” enough to even approach an answer or two concerning either….

“Personally, reality appears to be what it is to me; the minute I must related this reality to someone else, voilà! There are difficulties which simply do not exist in the singular; when it comes to the plural of humanity, then, of course, we run into a problem of justice and equity, which is an entirely different kettle of fish, and whole new elephant to examine.”

Cassy said:

“There is an inseparable symbiotic relationship between our senses and the reality that is created within our mind….

“Metacognition helps us to evaluate our minds reality as shaped by our sensual experiences….

“So, in short, I would say that the weave of reality and mind is so tight, it would be difficult to identify which is the chicken and which is the egg (though I am writing this before 8am and have only had one cup of coffee – no telling what my reality will be an hour from now :)”

Your Thoughts/Feelings??
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What’s The Writer’s Job? ~ Recording Or Creating?

I’m venturing into dangerous territory with the title of this post…

Let me clarify the exact bit of territory I want to defend.

First, when I ask if the writer’s job is recording or creating, certain easy and obvious answers come up:

* Journalists mostly record, though they can do it creatively.
* Essayists and article writers can slide back and forth between recording and creating.
* Fiction writers create, though there may be a bit of recording in some of their work.

In this post, I’m only going to talk about fiction writers and the specific territory I want to defend is this:

Even if a fiction writer uses real life settings, or even, at times, real life people in their work, they should always have the creation dial set at max and the recording dial turned way down.

Some of you might consider that last sentence as being too obvious to need any discussion.

Some of you might want to start an argument with me.

I’ll address my defense to the people who want to argue. The rest of you might wonder what the heck there is to argue about. Fiction is creation, and that’s that. Well…

Some fiction writers feel that their job is to record life; maybe do it with some creativity, but capturing what exists and rendering it is their prime function. I, almost violently, disagree.

I’ll include a link here to an article on Naturalistic Literature but not as any sort of proof of what I want to say. It’s merely to give you an example of the worst type of fiction writer–not necessarily worst as far as how they use words (they may be quite literary) but worst because of what their writing says about humanity.

Naturalistic literature gives what some folks might say is a true picture of the human condition, an almost scientific recording of the plight of certain people. Well, even a highly creative fiction writer might include a rather reportorial rendition of someone in their work; but, if they are true creators, they’ll find a way to infuse what may be sordid or terrifying conditions with a sense of underlying hope or faith. Let me try a short, and simplistic, example:

Take a character who’s a day laborer, beats his wife and children, and discovers he has terminal cancer.

The naturalist would merely record the conditions and have the character die off. The reader would receive no more value than if they actually knew such a person and stood by and watched the man come home every day, beat his wife and kids, then die of cancer.

The creative writer could take the same character and use their circumstances to show any number of human principles that could raise the man’s actions and death to a level that could inspire the reader–possibly to help abused women and children, or investigate the relationship between anger and cancer, or at least serve as moral food for thought.

My firm belief is that fiction’s proper purpose is to help humanity raise its sights, improve its situation, and strengthen its resolve to make life really matter…

I’m not trying to advocate some sort of sterile, moralistic fiction. We still need a damn good read and we don’t need a book telling us how to live our lives. Still… Showing the reader that even the worst conditions can hold some promise for improvement, even if the characters fail miserably to attain that promise, is, to me, a job that fiction writers should always be working to master.

Would you want to read a book in which the characters always fail at life?

Would you like to read a story that had a few characters who failed but you still had your feelings affected in a way that helped you, in your own life, to understand or heal or help?

O.K. That’s as far as I can take my foray into this dangerous territory; at least, in this post…
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