Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: Shoghí Effendí

“The Fog of Religious Conflict”


Religion is not often discussed with rationality.

There’s a quote in the article I’m going to share that gives an eloquent reason:

Religious ideas have the fate of melodies, which, once afloat in the world, are taken up by all sorts of instruments, some of them woefully coarse, feeble, or out of tune, until people are in danger of crying out that the melody itself is detestable.
George Eliot

I decided to do this post to give writers who may be considering including religion in their stories something to think about

In my short novel, Notes from An Alien, I worked to include characters with false religions, those with rational religious sentiments, those who had no patience with religion, and even folks who saw no compelling reason to be religious but respected those who were.

No matter your personal beliefs concerning religion, I think you can agree that it needs a pretty thorough examination, with a cool head and a humane heart?

Not addressing it personally is opening oneself to the prejudice of others

To set the stage for what’s to come, I’ll offer a quote from Shoghi Effendi.

In 1941, he said:

“After a revolution of well nigh one hundred years what is it that the eye encounters as one surveys the international scene…

“A world that has lost its bearings, in which the bright flame of religion is fast dying out, in which the forces of a blatant nationalism and racialism have usurped the rights and prerogatives of God Himself, in which a flagrant secularism—the direct offspring of irreligion—has raised its triumphant head and is protruding its ugly features, in which the ‘majesty of kingship’ has been disgraced, and they who wore its emblems have, for the most part, been hurled from their thrones, in which the once all-powerful ecclesiastical hierarchies of Islam, and to a lesser extent those of Christianity, have been discredited, and in which the virus of prejudice and corruption is eating into the vitals of an already gravely disordered society.”

I must thank my friend on Google Plus, Barney Leith, for linking to an article by David N. Hempton called, The Fog of Religious Conflict.

In the article by Mr. Hempton, he brings up three categories of religious coverage in the media:

“…the seemingly endless supply of bad-news stories about religious and ethnic conflicts throughout the world.”

“…religious good-news stories, which are mostly a bit quirky, but sometimes also quite endearing.”

“…the apparently endless feuds between conservatives and liberals in many of the world’s great religious traditions.”

After some personal reflection on what shaped his perspectives on the topic, he give his “eleven reflections on religious and ethnic conflict”:

1. Religious and ethnic conflicts are more complicated than you think, and are often more complicated than so-called experts also think.

2. Religious and ethnic stereotyping are powerful agents in sustaining ethnic and religious conflicts.

3. Violence radicalizes people.

4. Religious and ethnic conflicts put enormous pressure on the law and legal processes.

5. Many people inside conflict zones see the conflict as a zero-sum game; few outside see it that way.

6. It is easy to be wise after the event.

7. Living in conflict zones requires individuals to make moral choices on a regular basis.

8. Social and economic misery stokes conflict and makes peacemaking much more difficult.

9. Leadership matters.

10. Peacemaking is a process, not a result.

11. History makes you pessimistic; but very occasionally, the human desire for peace and justice surprises you.

He gives more of his thoughts for each point in the full article.

There’s one paragraph I need to quote here because, to a certain degree, it echoes what I tried to do in my novel:

“This past summer I toured many of the working-class districts of Protestant and Catholic Belfast. The old divisive murals, flags, and emblems are still there, provocatively declaring ownership of territory, but there are also some new murals paying homage to concepts of social justice, the dignity of labor, community pride, and human rights. These concepts have not triumphed, but at least they are visibly there.”

He raps his argument up with this quote from Seamus Heaney:

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

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Dear Reader, — Do Long Sentences Still Have A Place In Your Life?


Naturally, I’m not just addressing the Reader in this post—writers are the ones who make sentences; so

Dear Writer,

Do long sentences still have a place in Your life?

I must let you know Shalon Sims’ blog gave me the prompt for this post.

She quotes a sentence from Pico Iyer as example:

“Enter (I hope) the long sentence: the collection of clauses that is so many-chambered and lavish and abundant in tones and suggestions, that has so much room for near-contradiction and ambiguity and those places in memory or imagination that can’t be simplified, or put into easy words, that it allows the reader to keep many things in her head and heart at the same time, and to descend, as by a spiral staircase, deeper into herself and those things that won’t be squeezed into an either/or.”

That sentence comes from an article in the Los Angeles Times, The Writing Life: The point of the long and winding sentence.

Pico says, in that article:

“‘Your sentences are so long’, said a friend who teaches English at a local college, and I could tell she didn’t quite mean it as a compliment. The copy editor who painstakingly went through my most recent book often put yellow dashes on-screen around my multiplying clauses, to ask if I didn’t want to break up my sentences or put less material in every one. Both responses couldn’t have been kinder or more considered, but what my friend and my colleague may not have sensed was this: I’m using longer and longer sentences as a small protest against—and attempt to rescue any readers I might have from—the bombardment of the moment.”

Not even having to go near the Realm of Twitter, writers of blogs are frequently advised to break-up long blocks of words—use bullet-points—fracture the flow—all in the name of the agitated, distracted, time-sore Reader

In my own reading experience, my favorite long-sentence-writer is a Persian-born man who studied at Oxford, Shoghi Effendi.

Even though I’m a seasoned reader and even though I sometimes have to read his sentences more than once, as a writer, I can see no other way Shoghi could have produced the effect he does if he chopped-up his literary effort.

Once I got used to the sense profluence produced by his long sentences, I realized some of the intricate yet crucial connections between punctuation and thought.

Here’s just one of Shoghi Effendi’s long sentences:

“A community, relatively negligible in its numerical strength; separated by vast distances from both the focal-center of its Faith and the land wherein the preponderating mass of its fellow-believers reside; bereft in the main of material resources and lacking in experience and in prominence; ignorant of the beliefs, concepts and habits of those peoples and races from which its spiritual Founders have sprung; wholly unfamiliar with the languages in which its sacred Books were originally revealed; constrained to place its sole reliance upon an inadequate rendering of only a fragmentary portion of the literature embodying its laws, its tenets, and its history; subjected from its infancy to tests of extreme severity, involving, at times, the defection of some of its most prominent members; having to contend, ever since its inception, and in an ever-increasing measure, with the forces of corruption, of moral laxity, and ingrained prejudice—such a community, in less than half a century, and unaided by any of its sister communities, whether in the East or in the West, has, by virtue of the celestial potency with which an all-loving Master has abundantly endowed it, lent an impetus to the onward march of the Cause it has espoused which the combined achievements of its coreligionists in the West have failed to rival.”

Was that “too” much for one sentence?

Would it really have the same effect if broken into shorter sentences?

Is it technology that’s driving so many writers to accept the contention that readers want short sentences?

Is it something in the fabric of a world going insane at ballistic speed?

Is there something inherently wrong with long sentences?
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Preparing To Write A Book . . .


If you’re new here, please notice, in the left side-bar, the link to get a free copy of the novel I published a year and two days ago :-)

Notes from An Alien isn’t really one book, though.

It’s one story told in three ways—a novel, a collection of short stories, and a collection of poetry.

Some feel it’s science fiction and I can’t fault them since it happens 12 light-years from Earth—still, I feel it’s a history of a civilization that finds its way from rank greed and war to enduring peace and tranquility

I spent over 20 years in research before I wrote the first book; though, while I was doing the research, I didn’t know it was for a book

I’ve spent a year doing more research since publishing book one and may take another year before book two is released.

My “normal” method of preparation for writing is to read various other works, chosen with a combination of reason and intuition, to have those works Massage my mind.

I know some authors who can’t read other authors while preparing for their own book for fear of “copying”.

I’ve never had that problem

I just finished re-reading the 928-page Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson and am finishing the second half of God Passes By by Shoghi Effendi, which I’ve read before, either two or three times…

I tucked Cryptonomicon into the middle of God Passes By specifically to “embed” a cult-classic into a reading of a religious history

Next, I’ll be reading seven short stories and three novels by Fritz Leiber because my all-time favorite author, C. J. Cherryh, said she learned to write by reading Fritz :-)

If I told you what I’ve already read and what I have yet to read, beyond the above, this would cease to be blog-post-length

I will mention, though, that I unearthed my original notes for book one and incorporated some of them into the notes I’m keeping for book two—35 pages and counting

One reason I read so much to prepare to write is that the Massaging I mentioned is my way of inputting emotional-textures and letting them stew. When the pot is boiling just right, I write………

How do you prepare for your writing?

Do you consider all the preparation just as much a part of Writing as the physical writing itself?
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The Writer & Controversy . . .


I’ve many times directed my readers’ attention to BestsellerBound Forums. Just click on it in the Top Tags cloud in the right side-bar to check out past posts

A recent thread at BsB is called, Controversy: Avoid it or Embrace It?, and I strongly encourage you to read the many and varied responses from authors, readers, and publishers.

My latest book, Notes from An Alien, is full of issues that regularly cause controversy in human conversations. However, one of the authors at BsB said: “He does not shy away from controversy, though he also does not blatantly call one side right or wrong. He holds up the mirror and allows us to see for ourselves. Not all of us will see the same reflection.”

It was gratifying to read that from another author since I worked hard to bring many issues, that usually spark contention, to the reader’s attention without stirring unnecessary resistance.

My book is about a civilization that grows from devastating greed and war to an enduring peace. My goal was to show a possible set of paths that might be followed, not prescribe some dogmatic master plan.

There are many folk who, even at the bare mention of global peace, will immediately begin a rant about how humans are inherently war-like and peace is impossible. There are also many folk who, whether you want them to or not, will regale you with a litany of rose-colored slogans about peace that have not an ounce of practical worth.

In my opinion, too many people are sitting on the fence between these opposing views. Perhaps the fine edge of that fence can be transformed into a platform for rational effort, inspired will, and heart-felt service which can lead our battered globe toward a vision that has refused, through many epochs of human history, to die…

What are your thoughts and feelings on the possibility of global peace?

Before you leave your feedback in the comments, read this excerpt from The Promised Day Is Come by Shoghí Effendí Rabbání:

“The tumult of this age of transition is characteristic of the impetuosity and irrational instincts of youth, its follies, its prodigality, its pride, its self-assurance, its rebelliousness, and contempt of discipline.

“The ages of its infancy and childhood are past, never again to return, while the Great Age, the consummation of all ages, which must signalize the coming of age of the entire human race, is yet to come. The convulsions of this transitional and most turbulent period in the annals of humanity are the essential prerequisites, and herald the inevitable approach, of that Age of Ages, ‘the time of the end’, in which the folly and tumult of strife that has, since the dawn of history, blackened the annals of mankind, will have been finally transmuted into the wisdom and the tranquility of an undisturbed, a universal, and lasting peace, in which the discord and separation of the children of men will have given way to the worldwide reconciliation, and the complete unification of the divers elements that constitute human society.

“This will indeed be the fitting climax of that process of integration which, starting with the family, the smallest unit in the scale of human organization, must, after having called successively into being the tribe, the city-state, and the nation, continue to operate until it culminates in the unification of the whole world, the final object and the crowning glory of human evolution on this planet. It is this stage which humanity, willingly or unwillingly, is resistlessly approaching. It is for this stage that this vast, this fiery ordeal which humanity is experiencing is mysteriously paving the way.”
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