Notes from An Alien

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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 wraps 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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