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Poem: Ten Years

Ten years ago I thought I understood it all, life and everything in it, the steps in front of me felt so real, concrete-like, a path which could sustain my weight but the very first step showed the cracked foundation upon which my hopes were built on, the child-like dreams up in smoke, trying to bottle them back up in order to give it another go, happy to do so for the youth was with me, the naivety of which keeps the blood flowing and the body warm from just the possibilities,

Ten years later the same hopes rummage through my head, gluing together the wreckage of my life in order to make sense of it all otherwise, I know I’ll senselessly go down under and finally have some relief but before I can earn that, I gotta do something worthy of it and so I gathered the broken, the cracked, the splintered, the fragmented pieces of myself and form a happy, smiling face, tape it all together and show that I was here, I existed,

Ten years from now I hope that I’m not hoping any longer, that all those hopes lead somewhere, that the darkness was elevated from the light of a beacon, that the beacon wasn’t false, that the falsity didn’t break me too bad, that I still had the strength to crawl in the darkness finding the bits and pieces, that I had the courage to put it all back together and that I can take another step still.

Lessons From Stories: James Joyce’s Dubliners & The Necessity of Action

James Joyce was a novelist, short story writer, and poet. His short story collection, Dubliners, is comprised of fifteen stories all of which depict and explore the Irish middle class in the 20th century. A common theme that runs through these stories is of inaction. Where the characters wish to live a different, more fulfilling life but fail to take the necessary steps in order to achieve their dreams. This is exemplified in the stories “Two Gallants,” “A Little Cloud,” and “Eveline.” Joyce’s ability to capture realistic human behavior is one of the reasons why his writing has lived on. The failure leaves the characters frustrated and disappointed with life. A common occurrence in the everyday life of many people who wish they had acted differently in the past so their present could be more satisfying.

In the story, “Two Gallants,” we follow the characters, Corley and Lenehan. Both men are frustrated and disappointed with their lives. Corley wishes to be respected, to be a man of power. Lenehan tells us how Corley was “Fond of delivering the final judgment,” and how “His conversations were mainly about himself.” But Corley doesn’t have the abilities to earn this respect so he is left to trick and charm women into fulfilling his needs. This is shown at the end of the story where it is implied that he convinced the girl he was seeing into stealing money from the family she worked for.

Corley is almost an archetype of the kind of person we need to look out for in our lives. The selfish individual who uses his cunning to trick people. Someone with enough charm to manipulate the actions of others. He is also only focused on the short-term gain which will unlikely break the cycle of disappointment. Such action only brings temporary relief, something many of us can relate to with our own experiences.

Lenehan, on the other hand, has his own frustration which stems from how his life has turned out.

This vision made him feel keenly his own poverty of purse and spirit. He was tired of knocking about, of pulling the devil by the tail, of shifts and intrigues. He would be thirty-one in November. Would he never get a good job? Would he never have a home of his own? He thought how pleasant it would be to have a warm fire to sit by and a good dinner to sit down to.

These thoughts are easy to recognize and empathize with because most of us have had something similar to them. However, it’s not in the simple connection with these thoughts where the lesson is derived from but rather the actions of Lenehan prior to these thoughts and after which reveal the truth about human behavior. Before, he is simply walking around, wasting time, buying into the schemes of his friend. Directly afterward, Lenehan meets two friends and he spends time talking to them and telling them how the previous day he was with another friend, drinking and having a good time.

This action is also recognizable. The repetitive routine which kills your time as you get no closer to your dreams. Lenehan is unhappy with his life, he recognizes this fact but he doesn’t take any steps to improve it. Rather, he gives in to the feelings of self-pity and says that this “Experience had embittered his heart against the world.” Although he adds that there was hope left, it’s hard to imagine how long that will last if he doesn’t bring about change in his life. This goes for anyone who wishes to improve their lives. The longer you wait, the more concrete your foundation becomes and harder it is to break free.

The inability to undertake action is also seen in the story “A Little Cloud.” This story contrasts two figures, Little Chandler, who is the protagonist and Ignatius Gallaher. The story shows how the inactions of Little Chandler leave him envying the life of Gallaher. Gallaher is a poet and he travels the world, something Chandler wishes he could do. However, Chandler relies on two false narratives to ease his disappointment with life.

First, Chandler claims that if he had really wanted to, if he had truly dedicated his mind to the task, he could also write great poems. He believes that he could write “Different moods and impressions he wished to express in verse” however, he is too shy and timid to do so.

Secondly, he believes that he isn’t like Gallaher because he is married and has to take care of a wife and child. While Gallaher is still single and is able to travel to different cities and enjoy life.

If you wanted to succeed you have to go away.

With such thoughts he consuls himself and gives himself an excuse to why he isn’t a poet. When in reality, it’s the lack of ownership and action that has resulted in his unfulfilled life.

Such excuse-making is common in everyday life. It’s a coping mechanism in order to keep your self-esteem high. By having outlets to blame, we can then avoid the true reality of our failures. However, in this manner, we also forgo any hope of growth. This is also seen in Chandler’s story. He has just been dreaming and hoping for that magical one day where everything will work out for the best. Instead of taking action, he lives passively and so, his character doesn’t grow and his life doesn’t change. While, Gallaher took the risk, put his work out there to get criticized, figured his way out and now can live his desired life.

The lack of action is also present in the story “Eveline.” In this story, a young girl named Eveline has fallen in love with a sailor and wishes to leave with the boy. However, instead of her accepting this call to adventure, she refuses it.

A bell clanged upon her heart. She felt hims size her hand:

‘Come!’

All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would down her. She gripped with both hands at the iron railing.

‘Come!’

No! No! No! It was impossible.

Her refusal to accept this new life was due to the promise she had made her deceased mother. The promise is that she would look after the household.

She felt her cheek pale and cold and, out of a maze of distress, she prayed to god to direct her, to show her what was her duty.

It’s this duty she felt she owed that stops her from taking action. It’s the same kind of commitment many of us feel we owe other people that act as a barrier to experience our own life. It’s also our own insecurities and nerves which cling to some possible excuse to not be uncomfortable, to not go into some unknown path. But by doing so, we limit the possible experiences we can have. Just as Eveline cuts off this adventure with her love or how Little Chandler stays dreaming about being a poet while he works an office job or how Lenehan fails to make any progress in life. It’s the inability to make an uncomfortable choice that forces these characters to live lackluster lives. Lives which can be empathized with by many readers.

However, if we were to act opposite of these characters then perhaps we can get closer to achieving fulfillment ourselves. Lenehan dreams but has no plans to improve his situation. He repeats his bad habits which have lead him to dislike his situation. So, if we were to plan the course of our life for the next month or two months or however long, that will get us going down our desired path. Along with the recognition of bad habits which comes through self-reflection. Little Chandler, on the other hand, has excuses as to why he isn’t living his preferred life. These excuses deny ownership and responsibility. By taking on ownership we also take on the ability to have an effect on our life. We can overcome being timid and shy and take action in this manner. While, Eveline is afraid to experience life, to be uncomfortable and so, she falls back to pleasing other people rather than living her own life. Sometimes being selfish is good. To put yourself before others in order to live your own life. This can be difficult, especially when you have to disregard the opinions or wishes of your loved ones. However, opportunities don’t come around often and they certainly don’t wait around for you. If you wish to be fulfilled then that uncomfortable decision must be made.


Albert Einstein On The Ideals Of Life

My grandfather happens to be a great admirer of Albert Einstein, as many people are, and I had a conversation with him about Einstein and I learned many things about the man, Einstein and not just the scientist. I was surprised to hear about how much Einstein wrote on subject matter like tolerance, kindness and the importance of art.

This got me curious to learn about this important figure in human history. I wished to learn more about Einstein the man, what his thoughts were, what did he like, what did he believe in, his dislikes and worldviews.

And to my great pleasure, I came upon a book that was conveniently called Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein. The book is a compilation of his essays, letters, and speeches which range from topics of politics, science, religion, the meaning of life, education, friends and many more. The contextual thought that I found interesting was that many of these letters, essays and speeches were written between post World War I and post World War II. I am sure the experience of that horrific time period played a role in what I wish to quote in this post. The section in the book is called “The World As I See It” in which Albert Einstein discusses the ideals of his life.

To inquire after the meaning or object of one’s own existence or that of all creatures has always seemed to me absurd from an objective point of view. And yet everybody has certain ideals which determine the direction of his endeavors and his judgements. In this sense I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — this ethical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed to me empty. The trite objects of human efforts – possessions, outward success, luxury – have always seemed to me contemptible.

These three ideals seem to be lacking in the public at the moment. Constantly we see how volatile social media can be, how easy it is to spread hate and leave hateful comments. Truth itself is a virtue that isn’t respected much. People fake their own images and lives in order to garner some type of following or blatantly spread lies in order to push their own agenda. Beauty, on the other hand, seems to go unnoticed as in the arts, whatever makes money is pushed forth rather than true beauty and in life, people rarely acknowledge or attempt to see the beauty that surrounds us.

One reason why such ideals developed in the mind of a young Einstein was due to a quote from Schopenhauer.

Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer’s saying “A man can do what he wants, but not want what he wants,” has been a very real inspiration to me since my youth; it has been a continual consolation in the face of life’s hardships, my own and others’, and an unfailing well-spring of tolerance. This realization mercifully mitigates the easily paralyzing sense of responsibility and prevents us from taking ourselves and other people all too seriously; it is conducive to a view of life which, in particular, gives humor its due.

Free to do what we want but not free to want what we want. That’s a conundrum. So, I suppose one should be tolerant towards others because there is a certain restriction in people’s movements and decisions. Recognize the limitations of man and be patient. See the humor in the ridiculousness of life and try to achieve more than just immediate satisfaction. That seem to be three practical ways to behave. It does not seem too absurd to live by ideals of kindness, beauty, and truth. It seems definitely better than the alternative.


Youtube: Learned Living

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/learned_living/

Poem: The Many Yous

Article: Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out

Why Read Mythology

The individual has to find an aspect of myth that relates to his own life. Myth basically serves four functions. The first is the mystical function—realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what a wonder you are, and experiencing awe before this mystery […] The second is a cosmological dimension, the dimension with which science is concerned—showing you what the shape of the universe is, but showing it in such a way that the mystery again comes through […] The third function is a sociological one—supporting and validating a certain social order […] But there is a fourth function of myth, and this is the one that I think everyone must try today to relate to—and that is pedagogical function, of how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances. Myth can teach you that. (Joseph Campbell)

It’s the ‘How to live’ function of the myth which interests me. Life can be difficult to navigate. It’s unknown and random at times which can bring about unexpected situations. How to deal with these hardships and struggles? Or what’s the best way to improve yourself? How to build a strong character? One which is courageous and active. Or how to get connected with your spiritual side, your feminine or masculine side? Questions like these and others like it are always at the forefront of my mind.

One way myths can set you down the right path is by understanding that you’re not unique in these thoughts. All of these questions and troubles have been thought of before you. The fact that other people have had them and have dealt with them and have immortalized possible solutions in the format of stories and myths is an important reason why these myths should be studied.

When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what’s happening to you. With the loss of that, we’ve really lost something because we don’t have a comparable literature to take its place. These bits of information from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported human life, built civilizations, and informed religions over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of passage, and if you don’t know what the guide-signs are along the way, you have to work it out yourself.

Instead of blindly trying to get through life and only relying on your own experiences to come up with some manageable way to solve your problems, you can instead lean on past stories for support.

You may find comfort in Odysseus‘ struggle to get home. The repeated obstacles that he has to somehow overcome in order to get back to his family. The story may give you hope that there is a possible way to achieve your goal if you keep facing your own obstacles with grace and a calm mind. In modern-day such a story is exemplified in Rocky where the character is repeatedly beaten down but refuses to stay down, each time he gets back up and it’s the value of that simple motif which can allow you to keep facing your own troubles, as it did for the former navy seal and ultramarathon competitor, David Goggins.

Or understand the negative effects of greed can have on a family through the story of King Midas. Or even see how the overabundance of fatherly love can be harmful to your children as shown in Balzac’s Old Goriot.

These simple stories can guide you into being a better parent, a more cohesive family unit or simply to accept the continuous struggles of life.

Additionally, mythology is littered with the idea of death and rebirth but in the sense that in order to move up in life, to transition from one phase of your life to the next, you must sacrifice something.

Mythology has a great deal to do with the stages of life, the initiation ceremonies as you move from childhood to adult responsibilities, from the unmarried state into the married state. All of those rituals are mythological rites. they have to do with your recognition of the new role that you’re in, the process of throwing off the old one and coming out in the new, and entering into a responsible profession.

The rituals of primitive initiation ceremonies are all mythologically grounded and have to do with killing the infantile ego and bringing forth an adult.

Once again we see the importance of initiation and sacrifice in the Odessey. Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, is a boy who is simply hoping that one day his father returns restores stability and order in his life. However, Athena comes and gives the boy advice in which she tells him to set out and seek his father. It’s action that Athena advices. And by undertaking this action, Telemachus has to sacrifice the comforts of his own home and by doing so, he beings his transition from boyhood to manhood.

Many of us cling on to things from our past as we attempt to grow into the individual we wish to be. It’s usually the things we enjoy the most, the ones which bring us the most comfort, that need to be abandoned in order to grow and enter the next phase in life. It’s this letting go that is hard which is why we may see grown adults behaving like children. Because these people haven’t made the right sacrifices. Unlike Bilbo, who gave up the comforts of the Shire in order to venture out into the world and face challenges, these people hold on to the comfort and in doing so, remain the same while their bodies grow older.

This theme of embracing what is uncomfortable runs throughout the myths. Of how long-lasting character growth only comes by facing hardship and struggle.

All these different mythologies give us the same essential quest. You leave the world that you’re in and go into a depth or into a distance or up to a height. There you come to what was missing in your consciousness in the world you formerly inhabited.

And what all the myths have to deal with is transformations of consciousness of one kind or another. You have been thinking one way, you now have to think a different way […] Either by trials themselves or by illuminating revelations. Trials and revelations are what it’s all about.

Think about Hercules’ 12 labors or Buddha’s revelations through stillness. It’s going beyond your comfort zone that myths embody. Self-growth and self-improvement is the goal of many people but it can be difficult to know how exactly how to go about achieving these aims. The myths tell us the embrace trials or to go into a depth or height which we are avoiding. It’s what we are consciously avoiding that may be the exact thing we need to get better.

Whether it be a relationship that we aren’t happy in, or a job that we dislike, or an opportunity that scares us or an activity that intimidates us, it’s only in facing these trials and figuring out how to overcome them do we experience transformation in our consciousness.

Our life evokes our character. You find out more about yourself as you go on. That’s why it’s good to be able to put yourself in situations that will evoke your higher nature rather than your lower.

Your higher nature is often revealed when you tackle something that is difficult. When you have to make difficult choices and decisions. While the lower nature is when you constantly expose yourself to immediate pleasure and comfort. At least that’s what the myths which have stood the test of time tell us. The heroic quest doesn’t start and end with you avoiding engagement with life. Rather, it starts when you begin to embrace of experience of life which includes failures and disappointments. Just understanding that life is full of obstacles may be enough reason why you should read the ancient Heroic tales. It can brace you for the inevitable and if you care enough, it can also guide you through these universal troubles.

Book referenced: The Power Of the Myth By Joseph Campbell


Youtube: Learned Living

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/learned_living/

Poem: The Many Yous

Article: Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out

 

 

Poem: The Death Tolls

There is never true silence,

always seeking some distraction,

those who seek, find it,

occupying the time with noise,

filling the head with all this junk,

so that when you do find yourself alone,

you have to sift through all this trash,

just enough time to get some noise going,

perhaps even ask someone how they’re doing.

 

While you see it’s face everywhere,

in the news,

in the movies,

in the music,

in the book,

paradoxically exposing yourself to it, and

hoping to forget it,

acting as if each movement isn’t commanded by it.

 

The fear of it,

of reality,

the unknown that lies in the core,

the gift of Adam,

the knowledge accompanied by your awakening,

the companion to your consciousness,

the one that remembers your vulnerability,

your wounds and your pains,

turn up the music so you can drown the rapidly increasing heartbeat of the counterpart to life,

known by all but kept quiet,

afraid to hear it, afraid to listen to it,

the bell tolls,

the reminder that is silenced by all the noise,

underneath the silence,

the death tolls ring.



Youtube: Learned Living

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/learned_living/

Poem: The Many Yous

Article: Indirect Battle Strategy and How It Can Help Us Overcome Our Own Obstacles

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out

Reflections: Practical Reminders When Editing Your Fiction

The book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers has plenty of practical advice and exercises for editing fiction. The following are the reminders that stuck with me after reading the book. It should be noted that these aren’t as black or white as they may seem. Ultimately, the right balance is required in a story.

  1. Look out for over narration. Scenes can be harder to write which is why people slip into narrating a story rather than unpacking it. By merely summarizing some instance you can take away from the engagement of your story. Scenes are generally more engaging and they do a better job of bringing a story to life because you have to include specific details, dialogues, and characters in a scene. Good way to go about implementing this is by identifying those blocks/pages of texts and seeing if they can be broken up into smaller scenes or dialogue.
  2. Remember to Resist the Urge to Explain (R.U.E.). When it comes to your character’s emotions, make sure you aren’t just explaining them to the reader. The reader should be able to understand the emotions through action and dialogue. So, if you do your job correctly, you can simply cut away any explanation of a character’s emotions and not lose anything.
  3. Show the character. Unpack the characters’ personality through his actions, reactions, interior monologue, and dialogue. Or, if you have to describe the personality, let it come from the point of view or dialogue of another character who tells us his/her opinion of the character. Or let the personality come through the attitude of the character by describing something from the viewpoint of the character.
  4. Speaking of viewpoint, keep in mind what the character will notice and what will go unacknowledged. An 80-year-old man notices different things than an 8-year-old girl. For the 80-year-old, the falling snow may be a nuisance but for an 8-year-old it might be pleasant and fun. However, if there is no emotion attached to what the character is seeing, then your writing is emotionally detached, which only works if you’re aiming for an emotionally detached story.
  5. Well written dialogue should erase a lot of explanation. The dialogue itself should let the reader know that a character is astonished or scared. The reader shouldn’t need to read the descriptive tag. In fact, the best thing you can do for your dialogue is to never explain it.
  6. Be conscious of the beats in your text. For a tense dialogue scene, fewer beats the better. However, beats also allow you to ground your story. They can unpack setting and character traits/habits which allows the reader to use their imagination.
  7. Read your story out loud. By reading out loud you get the sense of the rhythm of your story, especially your dialogue. You can hear where the pauses should be, where some action is required, where there is too much talking and so on.
  8. Be aware of repetition. You don’t want your sentences to convey the same info or your paragraphs to establish the same traits or have multiple characters fulfilling the same role. Repetition can take away from your story.

Two Things That Have Made My Fiction Writing Easier

Stephen King Writing Tip: Build Your Toolbox

Writing/Life Advice: Don’t Get Overwhelmed

Vladimir Nabakov On What Makes A Great Writer

Tell Your Truth Through Writing

Vladimir Nabokov & Storytelling Techniques

Neil Gaiman & Generating Story Ideas

Writing Advice From William Faulkner

Haruki Murakami On Writing

Charles Bukowski & The Use Of Conflict In Storytelling

Ernest Hemingway On What To Write About

Simple Writing Advice From Stephen King


Youtube: Learned Living

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/learned_living/

Poem: The Many Yous

Article: Indirect Battle Strategy and How It Can Help Us Overcome Our Own Obstacles

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out

Poem: The Many Yous

So many yous exist,

the yous of the past,

those who were believed to be you back then,

the you that was going to be a lawyer, doctor, police officer,

not anymore,

but that you is alive in the thoughts of distant relatives, old friends, acquaintances,

who believed you when you told them,

who might still believe,

but now, that you is left behind for you went another way,

that old path was once clear, now it’s blocked off by thoughts that were yet to come,

experiences that were yet to be felt,

some of the past yous are lost and some went along with you.

 

So many yous,

even in the present, you multiply,

each handshake, each embrace, giving birth to another you,

your grandparents know you that is good,

your parents know you who messes up but is trying,

your friends know you who is alive,

your love knows you who is vulnerable,

each living with a different you, for the real one cannot be known.

 

So many yous,

all the different yous in the mind of others,

all with different expectations,

you sit and think,

who can you please? who can you make happy? who can you be?

even the stranger thinks of you one way, another you that you are supposed to be,

passing by, catching a glimpse of you, the way you walk, the way you look, the way you breathe, all noted, giving birth to another you,

then, when you act, who do you let down with each action?

 

Then there is you,

the nucleus,

the one who is juggling, trying to contain the offsprings, branching out from your being,

some unknowingly, others knowingly as you project different images,

losing track of yourself, of the yous that you have created,

the contradictions rising, disappointing others whose expectations you built,

weighed down by your own lack of inconsistency,

for you cannot be consistent,

when you don’t know who you are.

 

So many yous,

awaiting you in the approaching future,

the present yous will not make it,

more yous will be made,

ever going, every forming, the ever-building you,

for the you that you are can only be known by you,

others only get a mere impression of you,

the fortunate few get a good glimpse of you,

they see your shadow and think that to be you,

but the true you cannot be known,

except by you.


Youtube: Learned Living

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/learned_living/

Poem: Four Swordsmen

Article: Indirect Battle Strategy and How It Can Help Us Overcome Our Own Obstacles

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out