Two Things That Have Made My Fiction Writing Easier

Writing fiction can be difficult, especially stories you wish to get published someday. The reason being there aren’t really any blueprints or rules to follow except for perhaps use an active voice and show, don’t tell. Yet, in all the millions of books published, you can find exceptions to even these principles.

So, your left with a vague idea of what to do and what not to do but at the same time trying to tell a story that you care about in your own way but also, keeping in mind what might be pleasurable for the reader. This juggling act often leads to mistakes and the balls coming bouncing off your forehead and your there rubbing your head where the mark from the ball reddens, thinking what went wrong.

I’m been there and still am there in many ways. One reason for such complication is because writing subjective. What works for one publication may not work for another. Plus you only have one shot to get it right with that story you send. If a month later you figure out something that improves the story you can’t resend it and hope it gets picked up.

A little too late for that. Go find some other place.

So, this process of rejection-editing-rewriting-rejection-editing-rewriting-rejection can seem never ending.

What to do when the sane individual would gracefully bow out and move to something less humiliating.

Simply put, you just have to stick with it. The awful non helpful advice. Just keep going. Something you might find on an inspirational poster of a cat climbing a ladder that seems to be going nowhere. Hang in there is another cliche you can throw at it. But these cliches have a kernel of truth to them.

It’s a process. A saying that’s famous in the sports world for they understand that developing skill requires time and effort.

And writing, like sports, is a skill.

By keeping with it, by dissecting your writing, by holding yourself up to a higher standards you come to formulate certain rules for yourself which gives your writing structure, makes it simpler, clearer, cleaner.

Here is where I’m at and there are two things I’ve come to understand which makes the process of writing simpler.

1) This is sort of cheating because it’s two things in one but that’s also a good thing about writing fiction, you can almost do as you please. But anyways, the first part is that conflict is key. That’s all there is to a good story. A character wants something but something is in the way of that want, which creates conflict, and the character must figure out a way to get to his want. This simplifies the act of writing. Gives it structure. If your scenes and interactions are lacking conflict then that is a clear issue. Something tangible to fix because no one cares about a story where nothing happens and the character gets whatever they wish.

What’s even better is when the conflict is created by another character. When the desire of one character is obstructed by another. This has been a great help. Essentially you just have two characters with the same goal but only one can get it and you let them interact and conflict arises. Here is where dialogue comes into play. The second revelation of sorts. Dialogue gives rise to compelling stories and characters because in order to have dialogue, characters must interact.

I have spent a lot of time running around inside the head of characters and writing monologue after monologue but it all read so fake, so bland. It wasn’t until I really looked at the books I enjoyed, stories I connected with did I realize that most of it is dialogue. It’s not about the brooding 20 year old sitting at home thinking but rather that 20 year old interacting with his parents, coworker, lover, strangers etc which gets the story rolling.

2) This one I’ll make quick and easy. If you stick with the process, you’ll discover your weaknesses and limitations. What a wonderful discovery. For me, my weakness is description, in particular, the use of senses in describing a scene. This is a severe weakness because without good description you can’t transport a reader into the story.

However, by knowing this about myself, I can then not allow the fear or self doubt to stop me from even starting. I know I can get the story on paper and worry about sense description in my edits. My limitation doesn’t have to be an obstacle. It can be something I focus on later while I let the conflict and dialogue and characters flow for now.

Well, that’s all I’ve got so far. I’ve learned other things or perhaps it’s better to say I’ve read other things about becoming a better writer. But what I’ve mentioned above is what has come to me through experience. Things I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Poem: Is it time

“Is it time?”

the withering light of the sun, the

setting rose petals; the watered stem,

still bows to time, is it time?

 

A babe born into a coffin,

an old man cradled to sleep,

one cries gently; the other in pain,

it’s time for both of them to get going,

fighting, scratching, biting, pulling,

“our time wasn’t till death but it’s quite alright.”

 

That time I looked up,

at the Roman columns,

the ancient hands made the ancient structure

even at this time, I marvel,

that time I looked down,

at the tower in its infancy,

that time I looked past it in adulthood,

that time I was transfixed by the rusted skeleton,

“Did we deteriorate that quickly?”

 

Is it time?

“How did you know?”

“I just knew,” she said.

Her old leather bag with her new clothes inside waited anxiously by the half-open door whose ruby color faded,

“When did you decide?”

“It’s been a long time coming,” she said.

our Golden hour was yet to come,

“So soon?”

“I don’t want to waste either of our time,” her considerate words plagued the aging heart,

“When can I see you again?”

“It’s time,” she said,

so soon,

yesterday the embrace was warm,

today it was foreign,

how did twenty-four hours erase the past fifteen years and make us strangers?

waving goodbye, goodnight, farewell to the loving memories,

a minute ago I would have longed for the happy times,

a smile on my face, thinking about the past,

a minute later, tears fill the eyes, she says its time,

happy thoughts, happy memories,

saddened by the turn of the hourglass,

turn it again and bring them back?

“No.”

no,

that’s not how time works.

Short Story: Barn Burning

I see a barn burning. Every time I’m alone with my thoughts this picture of a flame engulfed barn seeps into my mind. Each time the flames are in mid roar, whipping at the air, coiling back like a snake and striking whatever is near it like the patch of grass surrounded by dirt at the foot of the barn or like the leaves on the tree which had grown towards the barn as if it had some kind of gravitational pull, the tree trunk wasn’t on fire but it would be soon enough, down to the roots. I find myself out of breath as if I am there in person. My lungs taxed from breathing in the heat embedded air. I could almost cough from the ever-widening ball of smoke.

Then, I’ll remember I’ve got to do something or the phone would ring or someone will call my name and the image would vanish, like a snap of a finger, that quick. Sometimes I think that I can smell smoke but that’s just my mind playing tricks.

I work as an editor at a furniture magazine. Sounds exciting? No, I didn’t think so, but it pays the bills so I can’t complain. Each day I get a few articles about the different types of couches (I couldn’t believe how many unique pieces of couches there are because before I started  working here, all I knew about was that one long piece on which I often fell asleep on at night and also a love seat just because I read about it in a book one time) or I’ll edit articles about some new trend in home interior decorating, which if you pay attention is just the same out of style trend coming back, it just skips a generation or two and then becomes “new” again. All I really do with my time is delete a couple sentences, reword some here and there, fix a few spelling mistakes and perhaps add a sentence at the end of a paragraph to help it flow into the next one. Pretty simple stuff. So, now you can understand why I think about that burning barn so much.

I do all my work at the downtown office. It’s good because I read once that familiarity and routine are two things you need to get your creative juices flowing. The same time, at the same place, concentrating on the same thing is supposed to help you connect with the muses if you believe in such things. It’s these muses writers often credit their ideas to. How wonderful. I can sometimes feel the muses as I edit these articles but then again, I think about how I can sometimes smell smoke on my clothes after I’ve thought about the barn burning.

Once I’m finished editing I go to this bookstore nearby to do my own writing. I read once that new settings, new experiences can jog up the story inside of you. There I set camp by the window and watch the living screen in front of me unfold with all its moving parts with its different characters and the changing scenery and noises. Each second is unique. Even inside the bookstore is pleasant for the barista rings the little bell when the coffee order is ready and it reminds me of Nabokov’s Lo-Li-Ta because its three actions as well, the bell-the name of the customer in a cherry voice-the thank you reply trying to match the cheerfulness of the barista.  The murmurs of people, the footsteps clicking, the pages swishing, even the scratching legs of the chairs don’t bother me, its all part of the play, the music, the charm of the place.

The most charming of all is the girl that works there. Shoulder length black hair with a hint of brown, always flashing a smile when you walk in and asking if she can help you.

“Just looking around,” is my usual retort for I like to browse the new releases, perhaps grab a couple and read a chapter or two before starting on my edits.

One day, as I was editing, she came up to me and asked if I was a writer.

“Kind of,” I replied, “trying to be one but right now I edit writers.”

At that, her face broke into her usual smile and she sat down beside me, without invitation but I didn’t mind.

“I’ve been thinking about writing something too,” she said.

“Have you written a story before?”

“Not yet,” she shook her head and her shoulder-length hair fluttered side to side, gently like a curtain does covering an open window as the calm wind blows outside.

“What are you interested in writing about?”

“I don’t know, just about life or maybe about working at a bookstore, I don’t know, I just feel this desire to write something.”

“Well, that’s a good place to start.”

“How long have you been writing for?” She asked.

“Editing for about three years or so and I’ve been trying to get a story together for about four…or, gosh, maybe five, time flies you know when you get busy. One day I’ll figure it out.”

“You know, thinking about it, I actually do have something specific in mind.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, you see for the past month or two, around the time I got this itch to write, I’ve been thinking about this scenario a lot because it keeps popping in my head and I don’t know where it’s coming from but it feels important, you know, like it won’t go away until I do something about it.”

“What is it that your seeing?”

“A burning barn,” she said, “I just feel like I need to get it out of me, you know. Do you ever feel that way?”

 

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Short Story: The Man Who Read Everything

Important people walked around the hall with champagne glasses in their hands while their diamond watches reflected the chandelier light in all direction. A permanent smile was slapped across their faces. These men and woman gathered each year in order to expand their network but in reality, it was a celebration of riches. This was the time to show off their hard-earned suits and dresses, leather boots that clicked each time they made contact with the marble floor and cufflinks that were worth an average man’s salary and jewels that would put to shame the Kings and Queens of old. Here was the ideal situation for Abraham Hart.

‘What do you do sir?’ a tall man asked him. He had slicked back hair and one hand was in his front pocket while the other massaged the bottom of the wine glass. Just by the smell of him, Abraham knew he was some lawyer who had made a fortune before the age of thirty.

‘I am a doctor of life, sir,’ Abraham replied. The man was looking around for a higher class person to talk to because Abraham was the only man dressed in a plain black shirt, black trousers, and running sneakers. It was embarrassing to the man to be seen with Abraham but the peculiar answer caught his interest.

‘Interesting also an interesting choice of dress.’ He was not sure yet if Abraham was plain crazy or if he was to be tonight’s entertainment. A jester to make them laugh like in the forgotten times.

‘Nothing interesting about it,’ Abraham replied, ‘it’s what I wear everyday because by wearing the same pairs of clothes each and every day it allows me to save three minutes  from my decision making capability which, like a man of your capacity can calculate pretty quickly means that in a years time I shall have saved one thousand and ninety-five minutes of decision-making time, one thousand and ninety-five minutes which I can spend on more important and more responsible things.’

The lawyer raised an eyebrow and the side of his mouth twitched up for a smirk. He extended his hand and introduced himself, ‘I am Douglas Hanson, I own the Hanson firm’ he said.

Abraham shook his hand and said it was his pleasure.

‘And you are?’ he asked as if he were speaking to a child, still confused whether or not the man was really all there in the head or not.

‘Oh, you do not know me?’ Abraham replied with an air of shock as he looked around as if Mr. Hanson was the crazy one.

‘I am afraid I do not, although you look familiar.’ Abraham knew it was a lie. The two of them had never met but the simple fact that he had made himself important had caused the lawyer some discomfort. The power shifted and Abraham acknowledged it.

‘You must have heard about my experiment?’ It was a good sign to see the lawyer take his other hand out of his pocket and to see his fingers fidget with the bottom of his suit jacket.

‘I’m afraid not, sir.’

‘Well for the last twenty-one years I locked my self in a room and consumed the knowledge of the world in order to find the meaning of life.’ His long hair that reached down to the mid of his back and his gray beard that settle on top of his chest were taken as signs of a man who would do something like that, a man who would dedicate his life to learning and without questioning the lawyer put down his drink and cupped Abraham’s hand with both of his, shaking with excitement.

‘Of course, sir, of course, now I remember. I feel such a fool for not knowing right away.’ By now a few of the others nearby had stopped their conversation and were listening.

‘Your experiment was truly remarkable, I could not believe it when I first heard about it but here you are in the flesh. A living proof.’

‘Believing everything one hears is a poor quality in life so I must congratulate you sir for having some doubt about my work,’ the lawyer beamed as Abraham praised him for something he had not done.

‘Tell me one thing, sir, how did you even think of such an experiment?’ One of the bystanders asked. More people had joined in on their conversation. In the distance music lightly played and people who had not heard of what was going on kept on drinking and networking.

‘My parents passed away when I was young, leaving me in the care of an orphanage,’ people gave sympathizing nods and looks, ‘so my childhood was filled with unstable changes and constant hardship, the whole while I fell in love with books and in them I found my sanctuary and in them I found my quest so when it was discovered that my uncle left me his fortunes in his will, I at the age of twenty-one decided to venture on in my quest to find the meaning, a quest as of a month ago I have completed. In fact,’ he looked around at the perfect faces of his audience with a smile under his bushy beard, ‘this is my first social gathering in twenty-one years,’ a few applauded while more people stopped doing what they were and joined at the edge of the ever-widening circle of admirers.

‘Well, what’s the answer then? ’ someone asked in the back and all eyes stared at Abraham waiting for him to speak.

Abraham continued smiling and he spread his arms wide, ‘what’s the hurry, my friends, if there is one thing being alone in a single room teaches you, it is patience. And another is the sweet climactic release after a long build-up, if you know what I mean, my quest took me twenty-one years, twenty-one years of build-up until finally, I saw the light so please, humor me and ask not what I learned right away for that knowledge shall come in time but first ask how I remained sane all those years, is that not a better question? Would you acknowledge the answer if it came out of a madman’s mouth? Is it not better to question first before believing?’

The silent crowd broke into different pockets of buzzing, each pocket discussing what the old man had said. Abraham looked on, studying the curious faces closely until finally, someone said, ‘how did you stay sane, sir?’

‘Who said I am sane? HA!’ he cackled looking around at the richly attired folks with expressionless faces for they were used to getting quick and straightforward answers but now, he made them wait to earn his wisdom. Abraham ran his fingers through his beard and cleared his throat.

‘Isolation is said to be the worse punishment a human being can go through,’ he continued, ‘for physical pain comes and goes and we as evolved humans can adapt to receive pain and even adapt to physical pain but when it comes to metal struggle and torture tools that dig into a man’s psyche well then things get interesting, my friends, but there is always a solution.’

‘Dr. Frankl summed it up the best, if you have hope and if you have the will and a clear goal in mind, us humans can do anything. Dr. Frankl survived the terrible Nazi occupation and their camps because he had a mission and so did I, mine was to figure out the meaning of life and that excitement of actually moving towards that goal kept me going the first year of isolation. In that year I read the history of our world, everything from how our planet and universe came to be to how first societies began, when the first societal conflicts arose, the effects the Greek and Roman’s had on the future generations, the impact of the Golden Horde to the greatest scientific inventions that changed how we live and think to the last great world war’s. Everything that has ever been written on our human history,’ he pointed at his head, ‘is in here.’ He cracked a smile once more at the astonished looks he saw.

‘So my sanity survived the first year and the second and the third for my goal was clear and I moved towards it each day and that’s all I cared for. And in those years I learned how lucky we truly are and how there is no difference between the poorest man in the world and the richest in terms of intelligence, the only real difference is in their natural habitat, the richest was born on a higher rung and was exposed the tools that would allow him or her to climb while the poorest was born at the bottom rung and was never taught how to climb. This showed me that the meaning of life cannot be ones riches for it is all subjective.’ More people were listening now and his claim that riches do not matter in the grand scheme of things had them whispering angrily to one another for the goal of riches had been their ultimate end for as long as they could remember. But none of them spoke up and disagreed instead the whispering and buzzing of the crowd quieted down to hear more from the old man.

‘But the fourth year of my isolation tested my will like nothing before. My eyes had grown tired of reading and my mind begged for rest and my body hoped for the comforting touch of a fellow man or woman. I do not exaggerate when I say that I clawed at the door which was locked from the outside, I peeled away the brown paint until the wood underneath poked out and I further attacked it. I do not know what took a hold of me but I had become a savage. My hair tangled and messy reached to my lower back, my nails grew and gathered dirt, even a tooth fell out,’ he opened wide to show a missing tooth in the back of his mouth, ‘I could not tell you why all of this happened. Perhaps it was reading our violent history where since the beginning of time we have killed one another and as time has gone on one thing that became certain was our efficient and effective kill rates and now, even though we live in a time where the crime rates is lowest and the quality of life at the highest, our ability to kill a fellow man has never been better. Perhaps at the time, I believed the meaning of life is to simply die for that is a singular thread that weaves throughout our human existence. And that thought must have depressed me to the point that I wanted to get out of the room and run towards an incoming bullet and end our miserable existence.’ The air in the room thinned and the music stopped for even the band players wanted to hear the old man, their saxophones and flutes and violins hung uselessly from their hands. The somber room waited eagerly for Abrahams next words and he chose them purposely.

He clapped his hands the sound of which vibrated around the room and startled some of the listeners and he cracked his smile again and said, ‘that’s when I discovered the joy of philosophy and my hunt for the ultimate meaning kept going, not believing my previous conclusion for it could not be true, I just knew it could not.’

The tensed up faces of people who for a second believed the meaning of life was to die, relaxed, relieved that there was some other point to this existence. A few even clapped for they dreaded the former notion so much.

‘How do we know all of this really happened and that you are not lying?’ someone in the back spoke up and it was a valid question in Abraham’s mind but before he could defend himself, the lawyer spoke up.

‘This is the world-famous Dr. Hart you are talking about, haven’t you read his research?’ said the man who had not known who Abraham was twenty minutes ago but the embarrassment of not knowing Abraham and his research shut down the fellow dissenter and he did not retaliate further.

‘Please go on, sir.’ Mr. Hanson said bowing his head slightly.

‘Here is where my isolation ended for these philosophers were with me, it was as if I was back in school just a little kid looking up to my teachers as they opened my mind and put in information that changed my life. I truly felt like I was sitting cross-legged on the floor while Plato or Montaigne or Hume sat on my chair and taught me a lesson or two. That joy of learning was the happiest I had been in my life. it was incredible and it is something I wish all my fellow men and woman to enjoy.’ Nodding heads met his words, all of them most likely making mental notes to find their philosophical teachers.

‘With these great minds I had discussions of free will, of societal norms, of religion and science and the need of us humans to create self-boundaries and self-rule, a code of a sort to allow us to reach our full potential, or like Seneca said to find four or five people we wish to be like, aspire to be like and when the time comes for decisions or you find yourself at a crossroad think and ask yourself what those individuals would have done at this point, how would they have handled this problem, this situation. It was wonderful discussing with them the materialistic life we now so enjoy and the disconnect with our self, our self that is so emphasized in the eastern philosophy which has been drowned by our need for desires. Our life should be about balances like Aristotle believed, do nothing in excess for it just hurts the soul and we should always be a student like Socrates preached I know nothing, that was the motto I lived by at the time and opened my mind up for further suggestions and once I reached the end of the philosophical spectrum, five years had passed and I discovered the true meaning of life.’ Abraham made them wait a moment longer as the crowd visibly leaned closer not to miss the answer. ‘Meaning is to find what makes you happy and just do that everyday not worrying about being the richest or being the smartest or being the strongest, worry about being the happiest.’

Before the crowd could discuss this revelation and revelation it was for these people had not once cared to find happiness but instead spent their lives in a vanity race, Abraham continued.

‘For me, my true happiness laid in reading and even though I had come to the ends of my goal, I stayed in isolation for I was surrounded by what made me happy, books.’

He stopped and took a sip of water. People talked amongst themselves discussing what made them really happy but most of them replied with ‘I don’t know.’

Abraham continued, ‘the next two years I devoted to reading everything from the classics and the giants of literature to the newest released detective novels and my personal drug of choice, fantasy. There I no longer lived in my room and in a way it was cheating that I was allowed to read fiction for I spent time in middle earth, I traveled from Paris to Spain to see bullfighting, then I bore witness to the creation of a magical village that spanned four generations, I went and lived on different planets not just Earth and so a glimpse of our future and then I came back just in time to hitchhike across America and sailed down the Congo River and countless other adventures. I considered myself a well-traveled man having not left my room for about twelve years now.’ The crowd smiled and laughed with the old man who remembered the happiest of his days.

‘But for some odd reason, something kept poking me, something hidden down in my stomach kept me awake at night and no matter how much I read or wrote, that feeling that there was something missing in my life was still there, a constant reminder that I had fallen in a trap of my own illusion so I did not have to suffer more in my quest, a divergent path from my true goal and one day I snapped.’

‘My sanity, which I had kept strong for the past twelve years finally came crumbling down and at the moment when I was the happiest I began to cry, more like weep, and started tearing apart all my books and writings and notes,’ he waved his hands wildly around and the people closest to him took a step back worried that they would in the way of his anger, ‘which I had so methodically gathered in the past twelve years, all gone, pieces of random paper littered my room and each step more paper crumpled under my weight,’ he stepped on imaginary paper lifting his knee to his chest and stomping the marble floor so that the sound echoed in the quiet ball room and the on lookers looked at one another with confused glances thinking the man was truly insane, ‘and I almost broke away from my quest, penning a letter to my servant who brought me food and books each day to let me out that I cannot bear the burden of my mission that no man could carry the weight of it on his weak shoulders but my servant knew me better then I knew myself and he refused to let me out. He is the reason that I stand before you all for if I had been let free I am sure my grief at my failure would have led me to the nearest cliff and I would have jumped to end my misery,’ he jumped where he stood with a smile on his face but none of the others were smiling at the sight of him falling down to his demise, but like an addict, that feeling of missing something came to an end when I found something to plug up that hole. In my case in my rage to tear up all of my books and curse my servants name as I did so I stumbled up a box of books labeled religion,’ he instantly calmed his animated motions and his arms hung down his sides, ‘and the sight of those words calmed my nerves and I took a deep breath hoping that this was the final test.’

‘Here I was confronted with some deeper issues, issues of what is good and what is evil. In my philosophical phase, these issues had risen but I had subconsciously steered away from them because I did not feel I was mentally capable of discussing them and perhaps my reading of literature was a distraction from this big picture but now all of that was over and I was faced with the questions that now I know I had purposely avoided.’

‘By learning and discussing the teachings of Gods from different walks of life it gave me a different, a unique kind of perspective on my previous conclusion of the meaning of life. I started to believe that life cannot just be about self-happiness. It is a great feeling that of being happy and that is a good life but now I believed more than ever that one should give up part of their happiness in order to make the world better and one way to make the world a better place is through love. I cannot tell you how many times I converted to a different religion believing my quest has led me to this faith or the other but in the end I found that the best faith is the one you make for yourself, in other words, I began to follow a religion I created a religion that I constructed through all that I had read and learned in my years of isolation and it was wonderful. In my religion, it was the utmost importance to love, to be happy and to leave our world one percent better than we first got here. I lived by this for a few years, molding the laws and rules to my liking and what I thought would be the best way to accomplish my goal. And now I look upon your faces and I know that you do not believe me, that you think I lie to you all that the meaning of life is to create your own world that best helps our current one and I would say to this,’ he paused and the room held its breath for a moment, ‘is true. All of this was bullshit, excuse my language, but it was for these idealistic notions rarely come true in the real world and so after seven years of faith-based living, I gave it all up and I gave up reading for good.’

The room buzzed louder than ever. Their whisperings were more out of annoyance than anything else. The moon had risen to the top long ago and by now the old man had been speaking for two hours but Abraham did not care, he continued to study them as he combed his beard with his fingers until finally, one person spoke up and said, ‘what is the meaning already, stop philosophizing and just tell us already.’

They had learned nothing so far, not an ounce of patience from a man who had patiently sat in one room for twenty-one years trying to follow his quest. 

‘We are almost at the end my friend. You all with your riches must mean that you are smart intelligent people, right? Well if so then you shall know that nineteen years have passed since I first began to tell you my story, a story you asked for, which means only two more years are left, friend, so if you please, I will tell you what happened in those two years first.’

He did not wait for their approval and continued speaking after a quick breath.

‘When I gave up reading I picked up the pen, my head hurt from all the things I crammed into it and slowly all the information packed into my mind flowed down to my neck and then into shoulder and down my veins of my forearms and my hands and into the black and blue ink of my pen and I wrote everything. I swear, I have written the greatest of novels in that time and I have comprised the greatest of encyclopedias of all fields, for such was the baggage that I carried. As I wrote the more I knew I was heading towards the end when finally one month ago from this day I reached the conclusion of my quest and I simply informed my servant who agreed I had accomplished my mission and let me out and here I am, gentlemen and gentlewomen, a man who spent twenty-one years in a room, following an experiment that nearly killed my sanity but in the end rewarded me with the ultimate truth.’

‘Well, what is it?’

‘Simply, it is to see and if not get a dog, then you shall see.’

At this the room exploded in a round of angry discussion and amidst the rumbling, the old man slipped quietly away but not before hearing people ask one another “what is it that we are supposed to see” or “see what” or “how would I know if I have seen it?” and some even asked what kind of dog.

Abraham did not waste any time, he left the rich dinner party that was full of confused and angry people. He drove to his house and the light coming out of his bedroom told him that his wife was awake. He peeled off his wig and placed the long gray hair on the head of the staircase as he climbed the steps.

‘Yes….how many?….okay I’ll make the appointment.’ He heard his wives voice say through the cracked bedroom door.

When she saw him, she pulled the telephone away from her ear and held her hand over the bottom part so whoever was on the other side could not hear, ‘you won’t believe it Abe but I keep getting calls for adoptions. I swear at least twenty of my puppies will have a new home by tomorrow.’

Abraham merely smiled and stretched his back so that it cracked.

‘All that standing up really takes a toll on the body,’ he muttered.

His wife hung up the phone after confirming the person’s appointment.

‘By the way,’ she said as Abraham climbed into the bed with her having changed his clothes, ‘how did your research go?’

‘Oh wonderful dear, another success in the field of human naivety.’ 

His wife got another phone call. Abraham fell asleep to the image of his smiling wife and the cheery tone of her voice.

Poem: The Symptoms Of The Blind & Deaf

Deaf and blind

the world can seem

who are all these strangers?

when will someone ask you how you feel?

misery etched into each second of silence, so

the need to distract oneself is prevalent

pushing back the actual need

which is simple compassion from another being.

 

Does that thing have a soul?

somewhere inside that shell of yours?

the tender-hearted, filled with pain but also sympathy

if only it didn’t have an ego, pride, selfishness

(the symptoms of the blind and deaf).

 

You suffer in silence

and so should others

that’s what you believe

disconnected, detached and disengaged

the mass of men and women walk by one another

each yearning for the same thing

each self-conscious

each with misery.

 

What is it mean to be human?

to listen, to see, to feel, to touch

you take my burden

I take yours

you hold my hand

I hold yours

together, as one, sharing in the misery,

together, as one, alleviating each others,

suffering.

 

On Being Virtuous vs Seeming Virtuous

We are told to judge a person by his actions. Then, people who act virtuously should mean they are virtuous people. But can you be virtuous if your thoughts are muddied with vices? Meaning, your acts are good but your desires or wants are bad. So, its a struggle of suppressing what you truly desire in order to project a certain type of image. A virtuous being. The kind that you see on social media where people only post their highlights, the best and edited parts of themselves. More so than ever before there are people claiming to be one way for the public while being different in their private life. But does that matter? Perhaps these people deserve praise for showing self-restraint, discipline, self-control, showing that one is not lead by their immediate emotions that there is a calculated thought behind their behavior.

So, if action alone is to be the judge of character, then it’s easy to be a virtuous individual for it’s easy to seem virtuous in overt actions. It’s easy to do the right then when everyone is looking and expecting you to behave properly. Just like obeying traffic lights in the daytime but how about at midnight? When there isn’t a car in sight? Do you still obey?

Perhaps then, the action of an individual is just one part of the puzzle. Another piece maybe their internal thoughts and desires. Or, the action itself could be broken down to several pieces where the smaller acts hold as much weight as larger ones. Those acts that you perform without the threat of the mob.

Maybe the overt action is controlled and disciplined, but what about the smaller acts? Can someone who is suppressing his vices really keep them locked up in all aspects of life? We do hear stories of supposed good and virtuous people being found guilty of horrific actions. Bill Cosby comes to mind. The disharmony in one’s thoughts and actions will show itself at some point. Maybe this is why we feel put off by a person who puts down those less fortunate than them. Someone who talks rudely to a waiter or makes fun of a janitor. These smaller actions can be the real them seeping out when they don’t feel the pressure to be virtuous or moral or excellent. It’s here we see the sight behind the mask.

I suppose the point of all of this is to withhold judgment about another person’s character until you have sufficient evidence. In our media-driven world, we often see people doing good or bad, see people at their highest of highs and also their lowest of lows and we quickly formulate a judgment. Claim some to be good people and others to be bad. This judgment could be correct and is probably some evolutionary tactic to identify those who can harm us and those who can aid us. But such judgment can also set you up to be fooled or betrayed. Someone you trusted could turn out to be untrustworthy through later actions and those judged as bad due to some overt action could change and this change could be seen in their smaller acts yet you may be blind to such things because of your previous bias’.

It’s always better to detach and be objective. To take into account sufficient evidence. To formulate an opinion but be flexible enough to change it and to harmonize your actions, large or small, with those of equally good thoughts and desires so one can practice virtue at all times, be excellent at all times, be moral without cowardice.

People believe that virtue and vice are only communicated through overt action but in reality, virtue and vice are emitted in the breath of every moment. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance).

 

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