I think our rulers have not completed highjacked Christmas from us. When we make it our celebration, it becomes an act of rebellion. Here’s my Christmas message for 2016.
Ray Foy worked in Information Technology in the southern US for over 30 years before becoming an author of speculative fiction. His stories and writings seek to understand humanity's situation, project the possible consequences of current trends, and inspire hope in dark times
You can find Ray's work via his website at www.rayfoy.com.
I think our rulers have not completed highjacked Christmas from us. When we make it our celebration, it becomes an act of rebellion. Here’s my Christmas message for 2016.
Hi guys. I haven't been so active on Booklikes for trying to do a lot of other stuff. One thing is starting a newsletter. The idea is that I'll produce a short story every month to send out to subscribers. The stories won't appear anywhere else for the near future. Also, I'll send a coupon for a free download of my Ray-views book (compilation of book reviews) to subscribers. I posted a journal enter about it here:
I've posted a review of "On Living" by Kerry Egan. The books is her recounting of stories told to her by dying patients over her years as a hospice chaplain. It deals with dying, but it's not morbid.
In my latest journal entry, I relate the trip I took with my wife to the edge of the Blueridge Mountains for our 26th anniversary. I found an inspiring book at the B&B where we stayed. The book is Fumbling by Kerry Egan and the journal entry contains a link to my review.
This is a marvelous little book. It is at once, inspiring, scary, and thoughtful. For me, it has earned a place beside Wild (Cheryl Strayed) and The Camino (Shirley MacLaine) among my favorite works of personal enlightenment found through the seeker’s journey. It is distinctive, however, in being grittier, less “ethereal,” than is usual in such memoirs. I think that comes from the honesty of Ms Davidson’s self-examination. As such, the book tells a tale that many people will be able to identify with, even considering the scope of what Ms Davidson did.
What she did was to travel across 1700 miles of the Australian outback in 1977 when she was 27 years old. Tracks is her memoir of that journey.
Ms Davidson spends very little time on her life before the journey. There was no single event that she relates as being the reason for doing what she did. She simply starts at the time when she arrived in Alice Springs and began looking for someone to teach her camel-handling, and for a job (in that order). It was her intention from the start to make the trek with camels (to carry her provisions; she mostly walked the trip) and she spent the most of two years learning how to do that (and she’s an obvious animal lover). This prep time is a major part of her story and she spends almost the first half of the book on it.
As for her reasons for making the trip, she tells of two major ones. The first is that aspect of self-discovery that was her main driving force. As she says, she did it “to unclog my brain of all its extraneous debris.” Like Thoreau, she wanted to be alone and vulnerable so she could see reality in its unmitigated form. In recounting this, she provides the reader with an intimate picture of the Australian desert of the 1970s.
She also wanted to know the Aborigines in their natural environment. She wanted to discover their culture in their own context. She offers a lot of commentary on this. What she finds is, to me, a residual of a tribal culture that the current global culture is hell-bent on exterminating (I refer you to Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael books for insight on this).
Tracks is very well written. You can see why Ms Davidson went on to be an author and travel-writer. Her prose is solid and her storytelling is engaging enough to pull the reader along (there are a few Australian colloquialisms that necessitate explanatory notes, but they just add color). She is not as metaphoric as Cheryl Strayed or as ethereal in tone as Shirley MacLaine, but she is a pleasure to read. She is also brutally honest in what she relates, whether it be the trials of working with camels, suffering the idiocy of boorish Outback men, dealing with a psycho camel-handler, or balancing the purity of her journey-of-discovery with her relationship to National Geographic photographer, Rick Smolan (who beautifully photographed Ms Davidson’s journey).
Ms Davidson’s memoir is very introspective and she weaves her observations throughout the narrative. You would expect this in a “personal discovery” book, but she does it very convincingly. Following her thoughts in trying to understand her journey is very compelling and the postscript essay she added in 2012 shows that process still going on with her.
What really grabbed my attention, though, was a few mentions of Ms Davidson’s encounters with the paranormal. They are outstanding because they are in such stark contrast with the rest of her writing, which is very no-nonsense and down-to-earth. I take this as another confirmation that most people don’t believe in the supernatural until they experience it.
I highly recommend Tracks as a memoir of an epic journey of enlightenment by a very capable writer. It’s also a window into a particular time before CGI movies, the Internet, and chem-trails. It is a powerful addition to the literature of self-discovery, and to my list of favorite books.
This novel is an account of the life of the American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, as imagined being told by the artist herself. It is set mostly in the 1920’s and 1930’s and concerns O’Keeffe’s storied relationship with another American artist-photographer, Alfred Stieglitz. And it is very much the story of a relationship, loving and not, and of O’Keeffe’s struggle to not drown in it.
Before reading this book, I was only vaguely aware of who Georgia O’Keeffe was. And I only read the book because I won it in a writing contest. I found it good enough, however, to hold my interest trough 315 pages.
I think Dawn Tripp is a very good writer and my 4 stars rating of this novel is mostly for the quality of her writing. Told completely in first-person and always from O’Keeffe’s point-of-view, it always felt true to the work’s subject—as if it were O’Keeffe telling her story. We come to know her through that telling, and that is due to Ms Tripp’s good work. The character revealed as O’Keeffe, however, struck me as flawed, however good her art was.
Of course, all people are flawed and Ms Tripp did well to not make this book a PC version of O’Keeffe’s life. I was able to relate to a lot of O’Keeffe’s life as an artist, to her finding a wider world in New York of her time, but being driven to stay true to her original vision. I even related to her struggle to stay true to herself, to find and hang onto herself as a person. I can’t agree with the extent of her vilification of Stieglitz, however. It seems to me she carried that too far, and her struggle to find herself was tipped too far in the direction of self-absorption. But again, telling O’Keeffe’s story such that the reader can see these nuances in a life and have feelings about them, is a testament to Ms Tripp’s skills as a writer.
I think that O’Keeffe’s life is being revisited today as kind of a feminists’ anthem, though O’Keeffe herself would not have thought so. What I found most endearing about the book was O’Keeffe’s attitudes towards art, and her passion to live for it (indeed, that passion is shared by artists in the community described—Stieglitz, Toomer, Dove). And I can take to heart the advice O’Keeffe has for artist wannabes:
There is only one piece of advice to give: “You want to be an artist? Go home and work.”
Yes, whether painting, composing, or writing, to be an artist you have to do the work.
Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe, is well-written, and if you’re a fan of Georgia O’Keeffe, of relationship stories, or even of artist stories, you’ll likely find this book to be great. If that’s the case, then I can easily recommend it.
This book’s title caught my eye at a time when I felt like things were falling apart for me. I’ve long been open to the teachings of Buddhism and so I thought I might find some insight, even comfort, in Ms Chodron’s words.
And I did, but this is not a “hand-holding,” “feel good” book. It’s blunt in its view of life as, I suppose, Buddhism tends to be. The feel of the whole was, to me, “suck it up and soldier on.” But do so with the insights of Buddhism and an enlightened point-of-view. And so when facing one of those inevitable times when we are losing it all, we can find an understanding of what we’re feeling when Ms Chodron says:
We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.
She illustrates this by describing a pivotal moment in her life when things fell apart. In her youth, her husband left her and she felt that loss of her whole world with anger and fear. But out of that experience she found Buddhism, a new life and a new vocation. She eventually became thankful for the experience, and that is a major theme of the book—the idea that life is all beginnings and endings. If we can understand that, and accept it, we can go a long way in coping with the bad times.
Fear is what we’re trying to cope with in those bad times. As she stated in the above quote, we are afraid of loneliness, death, and aimlessness. She asks us to understand that at the start of the book, and then goes on to offer insight to help us deal with it. She states what her whole book is about when she says:
What we’re talking about is getting to know fear, becoming familiar with fear, looking it right in the eye—not as a way to solve problems, but as a complete undoing of old ways of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and thinking.
I could go on and on with such quotes—there are so many quotable passages in this book. Also ideas that have helped me. Such as that things are just not what we think they are; we really don’t know anything and so we must be careful in our judgments, even judgments as to what is good and what is bad (see chapter 1). Because we never know how things will turn out.
When in emotional pain, people tend to return to those places they’ve found comfort in the past. There are times, though, when those places fail us, or don’t offer enough comfort. If you’re at such a place, then this book might be of help. It is likely to be, if you can understand and accept the basic cause of our unhappiness according to Buddhism. Ms Chodron states it as:
Thinking that we can find some lasting pleasure and avoid pain is what in Buddhism is called samsara, a hopeless cycle that goes round and round endlessly and causes us to suffer greatly.
From there, you can go on to find out what you can do in your life to address samsara. And if you can find, ironically, that chasing happiness does not bring happiness, and running from pain does not eliminate pain, then you’ll be at a point where this book can help.
John Hogue has always been something of an iconoclast, and in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About 666 but Were Afraid to Ask, the icon he blasts is the very Number of the Beast as noted in the biblical Book of Revelation—666 (or 616 depending upon the calculation of Greek letters-to-numbers pulled from which ancient manuscript).
Actually, Mr. Hogue is not blasting the “Number of the Beast” idea itself, but rather the fearful superstition assigned to that number from shoddy interpretations of St. John’s writing. In this little book, he tells us to “lighten up” about this number. It’s just a number. We take it way too seriously out of our religious biases and unfounded beliefs. He likens it to the hypocritical stigma attached to public talk of sex, prior to David Reuben’s pivotal book put out in the rebellious 1960’s, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (hence, this book’s title).
Mr. Reuben’s book pointed out the obvious hypocrisies of our attitudes about sex, and Mr. Hogue takes a similar tack by showing that “666” is an association with evil that is made more from superstition than scholarly research. He says:
It isn’t the number that makes one afraid; it is the projection of fear programmed in an indoctrinated mind.
And he goes on to quote Revelation chapter 13 verse 18:
Here is the key; and anyone who has intelligence may work out the number of the beast. The number represents a man’s name, and the numerical value of its letters is 666. (or 616, if you rely on earlier surviving editions of this passage.)
Indeed, if you check the New Oxford Annotated Bible Revised Standard Version commentary on page 1505 (1973 edition), you’ll find a note on this verse that says:
Of countless explanations, the most probable is Neron Caesar (in Hebrew letters), which, if spelled without the final n, also accounts for the variant reading, 616.
Interestingly, the other versions of the Bible I checked (1972 Thomas Nelson edition of the King James version, and the 1976 Broadman Press edition of The Good News Bible) didn’t make that point. That may say something about belief vs scholarship.
Mr. Hogue makes his point that 666 could just as easily have been translated 616. But it wasn’t, at least in popular Bibles, and so “the Word of God” says the number is 666.
Now there are implications of the Number being 616 that Mr. Hogue goes into and supports with other passages from Revelation. I had actually made note of these implications myself in my youthful days of faith, but chose to ignore them. I see that dynamic in effect all around me every day and I think this book is Mr. Hogue’s attempt to shine a light on it.
In shining that light, Mr. Hogue makes an assertion as to what the book of Revelation is NOT about (around location 149 in the ebook), and that, I think, is the profound message of this book.
Mr. Hogue quotes Nietzsche, in full, on the “God is dead” idea. I’m not sure I agree with what Nietzsche is saying here (or anywhere else) but Mr. Hogues offers an interesting commentary on it that he punctuates with quotes from Osho (whom I find more agreeable). This is the weighter side of this book that balances the lighter parts.
And it is with a lighter part that Mr. Hogue ends his book. In his trademark lightness of being for a serious subject, he gives us a version of The Twelve Days of Christmas that is filtered through the traditional interpretation of the Book of Revelation. It’s clever and funny, and (if you can keep an open mind) enlightening.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know about 666 but were Afraid to Ask is fun and educational. You can learn about the origins of 666, why it’s considered an “evil” number, and why you might want to reconsider that viewpoint. Mr. Hogue is well educated in considering and reconsidering such subjects, and provides a good pivot point for the seeker who is looking for the reality behind such cultural icons. A book like this, that is fun-loving even as it provides introspection of a serious subject, can help those so-seeking.
Give it a try.
I believe that much of literature, whether fiction or not, is a recounting of what we do and what we learn. My second hiking excursion was enlightening to me and I wrote a journal entry about it.
I have so much going on right now: much work in the day job, possible consulting work (IT), pushing on my novel to get it ready for editing, some book reviews due, checking out a local writer's group.
In the midst of it all, I need to stay active, and I want to follow in the footsteps of some literary hikers. So I'm foraying into the world of hiking and backpacking. Last week, I journaled about my training. I also took my first hike on a real trail in a State Park. I journaled about that too.
You can find the journal entry here:
“…a religious pilgrimage has always been one of the most objective ways of achieving insight.”
So says Paulo Coelho in The Pilgrimage. I've started testing the waters of hiking and backpacking, and so maybe will do my own pilgrimage one day. Inspired by Mr. Coelho, Cheryl Strayed, and Robyn Davidson, I've made tentative first steps. If I keep it up, I’ll commit it to my journal. Here’s my first entry:
John Hogue’s annual books of predictions are an ongoing “Heads Up!” for humanity based on prophetic writings, scholarly research, a study of current events, and oracular intuitions that have proven uncannily accurate (such as in correctly predicting the US presidential election winner since 1968).
Ten Predictions 2016 is no different. It is a timely and important read as the human situation worsens. These are unprecedented times that can unnerve the strongest of any souls that are paying attention. It seems few are, but they can find a rich source of relevant information and keen insight in Mr. Hogue’s writings, including this little E-book.
My best description of this book is that it’s a roughly 100 page essay about prophetic traditions and current auguries told in eleven sections (10 chapters and an Epilogue) with each containing specific predictions concerning global issues that culminate or take off in this year of 2016.
The epilogue is a special one about what Mr. Hogue calls the “Fire and Ice Prophecies” that I found to be of particular interest. I expect it will be so to anyone who is concerned about the chaotic state of Earth’s climate and what it might lead to.
Even beyond the trials wrought by climate change, it seems the walls are closing in on humanity in ways too overwhelming to consider, let alone write about. But Mr. Hogue does just that, providing commentary with prophetic overtones on a host of subjects pretty much covering our situation. It can be a lot to grasp, especially if you’re just now waking up to it all.
In his book’s 10 chapters and epilogue, Mr. Hogue discusses and makes predictions about:
* The NATO-led war against Muslim extremists;
* Developing trends in the world economy and the possibilities for a larger Depression;
* What sort of weather extremes we’ll see in the coming year;
* Human migrations spurred by wars and weather;
* The US presidential election season—the winners and losers;
* The potential for an American Reich;
* The consequences in suffering from the greed of corporate agribusiness;
* The future of cable “news”;
* The subtle fuels for the decentralization of world societies.
Even leaving aside the prophecy and prediction parts, I highly recommend this material for the sheer sake of getting an accurate view of what’s really going on in the world. I follow a lot of alternative and world news sources that reveal a different tale of what’s going on than in all the hokum of the US mainstream media. Because of this, I tend to mostly agree with Mr. Hogue’s writings and have to take his auguries seriously.
If you’re into prophecy and want to make a list of specific predictions from this book, you can certainly do that, because they are there, sprinkled among the longer prophecy essays (I’m making a distinction of prophetic themes containing predictions that Mr. Hogue may not have intended; I just see it that way). You can track them and judge for yourselves, most are short-term. And some, frankly, I hope he misses.
And Mr. Hogue does talk about “missed prophecies,” and so adds to a theme of “what prophecy is and how it works,” that he’s addressed in many of his prior works. It’s an enlightening discussion for anyone used to the idea that real prophecies are “reading from God’s script.” He sounds the note of personal responsibility that we can assume for the future and so perhaps be less predictable.
About a third of this E-book is an extended essay on the “Fire and Ice Prophecies.” This is how Mr. Hogue refers to voluminous sets of writings through history from such prophetic luminaries as Nostradamus, Stormberger, Cayce, biblical prophets, and even older, that address our climate future. In a nutshell, there’s two “competing” streams of prophecy—one that predicts an overheated, Hell-on-earth, and another that looks for a new ice age (in our near-future).
Climate science endorses the idea of ice ages being preceded by a period of global warming. Such a period can build up a lot of energy in the world’s climate that can be released in a short time (a decade or less) in monster storms and rebound into widespread ice cover that doesn’t melt over the summer, and so launches an ice age. Think, The Day After Tomorrow, and The Coming Global Superstorm, both works that Mr. Hogue refers to in Predictions 2016.
So an ice age starting after a period of global warming is scientifically viable, and is likely even the norm in Earth’s geologic past. And historically speaking, the earth is due for another ice age. The question is: will it happen this time?
In “Fire and Ice Prophecies,” Mr. Hogue examines the prophetic traditions regarding this question along with the related science and current happenings in nature. From this research he reaches a conclusion and a prediction. I think his conclusion is a likely one that’s even supported by recent scientific findings. It’s a hot topic that makes for a chilling read.
Prophecies or not, the human situation looks pretty bleak when you examine it closely. Predictions 2016 does examine it closely and it can be disheartening, even when taken with Mr. Hogue’s sprinklings of playful prose. In the end, he offers the hope he offers in most all his works on this subject by linking to a long essay called “Noah’s Ark Of Consciousness” on his website. It’s a mini-biography where Mr. Hogue shows how meditation has helped him get through his own hard times and come out fiercely alive and aware. It’s his recommendation of a powerful tool that can help us cope with these perilous times.
Predictions 2016 is the first of three books that Mr. Hogue has planned to contain his predictions and commentary on events for 2016 and 2017. You can check his website (hogueprophecy.com) for details. He has decided to stretch out his “annual predictions” this way since changing events can make it tough to keep up—even for a prophet.
Change Your Energy, Change Your Life is a self-help book based on the author, Mike Kemski’s, life experiences. Mr. Kemski describes his childhood as one of some awful deficits: poverty, parental abuse, drug abuse, and run-ins with the law. Finally, a failed suicide attempt motivated him to rebound from rock bottom to a happy and successful life. But his rebound was not facilitated by finding Jesus or any N-point plans for obtaining wealth. It was from painstakingly figuring out what the solid principles were to living this life, and acting on them. He found 11, and explains them in this book.
What I like about Mr. Kemski’s book is the experiential nature of it. That is, he’s telling us what he discovered, how it helped him, and how we can discover and make application of the same for ourselves. What “the same” is, is a set of truths that can transform people’s lives if they become aware of them and act upon them. Doing so, systematically, puts people into a process of transformation that Mr. Kemski calls BANABU: Building A New And Better Universe. His idea is that if people use these principles to transform their lives, they’ll also be transforming other people and the world around them.
Mr. Kemski has apparently made a career of teaching these principles, which might lead you consider that the book is another infomercial. I didn’t find that to be the case, however. In my opinion, he is simply expressing some classical truths that have helped people through the ages, usually incorporated into one or another religious or philosophical system. The value of Change Your Energy, Change Your Life, is that the book pulls these truths together in an accessible and helpful way.
It’s not that Mr. Kemski is stating the obvious. It’s more like Sherlock Holmes’ distinction between “seeing” and “observing.” And becoming aware of these principles is Mr. Kemski’s first step in making use of them.
So, for instance, you may know that there is good and bad in life, but you must become aware that there is a duality of opposites in everything. When you realize this, and see it all around you and in the experiences of your life, you’ll be able to make use of it. You’ll see that negative experiences and situations can be a prompt to overcome and reach your next level. And you’ll see that solutions are to be found within problems.
And it’s the same for all the 11 principles. Mr. Kemski makes the point that the principles can be used “stand-alone” or together as a system. It seems to me that his 11 principles are actually 11 chapters in building upon a certain line of thought, and that the actual number of principles could be expressed as fewer. They would be no less the powerful, even so.
In expounding upon the principles, Mr. Kemski advances some themes that form his core philosophical views. One view is that life is mechanistic and not supernatural. That is,
…we are governed by a set of principles that we must adhere to in order to get those things [that we want].
I see this as another way of saying “we must cooperate with the universe.” But Mr. Kemski also seems to be admonishing people to not buy anyone’s snake oil. Good things and riches won’t come into your life because of happy thoughts, but because you are deliberately generating a strong, attractive energy that will bring into your life those things you need and want. But the facilitating medium for getting you those things, will always be people.
Mr. Kemski tells you how to generate that strong energy, giving you some simple exercises to do so. In fact, he provides a link to his website where you can download (for free) a workbook of exercises to help you see and utilize the 11 principles. (I have the workbook and will go through it, and probably report on my experience with it).
Change Your Energy, Change Your Life strikes me as a very practical book. It is not mystic or religious, but is a thoughtful expression of what one person has learned about overcoming adversity and despair. And as such, it is a helpful guide for the rest of us as we struggle with adversity and despair.
The practical and mechanistic nature of the book, however, make it an operational guide for living, rather than a manual for spiritual fortification. It’s like an exercise program that will build your emotional and mental muscles, but it won’t help you through times of grief or existential crisis. For such as that, you should seek other avenues. But Mr. Kemski’s book can be a very good companion text.
It is the year AD 2327 by the reckoning of the High Sages of the Order of Gaia at Sedona...
I don’t often do writing contests, but I did one recently for a shot at the prize of Yann Martel’s latest novel. It was a fun experience with an unusual contest. I wrote a journal entry about it, here (click the picture).
I’ve been wanting to read H. P. Lovecraft’s stories, and finally started a compilation volume. It’s all very good, paranormal, extrasensory stuff, except for “The Street,” which is a thematic outlier for him. But what really struck me was how contemporary it is in its tone of intolerance. I had to make a journal entry about it.