Archive for August, 2013

I Read, Therefore I Am

Posted: August 30, 2013 in fiction
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BookPileinLibrary     There’s something about fiction.  I like to write it.  I love to read it.  Being completely lost in a fascinating story while absorbing sleek new ideas, historical facts and mind-stretching philosophies is probably my favorite way to relax and shed the stress of everyday life.  I can read anywhere from 50 to 75 novels in a year and I know there are a lot of people who would suggest I spend more time perusing the “truth” of op-ed pages, biographies and blogs, but I prefer a swim in the sea of theory and possibility to slowly digesting someone’s idea of the absolute.  Want to teach me something?  Tell me a story.

Of course, I have about 9,000 favorite writers.  There’s Thrity Umrigar, Toni MorrisonGabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip Roth, Amy Tan, Wally Lamb, Ann Patchett, Augusten Burroughs, Ellen Hart.  From each i have learned something that has stayed with me, resonated, buzzed inside my brain, changed my outlook or opinion, lifted me spiritually or just plain made me feel smarter than I was before I slid that particular author’s work off the shelf.

From Rachel Kushner I have learned that every life involves risk, that taking chances is sometimes all that makes it worthwhile.  She is a gritty writer who makes me want to flee the suburbs, distribute subversive literature in New York City’s meatpacking district and take long walks at night on rain-soaked, cobblestone streets with Spanish-speaking grandfathers who desire me but know they will never have me.

Having read Ruth Ozeki, I have come to understand that the only perfect response to a threat or an insult is to bow deeply and say thank you.  How blissfully Zen.  Imagine if we all did this.  Arguments would end before they began.  Potential combatants would bend at the waist and stand up no longer at odds.  Entire wars could be avoided.  An optimistic stretch, I know.  Still, Ruth gives me hope.

Thank you Barbara Kingsolver.  Thank you Khaled Hosseini.  Thank you Octavia E. Butler.  Thank you Orhan Pamuk.

When I open a book by Paulo Coelho I am always inspired by his brilliance.  I am blown away by his ability to get right to the very core of what it means to be human.  Imagine, if you will, that orgasms are pathways to God, that physical pleasure brings us closer not just to each other but to the meaning of and purpose for everything.

From Alexander McCall Smith I have learned about ethics and the beauty of simplicity.  From John Irving I have learned to be true to myself, to embrace my tomboy heart and to try not to judge anyone who doesn’t seem to belong, who takes a different path than mine or who might appear, to conventional society, to be downright freaky.

Thank you Jhumpa Lahiri.  Thank you Da Chen.  Thank you Alice Walker.  Thank you Junot Diaz.  Thank you Douglas Adams.  Thank you Sue Monk Kidd.

In so many Scarlett Thomas novels, I have found the mathematics and physics perfectly accessible, beautifully available to explain and expand the possibilities open to us as the citizens of Earth, the Milky Way, the Universe.

Upon originally reading V.S. Naipaul, I believed he was a genius, or close to it.  Then I heard what he said about women writers being inferior to men, due simply to their anatomy.  That’s when I learned that even brilliant writers can be assholes.  It was something interesting to learn and I learned it, the hard way.

Suddenly, this summer, on television and in the movies, there are Millers everywhere.  I am proud of my last name and happy to have handed it down to my children.  It is a good Scottish and English name and though the Italian half of me claims no ancestors to this country before the turn of the 20th century, the Miller half of me has a family tree ripe with well-known names like Daniel Boone and William Clark.  Having grown up in the 60’s and 70’s it was natural for my sisters and me to be taught that these men were heroic figures.  But Louise Erdrich has forced me to think differently.  My earliest Scottish ancestor to emigrate came not to this country but to this continent in 1692.  I know I have ancestors who fought in the Revolution and on both sides of the War Between the States but what I don’t know for sure is how many of those Millers who came before me were slave-owners or land-robbers.  Reading Louise Erdrich has reinforced my belief that a serious apology is due to a serious amount of people.  I can’t change what has already happened.  But I can admit that it was not just wrong but unfathomably disgusting.  I won’t be going back to Europe to live any time soon.  But I can, having read Louise Erdrich, promise to try to ensure that my descendants don’t take after my ancestors.

576431_4359983609964_1552622462_n         Welcome To My Blah.  I Mean Blog.

I believe in the speed of thought, that all I have to do is close my eyes and imagine myself on the surface of Mars and spiritually, that’s where I am.  That if I concentrate and imagine an Earthly “invasion” of peace-loving aliens who would teach us all how to get along and be kind towards one another, then somewhere, perhaps in a parallel universe, it is actually happening.
I believe in reincarnation.  Energy cannot be born or snuffed out in any traditional sense, it can only be transformed into something else.  I am, right now, that something else.  And someday, I will be something else again.  My soul will live on until it is ready to exist as pure energy once again, its original form before this flesh and blood adventure began.
I believe in the inter-connectedness of all there is.  We are all tiny motes of living, breathing, loving, giving, taking, caring, mistake-making and growing collections of molecules who know all truths in our spiritual forms but forget everything to take physical shape.  If we could all, and it would definitely have to be all, get on with the business of being good, not evil, our physical bodies would become unnecessary and we would reunite with everything, as God.  We are not God, the collective goodness inside of us is.  All of us.  No soul may be left behind.
For three years now, I have been mostly unemployed.  By trade I am a television stage manager.  I have met and rubbed elbows with almost every celebrity you can name.  I have traveled the country and the world for one network or another to bring the folks at home the magic of television.  It was always a fun and interesting job, a way to earn a living while I cruised through life, loving, disappointing, being disappointed, raising and adoring three wonderful children, paying the bills and all that pedestrian stuff while I struggled to make time for my two true passions:  writing and philosophy.  I could wear jeans to work and I never had to sit behind a desk in a taupe-colored cubicle, there was plenty of quality time to spend with my young daughters and I managed, in my head, to be a writer and a philosopher, so I felt fulfilled.  Occasionally I felt guilty for not spending my time doing more to make the world a better place, but I always thought if I could manage to be a good person, march on Washington every now and then and spread love and kindness wherever I went, it would somehow be enough.  I just wanted to do my job, go home to my family and friends, teach peace and compassion to my girls and write stories in my head, some of which actually made it down to paper and even into published anthologies.  Basta.  Dayenu.  Enough.
When I lost my job, everything changed.  The bills sat and sat, unpaid and inspiring collection phone calls, the car fell into disrepair, the house was sold, just in time to avoid foreclosure and my kids despised being the “poor” ones in school.  I spent a ton of energy trying to find a new job as a TV stage manager so I could stay within my professional comfort zone and while I have succeeded in finding freelance gigs here and there I have not succeeded in making a real living.
My wonderful friends have encouraged me to stay positive and I have genuinely tried.  They have reminded me to be grateful for the good things in my life and I genuinely am.  They have given me job leads and ideas for which I am genuinely thankful.  Still, I wrestle with depression and self-doubt.  I wonder if I’m truly worthy.  I wonder if my professional skills have diminished and I’m not good enough for network TV anymore.  And, most importantly, I wonder if the universe, by denying me a job, isn’t trying to tell me something important.  The universe, meaning me, connected to everything else.  Like, maybe it’s time to put down my headset and do something more meaningful.  More important.  More… giving of myself.  And this thought frightens me into inaction.
One of the reasons I am paralyzed into inaction is the state of the world.  It truly terrifies me.  There are way too many people on it and everyone is trying to get more elbow room.  The seriously rich have been exposed for the creeps they really are and so the vise gets tighter.  There’s always backlash when a truth comes to light.  The collective “They” want to oppress and control and exploit as many of us as they can.  There’s nothing safe to eat or drink anymore and no one seems to care.  Sure, you can buy organic if you can afford it, but who’s to say if “organic” is even a reality anymore?  I mean, if you’re farmer A and you decide to go organic but you’re downstream of farmer B, who is deep in the back pocket of Monsanto and Bayer and Scott’s and Johnson & Johnson, then how “organic,” really, is your milk?  Or your chicken?  Or your friggin’ potato?  The whole planet is toxic and the corporations don’t seem to care.  We’ve gone beyond the tipping point of carbon monoxide levels in the atmosphere and the corporations don’t seem to care.  There’s a field of garbage the size of Texas floating in the radioactive Pacific Ocean and the corporations don’t seem to care.  What’s a Grrrl to do?
See?  Paralyzing.  To me anyway.  There is so much hatred in this world it makes me tremble.  There are wars everywhere.  Hate crimes.  Human rights violations.  Starvation, exploitation, children forced into prostitution.  Who wakes up one day and says, okay, today I am going to capture some kids and sell their bodies to perverts?
Yeah, I know, I’m on a wild rant.  Sorry.  This world is such a beautiful place.  Human Beings are capable of amazing feats of courage and inventiveness and compassion.  Within my system of beliefs, it doesn’t really matter if we blow ourselves up because we’ll all just become pure energy again until the next wild planetary ride commences.  But who couldn’t do with a little less suffering?  Who wouldn’t want to put an end to unnecessary pain and strife?  And what a shame it would be to destroy this blue-green marble which has provided us with everything, literally everything we have.  I am hoping for a happy ending.  I think it’s time to start seriously working towards that goal.