Sunday, 28 June 2015

One Judge. I Am Not Him.

God has a sense of humour. Some things you don't see coming. He does. When they appear, well, between the both of us, we got this. Nothing is of a surprise to Him. His Word says, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (Ecclesiates 1:9) (I like the poetry of the KJV.) As a matter of fact, another verse says, "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past. (Ecc. 3:15)

I am Christian. I believe in Jesus, and daily seek to maintain a close relationship with Him. I believe the Bible is the word of God. To get to it, in the last week, much happened regarding gay rights in the USA. (Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since July 2005.)  As a Christian, when I utter my thoughts on this sensitive topic, I fully expect to be derided and ridiculed and accused of being homophobic and being a Bible Thumper and and and... It's the way it is. True, there are Christians who go about expressing condemnation of members of the LGBT community. They spew vitriol squarely directed at them at every opportunity. So, Christians who are more mild in airing their views are lumped in with that batch.

But, no matter how mild the approach, the Christian with a point of view borne out of their belief is often not... (what's the word? Allowed?) ..."allowed" to express his/her dissenting view. I don't get it. I'm Christian, and I believe homosexuality is a sin. Should I acquiesce and go with someone else's view just because I don't wish to offend them? That is ridiculous. I have relatives who are gay. By the time I found out, well, I had already loved them to pieces. No judgment. I believe we will someday all answer to one God for the time we spent here. Meantime, my duty is to love and shine, including when I join the conversation on controversial topics. I have made a choice to believe what I believe. Look around. The world is a mess. It takes more than wealth and popularity to attain that which is most precious in such a time as this - peace of mind.

Earlier, I referred to the Bible. If someone does not believe the Bible to be the Word of God, it is pointless to quote from it as an authority in support of the point being made. Enter grace, through faith - and time. We live. We believe. We live according to our belief. Philip Yancey - atheist turned Christian - wrote in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew: "God's terrible insistence on human freedom is so absolute that He granted us the power to live as though He did not exist, to spit in His face, to crucify Him. Although power can force obedience, only love can summon a response of love, which is the one thing God wants from us and the reason He created us."

So, people are free to do whatever with whomever. I don't bash friends who don't share  my faith, for example. Love them and leave them to Jesus and time. I believe He can and does make a wonderful difference in people's lives. People make the difficult decision to "come out of the closet". No judgment. And, it's not because the skeletons in my closet have skeletons in their closets. It is because I am not the JUDGE. I cannot be presumptuous to think I can judge and mete out sentences to whomever I think is not living according to God's word. Especially when I am a daily beneficiary of His amazing grace.

It seems, though, no matter how many times as a Christian you say and demonstrate love and kindness even as you disagree with "the masses", you will be ridiculed, vilified, etc. Not everyone will share my views. I get that. Still, one word in dissent, and many immediately go for the jugular. Yet, they are the same ones exercising their right to speak their views freely. I don't get that.

You know what's not funny? We can be angered and get freaked out by the news that a three year-old girl has been raped by a 30 year-old man. Why? Because something inside our make up says it is wrong. There is still wrong and right in the world. It's not always black and white, but it exists. It is not, as much as we would like to think, a case of anything goes. Consensus doesn't mean right. Humans are fickle beings. What is right today is not necessarily right tomorrow. But, God's word and standards do not change.

In today's " Look at me!" world, it is not surprising that some compromise on their beliefs for the sake of popularity; for adulation; for likes and favs and retweets. "Do you, boo!" But, as a person who seeks to abide in Christ, my choices do not often coincide with the world's. And that is to be expected. I don't think my final words on my deathbed will be, "Oh, I wish I had been more popular on Social Media." Nope. The Christian journey is not an easy one and every day is a struggle, but I try to keep the proper perspective and focus on what really matters. The Holy Spirit does not leave me alone.

Speaking of expectations, what also seems to be expected is that folks like myself should go sit in a corner somewhere because we have a dissenting view - no matter how much in love we express it. Yeah. About that. We have been commissioned to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And, we will and do have a belief out of which we speak. I think it was the ancient Greek philosopher, Epictetus, who said, "All religions must be tolerated...for every man must get to heaven in his own way." *raises hand* Umm, about that "in his own way" part? No. The Word I live by quotes Jesus as saying He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Him. Hmm. Not only do we want to live however we want, we also want the assurance that it's okay. And, some of our spiritual leaders, sadly, have given in to this. For myriad reasons, I suppose - the desire not to offend; not to step on anyone's toes; not to lose popularity, etc. The unadulterated word of God can be hard-hitting. Nobody is perfect and has it all together in this walk. Enter, grace. 

Sigh. The criticisms for expressing particular - and particularly dissenting - positions will come.

We got this.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

A Book of Any Length...

Not too long ago, I came across someone on Twitter whose bio said he'd written scores of books. Given how challenging it is to realize even that first book most of us have inside, it left me wondering just how lengthy, and of what quality, those books were. How is it some people make writing look so easy? You know what they say, right? Every writer soon learns that a book that's easy to read is hard to write. (Or something like that.)

As I make way for hundreds of writers in my Twitter space, I've begun to pick up on a few things. One of them is this: A very short how-to book that has been published solely for an e-reader platform is still considered a book. Got an eBook of 12 pages? It's still a book. And it's been published. So, the author can (and does) claim to be a published author. Write a few scores of those kinds and you can in fact claim to have written scores of books! 

Here's the thing: In years past, I probably would not have claimed very short (adult) books as books per se. I'd have probably called works of that length short stories or viewpoints or something, then compile them for a far lengthier work for which I could more worthily claim the title of author. But that way of thinking is what would've been left over from a programmed perception, if you will.

Fast forward. I've been thinking of a few short pieces. Enter eBook ideas. The following is part of one of these yet unfinished pieces. Perhaps I could embark on a series of eBooks in which I share something along these lines - and what can't be read between the lines. I've always thought of developing (or publishing "as is") some of these blog posts. I shall ponder this in my heart. 

There have been times when I held on for too long after I should have let go, second guessing my gut and wondering whether my impatience had yet again overridden longsuffering. I don't let go until the ugly is undeniable and irrefutable. A big step up from cutting them off at the first sign of betrayal of trust. But, a long way down from what is sensible. Then, I let go. I take myself away. The words go first. I follow on their heels. A moment to embrace my new normal is necessary. Given the signs, the cleaning and cleansing had begun - bit by bit. After letting go, I breathe; I hold myself; I assure myself I need this time, this moment, to just be still. And I declutter, starting in my mind. I am strong. I find comfort in knowing I am not worse for the wear. I sowed good seeds. And, I was sincere.


Monday, 8 June 2015

Turning Point

A couple of years ago, Dove came out with an ad to encourage women and girls to accept themselves as beautiful.  The ad, dubbed Camera Shy, made me smile. It also made me think. Good on Dove, for I imagine that that's part of what they were after. It becomes rather revealing when we stop and think about whether as adults we are now camera shy, and what led us to that point.

If we are, there may be several reasons for it. The least of them might not be a matter of privacy. There may be a legitimate concern about how an innocent and candid photo may end up being used on the Internet. Apart from that, however, may be the more grueling issue of our perception of our natural beauty, whether it is...enough at any given time. And, if it isn't, when did we start thinking so? And, can we go back?

But, this post is not about that - per se.

Something came to mind other day. Remember that line in Mr. Monk and the Very, Very Old Man, when Stottlemeyer was asked why he hadn't done something or other? His response was stteo, "I'd hurt his feelings... That's my new full-time job - not hurting people's feelings."  It's one of those lines that stuck with me because it's indicative of that shift between worlds. There is a turning point between the childlike (and often entertaining) innocence that produces frank, unfiltered responses, and the caution we employ as we get more emotionally aware and considerate of people's feelings. It happens. We learn it from family, or the other social structures to which we become exposed as we grow. Yeah, it happens. And, little by little, we begin to apply filters and cushions and, in no time, we become very adept at not saying what we really mean.

I believe most adults do not enjoy that luxury I love to refer to in a favourite C.S. Lewis quote: "Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that's the whole art and joy of words."

It does sound oh-so-good on its own, doesn't it? The larger piece from which I grabbed it not only provides context, but answers, on point, the reason we often remain in our new-found comfort zone, having made the transition between worlds; the reason it's hard to go back.

“Lightly men talk of saying what they mean. Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.” A glib saying. When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the centre of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words.” 
- C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Consent Implied

I was on the GO train the other day when a young woman embarked. She sat diaginally across from me in one of those double row seats. She appeared to be a student. Beside her, and straight across from me, sat another young woman - older, professional, complete in business suit and all. This was in the still chilly March weather.

To my left, and in the corner, sat a gentleman. He might've been in his late twenties, early thirties. Bear with me. I'm going somewhere with this.

Shortly after we left Union station, the student and the gentleman struck up a quiet conversation. After all, we were seated in the Quiet Zone. It may have been about...ah! Yes. It was about his watch. There was something she found remarkable about it.

Shortly after that, she took her drawing pad and a pencil from her bag. And, she started drawing. I made a polite glance and realized she was drawing a caricature of the man. I cast a furtive glance in his general direction to catch any expression of surprise I could. Nada. Either he was blissfully unaware that his "likeness" was being reproduced, or, he was aware and didn't mind. Or, he did mind  but chose not to be confrontational. Or some like thought.

She continued drawing, rather fast, I might add. She really got that talent down pat. While she did, the young woman next to her reached for her smartphone, then held it up at an angle to direct the lens toward the notepad. Yes. She was unabashedly taking a few photos of the artwork in progress.

By this time, the guy being drawn was clearly in the know about the representation of his image. I'd caught him looking at the notepad. He'd said nothing. I wouldn't go as far as to say he seemed flattered. That'd be a romantic unfounded notion. But, at the least, he did appear a bit amused and totally, as in totally, not bothered.

The younger girl continued her drawing. She too didn't seem to care at all that her work was being photographed by a total stranger - in such proximity!

It was like an unspoken agreement among them.

Of course, when she wrapped that up and started in a new page and glanced a couple of times in my direction, I had to ask, "Are you drawing me now?"
"No," she answered with a smile.
The young woman and the man smiled, too. But, I needed to add, and so I did, "Okay, 'cause I'd have to, y'know, change seats," I said with a feint smile of the pursed "so-there's-that" lips kind. They did a mix of polite smile and chuckle.

At the next stop, our little community disbanded and life went on.

So, we are here. Total strangers all up in total strangers' faces like that. Someone who's performing pretty much expects the smartphones to come out. But, here was a guy, going about his business and voíla! There'd been no request for permission to draw him. There'd been no request for permission to take a photo of the drawing. The characters in this true story simply did as they pleased, as though based on the assumption that the man was worth drawing, or the drawing was worth snapping, consent was implied.

A few weeks after that episode, I spotted a tweet re an article about a young woman who'd had a kind of altered rendition of her Instagram pic put on show. The blown-up photo was said to be sold for about $90,000. Just. Like. That.

I've said before that, these days, once you leave your house - or anyone else's house for that matter - be prepared to be caught up in someone else's video or photo. (Alas, you may be photo bombing and not know it.) It's as though your decision to be out and about in public means your consent to be caught on camera is implied.

I read an article recently about a (perhaps little-known) by-law in Toronto that forbids the taking of photos in parks. And I've visited at least one library that forbids the taking of photos within its walls - no matter how cute you think your niece and her playmates are, standing beside the giant stuffed gorilla. Just sayin'.

Well, you have to leave the house at some point. Correct? Whatyagonnado. Take comfort in the fact that most people couldn't care less about the people who happen to be caught in the background of their pics. Really.

You can leave the house now.


Monday, 18 May 2015

The Sound and the Fury: Fireworks!!!

For years, sis (@MizDurie), has been inviting me to behold the spectacle that is the Toronto fireworks show at Ashbridge's Bay. Years. This year she tried again. This year, I agreed. I decided to see what the fuss was about.

I get it now.

Credit for all photos: @MizDurie


Friday, 8 May 2015

Happy Dance In My Head

On the last day of April - which was a fantastic month, by the way - I was travelling home on the GO Train. I was seated in one of the upper level cars, in one of those rows that face another. On rush hour trains, the upper cars are designated Quiet Zone areas - short and quiet conversations are okay; passengers may plug in to their personal devices, as long as they don't disturb others, etc. 

It was a little after 4:30...okay, it was 4:36. I had checked, just as the thought crossed my mind to ask a favour of the woman seated across from me. She had been reading The Cruellest Month - a rather thick novel. I figured if she is a reader, then she could be relied upon to give valuable feedback on a totally new piece. Before I gave myself a chance to talk myself out of it (that sounds funny), I spoke up. I had read in Blake Snyder's Save The Cat that it's a good idea to ask someone at, say, a coffee shop, to look at you work or draft or idea. I totally get that. I imagine you'd likely get great feedback from a total stranger with no hangups about hurting the feelings of someone they'll probably never lay eyes on again. And, if they do, they'll probably change coffee shops. Or, you could change coffee shops. Okay! It's not about coffee shops.

So, as I was saying, before I interrupted myself, I spoke up. 

Me: Excuse me. I've never done this before. I'm writing an introduction to my anthology of poems. Would you mind reading it and letting me know what you think? 
She: Yes, of course. 
I handed her my phone. She bookmarked her page, then looked me in the eye, "I'd be happy to read it."
Me: Thank you!
I was positively beaming! I did my happy dance in my head! Heh heh.
When she was finished, she leaned toward me and I followed cue and leaned toward her. We were, after all, in the Quiet Zone. 
She: It's very real. It's very personal, and it's moving. It should go well with the poems as that's what they're about. It needs a bit of editing, but it's really good. 
Me: Thanks so much. Could you tell me where needs editing? 
She: That part where you talk about the relationship? His pillow? Is it a real person or someone you're imagining? The reader needs to be clear on that. Hopefully, that gives you enough to go on? 
Me: Yes! Thank you!

I'm glad I'd plucked up the courage to do it. I got good feedback. She was right, of course. I knew the context I had had in  mind when I wrote that section, but the reader would need more information to make sense of it. 

Can I tell you? That was a wonderful way to end April 2015! I had won the poetry competition at the Lit Café, and @CBCBooks had held a lil #CBCRhymes competition on Twitter one day - and I was one of two (or three) winners! I received a few poetry books as my prize. They came just in time, too. A few days earlier, my publisher had asked me to send the write-ups - acknowledgements, author bio, and so on - for my upcoming poetry book. I had decided on a cover, too. When I got those books in the mail, the first thing I did was pay attention to the covers; how the titles were written; whether the font sizes were too big, etc. And, yes, I will be reading them. :-)

Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years is now in the production process. 

Again, #HappyDanceInMyHead! 


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Not-so-great Expectations

More often than not, whenever I open the new post page to the blank screen, I tell myself I won't be long. Next thing I know, I'm hitting 600+ words. Tonight, however, I won't be long. I think.

I've been thinking about this blog and where it's headed. I really like the fact that I've carved out a little space in cyberspace and write whatever I want to. However, my first book of poetry (there's at least one other poetry book inside me) is being published - Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years. I'm excited and humbled and thankful...all up in my feels, really. I am also a tad concerned that, as a published poet, my lil blog will be expected to feature more writing about poetry, the writing process, and the like. And, that's not one of the feels. Okay. Lemme stop speaking in SoMe language for a second.

The idea that I may be expected to write more about my work as a poet is a tad unappealing. I relish the luxury I now have - writing about a variety of subject matter. My posts range from dogs to Desiderata; Buju to BlackBerry; writing to World Cup.... You catch my drift. I am a real person, and I find many things in life interesting - even up to a point, at a certain point - and like to write about them.

So, I dunno. I'm thinking the writing/poetry posts will come - the words will force themselves into my psyche - and I will have no choice but to write them. For, whenever I do write about writing and poetry and creative processes, it's because I simply must. I am just a bit wary that I might have to sacrifice subject range on the altar of brand development.

That mightn't be a bad thing. Still, new visitors to my blog will, hopefully, come to understand that writing and poetry, and writing about writing and poetry, are just part of the whole. And, while they're at it, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

All being well, my book will be out in September 2015. Would you look at that? "My book." :-) Thank You, God. At this stage, I'm writing those important sections for inclusion. Y'know? Acknowledgements, intro, bio, and everything like such as... :-)