When I began my first semester of college in August of 2002 the path forward looked clear: English major, creative writing emphasis, learn how to write novels. This had been my plan since about third grade.
But it didn’t happen. Instead George W. Bush invaded Iraq and I added on a political science major. At a moral level, with questions of life and death hanging in the balance, to change the world by writing great literature seemed almost irresponsible. How could I waste my time dreaming up fantasies when I could be using my skills to try and affect the decisions our country made?
And so it’s remained for almost seven years, since I graduated in 2006. My political ideology might have shifted as I emerged out of the academic bubble and discovered the joy of learning how to create value in the free market, but my reading habits stayed the same, mirroring what P. David Hornik described in his thoughtful “Goodbye, Literature” essay.
I realize now that I’ve consumed an unbalanced reading diet — not unlike my unbalanced eating diet (now recently corrected). Perhaps novels have made up only 10% of my book intake. I’ve focused so much on getting caught up on political books and reviewing the new non-fiction ones that I’ve neglected the literary world.
No more. Yesterday I decided to declare my intent to blog on the humorous philosophical writings of the radical agnostic novelist Robert Anton Wilson, to analyze his ideas and separate the wheat from the chaff. And so it seems fitting that on the day following it I’ll do the same with his opposite, the very serious and very certain Ayn Rand. The Thursday Book Shelf recommendations and excerpts will come from her works. I welcome any suggestions on passages of note — email me at DaveSwindlePJM@Gmail.com. I’m hoping that this can ignite my passion for the novel. Someday I do hope to get back to it again…
More on Ayn Rand and Objectivism at PJ Lifestyle:
I was traveling today on a plane and picked up the US Airways magazine where I read an interesting article by Ken Jennings on his book Because I Said So!: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids.
The gist of the article was that many of the things parents tell kids are not necessarily true (though some are). One example he gave was when parents tell kids not to run with a lollipop in their mouth. It turns out that few kids ever get injured by running with a lollipop in his or her mouth. It was so interesting that I looked up the author’s website to find out more and found the following things that parents tell kids:
“Don’t cross your eyes or they’ll stay like that!”
“Feed a cold, starve a fever!”
“Don’t touch your Halloween candy until we get it checked out!”
“Never run with scissors.”
“Don’t look in the microwave while it’s running!”
“This will go down on your permanent record.”
Is any of it true? If so, how true?
I felt very comforted to know that kids running with lollipops was not a terribly dangerous act but then I had the misfortune to see this headline at MSNBC: “Girl survives pencil through eye and into brain.” It turns out a 20 month old was running with a colored pencil and fell on it and it went through her eye. It’s easy to think that a lot of the things parents tell their kid are just myths to keep kids from doing dumb things, but maybe there is a reason for it! Kids do a lot of dumb things.
More on parenting at PJ Lifestyle:
Lindsey and Ray are part of the urban agriculture movement, a movement that I personally support and encourage. Instead of getting all their food from the grocery stores (or worse, fast food restaurants) as too many Americans do today, they’ve taken to growing what they can, and seem to have embraced the relatively new concept of edible landscaping. They’re concerned about a collapse of the world agricultural system.
If you’re one of those people who wholeheartedly believes in global warming, stop sneering at Doomsday Preppers now; if global climate change really is upon us as some claim, then shifts in climate will lead to poor yields and even crops failures. Such shifts and the famines they caused are the most likely causes of the end of the Mayan and Egyptian empires, and affected us here in the United States to a lesser extent in the 1930s. Considering the massive shift from rural to urban lifestyles that has happened in the past 80 years, the overwhelming majority of us are reliant on a relative handful of American farmers.
Scared sober yet? Good.
In response to this threat, Lindsey has become an advocate for sustainable living, promoting her message through a call-in radio show to encourage her Idaho community to follow her lead.
While Lindsey focuses on promoting a sustainable lifestyle, her husband Ray is a former Marine intent on protecting Lindsey and their family from the rampaging hordes of starving people he expects to see if food supply collapses. He’s secured for the family a bug-out location with simple cabins and a deep well, far away from other people and stockpiled with four years of supplies, communications gear, their own agricultural supplies to continue growing their own food, and, of course, weapons. Why?
Due in part to Lindsey’s radio show, she and Ray are well-known as being the most-prepared among their friends and family. Some — who of course don’t believe in prepping themselves — have told Ray, “If the sh*t hits the fan, we’re coming over to your place.” Ray, AK-pattern rifle in hand with a 30-round clip in place, says rather convincingly that no, they will not. Therein, chillingly stated by Ray with his takes-no-nonsense eyes, lies the harsh reality of prepping told through the fable of the grasshopper and the ant.
If you prep, you might live. If you live improvidently, and do not prepare for bad times, do not expect others to save you.
Publication Date: August 1, 2004
Founder of National Review, Bill Buckley gives us a witty and unusual novel, which charts the birth of the American modern conservative movement. From the Hungarian uprising of 1956, to Cold War espionage, tempestuous romance, and political skuilduggery, Buckley provides a rare insight in to the people and times of 1960s America. Getting it Right reveals how the political movement that eventually came together to elect Ronald Reagan president first had to purge itself of cranks, crazies, conspirators – and even spies. No novel by William F. Buckley Jr. has ever been written with such verve, personal passion, and raw authenticity.
More on political ideology at PJ Lifestyle:
His sudden post-Sandy Hook notoriety is no accident, however.
The average American doesn’t know what a “red top” is or realize that the now-defunct and disgraced News of the World was the British National Enquirer but with Princess Margaret taking on the role usually played by Bigfoot — and Morgan serving as Eavesdropper in Chief.
Before that, Morgan abused his lofty position at the Mirror to do some insider trading, for which his wrist was merely slapped. He wasn’t so lucky after publishing hoax photos of British troops allegedly torturing Iraqi prisoners—that stunt cost him his job.
Yet Morgan keeps getting new ones, his stint as King’s replacement being the latest and greatest.
At least that was the idea.
He signed a three-year, $8-million contract with CNN, but Morgan’s ratings aren’t impressive. He draws half the viewers of Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow in the same time slot.
With his contract up for renewal this year, Morgan must have been itching for attention, maybe wishing for one of those nigh on unimpeachable “moral panics” of the sort that keep those British tabloids in business.
Along came Adam Lanza. (…)
With his contract renewal a crapshoot, Piers Morgan is clearly auditioning for his next gig, on a stage built with the blood and bones of dead children.
Author James Wasserman posted this image on Facebook last week and noted:
Laura Wiggers sent me this photo of Robert Anton Wilson in Gurney’s apartment (1986) for the post-lecture evening described on page 216 of In the Center of the Fire when a certain Nancy Wasserman drove me half crazy, probably in collusion with Laura if memory serves. Not that anyone was drinking in those days!
In trying to figure out a regular angle for my third resolution, it dawned on me the other day how many Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) books — particularly his novels — I still had not read. Maybe for my excerpts for funny PJ Lifestyle Bookshelf recommendations I should highlight his jokes? Hence today’s excerpt from Schrodinger’s Cat: The Universe Next Door.
As with many countercultural and spiritual wanderers of the past 40 years, one of my most cherished guides and influence was RAW, a comedic philosopher-intellectual and novelist most well known for his mind-bending memoir Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati and The Illuminatus! Trilogy (co-authored with Robert Shea.)
The idea uniting Wilson’s books is one that I still sympathize with but no longer embrace: radical agnosticism. Wilson sought to provoke his readers to learn to always question their perceptions and assumptions, to strive to look through other people’s “reality tunnels.” As a general principle this is still a sound cause to triumph. But I understand now, having imbibed a few more glasses of painful life experience, that this as an overarching ideology cannot sustain itself.
Recognizing a multiplicity of potentially valuable, useful reality tunnels is one thing. But figuring out how to value one as more effective than another is something else entirely. And looking back now across Wilson’s work I see how he failed to do that. His list of influences runs across the gamut from the genuinely brilliant to the malevolent charlatans. And his storyteller and raconteur’s gifts then apply to help popularize both. Perpetually doubting and always striving to see from another’s perspective means that when the time comes to really stand strong on an important principle it can be very hard to do. Insist long enough that we live in a world of endless shades of gray and someday you’ll stumble into a darkness far bleaker than anything imaginable. And doubt can stand against it?
No, but laughter can. And just because Wilson couldn’t realize that some of the ideas and authors he trumpeted were better than others it doesn’t me that we cannot.
For Wednesday’s humorous blogging I’m going to start going through my old RAW books and highlighting what I discover now through my more seasoned, less naive eyes. I want to try and figure out what Wilson got right and where he went off the rails. Which of his 11 novels and 18 nonfiction books merit inclusion on the Counterculture Conservative book list?
But I’ll still try and stick to the New Year’s Resolution and offer up some humor too and not just dwell on the darkness that he and so many of his generation and many since chose to escape confronting.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
If you’re not watching the new season of Justified (Tuesdays at 10 on FX), you’re missing the best crime series on TV and what may be about to become one of the genuinely great crime series of all time. For me, most TV shows reach their highest level in the first year. Stories have a theme. The theme works itself out in the first year. Everything else is a sequel, second best. Sometimes by the fourth year a new theme is discovered and the show gets a second wind, but it’s still rarely as good as that first season. Dexter and The Wire, two great shows, come to mind as examples.
But while the first three seasons of Justified have been distinguished by terrific acting, spectacular dialogue, excellent characters and moments of violence that were terrifying without being unnecessarily disgusting (usually), the year-long arcs of the plots have not been as great as the rest of the package. The show is inspired by an Elmore Leonard short story, and while Leonard’s genius for dialogue and his hilarious and realistic approach to human corruption are what inform the show at its best, his satiric and sometimes rambling plotting doesn’t translate that well to TV. (Or maybe it’s just that he’s not writing the show — though the creator Graham Yost has channeled him wonderfully.)
In its first two episodes, however, this season looks to me to have moved to an even higher level. The yearlong plot, which involves the unearthing of a long-lost messenger bag, is inherently compelling and makes a great hook on which to hang the sub-plots. And the main characters seem to have found themselves in ways that give them fresh life. The appealing, out-of-his-time hero Raylan Givens (played with a pitch-perfect blend of irony and valor by Timothy Olyphant) is in a relationship with a barmaid that promises some really interesting complications, especially as his ex is about to give birth to their child. The small-town gangster Boyd Crowder (played by The Shield‘s Walton Goggins, one of the best actors on TV, if not the best) is now in a relationship with his widowed sister-in-law Ava (played by the excellent and heart-meltingly beautiful Joelle Carter) that is as genuinely affectionate and touching as it is murderous and corrupt. Nick Searcy’s perfectly played Chief, world-weary but compassionate, is struggling with retirement. And all the new characters — a tent preacher, a constable, the barmaid’s ex — look to be richly drawn and promising.
Really, watching the first two episodes was bliss.
The second golden age of American crime writing, which lived in the novel during the 80s and 90s, has moved to television. Justified is an excellent part of that excellent trend and just seems to be getting better.
More recent writings on TV at PJ Lifestyle:
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Cheating always seems like such a black-and-white issue, doesn’t it? Of course, in one sense, it is. You cheated? Then you’re the bad guy (or girl) and your partner has every right to be upset, angry, hurt, and to never forgive you.
However, if you know a few people who cheat, you start to find out it’s not always so simple. That doesn’t mean the cheater’s justified, but it does mean he may have reasons for what he’s doing that go beyond not being able to keep it in his pants for more than five minutes at a time. The truth that no one likes to hear, especially after a person has been two-timed, is that happy, intellectually stimulated, sexually satisfied people who are deeply in love aren’t the ones who are playing around. Again, that doesn’t mean it’s okay or that the one who was cheated on is at fault, but cheating usually doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
If you know a lot of men (and women), what you’ll find is that there are a lot of common themes that come up.
1) He’s morally okay with cheating on his partner
Not everybody who cheats will cheat again, but on the other hand, the first question you should ask about whether someone will be faithful is, “Has he cheated before?” If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny how many women have an affair with a married man and then are shocked when he later does the same thing to them. It’s not as if you have to give women hints and signs about what they need to look out for because they already know; it’s just that they believe it won’t happen to them, too.
Three weeks after publicly proclaiming seven self-improvement goals for the new year, my quest for more disciplined time management still remains the most elusive. Some of the problem is that I have not yet figured out how best to utilize the four tools that will navigate me through the combination of my personal and professional lives:
*** Cell phone – currently a Motorola Droid but soon to switch to an iPhone… Finally!
Part of this I can blame on not having all the puzzle pieces yet. My new journal — a birthday present from The Wife — arrived on Friday. And our new phones won’t appear until the end of the week. But soon I’ll have only myself to blame for those all-too-familiar feelings of anxiety and frustration that still arrive some days when I fail to achieve all the goals set.
I suspect that part of the problem is my tendency to multitask. As much as I want to focus on just writing a blog post or just editing an article or just reading a book from the stack of to-review titles, it’s so easy for interruptions — a phone call from a writer, an instant message from another PJM editor — and stray thoughts to lead me astray. And then before I know it I’m juggling numerous tabs across devices, drowning in a sea of emails, tweets, and YouTube videos. And then I’ll have half a dozen tasks part of the way done. Then Maura, our Siberian Husky, comes and asks for me to take her out.
Part of the problem is the nature of the technology itself. For most of the tasks that I do throughout the day I can technically use either my laptop, phone, or iPad. And often even within the same program. Writing emails, reading news reports, and publishing PJM articles through WordPress — these all happen in a single program on one device, and thus end up intermingling together. I haven’t figured out yet which devices and programs are the best.
A few areas that I’ll investigate on in the next few weeks and then report on:
1. Is it easiest to keep track of and respond to emails the traditional way with a computer or primarily on ipad, or phone?
2. Can I really get to the point where it’s possible to publish and edit WordPress articles from the iPad? Can one blog more efficiently and effectively from iPad instead of laptop?
3. What possibilities do the cameras on the iPad and iPhone allow for increasing organization? Am I the only one who has gotten in the habit of casually taking photos of bits of information I’d rather not forget?
4. Maybe I should experiment with this as a “division of powers” of sorts: A) To encourage concise communication, email primarily on the iPhone or iPad B) Use laptop for serious writing and editing, work C) The iPad should be utilized for consuming and sharing media (keeping up with news, blogs, and Kindle books) and social networking.
But what I’m definitely going to start doing:
5. With my new Moleskine journal (volume 15) I’m going to get in the habit of early EVERY day, taking the time to write down a quick summary — perhaps a bullet list — of my goals and plans for the day. If I can visualize the ideal day first thing can I then project an image of it through the visual reminders on the iPad and cell phone? Can I program my technology to help program me into a more organized, more focused person? We shall find out…
Related at PJ LIfestyle:
If President Obama’s goal with the inaugural prayers was to marginalize and offend devout, conservative Christians and orthodox Jews, it would be fair to say: mission accomplished.
The choice of Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, departed from historical protocol. She was the first female and first non-clergy member to lead an inaugural prayer. She did so in the wake of Pastor Louie Giglio’s unceremonious removal from the dais after the discovery he had preached a sermon 20 years ago expositing the Bible’s position on homosexuality. While it’s understandable that Evers-Williams would feel the need to temper her prayers, lest the current administration banish her from future public speaking engagements, her words represent a stunning departure from historical inaugural prayers and from anything resembling a Christian, Jewish, or even a generic Judeo-Christian prayer.
Evers-Williams, when asked to describe her religious affiliation by Religion News Service, said,
I have been Baptist, I have been Methodist, I have been Presbyterian. I have attended all of those churches depending on where I have lived in my life.
The answer seems rather dodgy, but nothing out of the ordinary, so when her “prayer” began as something of an announcement, we waited for the “prayer” part to begin:
America, we are here, our nation’s Capitol on this January the 21st 2013, the inauguration of our 45th [editor’s note, should be 44th] president Barack Obama.
And we waited some more…
We come at this time to ask blessings upon our leaders, the president, vice president, members of Congress, all elected and appointed officials of the United States of America. We are here to ask blessings upon our armed forces, blessings upon all who contribute to the essence of the American spirit, the American dream. The opportunity to become whatever our mankind, womankind, allows us to be. This is the promise of America.
Was this a prayer or a speech? If it was a prayer, note that Mrs. Evers-Williams addressed it simply to “America,” imploring “America” to bestow blessings upon our leaders and our country.
What do we mean when we say, “You cannot legislate morality”?
Surely, legislation should not be ambivalent to right and wrong. Law builds upon the concept of justice. Is not justice derived from morality?
Sometimes, people simply mean that government cannot force us to be good. In other contexts, the statement signals a distinction between what is objectively wrong, like killing someone, and what is subjectively wrong, like swearing in public.
Yet much of the time it can be hard to discern exactly what someone means when they say morality cannot be legislated. The term is used on both the Right and the Left, by social conservatives and social liberals, by people on opposite sides of the same issue. On the one hand, you might have a conservative who uses the term to argue against redistribution of wealth while standing opposed to gay marriage and abortion. On the other hand, you might find a leftist who uses the term to argue in favor of gay marriage and abortion while seeking to seize money which they did not earn.
What gives? Does the term prove completely subjective? Does any given person simply want their sense of morality enforced while the other guy’s sits ignored?
It shouldn’t surprise us to find confusion whenever morality is invoked. People’s sense of right and wrong certainly varies and will affect their public policies. Perhaps recognition of that fact fuels the notion that morality ought not be legislated. Perhaps we think, “In a free country, we have the right to decide right and wrong for ourselves.”
Of course, that sentiment fails upon its first application. A murderer might think he is right, as might a thief or a rapist. Hitler thought he was right. Perhaps then, morality by whim is not a pillar of true freedom.
Upon acknowledging that some kind of morality must inform legislation, a most uncomfortable question arises. Whose? Should the morality informing legislation be dictated by the church? Should it be a consensus of “experts”? Should it be put to a purely democratic vote? Who has the right, and by what authority, to tell another what they may or may not do?
Historically, governments have derived their authority and their sense of morality through entirely subjective and arbitrary means. The king is so ordained by God. Better men should govern lesser ones. The majority should get their way. These approaches are united in their disregard for individual rights.
Note: This article from Walter Hudson was first published last year on July 17 here.
It shouldn’t matter that I, an author with the audacity to select such a title, am black. The arguments presented should stand or fall on their objective merit. Nevertheless, I declare my racial identity at the outset to defuse any prejudice readers may bring regarding the motivation behind this piece. Indeed, it is in part because I am black that the following must be said.
All things considered, blacks and the civil rights culture surrounding them are the most open and prolific purveyors of racism in America. This is an ironic travesty which spits upon the graves of history’s abolitionists and offends all who are committed to a dream of equality under the law and goodwill among men.
Surely, such a claim is provocative. Unfortunately, it is also demonstrable.
In a recent interview with National Public Radio host Michel Martin, the Oscar-winning black actor Morgan Freeman made the odd declaration that President Barack Obama is not America’s first black president. NPR reports:
“First thing that always pops into my head regarding our president is that all of the people who are setting up this barrier for him … they just conveniently forget that Barack had a mama, and she was white — very white American, Kansas, middle of America,” Freeman said. “There was no argument about who he is or what he is. America’s first black president hasn’t arisen yet. He’s not America’s first black president — he’s America’s first mixed-race president.”
This is a new take on Obama’s racial identity from Freeman, who has previously cited Obama’s blackness as the chief motivation behind political opposition from both Republicans in Congress and the Tea Party movement. From an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan:
… Morgan asked the actor, “Has Obama helped the process of eradicating racism or has it, in a strange way, made it worse?”
“Made it worse. Made it worse,” Freeman replied. “The tea partiers who are controlling the Republican party … their stated policy, publicly stated, is to do whatever it takes to see to it that Obama only serves one term. What underlines that? Screw the country. We’re going to do whatever we can to get this black man out of here.”
Apparently, Obama is black enough to trigger baseless charges of racism, but not black enough to qualify as the first black president. If that makes your brain hurt, you might be rational.
Freeman’s comments are not anomalies. He channels long-held, broadly accepted ideas regarding what it means to be black, the relevance of race, and the claim of blacks upon the rest of society. These ideas are horrifically racist, yet uniquely tolerated.
The tolerance of racist ideas openly expressed by blacks and the larger civil rights establishment is informed by sloppy thinking regarding both race and the role of government in society. True reconciliation requires confronting these ideas with reason. Here are eight ways in which blacks are perpetuating racism, and the one true way to effectively thwart it.
It’s not a therapeutic book. It’s a sociology book on children of divorce, when they are grown. If you were a child of a divorce, it mostly reads like the horror story of the babysitter with the call coming from “….inside the house!” If you’re married, it’ll give you that, so I’m not alone feeling.
The review from Amazon:
During the last 40 years, our society’s views on how families are created and how they operate has undergone a tremendous shift. In The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, authors Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee have assembled a variety of stories from people of different ages and life stages. Some are children of divorce, some are from families that stayed unhappily intact, but all of them offer valuable information important to all of us as parents, children, and members of society at large. Separate chapters focus on the different roles children take on in the event of a divorce or unhappy marriage, ranging from positive role model to deeply troubled adolescent. In many cases, the people interviewed continue to define themselves as children of divorce up to 30 years after the occurrence; this is described by one subject as “sort of a permanent identity, like being adopted or something.”
Both encouraging and thought-provoking, the final chapter questions how we maintain the freedom made possible by divorce while, at the same time, minimizing the damage. The authors’ response to this question begins with pragmatic suggestions about strengthening marriage–not bland “family values” rhetoric but practical how-to ideas combined with national policy initiatives that have been making the rounds for years. With fascinating stories and statistics, Wasserstein, Lewis, and Blakeslee have illuminated the improvements within reach while our society experiences these massive changes in it’s most fundamental relationships. –Jill Lightner
Related at PJ Lifestyle on dysfunctional relationships and marriages:
I don’t play golf for the same reason I’ll never try cocaine — I’m pretty sure I’d like it, and I don’t need any more expensive hobbies. Now pro-golfer Phil Mickelson might be giving up the game because he doesn’t want to pay any more expensive taxes. Or at least that’s what I gleaned from his cryptic interview with Scott Michaux. Could the tax man really drive him permanently to the 19th hole?
Unlike Mickelson, I can’t afford to go Galt. But my wife and I are taking home less and saving more, which sure makes it feel sometimes like we’re living in cash-poor Galt’s Gulch. We’ve discovered though that a nice safety cushion helps you sleep better at night than a new mattress does.
Is there anything you’re giving up this year due to your smaller paycheck?
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
You might have heard of Lana Del Rey because she’s the internet’s favorite singer to hate. Or you might have heard of her because you actually enjoyed one of her songs on the radio. Sound a bit contradictory?
Lana Del Rey sings retro-inspired, whispery pop songs about slightly trashy women with a serious case of heartache. You can picture her heroines telling the story of the man who walked out on them over a cigarette and coffee in a local diner, mascara running down their cheeks. She’s a bad girl from a James Dean movie with a heart of gold. Her music is catchy, melancholy, haunting; it has a quality that reaches out and taps you on the shoulder if you’ve ever been dumped, and whispers to you about feelings that other songs missed. When she croons “I will love you until the end of time,” or “Heaven is a place on earth with you,” in a minor key, she reminds you of that half-life of love that keeps burning on even after the relationship ends. And she’s not fighting it — she’s just feeling it. Even in “Video Games,” a song in which she’s still with her boyfriend, when she sings “better than I ever even knew” the listener gets the impression that things are not perfect.
Lana Del Rey is good music for suspense. She’s good music for sun-draped summer days. She’s good music for a long drive to see someone for the first time in what feels like a long time.
She’s a good bad girl for good girls to listen to.
The other distinctive feature of Lana Del Rey is she can’t do a single thing without every hipster and tabloid blog on the internet jeering her for it. It’s become such a distinctive facet of her career that you can’t discuss her or her music at all without running into internet-hate problem.
What gives? First of all, hating her was made trendy by sites that make lots and lots of money by writing cruel things about people. She’s not perfect, but her crimes are no worse than those of other pop stars who have gotten off with far less derision: take a stage name, or flubbing a performance.
The fact that she’s unafraid to sing about women’s vulnerability without irony or apology is another less discussed reason why music commentators and tabloid writers hate her so vitriolically. She doesn’t follow their script of how empowered gender-neutral young folks these days should talk about love, so she must be mocked into silence.
What has she done to piss them off so much?
Anyone on a faith walk will eventually ask the question, “How do I pray?”
Except for the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, there is no easy answer, for prayer is a very personal and personalized pursuit.
And, as with all pursuits, practice is the key to success and prayer is no different.
You will soon discover the more you pray, the more you will find answers to difficult questions, along with mental or physical healing from various maladies, protection for you or your loved ones and comfort from any number of storms that happen to be raging in your life.
Whatever the current state of your prayer life, even if you do not have one, or practice no faith at all, here is a powerful “prayer exercise” that you should find very beneficial.
Back in 1990 I first experienced this exercise in a group while attending a prayer seminar at my church. During the course of the exercise, the answer to a personal spiritual question that had been plaguing me for 15 years was instantly revealed.
Thus, I immediately became a huge believer in this prayer exercise and since have shared it with many others over the years. You too might find some answers but only if you are truly honest and unafraid to ask or face the most difficult questions or issues in your past or present circumstances.
So without further ado, here is the exercise.
Jesus is visiting your neighborhood. He is going house to house and will be at your door in five minutes.
Will you let him in?
What will you say to Him when he appears at your door?
What is He going to ask you?
What questions are you going to ask Him?
Are there any rooms in your home that you do not want him to see?
Any closets, drawers, photos, or computer files that you want to hide from Him?
Pray about these questions for five minutes.
(Five minutes passes)
Knock, knock Jesus has arrived.
Greet Him at the door or ask Him to go away.
If you invite Him in, visualize actually letting him in the door of your home or apartment as you would any guest.
You may even offer Him something to drink or eat.
Just let the visit unfold.
Perhaps you might want to take him on a tour of your home. Or ask him to sit down as you begin chatting in your most comfortable space.
Remember to discuss the questions or issues you identified in the first part of the exercise.
His visit can last as long as you want because, as the Bible says: I will never leave you nor forsake you.
However, in my group prayer seminar His visit lasted about 10 minutes.
After that time, the prayer leader asked our group if anyone was willing to share their experience of “Jesus’ visit.” Many did, but I was still in shock from His most perfect answer to my question, so I remained uncharacteristically silent.
This exercise is effective in a group setting or when one is alone. Adults, teenagers or even children can be enthralled by this 15 minute “visit with Jesus,” if participants take it seriously and deal with sometimes difficult personal issues honestly.
For a different twist, you could even visualize Jesus walking around your office building for five minutes visiting others before He shows up at YOUR office.
Even though it has been 23 years since I was first introduced to this prayer exercise, my experience was so enlightening it was imprinted on my heart and soul forever.
Do not be surprised if you have similar results. This exercise is extremely powerful because it presents Jesus as someone who you can communicate with in a two-way conversation.
And, after all isn’t that what prayer is anyway, a conversation with God?
Finally, this week on a country music station I heard the song, If I Could Have A Beer With Jesus for the first time. This song by Thomas Rhett reminded me of my 1990 prayer seminar experience and that is the reason why you just read what you read.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
In a complete violation of literary tradition, I’m going to start this column with a digression. Kids, don’t try this at home.
Buddhism is divided roughly into three traditions, or “yanas”, a word that basically means “raft”: Hinayana, the “little raft”, Mahayana, the “big raft”, and Vajrayana, the “diamond raft”. Hinayana is also known as Theravada, or “the teachings of the elders” — especially, as you can imagine, by Theravadans. Honestly, the size of your raft isn’t important; all of them derive from the same source, but with one major difference: Theravada or Hinayana uses literary sources in a language called Pali, while Mahayana sources are in Sanskrit.
Pali in turn comes from a language called Prakrit, or more precisely is a prakrit: Prakrit means “common language” or even “practical language.” The comparison with “practical” isn’t a coincidence. English, like nearly every other language you hear in Europe, derives — along with Prakrit and Sanskrit and Pali — from the same source language that was spoken in what is now northern India. Linguists, elegantly, call this language “Proto-Indo-European“, or, familiarly, as PIE.. Who says there’s no poetry in science?
Sanskrit, by contrast, means “ornamented” or “fancy” language. Classical Sanskrit is a literary language that really developed hundreds of years after the historical Buddha lived, and is used for Buddhist literature in the Mahayana tradition. I lean toward the Mahayana tradition, and a good bit of the original translations of Buddhist literature were made by the Victorian hippies from Sanskrit, or from literary Chinese translations of Sanskrit.
The problem is that when Buddha was actually teaching, speaking to pretty much anyone who walked past, he was undoubtedly speaking Prakrit of some sort. Religious texts were in a sort of liturgical language we call Vedic Sanskrit from which Classical Sanskrit derives, but it doesn’t seem to have been anyone’s normal language, just as Latin nowadays isn’t used very often except in Church contexts, and as I say, Classical Sanskrit hadn’t even been invented yet.
Now, Classical Sanskrit is a beautiful, eloquent, expressive language, but things written in Sanskrit tended to be purposefully eloquent. Then you add those Victorian hippies, with their desire for Oriental things to be mysterious and odd, translating the Sanskrit, and you get things that frankly sound like they were composed by total goons. On bhang.
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Proof of Heaven is the sort of book I almost never read, but I’m glad I made an exception. I don’t really follow the whole Near Death Experience, is-there-or-isn’t-there-an-afterlife debate. I’ve come to believe there is more to life than life, but I don’t think about it much. Life itself seems a pretty urgent business and I want to pay attention to it before it’s gone. If there’s nothing afterwards, I’ll never know. If there is, I’ve got an excellent lawyer.
But a friend gave me the book for Christmas. I started it, and found it weirdly compelling. As you’ve probably heard, it’s Dr. Eben Alexander’s memoir of how he, a neurosurgeon, went into a coma and saw the next world. According to Alexander, who should know, he was so brain dead at the time it happened that it’s virtually impossible for this to have been any kind of a dream or hallucination. And as the experience went on for days, there is a lot of detail, including some stuff that struck me as convincing. Nothing he sees on the Other Side is particularly startling. It’s all in line with the instincts of the best sort of faith. We’re loved; we’re forgiven. Oh, and there are angels. I’ve never been so sure about angels, but apparently there they are. Dogs too. I’d be very disappointed if there were no dogs.
Now as one of my novel characters once remarked: There’s a reasonable explanation for everything and that’s the one some people choose to believe. One of the things I liked best about the book is that Alexander is honest enough to allow us into some of the darker places in his psychology. If you want to construct a psychological explanation for his Near Death Event you can. And he even gives several “scientific” explanations of greater or lesser plausibility — the best being that the whole experience was basically the dream he had when his brain was rebooting.
All the same, I found the book oddly believable. It’s not pious or treacly like so many books about faith experiences are. And even though the doc gets pretty new age and woo-woo by the time he’s finished, it wasn’t alienating if you kept an open mind. It stuck with me for several days after I finished it.
So while no one can offer you a guarantee, I would say this book constitutes a piece of circumstantial evidence for the defense of heaven. Which makes for an interesting read, even if you decide to dismiss it.
More perspectives on God and religion at PJ Lifestyle:
Could the Feds potentially use your prescription drug history to curtail your Second Amendment rights? In the wake of President Obama’s list of 23 executive orders — saying “If there’s even one thing that we can do to reduce this violence…” — the potential exists for the Department of Justice to use federal drug databases to screen for “mental illnesses.”
While the idea may sound far-fetched, state and federal agencies already cooperate to share information about your history of prescription drug use, including the use of medications for “psychiatric disorders.” Your doctor, your pharmacist, and your local emergency room already know a lot more than you think they know about your prescription drug history if you take a drug on the federal controlled substances list.
It began in 2005 when President George W. Bush signed the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act (NASPER) into law to combat illegal prescription drug abuse, including doc-shopping and so-called “pill mills.” State authorities began compiling databases of individuals who use certain drugs most often abused. Those databases are now being linked on the federal level.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance, a division of the Department of Justice, now sponsors a website to assist states in linking cross-referenced prescription information to catch suspected drug abusers who cross state lines. According to the Alliance of States with Prescription Monitoring Programs, the sheer volume of data they collect is stunning. In the data section for my home state of Ohio, the site claims it compiled 21 million prescription records on 11.4 million citizens in 2008.
It turns out that I happened on a picture I took of myself on the 16th of October, which is just about the time I started finding myself writing in my morning pages that I was only 12 years younger than my father had been when he died….
Here’s a picture from a similar angle with the same (iPod Touch) camera, taken today (Friday):
I see where I’ve lost the 30 lbs: it was all from my neck. Jaysus.
So, even with my troubles seeing myself clearly, I’ve got to say, now I’m seeing some differences.
I’m continuing to plan for my next 13 weeks experiment, and you know, there’s a question I’ve been asked multiple times now: why 13 weeks? Honestly, the answer is probably “I don’t know.” Some of it is pure superstition: I have good luck (contrarian that I am) with thirteens. Both of my parents were born on the 13th, and they married on the 13th; I’ve lived at #13 addresses many times. But there are some practical points about it.
Thirteen weeks is exactly one calendar quarter — there are 4 of them in a year, with a day left over. Thirteen weeks is long enough for longer-term trends and effects to show clearly, but short enough that I can foresee an end. If I hadn’t decided to do this experiment for thirteen weeks no matter what, there have been a couple of weight plateaus (and sudden weight gains) that could have been very demoralizing — about which more below. Thirteen weeks is right around the average lifetime for a red blood cell, so an A1c (average blood sugar) taken next month will be from entirely within the experiment. (As you’ll recall, it’s my blood sugar that concerned me more than weight in itself. Even though, dammit, I do tend to obsess about the weight loss.)
Now, I’ll say, the thirteen has put some people off for the opposite superstition from mine, the common triskaidekaphobia. I do intend to write this up in book form; I’ve had people tell me that I’ve got to change the title. But I have to say, 13 weeks seems to have worked for me.
As far as consolidation. The pictures above do show the difference I think, and I’m really feeling other differences. I’ve got a two story house; I’m not putting off trips up and down the stairs as I used to. I feel exceptionally good. I got a CPAP about 10 days ago, which is also helping — I may be sleeping well for the first time since puberty. I’m sure that the apnea has been helped by the weight loss and I’m hoping continuing weight loss will help more. And, of course, my blood sugar has showed a marked improvement — as I said last week, from diabetic to post-diabetic (although it’d be more correct to say “type II diabetic in remission.”) My mood is better too, which for someone who has had paralyzing depressions is a good and useful thing.
I seem to have more energy, both physically and mentally. Again, this isn’t too surprising. I buy water in 1.5 liter bottles from Eldorado Springs Water Company, in cases of a dozen. That’s basically 40 lbs; 9 bottles is just about 30 lbs. The effect is like if I were carrying around nine of these bottles in a backpack and I took the damn thing off. But I’m just finding it easier to do things, and not just physical things — I’m actively studying Mandarin again, and getting more writing done. Some of that also may be the CPAP — I don’t think I understood the effect of actually getting a decent night’s sleep.
As I’ve promised, the next 13 weeks will be more about exercise, physical activity, and so forth. i’m accumulating a number of experts to help me with this, and reading a bit more widely. Now, you may have noticed that there is a fair bit of controversy about different diets — low fat, low carb, paleo, and so on.