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Please, J.K. Rowling, More Stories

Please, J.K. Rowling, More Stories

The current Harry Potter moviefest that I’m enjoying with my son has inspired me to make a request of J.K. Rowling. I love these stores – we’ve read all the books multiple times – because they give me hope. It’s just that simple. They give me hope.

So, I navigated over to her website at http://www.jkrowling.com and – sure, why not? – clicked on the contact link.

The Blair Partnership represents J.K. Rowling internationally and across all media. Please direct any queries to info@theblairpartnership.com and a member of the team will be in touch directly. J.K. Rowling very rarely does interviews or public speaking, and when she does they are usually around a new project or charitable commitment. Please note that she does not undertake fee-paying public speaking engagements. Because of the huge volume of requests coming in, J.K. Rowling also regrets she is unable to…

Yada yada yada. Well, ok, fair enough. I sent the following email, but just in case there isn’t any analysis or reporting of the communications, I’m also posting it here. You never know, maybe they do some version of web analytics, social media harvest, or even a Net Promoter Score (put me in the “I would definitively recommend” bucket).

To Whom it May Concern:

I am aware that the illustrious J.K. Rowling could not possibly respond to the billions of her readers, but I am hoping that you maintain some sort of thematic statistics for her.

If so, may I add to the numbers of those who pray that she considers creating more stories that work at multiple levels for children and adults alike? I pray for very few things.

There are so very few such nourishing narratives that do (or can) burst into our mainstream cultures as they exist today. In the Potter books (and films – one must include the films) human complexity is better grasped in these contexts that show how important existential choices are (whether or not someone has quite enough information, whether or not situations are fair, whether or not you think anything you do will make a difference to yourself or anyone else). The stories allow us to feel (with the very deepest of empathy and intuition) compassion and pity and courage and friendship and trust and even alienation. That they do so with a marvelous reinvention of all the long-standing traditions of literature, fairy tale, and even institutional satire gives incredible depth to the world she crafted and creates the speculative but nuanced expansion of imagination that used to be the basis of all liberal education.

In short, the Potter stories give me hope during what I consider to be rather dark times.

My son Ben (now 12) has grown up with the Potter story. It has given us so many opportunities to discuss life’s issues and mysteries in a common language. I can tell you – definitively – that navigating the terrain of the characters and story have made a significant difference to his own evolving character and intellectual/creative/spiritual development. He understands being true to himself, and the meaning of friendship, and the gifts of love, awareness, grace, support. He has internal reference points for things that are difficult to articulate, but can be recognized. And he doesn’t simplify into simple dualities and sound bites. He learns to ask better questions. Thank you for this gift to my son, and to me, and to all the others, everywhere.

I love the woman of her personal history and of her effects in the world, but please – more stories. The world so desperately needs them.

Grief for a View of the God-Character

Grief for a View of the God-Character

I remember the primal anguish that is born out of the belief that God is the source of both love and pain.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve observed that the feeling toward the universe it engendered is very similar to that of a hostage, a victim of abuse, a prisoner. Instead of creating a subjectivity of love in freedom, of caritas and kindness, and peace, it seemed to create an obsessive and paradoxical longing and fear that felt so meaningful that it was difficult to release.

The first stage of exit was pure rage, in my case perhaps only because of some hard-wired sense of self-preservation. If I hadn’t become angry enough, I never would have left. Yes, I also wouldn’t have spent years in college, or racked up student loans, or seen my career path veer off into something I never expected, but I also wouldn’t have had anywhere to stand, wouldn’t have slowly reconstructed a space in which I could live.

I’ve been thinking about the pathological aspects of religion for many years now. Talking with others who left the Jehovah’s Witnesses has been very healing, and I’m so very happy that such discussions have been made available. I was alone, it seemed, at first. As much as our conversations mutually heal, there are still times when the raw feelings burst through. Yes, even now when it seems that early experience shouldn’t matter anymore, I look around at our cultural landscape and see all the similarities to the dynamics that I felt way back then. The stated arguments, then the cruelties beneath them. It’s part of the reason that I follow politics so closely.

When you’ve lived in a space where justice is proclaimed, but unkindness rules, you feel things. I’ve always been too sensitive to that difference, to the unfairness, and it’s only expanded into more understanding of structural, institutionalized unfairness. For that reason, I was never able to reach that enlightenment space that some highly-evolved religious people sometimes reach, where you’re in tune with the love of the cosmos and shine out in peace and love because of that.

I am amazed at people who first question God because of logical arguments – it’s why I was first interested in philosophy and theology. I never expected answers, I was just fascinated that anyone could ever manage to think clearly about an embedded belief system. For me, the questions just keep getting better and better.

But first, I had to step away from the thing that felt so inherent to my soul. It helped and hurt that I was a woman, and one gifted with both imagination and intelligence. I was rewriting stories all the time.

Throwback moments are still powerful because I still recognize them. If they ring true, they can almost call me back. Some versions of religion look nice, but they don’t address this hard-core total involvement of the person. The pathological edges of religion do – and this, I think is both their advantage and their biggest threat. They encourage power distortions – masochism and sadism, entwined, enthrallment and rebellion, entwined. Fanaticism has incredible payoffs. I understand.

When I saw the song below performed, I didn’t know the words. I didn’t have to know them, although they do fit (a bit strangely so).

What I saw was a priestess exorcising her demon. It was so powerful that I was shaken for the rest of the night.

Every time I hear it, like I accidentally did over my morning coffee, I feel it punch the solar plexus of my soul. I cry every time, and I always remember, I remember how it felt.

This was how I felt about God.

Although I haven’t been in that particular space for many years, it still has a power, and as much as I remind myself of the path of forgiveness and kindness and peace, as much as I am more lovingly attuned now, I still lack the total transformation that would make this song just a song like any other.

Music is a personal thing. Everyone projects onto music to some extent. This is not meant to be a song about God, but it resonates there for me.

For you. In remembrance, in grief. To sing, to exorcise your demons, and perhaps to be able to voice some aspect of the experience that conversation can’t really ever address. But, lovelies, sing something sweet afterward… If you can grok it, this one takes strength to hear.

Alanis Morissette, “Sympathetic Character”

I was afraid you’d hit me if I’d spoken up
I was afraid of your physical strength
I was afraid you’d hit below the belt
I was afraid of your sucker punch
I was afraid of your reducing me
I was afraid of your alcohol breath
I was afraid of your complete disregard for me
I was afraid of your temper
I was afraid of handles being flown off of
I was afraid of holes being punched into walls
I was afraid of your testosterone

I have as much rage as you have
I have as much pain as you do
I’ve lived as much hell as you have
and I’ve kept mine bubbling under for you

You were my best friend
You were my lover
You were my mentor
You were my brother
You were my partner
You were my teacher
You were my very own sympathetic character

I was afraid of verbal daggers
I was afraid of the calm before the storm
I was afraid for my own bones
I was afraid of your seduction
I was afraid of your coercion
I was afraid of your rejection
I was afraid of your intimidation
I was afraid of your punishment
I was afraid of your icy silences
I was afraid of your volume
I was afraid of your manipulation
I was afraid of your explosions
I have as much rage as you have
I have as much pain as you do
I’ve lived as much hell as you have
and I’ve kept mine bubbling under for you
(repeat 2 x)

You were my keeper
You were my anchor
You were my family
You were my saviour
and therein lay the issue
and therein lay the problem

One Saturday Night Some Lyrics

One Saturday Night Some Lyrics

Once in a while, I let it go. I have to, or my thoughts would consume me. Instead, I unhitch a million threads, and float… and drift.

Before too long, a path waves toward me, but I prefer to explore. For that you need a dose of the random. Open possibility is too vertiginous, but play is a vector of freedom. Only a judicious, homeopathic dose of the random…such is the contemporary life.

Why not play in a field of the familiar, rearranging my prejudices and laughing through the cut and paste method? A little homage, a little pattern recognition, and a little selection by will or inclination.

Spin the dial on the ipod; it’s as good as a tarot deck or a casting of the lots. Better, because there’s a context of every song, a layering of experience, the roads of habitual thought – all put into abeyance and at the same time summoned. A combinatorial sequencing, a dna-imaged lyrical selection – inherently the stuff of thought.

The focus then – would it be on the subtexts as they are woven? Or does the focus go to the rhythms of genre and mood? Will it be a ungainly monster, or will something be de-monstrated?

There is no predicting the outcome, and yet it all unfolds within a specific space. The space of multiple association, but in this you’ll miss the sound. Will you know any of these?

What meaning is made? What is accomplished with such cherry-picked flotsam ? Nothing. And this is good, because as with so much else, what matters is the journey.

Let’s see, then, what resonates now. Random song, chosen lyric… Three, two one…

rolling the ball rolling the ball
rolling the ball to me

I’m locked in tight I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

all we do crumbles to the ground
though we refuse to see

temples are greying
and teeth are decaying
and creditors weighing your purse

broccoli feed your head
their ideas are fried in fat

come dance with the west wind
and touch all the mountaintops

check my vital signs and
no I’m still alive

and the world spins madly on

cellophane flowers of yellow and green
towering over your head

raining in my head like a tragedy
tearing me apart like a new emotion

blossoms that fall from the trees so tall
that falling is floating in heaven for hours

the winds of night so softly are sighing
soon they will fly your troubles to sea

it don’t make no difference to me
everybody has to fight to be free

is that you, mo-dean
is that you, mo-dean

be well you children of the land
of all the dying beauties

shall crime bring crime forever
strength aiding still the strong

I’m waiting for the night to fall
when everything is bearable

blue for the tears
black for the night spheres

now they know how many holes
it takes to fill the Albert Hall

all the crocodiles – ohh-ayy-ohh –
they snap their teeth on your cigarette

for millions this life
is a sad vale of tears

preserve your memories
they’re all that’s left you

I am just simply an old tired poet
waiting for the apple to drop tonight

I thought I heard somebody calling
in the dark I thought I heard somebody call

listening to my breath
falling from the edge

there’s no way of turning more than this

and the storm keeps blowing the angel backwards
into the future

and then she said both those words are dead
that’s the story of my life

had it been another day
I might have looked the other way
and I’d have never been aware

leave the shadows dancing
dancing on their own
let the moment free you

our breath comes out white clouds
mingles and hangs in the air

how I’m moved how you move me
with your beauty’s potency

’cause every time it rains
you’re here in my head
like the sun coming out

while the wide arc of the globe is turning
we feel it moving through the dark

whispering lingering
’till the sting of dawn

recurring dreams of minor chords
metered time muted chimes find the beat

and from the dark secluded valleys
I heard the ancient sighs of sadness

winds are whipping waves up
like sky scrapers
and the harder they hit me
the less I seem to bruise

so I got me some horses
to ride on to ride on

take my hand as the sun descends
they can’t hurt you now

speak softly love
so no one hears us but the sky

can I meet you in between
will you be there
let me hold you sight unseen
still in the air

your enchanting light is leaving
silver haze is leaving

windswept lady
moves the night the waves the sand

I am falling down the stairs
I am skipping on the sidewalk
I am thrown against the sky

prends moi
je suis a toi
mea culpa

limitless undying love
which shines around me like a million suns
and calls me on and on
across the universe

dry your wings in the sun
you have only begun to understand

Love Letter

Love Letter

Darling Sweetheart,

You are my avid fellow feeling. My affection curiously clings to your passionate wish.
My liking yearns to your heart. You are my wistful sympathy: my tender liking.
Yours beautifully,
M.U.C.*

Even with such a designer as Turing, it takes more than imitation-games of consciousness to write a love letter.

Still, isn’t there something about this letter that suggests our own, often inarticulate, longings?

*In this instance, MADAM preferred to call herself M.U.C. (Manchester University Computer). I know how she feels.

(Thanks to John for calling my attention to this bit of sweetness).

Japanese Dragon Time

Japanese Dragon Time

This weekend, I sheparded my ten-year-old son through part of a school project. As the 3-d portion of the display, he wanted to make a Japanese dragon.

Not easy!

First, we had to talk about the materials. He didn’t like the idea of paper maché or plaster of paris. He wanted real clay, and not play clay either but the real deal.

I’m very thankful that there was a Michaels Arts and Crafts store nearby. It was raining and cold, and the store was crowded. We ran into two other 5th-graders, so he’s not the only one running up against the deadline! We got the red backboard display, and some shiney lettering, red felt, gray clay – with tools, red spray paint, gold leaf flakes, ruby-red glitterglue, “jewel” stickers, all kinds of supplies. We also picked up a balsa-wood model of the dragon, to be a base over which he could model the clay. I was thinking that the thicker the clay layers were, the longer it would take to dry. Unfortunately, the “puzzle” aspect was indiscipherable, and eventually both of us gave up on it.
So – freeform it is!

The first attempt was too small, and was gettisoned.

The second attempt was great, but as the clay started to shrink, parts of it – including the whole spinal fin – snapped off.

Art is sometimes a matter of figuring out things as you go along.

Ben patched the dragon, and used the opportunity to add some twirly twigs and pipe-cleaner claws.

Patching the Dragon

We waited as long as we could for stage two to dry, then we went outside. It was very cold, and windy. Spraying the clay with red paint was very easy. While it was wet, Ben wanted to try to get the gold leaf flakes into it. Most of the flakes blew away (although I still have a fair bit in my hair – tenacious stuff!). I thought it looked good just painted red, but he really wanted there to be gold in it. We watered down some Elmer’s glue and smoothed the flakes as much as we could with a toothbrush.

By now, the base was covered with drying glue, and the flakes were more like chunks. Ben wanted to give up – it didn’t look the way he had pictured it!

Glue and Flakes

Continue! Onwards and upwards!

He slopped on more glue over the paint and flakes, and it started to look better. We took a break.

I suggested lots of ideas. “Would you like to use the ruby glitter-glue along the spine?” No.
“Would you like to use a Sharpie to draw scales or texture?” No.
“Would you like to cut out other materials – feathers, paper, anything – to add something to the head and tail?” No.

Finally, he said that the dragon should be set off from the base. We had some vinyl, and some scrapbooking paper, and even aluminum foil. None of these seemed to look right to him.

“I think it needs pebbles because it’s a symbol for a sea god,” he decided.

We went outside. There are a whole bunch of little pebbles. Then he asked me for some of *my* pebbles – tumbled aventurine and other things that I like to collect. Sigh. Ok. I showed him how to spray adhesive to the base, and Ben spent an hour picking his favorite bits of rock from outside and from my collection.

He’s getting good with the painting! This was the easiest part – spray the whole thing with clear shellac. That helped the pebbles stay put and added a nice gloss to the whole thing. Now the gold flakes won’t be falling off like leprosy either. Good!

The last touch? “Jewel” stickers along the edge of the spiny scales. A little bit of sparkle.

All done. He loves it. Yay.

Dragon, Completed

Backboard, first steps… and done for the day. No writing on the novel today… but… it was fun working on some art with my boy. He’s a great artist.

Dragon and Backboard Beginning

Now, does anyone know how to get gold leaf flakes out of your hair? A shower didn’t do it (grin).

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