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Showing posts from 2020

Three Deathbed Realizations

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There are certain situations that approach the limit of what it is possible for us to experience as human beings.


In December of 2015 I was laying in a hotel bed in Mombasa, Kenya. I had been poisoned. Then I had my money coerced from me at the beach on the Indian Ocean. Somewhere along the way I had picked up an unknown bacteria that was destroying my entire digestive system. Things weren't going that great.

The philosopher Karl Jaspers came up with the modern concept of the limit situation. He talked about four things that can bring it about when taken to extreme levels: fright, guilt, finality, and suffering. The thing is, these all go together.

I was going in and out of consciousness. My ability to walk, or even to stand, had left me. I had been vomiting. I remember rolling over and vomiting off the side of the bunk bed I was in, and seeing blood in the vomit. I thought, "That's not good." It's not the only place that blood had been coming out of.

I think I p…

Vera and the Disappearing Squirrel

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The stories we consume affect how we view everything.


With a nine-year-old girl in the world today, the movie 'Frozen' has a good chance of coming up.

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Once upon a time in the kingdom of Arendelle lived a King, a Queen, and the Princesses Elsa and Anna.
On a stormy Tuesday they decided to play a game. But the window wouldn't fully close in their room.
They wanted to play with snowballs.
Elsa had magic in her hands, she could make snow or ice because of her magic hands.
Just as Elsa was going to make a pile of snow in the room the window slammed open with a loud Bang! In jumped a squirrel that looked very cold. He turned around and shut the window.
"Elsa," said Anna "what a big storm! Please close the window. It is so scary!"
"Do not worry Anna!" said Elsa.
The squirrel looked at Anna and said, "Hey, I already shut the window. You have no idea how cold it is out there."
"A talking squirrel?" said Anna with inter…

Vera and the Girl Who Became a Mermaid

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Transformation is a common theme in literature. Sometimes we transform and then enter a new world, at other times we enter a new world and then transform. Sometimes, it's both.


Mermaids are interesting creatures that I've never looked deeply into. That idea of an entire underwater world is intriguing though. I remember scuba diving at the bottom of a lake and thinking, 'If it was logistically possible, it would be cool to live down here.' In ancient Greece mermaids were sirens that seduced and devoured men, in comic books they are heroes, in Harry Potter they are intelligent monsters. No matter how they are portrayed, mermaids have always been enchanting to the minds of humans.

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Night on a lake can be dark. With clouds blotting out the stars above, the sky looks black, and the water below looks black. Angie sat alone, in a little boat, surrounded by darkness.
Then she heard a big splash and she saw a tail. She thought that this tail belonged to a fish. But…

Vera and the Raccoon that Caught a Fairy

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Fun, funny, and serious can often go together. One can change to the other in a split second. That happens in life, and sometimes it happens while you're writing.


Pay attention near the end when Vera changed this to a serious story. I was a little surprised, but it was good.

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In a forest lived a girl with a dog. The dog was clever.
Next to the girl and the dog lived a raccoon. The raccoon was clever too.
The raccoon helped the girl and the dog eat. The girl's name was Gigi, and the dog's name was Bim.
"Would you like some more grapes?" asked Rocko the raccoon, holding out a handful of grapes toward Gigi.
"Yes, please!" said Gigi, and she made that sound, of being satisfied with food, and wanting more too.
Bim walked away from the table in the woods to a tree. He curled up in the soft grass, and was soon asleep in the mid-afternoon shade.
"He is so tired!" said Gigi, "he needed a nap!" and she smiled.
But Rocko wasn't…

Vera and the Talking Dog in the Forest of Many-Colored Trees

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I've put some of the stories that Vera and I have written together up on my blog over the last few months. She likes it. You can see that in the ending of this one.


I like fairy tales. They are allegories, meaning they are full of hidden meanings. But that idea can grow into something more. Myths, legends, and epic fantasy tales abound both now and throughout history. This reminds me of that.

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"Why?" said Devan, looking at the trees surrounding him, "Why would they make all of the trees different colors?"
"I do not know?" said Allie.
Devan thought for a moment, bringing his hand up to his mouth, in the way that he did. "I think," he began, but then trailed off. Still staring at the trees.
"Let's go home!" said Allie.
"But where is home?" replied Devan, without a moment's hesitation. He turned and looked at her, in a serious way, but with a slight smirk. "Do you remember which trees we passed to g…

Vera and the Animal Garden Story

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Dialogue is fun. It's the original uniquely human interaction, talking. And, humans love to bestow that gift upon animals in stories.


You would think the dialogue of a nine-year-old would be simplified in a story. But it's surprisingly realistic.

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In a garden lived a dog. Her name was Bibbi. She had neighbors, a cat named Tom and a dog named Mark.
On a late Tuesday evening Bibbi was feeling bored. She decided to do something exciting.
But when she thought about what to do, someone knocked on the door. The doors opened, and Bibbi saw Tom, Jerry, and Mark.
Bibbi had never had visitors before, and she was excited. She said, "Well, this is rather serendipitous, as I was just thinking of something fun to do."
"Bibbi,"said Tom "we have new neighbors."
"It is a snail!" said Mark with big eyes.
"Umm," said Bibbi as her face contorted into a mildly confused look, "do snails do anything?"
"Snails are slow, but…

Vera and the Flying Turtle

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Stories are kind of like waking dreams. That's especially true when you get into fantasy.


Vera has the imagination of an intellectually engaged nine-year-old. I think I keep pace with her well when we're alternating turns in writing. We, of course, go over punctuation, grammar, spelling, syntax, etc. But, the writing quickly transcends those technical skills. And then meaning starts to emerge as a primary focus. We often discover things we did not know that we know in the process of writing.

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In a land far away there lived a turtle. She liked eating butterflies, but they were so hard to catch. She looked like a rock, so the butterflies would think that she was a stone. They would land on her, and she would eat them. On a Tuesday evening she was having a casual conversation with a bird, and mentioned that it was annoying to have to wait so long to get a butterfly. The bird recommended that she should grow wings, and then just fly to catch the butterflies. "Wha…

Vera and the Ice Horse

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Reading and writing stories is an amazing experience. Experiencing what a kid does when continuing a story idea is often quite surprising.


The natural symbology that emerges is revealing, not only of the individual, but also of humanity. That's what the psychologist Carl Jung was talking about with his idea of archetypes. These universal images built into the biology of all people. For instance, notice the transformations that my nine-year-old Russian student Vera put into the end of this little story that we created by alternating turns writing.

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Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a horse that could walk on water.
Her name was Vera, and she was 5 years old.
One day, Vera decided to walk across the river, to get to the other side.
But, on this day for some reason, she dove into the water and saw an octopus!
Vera had never been under the water before, and wasn't sure how she had gotten there.
She was afraid of the octopus, and ran back to the shore.

Meditation in Chinese Schools and Beyond

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One of the best parts about teaching is learning. I've had students from a multitude of cultures, different countries, different languages, different religions, different ages, different socio-economic levels. And I try to learn as much as I can.


I have an unusually intense connection with meditation because I use it to deal with the chronic pain from my spinal deformities. I studied with an Ishaya monk for a year before my brainstem issues emerged. But still, there's nothing quite like unceasing physical pain to drive learning. I've read dozens of books on meditation, and my personal experiments have the added benefit of my physical pain as a feedback mechanism.

A few months ago I was talking with my student Carrie. She's in high school in China, and we started going through how they do meditation at the different age levels in school. It's different in different schools. I have some students in China who've never done meditation. But, in her schools they alwa…

Nice People - What does it mean?

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My default perspective of people is that they're nice. That doesn't particularly hold true if you compare things to history, or other cultures, or even all of my own experience. I've had my life threatened many times, I've been shot at, had someone try to stab me, been successfully poisoned in Africa, have had money stolen, been lied to and betrayed, been lied about, and I've been conned a few times. I've largely ignored this contradiction because I didn't know how to reconcile it. But, the last 16 months have held it in my awareness so consistently that I need to confront my ideas about the niceness of people. Today is a good example.


I decided to go for a walk at Lake Harbor Park to clear my head. It's been a drizzly day, which I like. With an overcast sky blocking out the sun, the park wasn't too busy, which I also like. I took a trail that isn't the most popular. You walk up a small incline of sand, and then turn down a narrow ravine with tr…

Fighting Local Government Corruption - Part 19 of ?

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Life is full of choices. Sometimes it's hard to know which choice is correct. Still, a path must be chosen. In Dalton Township, the choice is clear.


Everyone is asking themselves, "What do I want to see happen in Dalton Township?" Here's what I think needs to happen.

Real Choice

We won! We have a real election happening this year. That hasn't happened in Dalton in a long time. Elections are one of the most important checks and balances in politics. A balance of power, and checks upon that power, are essential to protecting and defending individual rights. In Dalton, that will start with a choice by the people about who will be in office. Making that choice available is a civic duty. A burden that must be carried by a willing volunteer. Sixteen months ago I said that there would be a choice in this election. And there is.

Restore Checks and Balances

Make transparency and the Open Meetings Act a priority by broadcasting and recording meetings. Before you can speak, y…

Tima and a Terrifying Story

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If you're writing a story without a plan, and you're writing it with someone else, you never know which way it's going to go.


After I finished my class with Tima I sent the story we had written to a friend. She read it and responded that it is a "terrifying story", and she's right. Tima went a little wild, and I let things escalate.

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Jed sat upon the mountain cliff, looking down over the thick treetops below him.
And saw there a big and bad bear.
Jed remembered the words of his father, "If you see a bear, take out your knife and kill it."
But bear already had his own knife, and attacked. This bear was a terrorist.
Jed dug his feet into the ground, adjusted the knife in his hand, and then leapt forward to meet his destiny.
At this moment he slipped and fell into the mouth of the bear. And the bear ate Jed.
Arnold the bear put his knife away. He always wanted to use it, but never seemed to need anything other than his claws and teeth.
But…

'I Have Seen Many Moons' - A Poem About Perspective

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From one perspective you see a thing. From another perspective you can see the same thing, and it looks completely different. This applies to all of existence, even in total. (For those who want more on that, you can read this poem, and you can also lookup Viktor Frankl's concept of dimensional ontology.)


Read it, then I'll explain, just a little.
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I have seen many moons, or rather; Fortuna has opportuned me, with such a possibility.
But I, in my infinite imprudence, have largely failed to notice the passing.
Worlds turning, Time's twisted fate, weaving a single thread, from disparate fibers all asunder.
Chaos in the details, and order above, or rather; I have seen many moons.
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Many moons refers to the passing of a lot of time. Fortuna is the ancient Roman goddess of luck, and a lot of time is a lucky gift. If we're not consciously aware then this time passes us by. Planets turn, which is a way we mark the passing of time, and each person is …

'I Saw a Tree at Night' - A Poem of Symbolic Mysteries

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Our minds and souls are mysteries. To others, yes, and even to ourselves. There are different ways of penetrating that veil. They often involve peering through our own darkness, to symbols hidden within our depths.


One day, laying alone in bed, I had an unusual vision of a tree. There was obviously something special about it, something magical, but I wasn't sure what. So, this poem popped out.

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I saw a tree at night,
not with my eyes in some failing light,
but bright with dark illumination,
in my mind,
a thing both eerie and ripe with divine inspiration.

But, what kind?

A world tree,
giving birth to both you and me?

A tree of knowledge,
taking us to the brink of wisdom's edge?

A tree of life,
giving us the gifted opportunity of confronting strife?

Or a tree of good and evil?

Symbolic mysteries abound,
rising up around us,
rising up within us,
why do we force them down?

Revelations are revealed,
if we look with unseeing eyes,
through the shadow,
to where our own my…

'I Went for a Walk in a Book' - A Poem for Readers

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Words are magical. They can transport you, inspire you, crush you, revive you. They communicate love and hate. And they communicate the experience of love and hate. You can live another life in a book, you can experience an entire range of emotions in a poem.


This is a fun poem about experiencing a book.

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I went for a walk in a book,
over fields of description,
and forests of exposition.

Narration lulled my sense of unease,
metaphor and analogy played and did tease.

I took a wrong turn at alliteration,
lost my way at rhyme and had some hesitation.

Two devices I did see.
They distracted while dialogue took a bite at me.

I flashed back in time,
and sprung forward again.

I was dazzled by sensations,
tickled by character revelations,
and thrown by the thrills of plot innovations.

To walk through a book is no easy task,
the point is not the finish.

The point, is to bask.

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There are two basic sets of devices that you can think about when writing: narrative devices …

'I Went Searching in a Field' - A Happy Poem

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This poem is literal and metaphorical, concrete and abstract. And there is one line that is debatable.

I read this poem to my mother. She liked it. But that last line, well... she wasn't so sure about that. I'll let you read it and see what I mean.
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I went searching in a field,
for a small piece of happiness.

I watched as the light shimmered
across the waves of grass.

I watched as the wind rolled across crests of golden froth.
I watched a bird on the wing, flying free.
I watched a rock, immovable.
A butterfly, unpredictable.
A sun untouchable.
Air ungraspable.
A future unknowable.
I went searching in a field for a small piece of happiness, and found it there, unsavable.
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Oh yeah!
I know there'll be questions about my use of commas. I intentionally put the commas where I did. They are to indicate pacing. The sets of lines that do not have commas are read together as one when you're doing it verbally. There is some difference between reading and listen…

'Do Not Lament' - A Comforting Poem

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I was chatting with a friend online a couple of months ago and they mentioned that it must be difficult for me, having some of my health issues and such. I wrote a poem to comfort her.

I think it helped.
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Do not lament, the burdens thrust upon me by life.
Examine the ledger more closely.
Seek to find the common denominator, and the balance will reveal itself to you.
These things that bind me, are mine.
When or where it was begun, was not my choice, but ever after, was.
The accumulation of life, the revelation of personal limitation, is the thing itself.
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This poem thought about continuing.
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I do not lament, my non-pursuit of wealth, my failing health, ...
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But I crossed that off and left it as is.
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'Broken Futures' - A Love Poem

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I have a confession. Sometimes I write poetry. More often, it tumbles through my mind without me writing it down, and it simply fades away.

When I do write it down it's usually on random slips of paper that end up... somewhere. And when it ends up in a notebook, still no one usually sees it. Every now and then I send some to people in private messages. But rarely.
Last year I did a small burst of going to open mic nights and doing readings. It was fun. But for some reason I really just seem to write poetry for myself.
I had a girlfriend about a decade ago that I used to text love poems to every now and then. She liked them, a lot. But she never believed that I had written them. She thought they were too good. Probably a good indication of a bad future for that relationship. Both the girl and the poems are lost to the devouring maw of time now.
For instance, here's a little poem that I did last December. I happened to send it to someone, and that's the only reason I have a reco…

Tima and the Not So Simple 'Three Little Pigs'

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Kids' stories seem simple. But, they are deceptively complex.


Tima seemed a little jaded with the kids' stories we've been reading. He is in his twenties. But, they're a lot more fun than a textbook, and they're better for learning in a lot of ways. Sometimes I forget that other people don't see all of the meaning that I do. It's a good idea to show people how to look deeper. There are entire cultures that miss the true meaning of their most famous and foundational stories. (I'll do an article on the maiden tower stories from the Middle East at some point, which is a good example.)

"The Three Little Pigs" is a story that everyone knows. But I've never heard anyone other than me seriously discuss it. Here are some of the notes I took from the conversation Tima and I had about the story.

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What's the moral of the story?
Or, the meaning of the story?
build a strong house
don't build a weak house
wolves like to eat pigs
don…

Graduation Parties and Words of Wisdom

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I recently attended a high school graduation party for the daughter of a friend of mine.


Different people choose different ways to memorialize such events. Her older sister had everyone sign a chair when she graduated. It's a cool idea, but apparently there have been some logistical concerns of where to put it since then. So, on this occasion, a book was chosen. I, of course, like books. It's perfectly fine to just put your name down, and maybe a simple statement like "Good job!" or "Good luck!" But, I wanted to try for something that would be memorable and different. Something that could potentially act as a bulwark during those moments when you need such a thing. Perhaps it's too much to shoot for in a graduation book that you haven't prepared for or thought about. Nevertheless, I might have done it.

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Life goes up,
Life goes down,
Life is all around.

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When I read this here's what I think. "'Life goes up,'…

Toward a Hong Kong Declaration of Justice and Rights

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Freedom is gained or lost with every generation. But sometimes there are key moments. A small series of events that have a huge impact on the trajectory of the world. Hong Kong, right now, is having one of those moments.


Hong Kong has a great history of freedom, prosperity, and bravery. A history that China has been working hard to destroy for the past 20 years. Hong Kongers have resisted the tyrannical Chinese oppression. This came to worldwide attention in 2014 with the Umbrella Movement against China interfering in and corrupting Hong Kong elections.

A tyrannical system has two options when encountering resistance: increase oppression, or adapt. China has chosen again and again to increase oppression in Hong Kong. In 2019 they pushed a law taking away Hong Kong courts, so that people from Hong Kong would be taken to mainland China for so-called trials. Millions of people in Hong Kong marched in the streets against these clear violations of basic rights. China feigned adapting to th…

Fighting Local Government Corruption - Part 18 of ?

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A real election is happening in Dalton Township. A real election with real choices. And that's a huge win.


Elections are one of the most important parts of a system of checks and balances. And without checks and balances, individual rights are never protected.

Dalton hasn't been having real elections. Whoever would run as a Democrat would simply win uncontested. The single party decided all positions of political power in the township. A rumor had even been started that no one other than a Democrat could run in Dalton. I broke through that myth when I filed for office. Others followed, and now we have a ballot full of options, for the will of the people to reveal itself.

Personally, I do not think this is a small step, I think this a gigantic leap forward for Dalton. There are two more important leaps: replacing people on the board, and then making positive policy changes. And that process has already begun by having an election the way that it is supposed to happen.

I've …

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