Friday, September 01, 2017

Quote: Rumi

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
—Rumi

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Book Review: 11/22/63

11/22/6311/22/63 by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


While I'm really glad I read it, I didn't always enjoy the reading of it. To me, it's over written. Every thing and every action is completely described leaving nothing to the imagination of the reader. The first few chapters especially needed to be run through the editing process a couple more times. I much prefer authors who know how to provide all necessary details while leaving enough out for the reader to be fully intellectually engaged. Not every question needs to be answered.

The second thing not completely engaging about this book is the main character. I never sympathized or identified with him in any meaningful way. But there is something of a literary tradition of uninteresting main characters. Dickens' David Copperfield, who's interesting as a child but boring as an adult, is my favorite example. And like David Copperfield, Stephen King's other characters are all interesting, three-dimensional people readers will have no problem identifying with and caring about.

The other thing Stephen King has done incredibly well is research the events leading up to and after the main event. The movements, history, and people around Lee Harvey Oswald are all brought to vivid life and is, alone, worth reading the book. This book also brings the era, 1958 - 1963, to life in incredible detail putting the reader into the middle of American culture; food, music, clothes, cars, the easy hospitality and respect, the clean air, the quiet nights, the mills belching toxins into the air 24/7, the restrooms marked Ladies, Gentlemen, and Colored with an arrow pointing around back to a board with a hole in it over a ditch. Except for that one mention everything else in the book involves white people.

Spoiler alert: While the ending generally rings true, the changes after Kennedy is saved seem extreme; world wide earthquakes? the rending of space/time? the collapse of the universe? I found all that hard to buy.



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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Book Review

The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's WorldThe Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World by Alan Downs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“What was once a feeling has become something deeper and more sinister in our psyches—it is a deeply and rigidly held belief in our own unworthiness for love. We were taught by the experience of shame during those tender and formative years of adolescence that there was something about us that was flawed, in essence unlovable, and that we must go about the business of making ourselves lovable if we are to survive.”

I had thought I had my internalized homophobia well in hand. Being gay has long been the one part of my life that I'm most comfortable with, most secure in, and most willing to protect and demand respect of. I've long been aware of internalized homophobia, have examined my own, and kept a watchful eye out for the tiny ways it surfaces throughout my life. But still that line from the Friends theme song; "your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's DOA" is totally me. I had never associated those gaps with internalized homophobia. But in The Velvet Rage Alan Downs connects those dots in a direct line. He shows how the early message of "be this, not that" and the absence of a mentor or a sympathetic ear gets into our DNA and travels with us into adulthood, prompting us to foreclose on fulfillment in many areas of our life and not just in our sexual expression.

Based on a lifetime working with his own therapy clients, this is an amazing important book that remains imminently readable despite the complex ideas discussed. Best of all he includes a list of skills, actions we can take in order to move towards a more fulfilling life and he emphasizes that moving from shame to acceptance is a skill, a practice, something you do rather than something you think about.

Highly recommended, possibly required reading for all gay men.



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Book Review

On the Move: A LifeOn the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Dear Oliver Sacks, or I should say, Dr. Sacks: Thank you so much for the gift of your book. It will forever remain one of my most treasured. Your love and joy and gratitude and curiosity infuse every part of it. I don't know how you do it because on the surface your writing is very straightforward, observational, but somehow that transparency allows all of your wonderful warmth to come through. Reading your book is such a pleasure that I did it in little segments, stretching it out so that I wouldn't finish it too soon. And at the end I had a true sense of a full, complete life; a life that left the world a better place.

My regret at finishing your book is tempered by the knowledge of the dozen other books that you wrote and the further chance to live in your world where life and people are endlessly fascinating. I can't decide whether to jump back to the beginning of this book and read it cover to cover again or start right in on Awakenings or make myself read something completely different in order to come back to you afresh. A hardcover edition of Awakenings is proving difficult to obtain, but luckily it's easily available as an ebook.

I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you in person. I have quite a crush on you. I would've loved to hear some of your stories, although I have little to offer you other than my attention.

Yours truly,

Tim Dominic



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Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017

FEAR


Do Not Despise Your Inner World



"Do not despise your inner world. That is the first and most general piece of advice I would offer… Our society is very outward-looking, very taken up with the latest new object, the latest piece of gossip, the latest opportunity for self-assertion and status. But we all begin our lives as helpless babies, dependent on others for comfort, food, and survival itself. And even though we develop a degree of mastery and independence, we always remain alarmingly weak and incomplete, dependent on others and on an uncertain world for whatever we are able to achieve. As we grow, we all develop a wide range of emotions responding to this predicament: fear that bad things will happen and that we will be powerless to ward them off; love for those who help and support us; grief when a loved one is lost; hope for good things in the future; anger when someone else damages something we care about. Our emotional life maps our incompleteness: A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger. But for that very reason we are often ashamed of our emotions, and of the relations of need and dependency bound up with them. Perhaps males, in our society, are especially likely to be ashamed of being incomplete and dependent, because a dominant image of masculinity tells them that they should be self-sufficient and dominant. So people flee from their inner world of feeling, and from articulate mastery of their own emotional experiences. The current psychological literature on the life of boys in America indicates that a large proportion of boys are quite unable to talk about how they feel and how others feel — because they have learned to be ashamed of feelings and needs, and to push them underground. But that means that they don’t know how to deal with their own emotions, or to communicate them to others. When they are frightened, they don’t know how to say it, or even to become fully aware of it. Often they turn their own fear into aggression. Often, too, this lack of a rich inner life catapults them into depression in later life. We are all going to encounter illness, loss, and aging, and we’re not well prepared for these inevitable events by a culture that directs us to think of externals only, and to measure ourselves in terms of our possessions of externals.
What is the remedy of these ills? A kind of self-love that does not shrink from the needy and incomplete parts of the self, but accepts those with interest and curiosity, and tries to develop a language with which to talk about needs and feelings. Storytelling plays a big role in the process of development. As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. As we grow older, we encounter more and more complex stories — in literature, film, visual art, music — that give us a richer and more subtle grasp of human emotions and of our own inner world. So my second piece of advice, closely related to the first, is: Read a lot of stories, listen to a lot of music, and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others. - Martha Nussbaum"