MY NOVEL–
READING THE SIGNS: A PARANORMAL LOVE STORY

Ted Jones, campus chaplain and English Professor in downtown Denver, doesn’t need more problems. His life has been full of them. More than a few of the clergy seem to think of the church as a sex club, and those who administer the English Department are vipers. Yet, at the beseeching of the spirit of an old woman who appears floating near the stained glass window of St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church, Ted soon becomes involved with Sharon, the deceased woman’s grown granddaughter.

Damaged though she is, Sharon responds, trying to return the steadfast love that Ted offers. After her grandmother died, she lost that capacity in herself and couldn’t find it in any of the people who professed to love her.

Although Sharon and Ted’s trials are multiple, their love forms the crux of the novel. Such love reaches beyond time and space as we normally conceive them, to involve intersecting planes of existence that touch both past and future.

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While fiction, and centrally a love story, it is essentially true. My experiences teaching at CU Denver and the Episcopal Cathedral stick very close to the facts.

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The novel ends with a vision of meeting Sharon on the fields of eternity:

For a moment, my earthly sight blurred with tears, I glimpsed Sharon and me. We stood on fields of gold, there, where chronos meets kairos, and earthly time rolls into eternity.

Link to Amazon Reading the Signs page. Here you can examine the cover and read some pages of the book.

Signed copies are also available from me. See WRITING page of this site.

Steve Bannon’s love of Deconstructionism has got me thinking that a good dose of traditional sign theory, which dominated Western culture for centuries, would be in order, even if people are not believers. It argues that we can make sense of texts by careful readings, believing that they–and by extension, our lives–have meaning.

When I was earning my Ph.D. in English in the late 70s and early 80s, Deconstructionism was one of the big literary trends that many Miltonists eschewed because it reads every text as essentially meaningless, for all signs ultimately cancel each other out. Those who practice this theory are great at the intellectual gymnastics that such readings require. However, the alternate reality/facts, if you will, that such readings search out and concentrate on, are ultimately destructive to every text (and life itself). Nothing has meaning or purpose in this system, for there’s always chaos and war over dominance.

That, as my study, Perversions, Originals, and Redemptions in Paradise Lost, now an acclaimed book, is not at all true to the traditional semiotic approach of the Great Western tradition, first set forth by Augustine, the first and foremost sign theorist in the West. This system is essentially monistic (not dualistic, as some have thought), for all begins and ends in God. All signs must be read by the signs that God has embodied in both the Old and the New Testaments. Satan who separated himself from Heavenly communion and took many angels and humans with him then mimic, and pervert God’s words, deeds, and actions, forming, you might say, alternative facts and reality throughout the timeline–till the very end, when God steps in and becomes All in All, his monistic system restored. We are required by life itself to learn to read signs correctly and embody the truths of them in our lives if we are truly members of God’s City. If we choose to follow Satan and His opposing City, The City of Satan, or Man after the Fall, we never enjoy the Communion of Heaven, and will end in Hell (according to Augustine). There, nothing truly exists, for existence requires grounding in God, the source of all reality and being, but subsists. Milton, takes the Jewish and more logical tack that Satan and his City will ultimately be dissolved so that God will fully be All in All, his original monism restored throughout the universe (a notion again signifying oneness).

I think a discussion of Augustinian sign theory, while not the only reading of what’s going on politically, would be fruitful in today’s world. Even if one isn’t a believer, the notion that we can discover competing systems, which relate constantly to each other and provide insight into the characters enacting them, is exciting. It seems important to add that my work looks at patterns. I’m not dogmatic or doctrinaire myself, because I think most spiritual systems that I know of look for meaning based on Oneness and Unity with creation and would give value to such patterns. This lies beyond dogma, in my view.

Here’s a link to the study on Amazon. You can look inside to what it’s all about. You can also order a copy, or you can order a copy here (http://www.thomasrameywatson.com/editing/). Many academic libraries will have it too. https://smile.amazon.com/Perversions-Originals-Redemptions-Paradise-Lost/dp/0761837825/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488228034&sr=1-4&keywords=thomas+ramey+watson

Most of my books, take up traditional sign theory in one way or another. I knew my novel, Reading the Signs: A Paranormal Love Story, just published but without much notice so far, was particularly timely, centering on the corruption that infects so many of our institutions, where power and control have become the norm. Such power mongering is embodied in someone who hasn’t hesitated to abuse those beneath him in every way necessary to get and maintain such control, including misuse of sex. Alternate realities, competing narratives, which Trump and company constantly practice, riddle the novel in which my protagonist and his love are trying to survive by reading the signs rightly and moving on. My popular memoir, Baltho, The Dog Who Owned a Man, also refers to Deconstructionism and traditional sign theory.

A few years ago, Facebook, in conjunction with researchers from Cornell and the University of California, conducted an experiment in which they intentionally played with the emotions of 689,000 users by manipulating their feeds so that some users only saw negative stories while others only saw positive stories. Sure enough, when these people posted their own updates, they were greatly influenced by the mood of the posts they’d been shown.

Facebook caught a lot of flak over the experiment, primarily because none of the “participants” gave their consent to join the study. Perhaps more frightening than Facebook’s faux pas was just how easily people’s emotions were manipulated. After all, if Facebook can manipulate your emotions just by tweaking your newsfeed, imagine how much easier this is for a real, live person who knows your weaknesses and triggers. A skilled emotional manipulator can destroy your self-esteem and even make you question your sanity.

It’s precisely because emotional manipulation can be so destructive that it’s important for you to recognize it in your own life. It’s not as easy as you might think, because emotional manipulators are typically very skillful. They start out with subtle manipulation and raise the stakes over time, so slowly that you don’t even realize it’s happening. Fortunately, emotional manipulators are easy enough to spot if you know what to look for.

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Married a psychopath? Friend dating someone you suspect to be a sociopath? Those aren’t terms to throw around lightly, as they both carry some significant weight. But if you can read the signs and try to make an educated assessment, it will only help to know the facts. Knowing what you’re dealing with and coming to terms with the psychological disorders of those around us can make things easier for everyone.

Of course, terms like psychopath and sociopath make people uneasy. We generally use them to refer to people who act out of sorts or even violently. They’re used to describe manipulative, difficult people. Folks most of us want to avoid. But a lot of what we assume about these disorders is wrong — and can actually make it harder to interact and connect with those who have them.

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A marriage therapist ― even one who’s worked in the field for years ― can’t know a couple’s full story by the first therapy session. They can tell quite a bit, though. (A spouse’s tendency to avoid eye contact, for instance, reveals more than words could ever say.)

Below, marriage therapists who have been working with couples for years share nine things they can glean about a couple after the first therapy session.

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As the year winds to a close, gifts and giving are foremost in many people’s minds. And now, two new neuroscience studies suggest that our brains prompt us to act more like Santa than Scrooge.

In one study, researchers scanned participants’ brains to identify connections between generous behavior and brain activity. In the other, scientists dampened activity in areas of the brain associated with impulse control, to see if that would alter a person’s empathetic actions.

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Being in a relationship with someone who’s disinterested in sex can feel incredibly lonely. A discrepancy in desire is more common than most people realize, though.

What’s the best way to address it with your spouse? Below, sex therapists share the advice they give people with higher sex drives than their partners.

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“Readers like to be upset, excited and bowled over,” Adams continued in his 2015 interview with The Guardian, remembering his early literary preferences. “I can remember weeping when I was little at upsetting things that were read to me, but fortunately my mother and father were wise enough to keep going.”

Of course, not all mothers and fathers are. Many want to shade their kids from the harsh realities of life, a natural instinct hardly worth criticizing here. Some children come face to face with loss regardless ― be it physical, financial, psychological. They are forced to understand grief and resentment firsthand. They are forced to understand that hard work and persistence and focused belief don’t always yield epic outcomes. But others, nestled safely, are not.

Fiction, thankfully, can give us the gift of empathy. The kind of empathy your protective parents might not be able to impart.

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Healing, for patients and doctors alike, goes much deeper than fixing a physical problem, Puchalski said. For patients, it can mean “finding a sense of coherence and hope despite facing end of life or chronic illness.”

To facilitate that kind of healing, Puchalski said, doctors need to “back away from the computer” and really listen.

“We use all too many words in health care,” she said. “Out of silence, patients can share what’s going on deeply. They can cry and feel they’re really deeply listened to without judgment. You can fix a fracture but it’s very difficult to fix suffering without that kind of compassionate care.”

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New Year’s Thought
January 1st, 2017

A big culprit in so many thorny issues facing us is religious dogma that keeps people from really seeing and from there getting ourselves and others in balance. As long as we remain dogmatic, locked in manacles of the mind, as the poet William Blake termed it, we make everything worse, not just for others but for ourselves.

I was thinking the other morning on my way home from yoga of the Two GREAT COMMANDMENTS, which, as Jesus said, are the summation of the Law and the Prophets: 1. Love God with your whole heart and soul and mind. And, 2. Love your neighbor as yourself. To love others rightly we must also love ourselves. Many people do not. To get right we must sort ourselves out with love and kindness, and wisdom.

That’s where good books, and good counsel, can really help.

I’ll end the year with this poem from my collection, The Necessity of Symbols,

20/20

Threading from spool to spool
to spool, frost spins
old stories out
over my windows.

Shrunken cherries left by blackbirds
who’ve read the signs and fled
lie discarded on the lawn.
Like motors, hearts turn—
and turn again—
but refuse, make noise—
absolutely refuse
to start.

Ice covers the city
like a freezer-burned pie.
The fruit trees—no matter their kind—
bear only ice.

Oh stabat mater—Jesus—
stoop—
take the cobwebs from the gashes.
Let wounds brighten.
Let us bear fruit
fit for golden bowls.
Thomas Ramey Watson

In a healthy relationship, partners support one another but are perfectly capable of leading their own lives. In a codependent relationship, an enabler constantly comes to the rescue of his or her partner and consequently encourages negative or unhealthy behavior.

No one tends to see themselves as the enabler in a relationship. Most would rather see themselves as a natural-born caretaker or simply a supportive spouse. But recognizing that you’re an enabler is the best way to change the toxic dynamic.

Below, marriage therapists share six signs you’re the enabler in a relationship ― and how to put an end to unhealthy behavioral patterns.

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Thomas Ramey Watson is an affiliate faculty member of Regis University's College of Professional Studies. He has served as an Episcopal chaplain (lay), trained as a psychotherapist, done postdoctoral work at Cambridge University, and was named a Research Fellow at Yale University.

In addition to his scholarly writings, he is a published author of poetry and fiction.

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