Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Bannon, Deconstruction, v. meaningful readings of texts and life

Monday, February 27th, 2017

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.

The Invaluable Lessons Of ‘Watership Down,’ A Dark Classic

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

“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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Comics Purr-fectly Capture What Animals Would Say If They Could Talk

Monday, June 20th, 2016

These are well worth checking out.

The Surprising Benefit Of Going Through Hard Times

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

The phenomenon of art born from adversity can be seen not only in the lives of famous creators, but also in the lab. In the past 20 years, psychologists have begun studying post-traumatic growth, which has now been observed in more than 300 scientific studies.

The term post-traumatic growth was coined in the 1990s by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun to describe instances of individuals who experienced profound transformation as they coped with various types of trauma and challenging life circumstances. Up to 70 percent of trauma survivors report some positive psychological growth, research has found.

Growth after trauma can take a number of different forms, including a greater appreciation for life, the identification of new possibilities for one’s life, more satisfying interpersonal relationships, a richer spiritual life and a connection to something greater than oneself, and a sense of personal strength.

………………

The physical rebuilding of a city that takes place after an earthquake can be likened to the cognitive processing and restructuring that an individual experiences in the wake of a trauma. Once the most foundational structures of the self have been shaken, we are in a position to pursue new—and perhaps creative—opportunities.

The “rebuilding” process looks something like this: After a traumatic event, such as a serious illness or loss of a loved one, individuals intensely process the event—they’re constantly thinking about what happened, and usually with strong emotional reactions.
It’s important to note that sadness, grief, anger, and anxiety, of course, are common responses to trauma, and growth generally occurs alongside these challenging emotions—not in place of them. The process of growth can be seen as a way to adapt to extremely adverse circumstances and to gain an understanding of both the trauma and its negative psychological impact.

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The Mystical Side of Music

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Ali Z. Hussain writes:

Lately, I have noticed that the only moments during the day when I can maintain an absolute silence is when my fingers are hosting my feelings and the piano in a conversation. Perhaps one might be inclined to think that this is the reason why my lips are sealed shut, because my hands are the ones participating in a dialogue with the instrument. Perhaps that is so, but I think there is another subtle power to music that only becomes evident once we compare this medium of communication with its writing counterparts, prose and poetry.

For Muslim mystics, such Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-ʿArabi (d. 1240), prose is the ideal medium for communicating divine law; a body of knowledge that requires a definitive and non-ambiguous set of terminology and syntax. On the other hand, it is poetry alone that can satiate the passion of the mystic to express the ambiguous and perplexing nature of the mystical experience; where clear boundaries of the law give way to the paradox of the supra-rational. We may posit this distinction as one where prose operates within the realm of the intellect, with its abstract concepts and categories and where poetry rules supreme in the land of the qalb (heart) and rūḥ (spirit); where a constant taqallub (fluctuation) and murāwaḥa (vascillation) is the definitive state of reality.

However, anybody familiar with Ibn al-ʿArabi’s thought and the larger discourse on cosmo-ontology and saintology in Islamic mysticism knows that there is yet another ‘beyond’ to these two realms of the intellect and spirit. In the human microcosm, this third aspect of the laṭīfa rabbāniyya (lordly subtlety) that forms our cognitive faculties is called al-sirr (the secret). Alongside the intellect, heart, soul and spirit the secret constitutes the human communication center with the divine; it is God’s throne in our being and is, sine qua non, the divine trace in the human body.

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Annie Kagan writes

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Dear Thomas,

I’ve been stressed out lately. The news is daunting; terror attacks, families fleeing war torn countries, the environmental mess.

In my book, The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved To Me There’s Life After Death, my brother Billy teaches how to better navigate life on planet Earth. Amazingly, Billy began sharing this wisdom with me a few weeks after he died. Two years of our conversations are recorded in our book.

One thing Billy says is;
People spend lots of time on things that make them unhappy. To cultivate joy, pay attention to what you like.

So, with all the disturbance happening on Earth, I made a list of things Billy says can soothe the soul.

SPEND TIME IN NATURE
The light, colors, scents and sounds of the natural world bring pleasure to and heal the senses. Walking in the forest, planting a garden, or simply feeling the warmth of the sun on your face, help you tune to the miracle of creation.

SAY THANK YOU
Many spiritual paths promote the concept of gratitude. Saying “thank you” may be simpler than trying to feel grateful. Saying thank you to all the things that please you, silently or out loud, helps you notice the grace in your life. Thank you is an easy step down the road toward gratitude.

PAUSE FOR BEAUTY
Take time every day to admire something of beauty. Beauty is evocative; it awakens something deep inside and transcends the noise and static of the world. Beauty reminds you of the awe at the heart of life itself.

MAKE LIFE MORE MUSICAL
Singing, dancing and listening to music connects you to the special pleasure of being alive. Have favorite songs on standby to enhance your mood or change it. Some music could be bright and upbeat, some slow and melancholy, some designed for healing. Melody and rhythm turn the ordinary into the magical.

CHANGE YOUR VIEWPOINT
A change in perspective is powerful. According to Quantum physics, the way you see things can actually change them. If something upsets or frightens you, look for what you like about it. When it comes to people, focus on their deep voice, their sparkling eyes, their quick smile, their unique wit. When someone senses positivity coming their way, they may respond in kind.

CELEBRATE THE PURPOSELESS PURPOSE OF LIFE
Joy comes from doing what we love simply for the pleasure of it. Keep a journal, learn to surf, sing in a choir, bake bread, plant a garden, feed the birds. Everything you do doesn’t have to lead to an outcome. The doing can be its own reward.
© 2015 annie kagan

With Love
Your friends
Billy Fingers
Annie Kagan
From the Cosmos

ANNOUNCEMENT OF MY NEW NOVEL

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

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.

*******
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.

*******

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.

The Many Layers Of Life

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

From Huffington Post:

Today’s meditation features a poem by the late American writer Stanley Kunitz. “The Layers” is a reflection on the many lives we experience in one lifetime and the struggle to maintain a true sense of self.

“I have walked through many lives,” the poem opens, “some of them my own, and I am not who I was, though some principle of being abides, from which I struggle not to stray.”

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Abraham Lincoln’s respect for life extended from humanity to all creatures

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Lincoln was like more than a few of us whose pets have run of the house these days: He also left to those friends the dog’s favorite horsehair sofa on which to nap, as well as a long, specific list of rules for how Fido was to be treated during his waking hours. For example, Fido was not to be scolded if he came inside with muddy paws, and he was to be fed from the dinner table.

Lincoln’s attitudes and relationships with animals were in some ways ahead of their time. Matthew Algeo, author of the new book, Abe & Fido: Lincoln’s Love of Animals and the Touching Story of His Favorite Canine Companion, paints a picture of Lincoln as a deeply compassionate and empathetic person, whose respect for life extended from his fellow men all the way down to the smallest creatures.

 

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Freud On How To Forget The Past

Friday, March 13th, 2015

The following is an excerpt from Freud: Great Thinkers on Modern Life, a new series published by The School of Life. In this particular chapter, author Bret Kahr uses Freud’s writings to make a case for the value and effective methods of forgetting the past.

As a psychotherapist, I spend a great deal of my working life helping patients to think about their childhood and its impact. Many people suffer from parental bereavements, painful punishments, crushing humiliations and other adverse experiences, and may, also, have enjoyed tender affection from mother or father, or the joys of happy play with siblings and friends. Some of us revisit childhood in our mind, celebrating the healthy peaks, crying about the debilitating troughs. But other people tend to place a repressive blanket over childhood, pretending that toxic events never happened. I find that such people often suffer from great anger, resentment and rage in adult life, still nursing early wounds which have never healed. Freud has helped us to recognize the importance of childhood and of its excavation.
Freud reveled in the Latin aphorism Saxa loquuntur, “the stones speak” (“The Aetiology of Hysteria,” 1986), a phrase that he may well have noticed while walking through the Sigismundtor or Sigmund’s door, an eighteenth-century tunnel in Salzburg which, as it happens, bears his forename. By relishing the archaeological excavation of the mind, and my resurrecting repressed memories, Freud taught us a vital life lesson, namely, that we cannot, and must not, forget the past. It impacts upon us whether we with it to or not; and thus we have an obligation to explore our childhood in the hope of putting our ghosts in the nursery to rest.

 

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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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