Creativity and Spiritual India

Posts tagged “spirituality

Ghostyard

“I won’t leave my body, I told myself, no matter what happens.”

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, Ghostyard.

Ghostyard - Tim Green

by Tim Green

 

 

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I won’t leave my body, I told myself, no matter what happens.

A riverbank is a stupid place for a graveyard. The bodies are bound to get washed away over time. People go to the river to get clean, or take their water buffaloes to wash the dust off. It’s meant to be a pure place, and a purifying place. Some worship this river, or use its water to worship other gods. But that same water filters through graves. How can it be pure?

Stupid.

I slowed down as I neared the graveyard, keeping an eye out for the rowdy ghosts, especially him.

On the other hand, maybe it was a good place to bury the dead. I had seen fewer and fewer ghosts there, since I’d come as a kid. Ghosts tend to stick around their bodies, and if their bodies have washed away, the spirits can go on to whatever’s next for them. Another life, usually. I’d known most of the kids in our village when they were old.

That’s why cremation is good: the vessel is gone so the spirit moves on.

Usually. The one I sought tonight was old. Old and tricky.

I won’t let him fool me.

I looked carefully at the gravestones, taking in all the details. The crack there above the old woman’s name. I’d known her. Only dried flowers there now, a garland of red, yellow, orange, red, yellow, orange. If that old ghost made an illusion, he’d have to get every detail right to fool me.

He lives here. He knows the details better than me.

Never mind that. I’d just come to talk with him, ask him why he’d been causing trouble.

Was there a purple flower in that garland?

 

***

 

In India, ghost-knowledge is much more comprehensive than in the West (except the movie Ghostbusters, of course). Growing up in Canada, I sometimes wondered if ghosts existed. A glimpse of one, or word that someone had had even the remotest experience of one, was cause for gossip and fear among us kids. But in India they are categorized in many ways, largely according to the life they had while in a physical body.

If someone performs spiritual practices but also nefarious acts, for example they might become a powerful ghost. Those were often the worst kind. Sometimes whole families or even villages might be ghosts together, having been ripped out of their old lives all together by some violent event. There are ghosts fixed in trees, those who know they’re ghosts and those who don’t. Some are ‘for hire,’ and a dark tantric can incite them to attack living people. They can possess people’s bodies, and it’s easier if the people are weak-minded due to intoxication or mental illness.

Ghosts have their terms as ghosts, like jail sentences. Often they are living out what would have been the remainder of their life, which was cut short by a sudden death. It generally sucks to be a ghost, because they have the same sensory desires as they did in their lives, but without the physical senses to satisfy those desires. Powerful sages and yogis can release them from their terms as ghosts and send them on to whatever comes next, usually rebirth as a human or in another species.

Interesting stuff. Some day I’d like to develop a more complex story involving ghosts.

 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. If you want to see what I can do with a deeper story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!


In defense of Religion and Science.

“Instead of branding people according to which camp they’re in and which flag they’re waving, it’s far better to look at underlying motives.”

This week I’m pausing the scene-of-the-week series. I’ve been thinking about religion and science, and how too often we get caught up in pitting one against the other, as if they are natural enemies, or as if one is totally false and the other is a virtuous savior. Really that’s all bollocks.

Science Fish

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They’re wars, not religious wars

There is a popular saying, that most wars and death go on in the name of religion. This is often put forward by proponents of strict rationalism and its brainchild, science.

This is not true in two ways.

People usually kill each other for land, money and power. The two world wars were not religious wars. Stalin and Chairman Mao’s attacks on their own people were not religious wars. Taken together, these make up most deaths in the twentieth century. So statistically, at least in recent times, most violent deaths have not taken place in religious wars.

Secondly, wars that go on in the name of religion are generally not actually founded in the teachings of the religions in question. The Bible never advocated the Inquisition or the Crusades, nor the genocide that took place in the Americas. These were all done in the name of the Bible and  Christ, but if you look deeper you’ll find that was just a false front. Christ taught his followers to love their neighbors, not to enslave and exploit them, to take their land and replace their spiritual sites with your own. Actually the underlying reasons for these conquests was greed, and the desire for self-aggrandizement. Religion was just a front, not the cause.

Science wars?

On the other hand, a religious person might turn the tables on science and say, “Hey! You claim that so much damage has been done by religion, and that science is progressive and helpful, but science has done far more damage than religion ever has. Guns, the atomic bomb, nuclear plant disasters, plastic clogging the oceans, chemicals poisoning our rivers, greenhouse gasses heating the planet—these are all byproducts of science, not religion. Wars between humans are nothing compared to rendering the entire planet less habitable.”

But again, if you look deeper, you’ll find that the cause of these things is not science. Science is the study of that which lies within the realm of the senses or the extensions of the senses. Based on discoveries made during these investigations, various technologies can be made. These can be helpful or harmful, both in their manufacture and their use. Thus far, we see a mix. Science has produced medicines to save millions of lives, and weapons to kill just as many. The wheel and fire are also scientific discoveries, not just nuclear bombs and plastic, so even the foremost Luddite can’t write science off completely. However, most of the gadgets produced today—androids and tablets and wireless ear-pieces—are unnecessary and very harmful to the environment in their production. What is real progress? Is it the advancement of our immediate convenience, or our capacity to understand, love and give? Too often, the underlying motive for scientific progress is also greed.

Therefore let us not criticize religion or science. They each have their jurisdictions, and it’s not helpful to falsely pit them against each other. Instead of branding people according to which camp they’re in and which flag they’re waving, it’s far better to look at underlying motives.

 

Thanks for listening. Next week we’ll get back to our scene-of-the-week series.

If you want to see what I can do with a deep story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!

 


I see the future

“Jashan wove through the dense London crowd, trying not to catch anyone’s mind.”

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, I see the future.

I see the future of anyone who looks at me - paul bica

By Paul Bica

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Jashan wove through the dense London crowd, trying not to catch anyone’s mind.

He felt someone looking at him, and met her gaze without meaning to. A middle-aged woman in frumpy clothes. Sensations and images swirled around her, of her birth and her birthing a baby girl and her life wove through his mind like a thread with a sharp needle: I loved tennis but I had a child and stopped playing to give her my love. Then her future: My husband will divorce me and my daughter will marry overseas and I’ll grow old alone.

The woman glanced away. They never noticed what had happened. They didn’t know their own future, only their past. Jashan turned like a dancer, moving fast through the crowd without touching anyone, thinking of his forest and wishing he were still there with Father.

A man bumped his shoulder. Jashan turned back to him. The man’s big lips drew in a frown. Jashan caught his eyes to see if the man was angry enough to throw a punch, then the man’s life played: I want to be boss of a little tech company but I’m an employee and have been for years. I’m trained to be friendly and never show anyone but the envy of my boss burns me slowly. I’ll become alcoholic but in my last years I’ll leave that and do community service gardening and try to let this burning ambition die down.

Jashan apologized, turned away. He’d seen much worse in the minds of the crazy people.

In the forest there had been none of this. A baby fern once told him: I will grow three feet into the air before I run out of my seed-energy. There won’t be enough light filtering through the canopy for me so I’ll wither away and die.

In some ways, lives in the forest weren’t so different from here. But here the events in people’s lives had a thousand accoutrements, branching out in all directions, incredibly complex. And they were also disconnected from themselves and from the earth who nursed them.

Jashan had seen a bear crashing through the bush once: I’ll be on my own in a new patch of forest but I’ll always think of the other cubs. We grew up rolling together and sleeping in a pile. As I grow older I’ll become solitary and hibernate more than six months a year and I’ll not hunt because of sadness and I’ll starve.

There was sadness everywhere, but in the forest it was simple, elemental. But Jashan’s Father had left there to save it from these people who loved machines. He hadn’t succeeded. Now Jashan was in London, the hub of madness, on his way to meet the woman who had presided over the destruction of his home.

He wondered what her future was, and whether he could change it.

 

***

 

I’m already working on  developing this one into a short story, regardless of what the vote is! My good friend Bala is helping, and his experiences with the conservative mental health system in the UK are sending the story in a new direction. If someone claimed to have powers in the UK, being able to read people’s emotions or future, they would likely be sectioned. There is an imagined norm, and deviance from that is a disorder.

Now while I don’t think the whole thing is bunk, and some people really do benefit from medication and therapy, I do think that our western world view is too limited to accommodate everything that’s ‘normal’ for human beings to experience. If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Horse Boy,’ for example, you’ll know that autism is viewed very differently by Siberian shamans than it is by the medical profession. It’s true that some people don’t function as ordinary citizens, but don’t we need people who are out of the ordinary too, not just in one way but in many ways?

 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. If you want to see what I can do with a deeper story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!


Lonely

“When the constellations came out at night, they were still perfectly aligned with his inner sense of direction. The world laid itself out before him.”

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, Lonely.

By Tuncay

By Tuncay

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It was all too easy, walking through these pines. Making lean-tos at night, trapping rabbits… Even the snow had a crisp layer which supported his snowshoes nicely. Fischbach peak could be tough to climb this time of year, but it was nothing that Hasran hadn’t done before. When the sun rose, it was always just where he thought it would be. When the constellations came out at night, they were still perfectly aligned with his inner sense of direction. The world laid itself out before him.

That night he came to the old cabin that he’d used last year on this same route. He tied the sled onto a tree trunk, out of habit from camping on slopes. The snow could shift and the sled would slide. It was better to be safe.

He creaked open the door. Inside, the cabin had degenerated more since he’d last come. Other men must have made camp there. New scratches marked the floor, and someone had even forgotten a tin mug.

Careless.

He went out and got his mat and blanket from the sled, then laid them on the bed. Coils sprang out in every direction but it was still better than sleeping on the floor.

He brought some dry wood out from the tarp. He’d have to leave some pieces here for the next person, though no one had left any for him. He melted snow to drink, and poured some of the boiling water into a bowl of oats and bran. Salt would be a luxury. He sat on the bed, and soon found himself staring at the doorway. It creaked in the wind, and light leaked around its edges as though heaven shone outside. Someone had carved a scene into the planks: a woman walking up a mountain.

Artists. Hasran wished for a moment that he had some hobby like that. The long nights were making him crazy, like Uncle had been crazy. The problem came in wondering too much what makes humanity tick.

 

***

 

When I was a kid, my family and I were cross-country skiing through a Canadian pine forest, when we came across an abandoned shack. The snow came half-way up its sides. Snow-laden pines surrounded it and the forest was preternaturally quiet, with the snow absorbing all sound. I clambered down into it from the surface.

The wooden planks on the walls had warped so that light streamed in. A cot took up a quarter of the total space, with rusty bedsprings coming out from mulched cotton. I imagined some hermetic trapper living there, or someone who just couldn’t find peace within civilization. It’s that experience which inspired this story.

 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. If you want to see what I can do with a deeper story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!


Ancient Evil

“I know, I know. But we are also mortal.”

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, Ancient Evil.

Ancient evil - ROBERT HUFFSTUTTER

image by ROBERT HUFFSTUTTER

 

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We’ve haunted this land since before time began. When these castles were unformed clay and stone, we watched men build them up. Inspiring a spider to bite, tempting a street-boy to his first mugging, we helped them remember that death is close for them.

I know, I know. But we are also mortal.

Silence! Have you known one of us to die?

I’ve only ever known you, Mother. Who is that one, flying in now on a rotating machine?

Let me sense him… He is an investigator. He wants to know what happened here a thousand years before his birth. Ah, there is a scorpion. I’ll use that to—

Don’t kill him.

Oh? Are you sympathetic to these tiny creatures now?

It’s not that. I have no empathy. That would be strange. But curiosity… We’ve been inspiring snakes and scorpions for so long… couldn’t we control the urge of reproduction, or the impulse that makes men build these structures so high in such a short time, even though they’ll all die so quickly? Couldn’t we control those, like Uncle does?

We were not made to do that work, son.

Hmph.

He’s nearing…

Who made us?

 

***

 

As I write this, I’m in the Abu Dabhi airport, on my way to India. I tried to get into the US, spent some time in England waiting for a long-delayed Indian visa (I wrote ‘writer’ as my profession and they were afraid I was a journalist, which is for some reason problematic.)

I’ve recently finished a book called ‘The new green history of the world,’ by Clive Ponting. It’s a realistic re heavy look at the history of the human race and our relationship with the environment.

While the history presented in the book never questions western evolutionary theory, and I think it should, and it doesn’t take into account the possibility of civilizations more ancient than what’s taught in schools, it’s still an eye-opening account of at east of the last two thousand years. In the last five hundred years especially, and the last fifty exceptionally, it’s a history of unsustainable exploitation. We are in an extreme spot now, with the world’s systems breaking down. Our energy-hungry international commerce is mostly running off oil-power. The planes, the cars, the power plants. And it seems there’s not much of that left, and the world is heating up.

So as I’m sitting in this ultra-modern airport, typing away on my laptop, I wonder, how long can this last? Will government and trade break down, or will we transition somehow into another phase which, while more modest than this massively expansionist phase we’re in now, would involve substantial international travel and trade of culture and goods.

 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. If you want to see what I can do with a deeper story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!


Bouncing off Borders

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, Bouncing off Borders.

Our World - DIBP images

Our World – DIBP images

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I shuffled up to the immigration desk.

“Papers,” said a brawler of a man with a thick black mustache.

I furnished him with my passport.

He scanned it, said without making eye contact. “Why do you want to go to the USA?”

It’s a free world and this land belongs to no man, and to everyone. You people stole it from the Indians and they didn’t own it either. We’re all coming and going.

“Visiting friends,” I replied.
He frowned. “Don’t you have any friends in your country?”
No one belongs to any country or family. We’re all citizens of the Earth, and even more than that we’re  citizens of the universe and children of God.

“I do,” I said. “I have friends here too.”

He looked over whatever information was on his screen about me. “It says here that you’ve been to the USA before. You’ve been to many countries. Why would you want to leave your own country, stay there with your family?”

I have no country. I just happened to be born in some piece of land recently designated by a name.

“I like traveling.”

He made a mark on some sort of checklist, then looked back at the screen. “You said you’re a writer.”

“Yes.”

“Are you a journalist?”
“No Sir.”

He looked me in the eye for the first time. “Well what do you write?”

The whole world is an allegory. You just shift it left or right like transposing a song, or the down indicates the up, earth points to heaven. There’s no fiction. Every idea indicates something real.

“Well, I filled out the landing card.”

He nodded, apparently satisfied. “Do you plan on writing when you’re in the USA?”

“No, Sir. I only write in my own country.”

“While in your own country, do you intend to write about experiences that you had while in the USA?”

“Ah, no Sir. I only write in my own country about experiences that I have in my own country, Sir.”

“Very good.”
“Can I go in?”

“No. Policy dictates that every man should live in his own country.”

“So there should be no travelers?”

“Only on business.”

I closed my eyes, told myself not to yell at this man, not to attack.

I opened them and raised my hand above my head. “Charge!”

From the back of the immigration room, a force of war-horses five hundred strong sprung from hiding. Their riders, clad in exotic, angular armor, raised hooked blades over their heads as they charged into the USA.

 

***

 

This scene was inspired by my recent visit to the Los Angeles airport. I was welcomed by men who had a keen interest in me as a person, who wanted to know all the details of my life. They were kind enough to escort me around the airport, and even gave me my own space in a locked room with other guests. I got to see the inside of a police van, and was able to return to my home country much more quickly than I’d hoped.

This experience left me with an appreciation for the human conceptions of countries, borders, and also money, because it is largely the glow of money which keeps these constructs intact. How amazing it is that a country not five hundred years old, in its current incarnation, and which was largely stolen from the older inhabitants, now keeps people who were born in other places out! It is indeed a testament to mind over matter that these ideas govern our lives and activities. In this spirit, I have decided to name a constellation of stars after myself, and should anyone ever make it to that area of the universe, I will question them thoroughly and charge them an entrance fee.
Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. You can also grab my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!

 


A Boy and his Goat

by Tristan Schmurr

by Tristan Schmurr

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. I’ll be recording the next few scenes in Govardhana, India. India is wonderful, but in the entire country, there is no place which is quiet, except perhaps the peaks of the Himalayas, where there’s no electricity. So don’t mind the calls of temple goers in the background, will you?
Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, A boy and his goat.

A boy stops at the edge of a gargantuan canyon. Clouds swirl below and around him, so he cannot see the limits of the abyss. Only distant peaks cut above the clouds, gleaming on the horizon. He’s been traveling for a long time, so the boy sits on the edge of the canyon, swinging his legs in the air.
He wonders how to cross… How to reach those mountains?
He removes a notebook from his pack, with wheat-colored pages. He stares out for a while, then sketches a bridge across the gorge. He draws a goat walking across the bridge. As the boy draws he grows tired, so he lies back and sleeps.
When he wakes, he is sitting up and it is night. The goat from his drawing walks ahead of him on a rickety wooden bridge, which swings in the breeze. The boy stands with shaky legs, and finds wooden slats beneath his bare feet. The mountains in the distance are purple and blue, the sky dusky. Northern lights play behind the clouds, along with constellations that move too quickly.
The goat walks ahead of him toward the purple peaks, a saddlebag jingling on her back. Her hooves clack on the slats.
The boy follows. He’s no longer tired. They walk for a long time, crossing a gorge even more massive than what he’d seen while awake. After what seems like days, they reach the far end of the bridge. First the goat, then the boy, pass onto grass which looks lush even in the dusky light. He smells night flowers and starry ponds.
The goat turns her head back, then opens a pouch in her saddlebag, using her teeth. She brings out a notebook which looks like the boy’s own, but it is longer. The goat tosses the notebook to the grass and pulls out a pencil. She sketches a bridge crossing a canyon, like a thread through the sky. Then she draws the boy there, walking across it. She shades it with a piece of charcoal.
Having finished her work, the goat lays down to rest. The boy sets his head on her soft and warm belly, then falls asleep himself.
When he wakes it is daytime, and he is still on the near side of the gorge. A thin bridge with wooden slats stretches before him. Though its end is lost in clouds, he knows it must be fixed somewhere, for it does not fall.
Cheerful, the boy sets out across the bridge toward the shiny mountains. Curious, he stops and checks his drawing book. There he sees a drawing of himself, with his head resting on the goat’s belly, and he feels at peace.

***

This scene was inspired my long-term fixation with goats, which even I don’t understand. When I was a teenager, a group of friends and I gave each other goat names (Baby Goat, Mister Goat etc.) These days, sometimes friends greet me by baaing, though I’ve never told them about my time in a teenage goat-cult. People often send me pictures and videos of goats doing funny and strange things. I like their weird, square pupils. It is perhaps all this which brought the idea of a mystic goat to my mind, one who can only be accessed through dreams, but who’s actions profoundly affect the real world.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. If you want to see what I can do with a deeper story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!


‘Fire from the Overworld’ available now!

(click to view)Fire from the Overworld cover final(click to view)


Everything is STORY

diversity

Photo: People from all over the world coming together for unusual and diverse spiritual, cultural and personal reasons

Here’s a question for all you thinkers out there: is there anything at all which cannot be contained in a story?

I say no, and here’s my case.

All types of people can populate stories

Characters can be theists, atheists, violent, philosophical, young at heart but old of body, young of body but old of heart, proud, humble, talented, foolish… you name it. The variety of people out there in the world and universe is the same as the potential variety of characters.

All knowledge can be contained in stories and characters

There are stories about math, arts, engineering, space travel, astrology, astronomy, mysticism and folklore… Indeed, the evolution and devolution of these subjects over time is also a grand story.

All places both real and imaginary can be settings in stories

You can set a story anywhere on earth, or under it, or in the oceans or in the air, or a combination of all of these. A story can take place between planets, on other planets, in a black hole, in an alternate dimension, or in a place transcendental to all dimensions.

We swim through stories all our lives

The newspaper is a collection of stories, with characters, settings and events. When we ask a friend, “How was your day?” their answer will be a story. Even if they just reply, “It was good,” or “It was bad,” that still tells us something about or friend and what they’re really going through. That’s part of their expression within a larger story. Our guesses about what’s really happening with them are stories.

Stories aren’t all fictional, but they’re all subjective

What?! How can real stories be subjective? Well, because they’re experienced by subjects–by people. A person’s personal experience, as well as their retelling of events will always be from their point of view. Someone may be rational and truthful, or may not even tell events according to their own experience. But we’re all subjects, and so whatever we experience is subjective. We’re in stories and we tell stories. It’s what we do. All fictional stories are based on real-life stories, even the really far-out ones. We don’t really create anything new–that’s my understanding. We recombine ideas in amazing ways.

There are stories everywhere, but in some places they’re denser

I’m in West Bengal now, in the village of Nabadwip by the river Ganges. I’m staying with some of my god-family who run a school for underprivileged kids. I’m learning a bit about how the different kids came to the school here. We’re working on a video series, with spotlights on a different child each month. Stay tuned for that, but in the meantime I’ll say that their stories are both extremely tragic and extremely hopeful.

Comparing tapestries

I spend a lot of time in India, and for some years have been going back and forth between India and England, in particular. Now there are stories in England too, but not like in India. I think of stories like threads in a tapestry. England has its tapestry, with its colors and density of strands. There is the history of the British Empire, there’s Christianity, there’s science. There is medieval England, and the pagans and druids in the ancient past. So there’s some great, diverse stuff going on. There’s no doubt about it. Canada has its story, the United States has its story. All places do, and they’re amazing.

Then you come to India. It’s also a tapestry of stories–of lives weaving together–but it’s extremely dense and colorful, and parts of it are very, very ancient. Here’s a short story I wrote, about reincarnation, poverty and brother-sister love.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way about India. Check this out:

A Rough Guide to India: “It is impossible not to be astonished by India. Nowhere on Earth does humanity present itself in such a dizzying, creative burst of cultures and religions, races and tongues. Enriched by successive waves of migration and marauders from distant lands, every one of them left an indelible imprint which was absorbed into the Indian way of life. Every aspect of the country presents itself on a massive, exaggerated scale, worthy in comparison only to the superlative mountains that overshadow it. It is this variety which provides a breathtaking ensemble for experiences that is uniquely Indian. Perhaps the only thing more difficult than to be indifferent to India would be to describe or understand India completely.”

It’s a land of extremes. Extreme wealth and poverty. Extreme depravity and saintliness, horror and beauty. Schools of thought which aim at total annihilation of the self, and others which aim at realization of one’s spiritual form and eternal relationship with a personal Godhead. There’s a history going back–depending on who’s story you take–thousands or millions of years.

Keith Bellows, National Geographic Society : “There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds… I had been seeing the world in black & white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor.”

Stories stories stories!

Here in India, you might meet a man in a loin cloth with no shoes, living in the mountains. He’s studied computer programming in Bangalore, but left that to become a yogi. His grandfather practiced yoga for decades and, at the time of his death, his soul left his body out the top of his head with a small explosion.

One of the kids here in the school was separated from his mother for a long time by an abusive father. He become very introverted, but with the care of the teachers he’s become an excellent actor and helps all the other kids learn. His family are refugees from a war in Bangladesh which took place before his birth. It was, ostensibly, a religious war, but seems to have been more about land and power, unsurprisingly. He’s living now in Nabadwip where, the Vedic scriptures describe, a form of Krishna appeared about five hundred years ago, named Caitanyadeva. People from all over the world come here to worship Caitanyadeva. How they learned about Him is another story, how His teachings fit in with the vast array of teachings in India is another story. All these stories mix together in a way that I’ve never heard of anywhere else.

Nine Lives by William Dalrymple has one chapter for each of nine very diverse people here in India, from a prostitute to a divine dancer. I recommend it.

Really there’s just one big tapestry of stories

Do you disagree? Have you traveled around India, stayed with some families, learned about the history and philosophical/religious groups within the country? Let’s talk. The way I see it, there are threads of stories running all over the globe, but there seems to be a real nucleus in India.

Quotes

Mark Twain, American author: “India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”

I’ll end with a few quotes about this land.

Will Durant, American historian: “India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all”.

Romain Rolland, French scholar : “If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.”

 

If you disagree with me, please say so in the comments. If you agree with me, please debate respectfully with those who don’t. You can subscribe by giving your e-mail in the top right part of the screen. You’ll get a free mini audio-book/e-book too. And be sure to click the relevant links to share this around!
I’m publishing once every two weeks.

 

 


How creativity builds empathy

Life is diverse indeed

https://btlowry.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/creation-maintenance-destruction.jpg

Bad guys have their own motivations.

In nuanced stories, no one is just plain evil. That’s true in real life too. This ‘evil-doer’ is just carrying on the inheritances of a bad childhood. She’s trying to uphold tradition and order. He wants the land back that was stolen from his people generations ago. She’d determined to save her country’s principles, and the only way to do it is to rule it with an iron fist. An antagonist is a hero in her own mind.

Good guys have their faults.

An anti-hero has more faults than most. Clint Eastwood’s characters, Wolverine, the couple in Natural Born Killers, the dudes in Pulp Fiction. They’re so twisted that they’re protagonists but not heroes, in my mind. I don’t have friends as heavy as that, but most of the people I look up to aren’t perfect. I love them anyway.

Diversity

navadvipa-bengal-4

In any discussion or debate, it’s nice to see characters representing different points of view. It’s the same in fiction. It’s boring if everyone sees things in the same way, like a herd of animals. If a theme of a story is spirituality, it’s uninteresting if everyone’s of the same faith, and of the same flavor of that one faith. Rather if we have a cast of atheists, theists, polytheists, scientists and ex-believers, we can flesh out the issues in their discussions, conflicts, actions and reactions.

Straw men. Built to burn.

A straw man is a character who’s there just to prove his world-view wrong. His failure shows that his world-view is flawed. Now, a character may fail because his world-view is unworkable, because his opponents take him down. But he’s got to have reasons for doing what he’s doing. He’s got to make a convincing case, if only to himself, if the story’s going to feel realistic. I may be a theist, but the atheist in my book has to represent himself well.

An aggressive, angry person has their reasons for being that way. It might seem convoluted and hypocritical to me, or to other characters, but he feels he’s justified or he wouldn’t be doing it. I, or the character who’s convictions are most like mine, might vehemently disagree with the villain, but if I’m going to write that character convincingly, I need to understand people who have that nature.

Empathy

In order to write about people who think differently from me, who hold beliefs other than my own, I need to empathize with such folk in real life. I find that as I write more fiction, my appreciation of diverse kinds of people increases.

Bengali people are very different from Canadians

Bengalis and Canadians

I grew up in Canada. Right now I’m in West Bengal. Bengalis as a whole have a very different nature than Canadians.

Broadly speaking, I find Bengali people to be extremely social, family-based, emotional, and devotional. They’re expressive without inhibitions, well into gossip, devotional to the point where they’ll roll around in groups inside of temples, calling out the names of the deities on the altar there.

By contrast, Canadians are reserved, polite, pragmatic and individualistic.

People are a bit like their climate.

The sub-tropical lands of West Bengal are rich with intertwined, often competing life. Canada is cool, vast and sparse by comparison. There are fewer flora and fauna, and what’s there is starkly differentiated. The people are like that too. Everyone sails their own ship. They meet with others, then go on. They don’t like to huddle in huge groups for long.

I may come from a polite and practical people, but how fascinating it is to put expressive, deeply spiritual, collectively-minded people in my stories. Though it irritates me to be shoved aside in a temple, by an eager old-lady-pilgrim’s steel-bar elbows, when I think of her as a character in a story, it’s suddenly a fascinating scene.

artwork by Alina Gaboran

(courtesy of Alina Gaboran, used with permission)

It’s like artwork

If you’re going to draw a person on an object, at least in the post-renaissance style, you have to understand the three-dimensional shape of it, how light plays on it, how shadows fall on it and how it casts shadows, how the shapes join with each other. Some would say that if you want to really show the life of a living subject, you have to be in touch with that life in them. You have to empathize with them, then their likeness will come from your brush.

Diverse spiritual viewpoints

navadvipa-bengal-3

I just participated in a week-long spiritual festival here in Navadvipa town, West Bengal, India. It’s a beautiful place. The Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers all run through the land, dividing it into nine islands. We roamed from temple to temple, singing and dancing like mad. The festival is called the Gaura Purnima festival, celebrating the appearance day of the great spiritual personality, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (affectionately known to the elder ladies of his time as little Nimai)

An incredible diversity of people came to this little town

They came from around the world. Some are by nature creative and artistic, others scientific and practical. Some were born into spiritually-minded families. Others grew up in homes where such discussions never came up. Although coming to the same place under the same spiritual banner, people bring their own convictions with them. Some disagree strongly with others.

In all this sizzling pot of spiritual diversity, I found that my own writing of fiction helps me. The mindset of being a storyteller is allowing me to step back from the intensity of inter-personal drama. I can see it all as a story with an astoundingly diverse cast. With the detachment that comes from imagining it to be unreal, I can better understand people’s motivations. I can take what’s good in them, and the rest is spicy chutney. Certainly a story without conflict would be boring.

There’s a tendency in real life to make people fully good or bad, but in fiction it doesn’t fly. You want some gradations of motivations and selfishness.

Fiction is a kind of allegory, or simplified representation, of the real world’s in its infinite complexity. Often, it can help us understand, accommodate and live life.

How is communication even possible?

The diversity of people throughout the world is so great that I sometimes find it amazing that we can communicate at all. Yet we can, if we try, relate with people very different from ourselves.

Scientifically

Some say this is because we have parts of our brains which mirror the thoughts of others. We give them a temporary house in our heads, and thus come to understand them. By imitating their brains with parts of our own, we come to know them. 

Energetically

Energetically, we hear that people exchange energies when they communicate. Different colors and flavors of energy come from one person and make themselves part of the other. Either way, we take something of the other onboard. We make it our own in order to understand it.

This makes sense to me.

Human beings generally have two arms, two legs, two eyes and so on. There’s a kind of standard physical composition. Women and men aren’t that much different anatomically, except in a few key places. The physical diversity is built on the commonality. We’re much more similar to one another than we are different. Even the bodies of animals have many of the same structures as ours.

I believe that we also share a likeness in our fundamental makeup as conscious beings. We could say that we can understand each other because our fundamental makeup is largely alike. It’s not that we’re all one personality, but our personalities are made up of the same building blocks, arranged and shaped in different ways. I think councilors and psychologists would agree.

Spiritually speaking, I’ve heard we all come from the same source, and that we are wee versions of the supreme conscious entity. 

Most spiritual paths advise us not to judge or criticize others. My own path, bhakti-yoga, certainly emphasizes this. It’s said that if we criticize someone, the faults we perceive in that person will become our own. Conversely, if we see good qualities in others, those virtues will come to us.

Writing fiction helps me to understand and empathize with others. My spiritual path also helps me accept others, which in turn helps my creation of fictional characters. This then helps me spiritually. It’s a sweet back and forth augmentation of goodness.

Plus I’d go crazy if I didn’t get my creativity out somehow. I’m not ready to be a full-on monk just yet.

Thanks to the writing excuses podcast for part of the motivation for this post.

 

Have you got any thoughts on creativity, spirituality and empathy? Share them below.

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Fire from the Overworld by B.T. Lowry, a New Spiritual Epic Fantasy Book.

Fire from the Overworld cover final

New Spiritual Epic Fantasy Book!

 As some of you may know, I’ve been beavering away at my first fantasy novel for some years now. It’s about a young man and woman who are students of a master mystic, in a desert village. Their teacher travels from his body to the realm of the spirit-rulers, only to be captured by the gods’ enemies. The desert ecosystem swings out of balance. Plants and animals kill each other without reason. The two students discover that the imbalances stem from a battle between spirit-rulers in a higher realm. They strive to restore balance between their world and the higher world, and to regain their teacher. But to do so, they may have to sacrifice what’s dearest to them: each other.

I’m excited to announce that Fire from the Overworld will be available on the 21st of April, in print and digital formats.

What pre-release readers think about it

“Some writers are great stylists and will write beautiful stories that say nothing new or important.  Other writers are great storytellers whose tales are exciting but mundane.  Only rarely do we see a writer whose creates compelling, important stories with captivating prose.  B.T. Lowry is one of those rare authors whose work is not only compelling and moving, but also important to read.  “Fire from the Overworld” is a terrific debut!”

David Farland, New York Times Bestseller, Lead Judge for one of the world’s largest writing contests.

 

It’s like Carlos Castaneda on Brhad-Bhagavatamrta. On the brink of change, these young mystics show the potency of the inner journey and its effect on the world around us. (B.T. Lowry is) a story teller with the capacity to help us regenerate our conceptions.

-Caroline Tharp, Vice President of Gaudiya Vedanta Publications.

 

“Four Worlds” is a complex story that follows the lives of three young protagonists, as the structure of their world falls apart. The three main characters live in a rural town reminiscent of historic India. Yuvali and Héyowan are mystics and close friends who have grown up together, and Pradah is Héyowan’s older brother who will eventually take over for their father as chief of the village. The natural world has gone crazy–animals and men behave erratically, the crops are dying, and attack from roaming bands of codeless warriors threaten the very existence of the village. It is a fight taking place on both the physical plane–Pradah is training to be a warrior to defend the village from attack–and the spiritual plane–Yuvali and Héyowan appeal to the very highest of the gods for rescue. But when the line between good and evil blur, the three children must grow up quickly and make adult choices that will change not only the course of village life, but perhaps change all the infinite worlds ruled by the gods.

 

Lowry’s writing style has beautiful passages of description that easily transport the reader to the kingdom of Raiya. Here’s a brief snippet, when Yuvali is using the mystic powers of an ayur to travel outside her body:

The sand beneath her was liquid, or blowing in the air across the big world, skins on the surface of a great creature who was a ruler herself, and Yuvali was like the dust in the wind around her, blowing everywhere and mixing with the world’s winds. She loosed herself to the four directions.

Hands caught her, held her together so she could go on. Someone with her, keeping her whole. The tree grew closer; a branch caught moonlight as a covering cloud broke apart. Buds lined the branches, and spiky clusters of leaves. The silvery mound had a dark patch within it.

It was a cave.

 

Interspersed and inspired by mythology and oral storytelling, the book’s world has a richness that is the perfect backdrop to an epic story of good and evil. If you’re a fan of Tripathi’s Shiva Trilogy or are looking for a YA story similar to the atmosphere of Alexander’s MG-level The Iron Ring, you would enjoy reading “Four Worlds.”

-Alison McBain, Author. Published in Flash Fiction Online and Abyss & Apex.

 

Sample Chapter

I’m offering the first chapter as a sample. It is called ‘Flying,’ and it’s about Yuvali, a young woman and mystic student. She leaves her body as a practice, but is dragged by a mysterious force to distant mountains to witness a strange hunt.

Here is a link to read it online.

How to get the full book

Fire from the Overworld will be available April 21st from Amazon.com in digital and print format. I’ll announce here when it’s published. If it sounds up your alley, please have a read and tell your friends!


How to age with grace

It’s tough getting old.

A friend of mine who’s pushing 70 told me that his body’s like an old car. First this bit goes, then that bit goes… It’s tougher still when you’re surrounded by images glorifying youth. On the media we see oily muscly men with practically no body hair, women who’s proportions have been photoshoped so that they resemble barbies.

But there are advantages.

If it’s a life well lived, old age can be one of the best times. You can reap the material fruits of working hard and saving money, can enjoy friendships which have deepened over time, and can act with deeper self-knowledge than before. Whatever we gather–be it knowledge, wisdom or stuff, we’ll likely have a store of it to relish and share later in life.

So what I’m thinking about today is, how to age with grace?

Some people really hit their stride in their later years, but in what? There are some things we can’t take with us into old age: the smooth skin, endurance and strength of youth. Oh, we can age more slowly or more quickly, depending on how we live. But age we must. Some of us are dragged into older age while desperately clinging to the things that only youth allows: tons of energy, lots of sex, unstoppable immune systems, parties… Of course if you watch your diet and do yoga, you can stretch your life out (hardy har har), but we’re all getting older. Or our bodies are, anyway.

Where are the Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, New Kids on the Block?

Or where are any host of young actors and actresses who moved from A-list to B-list, then to C, then off into the oblivion of non-famousness, Sinéad O’Connor’s letter to Miley Cyrus (language warning) sums up the music industry, and really most entertainment industries. They’re factories which churn in the young, pretty and talented, then churn out the washed up. (It’s better to burn out than to fade away) Rock stars, movie stars and models have it easy in youth and hard in old age. In the media, women have it harder than men. The window of being suitable for the uses of those industries is small. The body will change.

Different parts of us age differently

Now the way I understand it, (based largely on the teachings of Bhagavad Gita and other spiritual books) we’ve got three aspects: our self (soul, spirit, atma), our mind and our body.

Body aging

Our bodies are aging constantly, starting at the moment of inception. I’ve heard a body hits its peak at around eighteen years, then slowly deteriorates from there.

Mind aging

Pursuits of the mind, on the other hand, often really kick off later in life. Many authors are published for the first time in their fifties or sixties. Professors hit their stride after much life experience. In their later years, scientists mine jewels from decades of research. Musicians become masters.

Yet the mind also fades later in life. Also death is ever approaching… what to do?

How to age with grace: spiritual life

I know many people entering into old age who really inspire me. They all share certain things in common: they’re engaged in spiritual practices. They identify themselves as being spiritual beings who continue after the body and mind fail. They know that their spirit doesn’t die, and they’re identifying with their spirit. They’re not holding onto something impermanent, and so they’re no afraid of entering old age and, eventually, dying.

 

I don’t believe in the moon

Now if you don’t believe in any kind of spiritual life whatsoever, that’s fine. I personally choose not to believe in the moon. Seriously though, I reckon if we spend our lives cultivating awareness of our immortal selves, old age and death won’t come as a shock. Death will just be the shedding of skin.

As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. (Bhagavad Gita 2.22)

If you disagree with me, please say so in the comments! If you agree with me, you can debate respectfully with those who don’t. You can subscribe by clicking ‘follow’ in the lower right hand corner of the screen, or click facebook or twitter to share this around.

I’ll be publishing once every two weeks. I was doing once a week, but I want to put more time into each post, and also into getting them out there 🙂


‘Sister” short story reading

Today I’m presenting a short story which I wrote some time ago. It takes the form of a letter from a brother to a sister. The only thing is, the brother remembers her from his past life, but he’s not sure if she remembers him.

Here’s the text version:

Sister

 

Dear Manjot (light of the heart),

I hope you and Kirandeep are well.

I want to remind you of our relationship, before you were born. Before I was born. I hope you don’t think I’m deluded.

You were so skinny that you slid through tiny hoops. I remember your bony shoulders poking through a blue sequined dress, which sparkled when you first found it. Your black, dreaded hair flopped around like a mop as you flipped and did handstands in train aisles or dangled with your knees hooked over sleeping-bunks. People clapped or pretended we weren’t there. Some gave money. I stood behind you in the aisles, a felt-tip moustache on my face, a man’s suit draped on me like a tent, pinned up around my bare calves.

I was your older brother and you my sister. Your name was Roma. Mine was Raj, though I was hardly a king. Do you remember?

I could play the ektara somewhat –the one-stringed instrument given us by our father. I wasn’t much for melody but the trains taught me rhythm: click-a-de clack, da-dunk, click-a-de clack, da-dunk. I twanged the ektara to the same rhythm which jostled the people back and forth. I think they liked that.

They said to me, “Boy! Sing Jaya Jagadish Hare!”

Or to you, “Can you pass through three hoops at once?”

And if we could do what they asked, they’d sing along and clap and would surely give us something. At first I didn’t know the popular Bengali and Oriya songs but I learned them as people sang for me what they wanted to hear. “Like this…”

You said to me when we were stopped at a country station, “I’ll learn how to balance on my mouth!” You’d seen a girl do this in a marketplace once, chest facing the ground and legs bending behind her head. “People will give rupees like a rain,” you said, nodding with raised eyebrows.

You dreamed of being a super-flexible yogi. I imagined I’d become a master musician. Such ideas kept us hopeful.

I remember when we switched trains, you waited on the old one until it started moving. I ordered you to join me on the platform but you leaned out the door and made a funny, defiant face. Finally you jumped off and ran along the platform, slowing to a stop. That made me angry, and I think that’s why you did it, because you liked me protecting you.

Do you have these memories? You died in between. So did I, but by God’s desire I recall the journey.

Evenings on the trains were best, when people hadn’t pulled their bunks down to sleep but were relaxed. They played cards, ate or entertained their kids. They’d give us a few rupees then. Big fat people, some of them. What they must have spent on food! The toilets’ stench was overpowered by the smell of hot rice, rotis and dahl.

I remember the day you died. We were curled against the train door. People sprayed us with water as they used the sink above us. The friction between the linked cars sounded like metal thunder. We stopped at a station where the train was cleaned.

I was thirsty. I jumped onto the platform as workers in orange overalls mounted the train. I went looking for drinkable water. People slept on benches under rows of fluorescent lights cutting the night. Shiva’s crescent moon hung amid dark clouds and a wind blew from arid hills.

While I was drinking, men in expensive shirts offered me potato-pea samosas with coconut chutney. I ate some and wanted to bring some back for you, but they got me talking about where I was from and what I did on the trains. They saw my ektara and asked me to sing. I sang a short tune, still thinking of you. They complimented me, said I should enroll in a music academy. They’d help me get in. “Sing another!”

I was caught by their attention and was singing so loudly that I didn’t hear the train leaving.

Finally I heard the click-a-de clack of the wheels rolling over joints in the track. I turned. The train was accelerating out of the station, doors and windows passing into the night. You were leaning out a door, searching the platform. I dropped my ektara with a crack-twang and ran to you, calling your name, “ROMA!” between sharp breaths. You looked at me and screamed, “RAJ!” I clawed at door handles and window latches locked from the inside. Far ahead you hung out an open door. I ran faster. Maybe I should have grabbed some window-bars but it was already going so fast. I had no idea where the train was going. Windows and doors fell ahead of me into darkness. I ran harder and you reached out your hand, but half the station lay between us. Your strained smile broke as you realized I wouldn’t catch up.

There’ll be dried teardrops on this paper, if you look closely.

Then your face changed. You got your funny defiant look. You jumped, clutching your colored hoops, you hit the ground and lost your footing. You crumpled then rolled and slid. You stopped against a column which kept the station’s roof up. Your hoops rolled along the platform and onto the tracks behind the caboose.

For a full year I kept thinking you’d show up again. People don’t really believe in death. Maybe because the soul is eternal. Death’s all around us: people, plants, animals dying, but does anyone think they’ll die? We know it intellectually but do we believe we’ll actually stop existing? Just the body dies; that I know now.

The men who’d given me samosas caught me from behind.

I spent almost two years with them. They didn’t bring me to music school but sent me begging. They weren’t kind men, but they provided a sort of shelter, and maybe that was my bad karma mixing with God’s protection of me.

You might be thinking that all this explains your strange dreams about trains. I’m laughing now. In this life, you’d rather walk from Ottawa to Whitehorse than get on a train.

The men sent me all over Eastern India, always with one other child. In pairs we’d beg on trains, perform or steal to make our quota. We were like cows wandering a city, eating whatever we could find then coming home to get milked. The men didn’t keep us in pairs long enough to get close; we might have run away together.

After a year I understood you were gone. With no close friends, I didn’t much want to live. I got sick and the men found me medicine but they didn’t know what they were doing. I fell ill at the beginning of the rainy season and left before its end. When I died, I was thinking of my little sister, of you.

It’s hard to describe how I knew it was you. You looked very different: twenty years old, not seven; tall and beautiful and of course in a completely different body. You were well-fed but slender with fine brown hair. I recognized you through a combination of many many small things. Your laughing-dove-chuckle was almost the same. So was the way you folded plastic packages while you talked. You used to jump when you were excited; now you roll up on your toes grinning unabashedly. The way your nose wrinkles when you smell something you don’t like, the way your ears rise when you’re annoyed, the way you move gracefully through a crowd like you’re gliding on ice… so many things.

Maybe you can see why I hesitated to tell you. It’s inappropriate I suppose. Your husband might get jealous. It seems strange, my trying to rekindle something from another life.

You’re my sister. These last thirty years, serving in the school together, I’ve had it confirmed who you are – or were – a million times in a million little ways. When I think of you in that other life, roaming around performing on trains, I see your face as it is now. Maybe you know too, and you just don’t know what to make of it.

You can speak about all this with me if you’d like, but you don’t have to. If you just give me a nod of recognition, I’ll be satisfied. Or if none of this makes sense, you can pretend you never read it and just consider me a fellow naturalized Indian, as we are in this life. I’m planning a trip to India soon. I want to visit the holy places before this body gets too old for the journey. I might stay there until I die. I’m quite sick already, as you know. So whatever awkwardness this letter might cause won’t last long. I’m laughing. Each life is so short, isn’t it!

In any case, please think of me as an old friend.

Your brother,

Nayan


Secret places not wanted by others.

Who owns the Earth? We humans come and go. So do animals and plants. Who can claim ownership of even a square centimeter of territory? I remember learning in school when I was about 14 that the Queen of England owns Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.
I remember thinking, ‘This is ridiculous!’ Not just that the queen of a northern isle could own a place in Africa, but that any human being could own something existing for millions or billions of years before and after their brief lifespan. I might as well point out a patch of stars, name it after myself and tell everybody, ‘That is is the Bevis constellation.
But this is not a rant about ownership, or rather the next bit won’t be.
This is about unwanted places. A position or place not coveted by others is a great thing. A secret place in the woods, a room in an abandoned house. No international fights are going on for the rights to it, stealing your peace of mind. In such a place one can be at peace. In some countries, the wealthy are targeted by kidnappers. In business, a CEO’s job is coveted by many. The posts of national leaders are prized, but that little path in the woods, that simple house–you can be there without worry. Probably. It is a pretty mad world.

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I’ll be publishing once a week.


The ultimate high-tech ultra futuristic revelation revealed!!!!!

After thousands of years of research into nutrition and stuff, and after rifling through heaps of contradictory opinions, the world’s bestest scientists have reached a consensus. There are only two kinds of food: weird tasting and non-weird tasting.
In popular parlance, weird tasting food is called, “healthy food,” and non-weird tasting food is called, “tasty food.”
Some argue that if one possesses the willpower, one should only eat weird food. Bitter, intense, sour!!
Others say no! To enjoy a happy life–albeit short and full of health problems–one should eat only non-weird food.Tasty, fatty, salty!!
The truth is, as the latest super-scientific studies have revealed, that for optimal mental, physical, primal, causal, nasal, dental and social health, a wise one will eat a mix of weird and non-weird food.
‘What?’ cry the weird-food advocates. ‘What is the harm in eating only healthy food?’
Well, my theoretical friend, the problems are twofold. First, a person may become twisted and bitter by this diet, growing to hate those who have ‘fallen to the platform of eating non-weird food.’ Such a person may withdraw from society, begin muttering to themselves and start a two or even one person cult in some exotic location.
‘That’s not me!’ you say. ‘I’ll never abandon my community!’
And well you shouldn’t. Well alright. But here’s the clincher: it’s well-known that if a person eats only ultra-healthy food, they will in the course of time develop superpowers.
‘That’s great!’ you say.
Great in comic books and movies, yes. Super strength, super memory. What could go wrong? But imagine if you were suddenly–or over the course of say a two-year diet regime–five times stronger than you are now. You would be like a weapon. Shaking hands with someone could land you in jail, hugging your friend could kill him. Having a great memory sounds fantastic, but what if you could remember every single detail of everything that ever happened to you in your entire life and it was in your brain all the time all the all the time at the foremost tip of your consciousness and it was impossible to get rid of?!
?!
‘Well, that would be bad.’
Yes.
On the other hand, if a person does not eat any weird food at all, they turn into a slug and get eaten by enormous birds.
Thus a balanced diet is optimal.
Here ends my brief explanation of the latest scientific findings regarding nutrition and lifestyle. I hope this is been helpful to you.

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Creativity is misnamed

At first glance, it would seem that we create fiction with our imaginations. This is particularly obvious with fantasy or science fiction stories, where there are worlds, characters and abilities not seen in real life (unless you are a magician or super-hero). But really, all fiction is a creation of our imaginations. Right? What to speak of just fiction, we are creative in engineering, business, teaching… everywhere. Right?
No human has ever been creative. Not really.
Here’s the thing: to create is to bring something into existence, but we just recombine things. Think about it: a visual artist’s rendering of a fantastic world is based on the real world. Their far-out floating mountains are like real mountains, but floating. You know, like stuff floats in water. You’ve seen that, right? A flying, fire-breathing dragon is a combination of a few ideas–I’d say a serpent, a bat and fire–all combined together and scaled up. A science fiction author might place her story on another planet, where there is all water and no land. What has she created? A planet, like the one we walk on, but distant and covered with water. We have oceans here, so she conceived of that planet having only oceans. What has she created from scratch?
If an author is not writing science fiction or fantasy, their setting is not so obviously imagined. If a story set in Florence, Italy, is to be convincing, the author really ought to spend some time there getting the setting right. Their ‘creativity’ in that case is to present Florence with accuracy and flare. But what did they really create?
‘Creativity’ is really a particular recombination of existing elements, just like making a building out of stone, metal and so on. The ingredients are all there already; we’re just putting it together in different ways.
When we write about characters who are aliens or alien-like in their views, we base them on people in this world. We may employ different character traits that we’ve seen, but in a combination that we’ve never known in a single person. Like a really jolly, funny hermaphrodite who happens to be a serial killer. An odd combination to be sure, but really just combining existing things. Or a person who likes brussels sprouts, cricket, moto-derbies and romance novels.
Mind you, if someone wants to call this innovative recombination of things ‘creativity,’ hey, that’s fine with me. Most words just have the meanings we give them. To be sure, it is an amazing and mystical ability. How and why would such an ability evolve? It is beyond the understanding of modern science that we should express ourselves in such diverse and imaginative ways. I find this ‘creativity’ to be a tool to understand myself and the world, and to try to share with others what I am thinking and feeling. By making a world with characters and envisioning their struggles and realizations in the course of a story, I feel I can share with others a little bit of what my ideals and dreams are. It’s an inspiring way to connect with and appreciate the world and cosmos that we find ourselves in, and maybe even learn something of its source. So although we don’t create anything new, thank God for creativity!

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Imagine a blog…

Imagine a blog which talks about different kinds of caterpillars and politics, about moon travel, do-it-yourself paper maché frogs, and fingernail growing tutorials! Ready? Now imagine a blog which seldom if ever mentions any of those things. It’s about the patterns that sawdust generates when wind blows over it. It’s about what it’s like to be inside a birthday balloon.
My blog won’t be about that either, but it will be about imagination.
I’m Bevis Lowry. I also go by my spiritual name, Venu Gopal das, in the bhakti-yoga tradition. I’m an author, and this is an author’s blog, but I reckon it won’t be mainly about writing. Casting my eyes to the future, I’m seeing that this blog could be funny, spiritual, different, controversial. I hope it’s interesting and thought provoking, and spurs lively and respectful discussions. If you like it, please subscribe (click follow in the lower right hand corner of the screen), comment and share it around. If you don’t, please criticize it in a creative, lively way.
I’ll be publishing once a week.