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Category Archives: oneness

“Sense8” and “What’s Up?”

“You’ve got to watch this show. It’s just like your books!”

Heroes-Original-CastThe first time this happened it was Heroes, which premiered in 2007, when the novel I had been toying with in my head for 20 years was starting to take shape. I’m the one who saw the loose connection with what I was trying to do as I watched this show about otherwise normal people with superpowers who were learning to cope with what they could do while learning to work together.

Maybe I should give up now? I thought. “But no. The popularity of this show means people like this kind of stuff. Maybe it means I need to start writing.” So I did.

Kiefer-Sutherland-Touch-Season-2-Cast-Photo-1024x576The next time it happened it was “Touch”, which premiered January 2012, less than a month before I released x0 on kindle. My daughter, who had already read x0 and a draft of y1, alerted me after she saw the show. “Mom, it is so much like what you are trying to say. I guess it was, kind of, and kind of not.

It turns out that I liked “Touch” even better than “Heroes”. It was a little more metaphysical, a little less about cool but unbelievable super powers. No flying, that sort of thing. To be honest I was proud that my daughter thought my ideas were in the same ball park. I saw every episode and was sad to see “Touch” go off the air in 2013.

Then last fall my son gave me the news.  “There is this new show on Netflix and you’ve got to see it, Mom.  It is so much like your books.” By this point he had read all five of them and I admit that I drug my feet on this last one. What if he was right and this story line was finally going to be the one that was too close to my own?

sense8We got Netflix up and running on the new TV and settled into to watch episode one of “Sense8”. Once again, it was an intriguing metaphysical superpower story about the connections between all of us. I loved it, even more than I had loved “Touch” which I had loved even more than “Heroes”. Yes, yes it kind of was what I was trying to say but of course it kind of wasn’t too and of course it said it with completely different characters and story lines. I was coming to understand that my great themes were not exactly new and they could be told afresh many times and many ways, and the telling by others didn’t diminish my own message which would always be subtly my own.

And then I saw episode 4. If I had to pick one thing that will always and forever make me think of x0, it is “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes. I’ve loved this song since it came out in 1993, and as a new writer I wanted so badly to reference some of the lyrics in my book while I was writing about troubles in Nigeria and how they appeared to Lola in the U.S.

“No problem,” some people told me “Just use the lyrics.”

“Don’t even think of using them,” others warned.

4 Non-Blondes: click for official video

I took the upright but truly naive approach of contacting the owners of the rights of the song. I was lucky, Sony/ATV Music Publishing owned all the rights. For two months in 2011 I negotiated with a wonderful Licensing Analyst named Lacey Chemsak who must have thought I was crazy as I haggled over fees and number of copies like I was negotiating an arms deal. In the end I paid Sony $200 to the use the text you will see at the end of this post. Was it worth it?

Logically no. Of course not. But we don’t live in a logical universe, do we? You see, on came episode 4 of Sense8, with the scene below. I stood up, surprised at hearing “my song” in this series. Then I stated to sing along and for one moment the interconnectedness of me and the Wachowskis and 4 Non Blondes and all the other people who see the interconnectedness of things and all the characters in Sense8 and those in my books and hell everybody in the whole world came together in my head, and tears ran down my face and it was better than being drunk or high or even having an orgasm because this was so fucking incredible and I couldn’t stop singing or crying.

“Look at you,” my husband said laughing because he didn’t know what else to say and then he looked at me again and didn’t say anything and just let me be.

The song finally ended and I wiped away my tears and felt kind of silly. It didn’t matter. My newly discovered connection to “What’s Up” and “Sense8” had been the best $200 I ever spent.

Enjoy “What’s Up” as it appears in the show.

Here is the excerpt from  x0:

Lola’s coworkers did not discuss Nigerian politics with her much in the office unless Lola specifically brought something up, so it wasn’t until late in October when Lola was doing a lunchtime internet browse that she came across a BBC article from early October titled “Will amnesty bring peace to Niger Delta?”

Amnesty? That sounded hopeful. As she started to read, Bob walked by, singing in his head one of the many great oldies he had managed to amass on his iPod. Where did the man find so many good old songs?

What’s Up?” had been the 4 Non Blondes’ 1993 hit, coming out the year that Ariel was four. Lola loved it, and the two of them had sung, actually, screamed it together whenever it came on the radio when Lola was driving little Ariel to preschool.

In her BBC article, Ms. Duffield described talking to taxi drivers, shopkeepers, and hotel clerks in the Niger Delta region who were all hoping for peace as they watched militants hold disarmament ceremonies which involved relinquishing guns, rocket-propelled grenades, explosives, ammunition, and gunboats. Gunboats??

And so I wake in the morning and I step outside And I take a deep breath and I get real high / And I scream at the top of my lungs / What’s going on?

The BBC article added that while no one appeared to have given up their entire arsenal, the quantity of weapons released, presumably for cash, was significant. Concerns had been raised that no independent monitors were tracking what was being done with the weapons, and this caused worry because in the past, corrupt officials had sold confiscated guns, which had then made their way back into the hands of a wide variety of criminals.

And I try / oh my god do I try / I try all the time, in this institution.

The article noted that another major obstacle to peace was that there were now thousands of young men in the region effectively unemployed, given that their previous full-time profession had been guerilla fighter. Their resumes included kidnapping, blowing up oil pipelines, and stealing massive amounts of crude oil.

And I pray / Oh my god do I pray / I pray every single day for a revolution.

The government plan, according to the article, was to retrain these young men in new skills. It noted that they were already being processed at centers where they were being asked about their other career interests. Other career interests??

The BBC said that retraining would be a daunting prospect, and that in the case of failure, the young men would likely return to their previous activities.

And I realized quickly when I knew I should / That the world was made up of this brotherhood of man / For whatever that means …

She looked at the photo of the giant pile of automatic weapons. Seriously, right now in Nigeria there were actually thousands of angry young men filling out employment questionnaires??

Twenty-five years and my life is still / Trying to get up that great big hill / Of hope … for a destination.

Finally, enjoy this well done review of Sense8.

 

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2016 in music for peace, Nigeria, oneness, writing

 

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Christmas is Not about “love, but …”

It is probably because I’m doing gentle yoga to Christmas music in a candlelit room. These are the kinds of holiday activities you find in my new home town in the mountains of North Carolina. It is true, I’m a long way from Texas. However, I’m having trouble clearing my mind because they’ve decide to use songs with vocalists, which I think is a bad choice.

“Describe in one word how God feels about the world right now.”

The observer in my head has decided to take my mind off of the lyrics about Frosty by springing a pop quiz. This is what happens when you live inside of my brain.

Free Your Mind 1I don’t even hesitate. “Sad.” And then because I don’t like following rules, even my own, I add “very sad.”

There is silence while my memory replays current events. Perhaps I’ve been watching the news too much lately. It has started to disturb even my dreams. At the instructors prompting I move into a modified pigeon pose while a softer song croons “Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven’s all-gracious King. The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.”

Yes, angels singing. My spiritual notions are vague, and I wonder why I’m asking myself questions about the emotional state of a deity in whom I have at best a non-traditional belief. Then I realize that it’s not God I’m thinking about. He, She or It may in fact be sad.The point is that I think God should be. Because I’m more sad everyday as I listen to the intolerance and fear around me whip itself into ever larger volumes.

Look people.Two thousand years ago, a child was born. He went on to say things that translated roughly as “love one another” and “whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me.” He even went so far as to suggest that “if anyone wants to take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” Yes, your whole coat. Whether you believe he was the Son of God, a great prophet, or just a wise man who was well quoted, his message of generosity, concern and love is quite clear. In my heart of hearts, that message is what I celebrate every Christmas. This is a holiday about love.

The voices answer. “Of course it’s about love, but ……… we’ve got to protect ourselves. But ……. they’re doing horrible things to us. But they started it. But they took it to a whole worse level. But they’re more animals than people. But I can’t have all the things God thinks I deserve if I share with others. But we need to take care of our own first. But God wants us to keep this nation great. But God wants everyone to believe what I believe. But if we pay attention to everyone’s suffering then, then, I don’t know what will happen.”

beautiful life7We’ve moved on to the restful savasana pose that signifies that class is almost over. “Silent Night” is playing softly and it brings back childhood memories of midnight mass out in the country in Western Kansas. “Sleep in heavenly peace,” it says. I have a lavender scented warm cloth draped over my eyes now, which is good because tears are rolling down my cheeks. Not that anyone in this class would be bothered by my emotions.

I remember being a child staring at a sky full of stars as we drove out to the small church my father grew up attending. I remember a feeling of magic as I realized that the whole world was seeing the very same stars that I was, and I remember believing that peace on earth was possible because surely tonight as everyone looked at this sky they understood deep in their hearts what this day was really about.

I wish I had been right. How did we ever get the idea that Christmas celebrates the hundreds of reasons to hold back from caring for each other. This holiday is not about “love, but.”

It is about love.

For other slightly offbeat thoughts about Christmas, see my posts “The Future of Christmas,”Duct Tape and Christmas Cards”and “The Women of Christmas.”

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in empathy, oneness, peace

 

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Face Painting for World Peace

photo(2)Some of the events in my novels were inspired by real life occurrences, some came from dreams or daydreams and others are a melange of stories told to me by others. I suspect this is the case for most writers. A few of my tales, however, happened almost the way I tell them. One such narrative is Lola’s realizing how running the face painting booth at her children’s grade school changed her life.

This is autobiographical. I was raised in a small town filled with only northern Europeans, loved by adults who were at best distrustful of others. Education taught me that tolerance was the way to go. But the mind can conclude what it will; it is harder for the heart, for anyone’s heart, to feel comfortable reaching beyond how one was raised.

It was the south. It was barely two decades after the civil rights movement and it was a world in which most adults of all ethnic groups felt distrust. When confronted with any human who didn’t share my ancestry, I was awkward and nervous. I wanted to do the right thing, but had no clue how to relate to anyone who didn’t look like they could have grown up with me. Then I had children of my own, and off they went to school in a very different world than mine had been.

It brings me pride that my own kids were far more oblivious to variety in human appearance than I ever was. Watching them helped me. But in the end it was their classmates who helped me the most. The other children at their school — the children whose ancestors hailed from South Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia — they managed to teach me to recognize our common humanity as they spoke to me through their love of flowers and ninja turtles. It sounds silly, but sometimes the truth is. As I painted scary snakes and colorful rainbows on their skin, I earned their respect and their smiles and I became a different person.  A better one.

photo(1)Decades have passed and I am in the process of cleaning out the home I have lived in for years. It’s been a little painful, forcing myself to part with keepsakes as I make my way through attics and closets. Last week I found these — signs for my booth from over the years.

I need to keep these, I thought. This is an important part of me. “You’ve got to be kidding,” my husband said, looking at my pile of big, dilapidated poster boards. He was right. These did not need to be hauled across the country with us.

“Take a picture of them,” my daughter suggested. Brilliant. Today, a picture is never lost,  particularly if you post it to your blog and tell the world.

Hey. Look at this. It might seem silly but these aren’t as trivial as they look. They taught me a lesson that has made my life so much richer.  And then I chose to retell my own story of this awakening of the heart through my character Lola. And Lola, well, Lola is going to take what I learned and she’s going to write an article about how face painting could help us find our way to a more peaceful society and with that kernel Lola is going to go out there and try to change the world. No, she is going to change to world.

Luckily for our over-stuffed, rented storage area, I don’t need the real posters anymore. I carry their message in my heart, where it belonged all along.

For more thoughts on letting go, check out with a breath of kindness blow the rest away on my y1 blog. Also check out Kurt Brindley’s blog Relating to Humans. You’ll find a more personal account of this story on his page on Race Issues.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2015 in being better, empathy, oneness, writing

 

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Qi — the best Scrabble word ever

scrabbleI used to play a lot of Scrabble as a child and I always hung on to a U until the Q showed up. It was a strategy that paid off.  Then I took a break from the game for a few years, until I discovered various online word games that approximated Scrabble (close but not so close that there is copyright infringement, you know the ones). Not only could I now play any hour day or night, but I could find opponents, good opponents, willing to do the same. Better yet they were from India and Australia and all sorts of exotic places and some were happy to chat with me about where they lived and what they thought about life.The world was now my oyster. Wahoo!

The very best part, however, was discovering all the wonderful letter combinations that were now considered words. ZA.  Acceptable as short for pizza though I have never heard anyone of any age actually use it. KI. A plant from the South Pacific. But the very best has to be QI. More useful than QAT, QAID, QOPH and QWERTY combined, I used it happily for over a decade without having much of clue as to what it meant.

Meanwhile, my online words games began to shape my writing as I began my first novel x0. My relationships with my community of unseen kindred spirits gave me ideas for the worldwide organization x0 and helped me design its imaginary website. An accountant in England who I play with regularly served as a model for the British tax accountant who shepherds Lola and Nwanyi safely on to a plane at Gatwick Airport. One British woman who beats me regularly was even a beta reader for x0, and her husband chipped in with an amazing job of proofreading. My world of happy telepaths was a reflection of my own happy hours spent making words worth lots of points while chatting with people I enjoyed.

Click here to visit flowingzen.com

Click here to visit flowingzen.com

But I still didn’t know what QI was.

And then last week I spent five entire days learning about my qi. Turns out qi is the modern spelling of chi, an Anglicized attempt to capture the Chinese word for the life force or energy within all of us. While I am only a beginner, I did learn enough to understand that moving ones qi in healthy ways while meditating and doing light rhythmic exercises is both invigorating and relaxing. At least it is to me and apparently it is to many others. So it turns out that I’m a real big fan of QI, I just didn’t know it until last week.

Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

For post-vacation thoughts on change, click here.

For post-vacation attempts to hold on to the joy, click here.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2013 in oneness, x0

 

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Not thinking in Costa Rica.

I get it. Thinking about not thinking does NOT constitute not thinking.

Costa Rica 1Apparently I have persistent chatter in my head, which I have agreed to refer to by the rather unflattering phrase “monkey mind”, at least for the next few days. Friends have talked me into joining them on this week-long retreat in beautiful Costa Rica for an introduction to the ancient art of Qi Gong.  It is related to Tai Chi and King Fu, all of which involve understanding and ultimately manipulating the flow of energy through one’s body. I’m a long way from doing anything impressive, but I am finding the concept cool and the exercises alternately invigorating or relaxing. Originally we were planning on a girl’s weekend in San Francisco shopping, and I’m not sure how it morphed into this activity instead, but oddly enough I am glad that it did.

We are entering into the meditation phase of the day’s session. Be quiet, monkey I say to myself. Luckily I talk to myself a lot anyway so this isn’t a problem. You’re a person of words my inner monkey replies. You need your words. You use them to write books, remember?  Well, the monkey has a point there.

Costa Rica 3Just to demonstrate her worth further, the monkey begins reciting back to me the post called Feeling Gratitude in Costa Rica that I just wrote for my other blog. It is true that as I write, I stop every so often and recite the words I have written back to myself, listening to their sounds and turning them over in my head, analyzing whether each has conveyed my thought or feeling in the best way possible. See, that’s me and you writing, the monkey says.

Really? Because when the words themselves are being created, once I’ve gotten going, I don’t say the words in my head and it often seems as though I’m not in my head at all. There is this sort of odd peace inside me while ideas flow all mistyped onto the screen and although sometimes I anticipate what I am going to type, more often I don’t. It’s a state in which I can be startled by everyday sounds and can’t easily function for a few seconds after an interruption. It’s dynamic and yet peaceful and it feels as good as anything I know. In fact, it is very much like meditation, but with me being a lot more active.

Then it occurs to me, and I have an answer for my monkey.  I mostly write without you, dear monkey mind.  What you and I do together is called editing. You’re my internal editor! And  you’re a great one. I’m so glad I have you.

Costa Rica 2I give my internal chattering monkey a mental hug of appreciation and then send her off for a nice nap. We’re not editing now. We’re meditating. Not thinking. Not … no not that thought either. Not anything. Not any thought. We are.

Read more about my novice attempts at meditation here. Read about other changes this week has wrought here.

To learn more about Qi Gong and what I have spent this past week studying, please visit Sifu Anthony’s website called “Flowing Zen” here.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2013 in oneness

 

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And the winner is …..

trouphyOpen the envelope.  Award the trophy. Quickly commend the losers who participated and thank the spectators and the organizers. Then, cut to the interviews with the winner. We get background pieces for color, and praise from the experts.  Finish it all off with a final shot of the victor or victors waving their prize with the stark joy of success etched onto their faces.

We love the formula, whether it involves singing or acting, playing tennis or hockey, driving a race car or riding a race horse. We love a winner. We hate to lose.

The man I share my life with doesn’t write fiction like I do, or create in any of the more conventional senses of the word. Rather he puts his creativity into how he lives. Almost every day brings some new idea that leaves me wondering, how did he think of that? Clearly, I like this about him.

One of his most recent ideas involves three letter words. There aren’t so many of them and he is on a search to find the most meaningful and thought provoking three letter words in the English language. He’s got folks making lists and arguing for their favorites. He and I are on a road trip right now, electing to turn an eighteen hour drive into a three day journey using back roads and having leisurely nights. Our conversation in the car is better too and he announces that he has thought of a new one, and it is one of the best yet.

I know exactly what he is talking about, and he challenges me to think of it.  It begins with the letter “t” he says.  Okay. Top. Good one but no.  How about try? Better, but no. Tug?  He likes tug, thinking that sometimes we all need a helpful tugboat to keep us in the deepest part of the channel as we come into the bay and head to the harbor. But tug isn’t the word either.

I’m starting to get frustrated.  I hate losing these little games even if they’re silly and I’m only playing against him or myself. So he insists on giving me another clue. The word has two vowels. Well that certainly narrows it down. Too? Tea? Tau? Tie?  I’m not getting a lot of deep meaning out of any of these.

necktie“Tie,” he says. “It’s a great word. Think about it.”  I’m thinking. My mind goes to tying up your livestock and moves on to fifty shades and finishes off with uncomfortable men in neckties. Really?

“Think about it,” he insists. “A contest without a winner and without a loser. A tie. We used to have them in football, in lots more sports in fact, but over the years we’ve added overtime and tie-breakers everywhere because no one likes the idea that this particular time around nobody won.”

I get it. It’s wonderful when you or your side wins. Even losing can bring renewed determination, new strategy, better training. But maybe we could use  a few more contests that end in ties. Aren’t concepts like “nobody did significantly better than anyone else” or “these two did here did equally well” concepts worth embracing too? I think that they are.

So, of course, is the knowledge that not everything is a contest, and the wisdom that not every contest matters. In truth, we’ve got win, lose or draw, and we’ve also got “didn’t bother to keep score” and the ever popular “Huh? We were playing a game?”  Each one of those deserves its own place in the grand scheme of things. Maybe especially the last one.

(It looks like I am fond of this title …. I used it on my blog for the novel z2 back in February and forgot all about it! Check it out here to see the same title go a whole different direction.)

For some additional thoughts about when natures grants a tied score, visit my z2 blog for my latest post here. And for a few later thoughts on the merits of a close game please visit my y1 blog here.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in oneness

 

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That which does not kill us ……. (thoughts from Budapest)

Chain Bridge over Danube River

Chain Bridge over Danube River

I’m riding a tour bus across the Danube and I’m thinking of Nietzsche.  He had the reputation of being a depressing godless existentialist where I was raised, and only as an adult have I learned of the many uplifting things that he had  to say.

One of my favorites: That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

I am thinking about this because I can’t see out of the bus all that well, because I am in an aisle seat and my sister has the window.  She loves the window but she would take turns with me if I wanted, but I don’t. Like Lola, my hero of x0, I too was trapped under a canoe a few years ago and was lucky to live through the incident. Lola used the experience to help her grow into a strong telepath  Me, I still find myself uncomfortable being anywhere for very long where I cannot easily get out. After berating myself for being silly and forcing myself to endure mildly uncomfortable situations, I’ve finally just accepted the new me and now I keep plenty of open space between me and the exit. So, no window seats.

I have decided that I love the Hungarians.  I love the wild violin music and the rich food and this hilly city called Buda pushed right up against the Danube and the flatness of Pesht. This happens to me a lot when I travel.  I tend to fall in love with whole cultures and pieces of the earth.

Hungarian war memorial with bullet holes preserved

Hungarian war memorial with bullet holes preserved

I am fascinated  with how these warriors on horseback arrived in Europe the 800’s (that’s right, 800 not 1800). After hundreds of good years, disaster struck. The Mongols passed through, killing most Hungarians and burning their villages to the ground.  Tough times.

It took a couple of hundred years to recover from that, but the Hungarians did. Then the Turks came through, killed and burnt as before, and stayed for a couple of hundred years. The Austrians showed up and kicked out the Turks, but then they milked the Hungarians dry before they pulled them into the losing side of World War I.  After the war, Hungary lost two thirds of its land and half its people as punishment.

A guy named Hitler came along and promised the Hungarians their land back, and they made an unfortunate alliance. Once they learned to know their ally better and tried to end the relationship, Hitler simply invaded and occupied Hungary.  But not to worry, the Soviets showed up and pushed Hitler out. The Hungarians were so happy that they made then statues of thanksgiving. Then, the Soviets imposed their own stern totalitarian regime on the Hungarians for decades, behind a political artifact known as the “iron curtain”.

Today, Hungary is a sliver of its former self, fighting to regain its economic footing and cultural cohesiveness.  Our tour guide quips that  “really we’re just hanging around to see who is going to invade us next.” My science fiction brains is already thinking about an alien invasion story that begins in Hungary. It has promise.

I think that what Nietzshe said is technically true regarding germs. I wish it was true more generally. I think we should all be resilient and not leading lives of fear. Survive and grow stronger. It sounds good and when it happens, it’s great. But the truth is that what doesn’t kill us, sometimes damages us. To deny that fact doesn’t help.

If there is there a message in there for those times when what doesn’t kill leaves marks instead, I think it must be about the need for us all to be far more gentle with each other.  We’re strong  But as people and as societies, we are fragile too. We’d all be far better off if we did less damage to each other to begin with.

If you would like to read other posts from this trip check out “One person’s tourist destination is another person’s home ….. thoughts from Bucahrest “ on my blog for the novel y1.  Also check out  “A lot of pissed-off people ….. thoughts from Belgrade”  on my website for the novel z2.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in oneness, peace

 

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