Pain is a bad thing. That's what most of us believe, and most of the time we're right. Whether it's the dull nagging of a chronic ailment or the stab of a sudden shock, pain puts us off our game, becomes the center of attention, and wears out its welcome very quickly.
This is not to say that pain has no uses. Some pains clue us in that something is wrong with our bodies or our minds. That's not the point. I've found that one use of pain is to focus our attentions on things we can't see when all is right with the world.
My long-delayed novel,Faith, Hope, and Dr. Vangelis, has now completed a professional edit and is ready to move ahead through the next steps of the publication process. This is my second completed novel, but the first to be at an advanced stage of readiness for publication.
My thanks go out to the members of the Assassins Guild who critiqued the entire manuscript: Mary Beth Gibson, Sasscer Hill, and Bettie Williams. Additional thanks go to Ronald Nelson and Evelyn Beck, who served as beta readers, and Meredith Hawcroft, who did the now-completed edit of the manuscript.
Gordon Lightfoot recorded a song some years back called "Rainy Day People." It was about those people who "always seem to know when it's time to call." Perhaps you've been fortunate and you've had one or more of these folks in your life. If you have, you know how they can make a rainy day seem less dreary.
Or perhaps you've never known anyone like this. Currently, our nation seems to be in the grip of raging furies, with charges and counter-charges flying like artillery shells in a World War I barrage.
Those of us who were around during the 1970s might remember the chant of some critics, "the personal is political." While not true in the sense that such critics intended, I've come to believe that there is a certain amount of enduring truth in this chant. Case in point: my efforts at writing historical fiction.
I've been laboring for five years, off and on, at completing a historical novel with the working titleThe Vials of Wrath. This work is to be the first in a series of four or five novels exploring some of the titanic changes in the Western world since 1900.
In one of life's many ironies, I wound up having a
conversation last week with a hospice doctor. The irony lies in the fact thatFaith, Hope, and Dr. Vangelis, my
nearly-complete next book, has a hospice doctor as protagonist. He listened
with interest to what I told him about the plot and offered some suggestions
about "how hospice doctors think." This was a bit of serendipity, as
I wasn't there to do research or discuss writing issues. I was there to get
shaken up, an expectation that was rewarded.
Many of us have seen photographs of "ghost
towns," most of them out West, where they flourished during the heyday of
mining or cattle ranching, but subsequently lost their economic vitality and
now are reduced to empty buildings. These are the kind of places that can give
one the creeps, if we meditate on the sources of community vitality.
When I lived in Pennsylvania, I had the occasion to
drive through Centralia, a town in the anthracite belt that had been
depopulated over almost a quarter-century because of an unquenchable mine fire.
This line, from Phil Ochs' "Changes", has
long been one of my favorites in summing up what life's about. Now that I'm
closer to being an old man than a young man, I try to look at my life and see
what's been lasting and what's been impermanent.
I suspect that many of us, remembering our childhoods,
might recall a time when we thought our grandparents had always been the same
age as when we first knew them. That may account for the sense of wonder we
sometimes feel when we see pictures of our elders as "youngers.
Of all the war veterans I've known, the majority of
those who saw combat had a least a minimal degree of survivor's guilt. That is,
the gratitude for being alive was challenged by the knowledge of friends who
didn't return from the battlefield. The more morally attuned often report
wondering "why did ____ die and why did I live? I wasn't any better as a
Lincoln addressed this, at least obliquely, in the
Gettysburg Address, when he referred to "the brave men, living and
dead" who had fought there, as a bridge to his exposition on
My father, my father-in-law, and my uncle were all
combat veterans of World War II. The stories Dad told when I was growing up
were in the vein ofTwelve O'Clock High,
colored (or perhaps discolored) by Hollywood's inevitable falling-short of the
ugly realities of battle. When my father-in-law was stationed in Munich from
1960 to 1962, my wife and mother-in-law had the chance to take a tour of the
Dachau concentration camp. My father-in-law drove them to the tour, but refused
to go in. When my mother-in-law asked him why, he said, "I've seen this
Most of us have (I suspect) at one time or another
said something out of ignorance, anger, or other quick emotional reactions that
wound up calling us acute embarrassment. Perhaps it was making a comment about
a third party to someone who, unbeknownst to us, was a friend of said party.
I've often spoken in haste without asking questions that would've spared me
Anyone who's take a class in communications knows
there are three basic parties to any communication: sender, receiver, and
method of communication.