Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day 8: Meditating while sick

Today, I am feeling ill. Headache, sinus pressure, and just fatigue.

It's hard to meditate while sick, but at least rest is easy. The body knows what it needs, and today it needs rest, fluids, and more rest.

You would think that meditation would fall into that rest, but meditation isn't actually restful. It's deliberate, it requires energy and will to pull yourself back from distraction, and put your focus on something.

Sometimes you don't have that kind of will when you're sick.

I'm going to try and get at least 10 minutes in today.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Day 6: The Hugos

The Hugo Awards are a science fiction award. They are awarded at a smallish convention called 'Worldcon', which moves around. There are generally five nominees for each category, including Best Novel. This year, I decided to read the Best Novel nominees, as part of my attempt to get some more rest. In part, I'm reading because this year, there's a bru-ha-ha over how the nominations were chosen, who they were chosen by, and a number of other things. It's all very interesting to a subset of people, and causing emotions to run high. Reading about the controversy has made me make popcorn on more than one occasion.

If you're interested, you can read some of it here, and that should link you to the other players. Do not believe everything you read about the various people, as they are far more complex than either side is portraying them. Personally, I've found the Puppies side to be interesting, while the non-Puppies seem to be reacting as anyone would when a powerful, alien group invades your area.

So far, I've read two of the best novel contenders: The Goblin Emperor and Skin Game.

Skin Game, by Jim Butcher, is a novel of the Dresden Files, and the fifteenth of that series. I read the first one years ago, and watched the brief show that was on the Sci Fi channel. So I had a basis of which character was which, and how things ended up. That said, it was a sprawling cast of characters, many of whom had a long and complicated history with the main character. And the main character swirled and danced and collapsed through that history, giving you brief glimpses of things which were much more complicated, and things you'd have to read the earlier stories to understand.

That said, the novel introduced me to some fascinating concepts: The Denarians, 30 warriors who had the coins of Judas, and were ridden by the Fallen, apparently a group of 30 fallen angels with whom Harry Dresden had interacted previously. There were faeries, cold and alien in their abodes. There were consequences for actions that had happened in previous novels, and off screen. There were in jokes and pop culture references.

All in all, it was a good yarn, and I could keep up with what was happening. But the novel made promises it didn't keep. There was a coalition of good, fairly neutral, and evil guys. The good guys won, and you expected that. But throughout the whole novel, the good guys were threatened, yet they did not suffer a loss. Damage, yes. Tense situations, yes. But not one loss.

Not one.

In a novel that involves a trip to the underworld and an insane, invisible sasquatch, you figured you'd get at least one ally death. The dread was there, the foreshadowing. But the loss was not. And when that promise is made, it needs to be followed through on. Not with the cruelty of a George R.R. Martin, perhaps, but there should be some loss.

That said, it was a good novel, and entertaining story, but as a Nominee, it's currently ranked very low. Right now, that low value is 2 out of 5, but I still have three novels to read.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison is a novel of court intrigue in an elven court. It touches on homosexuality, racism, absolute power and it's proper usage, and child abuse. In one way, it's the story of a child mourning his parent. In another, it's a murder mystery, a story of intrigue. In a third, it's sort of a set piece describing a complex world of considerable depth.

It's a shame the author didn't spend more time on that world. Clothes figure fairly prominently into the narrative, as does court etiquette and the political situation. As one would expect. However, given the alienness of the world we're thrust into, in many ways it reminds me of a particularly wealthy, idealized middle school. The descriptions of the opulence and bizarreness of the world are skipped over. Magic is taken as a given, but only experienced twice with little description. It is used as a deus ex machina at least twice. The bullies are always clearly seen. The dangers are telegraphed well in advance, and promises of danger are followed through on.

The story really doesn't make any promises, and it follows through on them admirably. It's basically a coming of age story with an ugly duckling who becomes emperor, who is met with skepticism and wins over his detractors with sincerity. That said, I still think it was better than Skin Game, so it's currently at number 1. I don't expect it to stay there, though.

Next up is The Dark Between the Stars.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day 4: blogging from Bend

We are in Bend for a rugby game. My post will be short. I have a day 3 post which didn't get finished due to reasons involving the house.

The house purchase is going well.

I am happy to be in Bend. It is a nice town, and they have a Shopko, which reminds me of the Home Country.

More later.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Day 3: Anathema only works if you care about being in the group

A cultural war has been raging in a community which I am not a part of, but follow with a great deal of interest.

Science Fiction Fandom.

A group of folks who have never participated in the nominations for the Hugo Awards before, have suddenly taken part. And the people who took part before, are understandably upset that their territory has been 'invaded' by people who are not part of their culture (although probably science fiction fans of a sort).

The 'fannish culture', lets call it, has been calling for the ostracism of the invaders, and one invader in particular, a fellow with the internet title Vox Day. And he brought up a very good point in dealing with all the invective and approbation which has been leveled at him: He's not part of the group, so shunning him doesn't work. He's been denied access to the standard outlets of publishing and discussion, so he's built his own.

Now, I don't subscribe to Mr. Day's opinions, but I do read his blog and find his opposition's depiction of his positions an extreme misreading. The reason I read him is that he thinks through the major positions of the day, and always brings something interesting to the table. Whether I agree or not is immaterial, the fact that he makes me think about things from a different angle is valuable. If I can't read about a position that I disagree with, I soon become very inflexible and much less able to deal with disagreement.

As someone who identifies as gnostic, I know about the approbation by the standard cultural bearers. In some ways, I'm not part of the group. So shunning doesn't work, and calling one anathema isn't an effective tactic. When one holds principles, these tactics are not effective in getting an individual to change their behavior.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Day 2: Trying to Meditate on rest is difficult

This morning, I meditated on rest. Or tried to.

I had some issues, because I have a number of things to do, and my meditation revolved around the various tasks I need to accomplish, while trying to think of when I would have time to relax a little.

My life has a lot of moving parts: Esoteric work, Secular work, Religious work, family, buying a house, having to move.  We just got our notice from the landlord that our last day is 6/15/2015 in the farm we're in. We're not quite ready to buy the house, we still need to raise money for the down payment.  We're getting closer, but a bit farther away than we feel comfortable. Secular work has a large project working, and so my work environment is in flux and has a lot of excitement and tension.

All of this occupies my mind as I try to meditate.

But the goal of meditation is not a blank mind. It's to recognize the distractions and pull yourself back towards your meditation. I was able to do that for 10 minutes, time and again.  It was a struggle, because I'm out of practice. The struggle, though, builds the mental meditation muscle.

Not as fun as one would like, but working through it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Day 1: A meditation on rest

חדל : to be slack, to leave off, cease, desist, rest, fail, let alone, abstain; failing, frail; forbearing; destitute, forsaken; resting-place; the grave.

Starting today, I am beginning a period of mediation, prayer, and writing on the idea of חדל, which as you can see is a complicated Hebrew word.

I chose this word because it's gematric value is 42, and that is my current age.  It also gives me a great time frame with which to work: 42 days.  This meditative cycle will commence today, and end on May 27th.

So, for the next 6 weeks, this will be my meditative and writing goal: writing about rest, the importance of it, the benefits of failing, the plight of the forsaken, and the false victory of the grave.

During this 6 weeks, I am attempting to raise my down payment for my house, pack my household, get the paperwork done for a house purchase, and keep everyone else from going crazy.

I still won't be writing on Sunday, but I'll make sure I do my meditations.

Here goes!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The importance of regular practice

Lent is over.

I made the commitment to write every day for Lent. I mostly lived up to it, missed a few days, but tried to make up for it.

Now, that commitment is fulfilled. And so...

I found I've quit writing.

They say 30 days is all it takes to make a new habit, but for some reason, writing never becomes a habit for me. I never 'miss' writing, the way I'd miss some of my other habits, like bathing.

The same is true of spiritual habits. I'll make my commitment for a period of time (Lent, Advent, novenas) and then afterwards, I just... slack off.

I don't know how to overcome this. It seems to be a recurring issue. I'm just bad at doing many things the same way every day. Believe it or not, I sometimes forget to drink coffee in the morning. Then i get a headache and am tired and wonder "Why am I achy and tired?"

So, I'm going to pick a time period, and write some more, and do some spiritual exercises. Maybe I'll start on Tax Day.

SPEAKING OF TAX DAY:  Tomorrow, my book The Hall of Nanael is on sale for only $0.99. And please take a look at the Illuminated Circle books, so you can summon angels and have your own experiences.