Trashwalking

Acting in the community is important.
Improving the world does nothing if we cannot enjoy it, and it’s easier to become better in our world than to make the world a better place. Whenever I go out for a walk from my home, I have a simple rule: If I notice a piece of trash, I pick it up. If my walk, my break from my work, my cool down or space for thinking hard on something is disrupted, I take care of the disruption.
In all places in the public sphere it is human reflex to say “that is the responsibility of my sovereign” whether it is the modern government or the ancient kings and chieftains. It is built into mankind to look upwards for a solution to our problems, but the revelation of Western thought was that within our community it is our responsibility to portray ourselves and carry ourselves instead of looking upward for an external solution. We are the manifestation and apotheosis of our God and ways.
This came to a head with Christianity’s rise–a critical piece that makes up the walls of the West that the Hellenistic culture laid the foundations for–and the world has never been the same. Look at how Mohammadans borrowed this principle and applied it to their Eastern religion, and how their viewpoint inevitably boils down to bloodshed and slavery in the manifestation of their prophet’s way. Once present in the world, this principle of individuation became the dividing line between East and West forever, and an incredibly clear one.
The East is an old force, like fire or the Neolithic caveman inside each one of us. The West is still the new kid on the block, and there is no guarantee that it will survive another hundred years or if its light will be rejected along with all the advances it has brought. It is a living philosophy that can be embodied and strengthened in the small action of picking up a piece of trash or talking to a neighbor. When a robber breaks down your door, when a car wreck leaves a bleeding stranger lying at your feet, the authorities are a lifetime away and it is your responsibility to be as prepared as you can so you can do more than stand and panic.
Today, do something small to build up the wonderful West with its sciences, arts, and proud history that lept over all the East’s establishments: Pick up trash when you go for a walk, talk to your neighbor, replace your own light bulb instead of waiting on the landlord, step up and out of your natural state and into the light a little more.
The risk excites, but the honest cloak of authority that drapes over you refreshes and enlivens. Join with your People and do good today, for a simple act of good each day becomes a potent pile in but a little while.

Workshops!

My wife and I traveled to Tucson recently for the Festival of Books put on by the Arizona Daily Star. Good show, large and busy convention grounds on the University of Arizona campus. Plenty of booths for books and all manner of non-book attractions as well.

While I was debuting my book Spring, I had the pleasure of attending a few of the free workshops and book-signings. Some were very good, some were a writer using a platform strictly to shill for their book, and some were very basic. On the whole, it was only the middling writers that were ignorable: Several of the significant names gave very good talks at a high level, and several of the new authors were possessed of the shine of excitement that makes me pay attention. The midline writers were the ones for whom convention appearances were just another checkmark, and the ones I saw just did not come with much enthusiasm and moxie. I look forward to going again next year.

After the two-day festival, I held two writing workshops that I am in the process of building into courses. The target was for younger students, and I had to cut down the time by almost half—I had intended to do full-day workshops but did both in the same afternoon and evening. They went fairly well, though I am of course improving them and going over the recordings with a fine-toothed comb.

One of the main failures was not having a handout for the various exercises that we did, or to assist with the takeaways—I am now convinced that every workshop should absolutely have a physical takeaway in addition to any notes or activities you participate in. People come to workshops with the takeaway in mind, and want something to carry back. In the modern format, you need to be better than an online video or a blog post for people to be willing to come to meet you on your schedule. I really look forward to doing another Beta-level run of these two courses in the Wichita area alongside a new one, “Sex Ed Through Shakespeare” that is aimed to help people navigate the sociosexual marketplace of modern times that is often confusing and deeply hurtful when not merely intimidating. It will not be the birds and the bees, kids, go talk to your parents for that.

Shakespeare is timeless because his works deal with the inherent issues of our inner man. Jealousy, doubt, schemes of ambitious and selfish individuals, the rise and fall of families and the fleeting mists of power that men constantly grasp at. While I was reading the jaw-droppingly beautiful Venus and Adonis I was blown away by how useful the clear marching out of unrequited love and passion danced through the stanzas, and how much it could help anyone who is confused by the increasingly deadly dance of love. So look forward to that coming up soon!

In Your Presence

When I was growing up, my family always spent time together after dinner was over and dishes were done playing cards. No matter what was going on, after the meal when everyone was home we gathered together to relax and do something simple at least four times a week, and not always for very long—one of the advantages of traditional playing cards is that they come out and clean up very quickly and easily. Even if the card games were proxies for healthy interaction via heated competition, we were affirmed that we were with the others there at the table.

This month I invite you to make a little extra time to pay attention to the people you are with, at home or at work or at some hobby or at church or wherever you might be. Sometimes we are with someone and yet absent, we appear in their presence and think about being elsewhere.

Choose to be present. Choose to be with them. Choose to interact and to observe, look keenly for how they are feeling and what they are going through and what you can do to help them if anything. Engage deeper. People are the most valuable resource in your life. Even the mail carrier who you may never speak to does a lot of good for you and saves you time, even the fast food server is providing you with an opportunity just by being present.

This may expose issues you do not want to face, hard things, things there are no words. My family had plenty we never discussed, so we focused on the games. Still, at least let them rise to the surface where you can make the decision with the Civilized side of you whether to tuck them away or to bring them up, instead of letting the animal make decisions based on discomfort or pain.

This is more a matter of style than action; this invitation is more about changing your inner landscape than your outer one. Choose to see, choose to listen, choose to dig in, choose to invest. All of these things cost you and it is very easy to walk by the opportunities even in those closest to you, the familiar windows of family life with its routine interactions and relative positions; it’s easy to keep your mental wallet shut instead of even window shopping if you go by the windows every day or if you’re out and about on a mission or errand. The animal side of us glazes over routine interactions as a matter of course, and at its most bestial it completely ignores or even moves to dominate those who aren’t immediately making themselves useful to us instead of treating everyone with respect, which pays off long-term.

Our families and communities can be stronger, and there is no realistic upper limit. In an age when neighbors are often unknown and there is much to fear in powers and persons both foreign and domestic, simply being present and open to those around us is often enough to set you apart and even establish trust—that oft-elusive shield of faith that protects mind and spirit from all manner of harm and greases the wheels of societies and social life alike. Strengthen your influence and awareness of your world, be willing to put in a little more work and grow a little, be willing to change and grow a little further outward of your safe cocoon of normalcy for a few days.

Be present with those who are in your presence in the present. Present yourself as a present to your world. See what happens, what you notice, what changes in you and your relationships in the next week. Come back and let me know how it goes, I’d love to hear about your re-experience of your world.