Freedom denied to any is a tyranny of the liberated
We live in a global community with responsibilities and obligations worldwide. Most believe that the 7 billion of us humans are brothers and sisters of some kind.
While I don't believe we are a global family, I am empathetic, and I feel for the lives of other human beings. My love and caring extends beyond my own family, community, and country.
I feel a responsibility to make lives better and happier.
Do you feel this way? Do you ever think of the suffering that occurs around the world?
In examining these quotes, I took my global empathy into consideration, and I have determined that I am a tyrant. I am free, safe, healthy, and have sufficient money and food at the expense of others.
Others in the world are in bondage. That bondage takes many forms: poverty, ignorance, starvation, and slavery. The wealthy live off the work of the poor and uneducated.
I feel guilt, or maybe just an urge to help other people as much as I can. I want to extend freedom, safety, happiness, health, and wealth across the globe.
Abraham Lincoln is referring to a specific kind of slavery: African Americans at the hands of white Americans.
But his message is more general, suggesting that denying freedom to others makes us undeserving of liberty. I ask myself "in what ways do my actions deny freedom to others? How can I help?"
Freedom is relative, a spectrum. I am more free than some, and others are more free than I. Lincoln wants us to question whether our own liberty is depriving someone else of complete freedom.
Leo Tolstoy, more pointedly, refers to the wealthy living off of the poor, and the reluctance of humans get off the backs of others, setting them free.
For white Americans, there was a cost in emancipating African American slaves. Financial situations of families were destroyed, and the Civil War caused added destruction.
Freeing people comes at an expense, and tyrants are reluctant to set them free.
Tolstoy makes me question whether my life and lifestyle oppresses others, and I have to agree with him that I am willing to help in any way I can, except completely getting off the backs of others.
I am conscious of the fact that suffering exists in the world, and I can help, but I push it to the back of my mind in order to avoid guilt and anguish. I don't believe we should suffer from constant guilt, and avoiding the issue is necessary - the amount of suffering in the world would overwhelm and crush me.
My attempt to get off the backs of other people is to share, give, and help other people. I don't want to end my life with guilt for not having elevated other humans, but I don't want to live my life in constant guilt either.
The only solution is for everyone to do all they can to help one another, tapping into empathy, our highest evolved human capacity. Empathy is the solution to world problems and should be nurtured and developed.
How can one make a difference? Help one another, and make empathy contagious. We can teach young children to be in touch with their empathy for other human beings. Educate others.
We can share our health, wealth, time, and talents in an effort to lift humanity, benefiting all. We can encourage others to give and recruit them in our efforts.
Let's help each other spread kindness. We may not be able to completely remove ourselves from the backs of other people, but we can make a positive difference in many lives.
We can help make empathy viral. Join me in this grand cause.
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Are author and reader equally important?
As a professional writer I think about the exchange my words create between myself and readers. I value you the most, above my own message, because you are my audience, the people I want to communicate with.
When I read, I feel that position of importance because I want pleasure from the writing. I expect the writer to entertain and engage me. I care little about the author usually, and the message matters most.
Sedaris understands this, pointing to the reader who brings so much to his pieces of writing. He suggests that authors are ignorant if they see themselves and their ideas as all important.
The reader brings thoughts, ideas, and value to the author's words, and these are essential in creating a powerful connection with the writing. The reader brings the words to full life.
Stoddard acknowledges that the reader is important, but emphasizes that the author's expression of ideas and experience is at least equal to the reader's entertainment. The author's vital role is in sharing his message with power.
He implies that if a writer simply panders to an audience, the words become hollow.
I value the reader's experience and expect her to desire to be entertained and enlightened by my language. However, my message is essential for communication to take place, for me to feel fulfilled as a writer.
The writer, reader, and message are of equal value to me, sometimes one becoming more important than the others, in a give-and-take relationship.
What are your thoughts on these relationships and how to create the ideal reading experience? If would share your ideas in the comment section below, I would greatly appreciate it.
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Through the Discipline of Mindfulness, Mastery Comes
The masters of zen and mindfulness speak as if peace and harmony are a step away. This is there job - to make it seem easy and attainable. Ajahn Chah speaks of the clear, calm forest pools where you can drink up the serenity of nature. Simply planting that image in our minds gives us strength.
The vision is powerful, and those with lofty aims embark on a journey to find Chah's pools of nirvana. He does not focus on the difficulties of achieving serenity because he is a guide and a positive coach. I admire the state of mind that masters attain and steer me towards.
The Reality Is That Mindfulness Never Comes Easy
Five Finger Death Punch powerfully depicts the average person's encounter with mindfulness, waking up on a Monday morning, a week of hell lying ahead.
Your lead feet pin you to the bed, your mind a crazy chaos of a week spent and seven days lying ahead. "There's no promise for relief," and the words of a monk, outside the world, by a calm pool, is incoherent nonsense. Seems impossible.
The closing lyrics pack the power of searching for peace and nirvana, in the face of a real world that smacks you down if it can. "Searching for a sense of clarity" in chaotic-techno-hyper-living. Death sometimes seems the only peace and release. How does one find a quiet mind in this world?
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These Women Found Their Potent Voices and Disrupted the World
The passing of Maya Angelou leaves a whole in our culture, never to be filled or even approximated. She was the voice of the caged bird, singing her way to freedom for all black women.
She described herself best, though in a poem not necessarily autobiographical, "I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise." Angelou always emphasized the present rising and singing, rather than the past captivity of slavery.
She described the dark hatred of evil slavery flawlessly, but her eyes were always fixed on emancipation and beauty. She stared into the hollow black eyes of the white man, demanding to be seen and heard, giving voice to generations of black women.
Maya rifts off the terrible suffering that Toni Morrison captures brilliantly in her novel The Bluest Eye, a book that moved me with tragedy, so severely that she changed who I am.
In perhaps the best book written about the post-slavery South, the novel that thrusts the reader into the skin of the most tragic character in literature, Morrison forces an evaluation of self and individual, constructed in an turbulent history.
The readers feel the weight of the pain of ages of slavery, and the feeling is the most unsettling of any work of fiction. If you read The Bluest Eye without weeping, you are incapable of experiencing empathy and not fully human.
The Past Never Dies. It Is the Phoenix of Cultural Memory.
Morrison and Angelou capture the evil past of our nation, one that will always linger, influencing all, making up a part of selfhood and citizenship.
In Pecola, we must face the truth that slavery will never be erased from our past, and that traces of unspeakable torture inflicted on a people are passed down, almost genetically, through generations unable to catch up after being used as animals for more than 400 years.
Both authors speak to the racial past and present, a space in our civilization that will always be bound tight with the tension of evil stains.
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How have the writings of these women affected your own life and actions?
McCarthy: The point-of-view of the writer
On the surface, the issue seems silly - a work of fiction should be however long the writer wants.
But, Poe and McCarthy engage in an age old argument about the ideal length of a written work.
McCarthy sides with the classical Greek ideal that a work should be epic - long, thick, and time consuming. Think of the Odyssey and the Illiad.
I see his point in creating a work that is significant and powerful, time consuming in both writing and reading. The experience should be powerful enough to change the life of the writer and reader. That takes time.
One could also argue that it takes a long time to force a change in the reader, slowly moving her to new view points with powerful language and story.
Poe: The reader's experience
Poe held a passionate, opposite view that poetry and fiction should be short. The reader should be able to consume the entire piece in one sitting.
His reasoning was that if a reader picks up a work, but then sets it aside and returns later, power is lost. The momentum and flow are interrupted.
The reader must exit the world of the story or remain on the couch for a day. The emotions and thoughts are lost because of the time away from the story and characters. This minimizes the intensity of the narrative.
Your opinion: Long? Short? Other?
These are more than trivial opinions for Poe and McCarthy - they are philosophies about the ideal fiction as an art form. Both men devoted their lives to their philosophy: McCarthy never writes short stories, and Poe never wrote a novel.
What do you think?
I believe that both men produced great art, and I have experienced both of the readings they describe.
A long a beautiful novel connects me with characters and worlds in an intimate way that short fiction cannot accomplish. McCarthy's The Road is a perfect example. I became a part of the boy and the father's world. I know them as if they were real people. That is remarkable.
But, Poe correctly insists that leaving a story before it is finished, breaking it up into parts, loses intensity and the power of the moment. When the work is short, you are immersed, captured, becoming a character in the story. You enter the intensity of moment.
Poe's story "A Tell-Tale Heart" is a perfect example. If you leave the mind of the crazy protagonist for one moment, the story loses its demented power.
Do you have a preference in either writing or reading short and long fiction. Why?