Monthly Archives: June 2013

Starting Out – When Ten Plus Five Equals One

Until the spring of 2012, my writing portfolio (if I had one) was composed of short scientific papers, academic research, a myriad of reports and report card comments over 27 years of teaching, and the rare false start attempt at creative writing. To say this writing portfolio marked the work of an aspiring writer would require a vivid imagination. T he dream of publishing a book seemed farther away than ever until I read about self publishing. After investigating the idea of self publishing through an internet search, and some inquiries through the “contact us” invite of a number of self publishing services, I finally selected a publisher and a publishing package  that looked like the right fit to reach my goal.

Once I paid the required fee and completed the required documents I was off to the races, and the struggles began. My struggles had nothing to do with the publisher, they were all inherently my own. Moderate dyslexia would complicate the process as usual. A look back at some few items of written work that from my elementary, middle, and high school years, had me wondering how I was permitted to graduate. The content in everything I had written was complete, and ideas were abundant, but spelling and grammar in my work were an embarrassment. In university, my written work in the humanities tended toward mediocrity but the content always pulled me through.

By the time I reached graduate school, I’d had enough of mediocrity, and took to the habit of writing and rewriting papers as many times as necessary. I rehearsed and practiced writing answers to possible exam questions so I would waste as little time as possible thinking of spelling and sentence structure. It became a matter of survival. I began producing better written work with respect to spelling, syntax, and grammar, and the content and ideas were presented in a more beautiful frames. Ironically, the disabled learner is doubly handicapped; they must cope their learning disability in  daily life, and have to work much harder to get a descent result for their efforts. With this background information my readers can well imagine what lie ahead for this novice writer.

After five major reads and revisions, I finally had a manuscript completed to the point of submitting it for a first evaluation. In addition to the publisher, I imposed on several others to act as readers and provide feed back. One of the chosen few was a retired English teacher and high school principal, who kindly took his time to do some copy editing. The publisher and all the readers gave me feedback on the content, clarity, and logic in presentation. As usual, content, ideas, and research were all very strong, but there were many weaknesses reflected in there comments. There were problems with the sequence of topics and some content that did not seem to fit in the context of the manuscript. In addition, there were pronoun use errors, some agreement errors, some incorrect word choice errors, and many others small but significant flaws.

There was much work left to do. After ten months of hard work, and five drafts of the original manuscript, I was determined to finish what I started. I had the opportunity to review the feedback from the publisher with a consultant and developmental editor, and was advised of some services that were available to me at a reasonable cost. I’ll write about the debrief experience in about 48 hours after a short period of R and R. Until then……

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Going From Writer to Published Author?

My Dome of Heaven includes dreams and challenges. Writing has always been a challenge for me since I am a moderate dyslexic. Writing a book has always been a dream achievement. Becoming an author, a published writer, is the ultimate extension of that dream.

About one year ago I decided to get on with the challenge and began the process of researching and writing a book. 50,000 words and eleven months later, a manuscript exists. Thanks to the kindness of former colleagues, my most glaring of inadequacies in grammar and word choice have been corrected, but much remains to be done. In order to move the manuscript toward publication I will some begin working through the process of developing the manuscript into a published book. I intend to write about the process.

I will share the experience of working with a development editor, reporting on the process, my reactions and feelings as I respond to suggestions by the editors, and the progress made toward the final product. I intend to respond positively to all suggestions with energy and let the various editors do their job. I hope to learn a great deal by working on my manuscript with these individuals. The costs incurred serve a two-fold purpose; the first is to achieve a publishable book, and the second is to learn enough about the writing process so that I may continue writing books. I hope this will be a useful exercise for others who are struggling with the writing process as well.

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Some ideas lead us into challenging situations

Even though some ideas lead to actions that create challenging situations for us, there is no reason to exclude them from beneath your Dome of Heaven. In the 1960’s many of us (I give away my vintage here) had the idea that the war in Viet Nam was very wrong, and the idea that of the Civil Rights Movement was worthy of support. Those ideas caused us to march, and protest, and to sit in, and as a result, created some challenging circumstances for people on both sides of those ideas. I am writing these blogs as a Canadian, rather than a citizen of the United States, because of one of those two ideas.

In the early 1970’s, Daniel Ellsberg had the idea that there were issues with involvement of the United States in Indochina, and particularly in Viet Nam. He worked on the detailed history of U.S. involvement in Indochina from the end of WW II through the Viet Nam War as commissioned by the then Secy. of Defence. As a consequence of his work, he became a major opponent of the war and released large parts of what are known as the Pentagon Papers, to the New York Times and the Washington Post, without authorization. His “whistle blowing” activities revealed the true nature of U.S. participation in events in that region of the world.

Julian Assange, the journalist, activist, and the editor and publisher of Wikileaks, is dedicated to discovering and revealing the doings and misdeeds of the powerful in this world. Bradley Manning released large amounts of classified information to Wikileaks, related to the prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. PFC Manning is currently sitting through his court martial in Quetico, VA, related to this “whistle blowing” incident. Assange is under threat of arrest for an unrelated incident, but the thought is that he is being pursued because of those confidential documents he published.

The latest “whistle-blower” to make the headlines is Edward Snowdon. He outed the U.S. government’s for gathering intelligence by listening in on telephone conversations and reading text messages and  emails from international sources that are being received by U.S. citizens. Snowdon let the world know that Big Brother was listening.

Each of these men have the idea that something very wrong and very unethical being done by government (in this case the U.S. government) needed to be exposed to the public for scrutiny. They each risked much by releasing classified information.

The “idea” of standing up against the wrong-headed, and sometimes ill-conceived, and sometimes downright unethical actions of governments by revealing so-called “top secret” information is definitely contained beneath my Dome of Heaven. This particular idea has driven some of my own actions in the small space of my immediate world, but the rational was the same for me, as it was for them. The abuse of authority is always worthy of causing the whistle to be blown.

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In my Dome of Heaven ideas abound

In my last post I introduced the idea of floating (in our mind) toward the apex of the hemisphere that is our Done of Heaven. The purpose of this exercise is to transcend the actual contents assembled within and sense the importance of what is there. The inspiration for this post, and posts to follow under this category, are all the result of that mental process.

The first thing I sensed within my dome of heaven is the importance of ideas. I seem to thrive on ideas and even revel in them. Not just my ideas, but the ideas of others as encountered through literature, art, music, science, through personal encounters, and observations of what is going on in the world. The more I let the sense of ideas sink in, the more I believe that it would be difficult to populate my personal hemisphere of life without them. Having ideas, explaining them to others (as teacher for much of my working life), and exploring ideas leading to new and interesting places (studying the pure sciences for years and participating in the experimental process), have been a constant in life. Even writing this blog on a regular basis is an outlet for an insatiable desire to express and explore ideas.

When we have our own ideas, it is concrete proof of our cognitive activity and relates to a basic level of awareness and understanding of ourselves, and the world around us. Some ideas generate from impressions however slight, and some ideas might be expressed as opinions which may or may not be well founded. Plans of actions are a sequence of ideas directed toward achieving a goal, which are best thought through carefully before implementation. Just the same, all these are evidence of our functioning brain and intellectual activity, and what are we without those two aspects of self.

Ideas need to have a rational and some valid information behind them, or else they may fall under the category of supposition and fantasy. Ideas that come from others, outside of our trust circle need to be validated. There is always the possibility of self-interest and ulterior motive working behind the facades of personality presented in public. There is a segment within society that is bent on having their ideas adopted as correct notions and worthy of belief. I include politicians, all bureaucracies, advertisers, lobbyists, purveyors of panaceas, populists of all sorts, the dogmas of religion, and over zealous religious or political leaders, to be within in this category of individuals. Ideas from these sources need to be measured against our personal form of “Occam’s razor”, or common sense reasoning, before there are accepted and perhaps adopted.

In the end, I was comfortable that the ideas I selected to be within my Dome of Heaven, were selected with due care. What about the ideas you might include within your DOH? As I reflected on this important component of my Dome of Heaven, I considered what naturally flows from having ideas including:  ideals, ideologies, and ideologues, but those are topics for my next post.

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Transcendence and our Dome of Heaven -Thoughts continued

Dome of Heaven is visualized as a hemisphere that encloses all the people, places, events, experiences, achievements, beliefs, and philosophies that define you. You are the one who determines what is included beneath your DOH. You stand in the centre of the array of all that is contained, beneath the vertex of the dome. Once established, your Dome of Heaven can continue to grow until the last breath of your last day.

Transcendence has many meanings. Transcendence implies rising above and beyond in some way, but after that, there are many ways to look at the term. There are many contexts, religious and not so religious, within which that term can exist. Perhaps the greatest impact of a transcendent philosophy in modern times was seen in the growth of the practice of transcendental meditation. How can  we relate transcendence to the Dome of Heaven concept?  Here is how I see it.

We collect all the positives of our life beneath our Dome of Heaven. If you look at the list in the first sentence of this post, you will notice the conspicuous absence of any mention of material objects, although I readily admit that material objects may be intrinsic to all the items listed as inclusions beneath a Dome of Heaven. We are integrally attached to all that is gathered there, but at the same time we can take a transcendent view. While standing  in the very centre of the dome exactly beneath its vertex, amidst all that is contained, we cannot help but feel attachments. However, if we allow ourselves to float up toward the vertex (metaphorically and in our minds eye actually), we can detach ourselves from everything and survey the contents we have gathered in that place. As I survey what is gathered beneath my Dome of Heaven, in my minds ear I hear myself saying, “I see all the people that I love over there, and there are the places that I visited which I enjoyed and meant something to me, and there are some things that I have done that I am proud of……”, and so forth and so on. As I look around my dome, I don’t have to analyze or judge anything that I see, because that analysis and judgement was part of the selection process. I can literally transcend all that, and just sense all the feelings engendered by what I see.

I believe there is much to be gained by creating a Dome of Heaven and taking the transcendent view of your worldly universe of life’s influences. The essence of this blog is about preserving the self. That which is contained beneath a DOH is assembled from our memories. By selecting the memories you collect, you examine them and value them at the same time. By floating above them, sensing them, and letting all you “see” generate strong feelings and emotions, you give all those memories a permanence. We remember best what we feel most deeply, and what we remember is our actual self, hence we are preserving the essence of self in the process.

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Transcendence and our DOH

Before I continue examining the idea of discovering and enhancing our dome of heaven, I need to reflect on an email I received. I will not name the sender except with the first initial of their first name “K”.

K thoughtfully suggests that our DOH is the transcendence of self. She went on to state that the self is culturally constructed, which of course is true, hence she reminds us that there is no self without interactions outside of ourselves. Without cultural and social interactions one aspect of self, the actual self, will never form. The other element of self, the corporal self always exists. The true reflection of body/being, or as I might put it, the actual self/corporal self, exists only in the moment, rather than over time. Our memories are an accumulation of those moments. If as K suggests, our DOH is the transcendence of self, which may well be the correct way to look at the concept, then the accumulation of self beneath our DOH, provides the opportunity for transcendence.

I believe that to transcend the self, requires us to know the self intimately. Our Dome of Heaven is exactly the place to stand back and look at a lifetime in perspective.

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Too Harsh on Hegemony

Before I leave the topic of Hegemony, I need to acknowledge the rant quality of my last post, which was too harsh in some ways. I went after the US with a venomous mind, without considering the sensibilities of the most important element in that country, the people. The people are the country in the end, not just the hegemonic structures which govern their lives.

The founding principles of that democratic nation are truly good and just. The problem is not in the principles, but in the practice at the highest levels, not at the level of the people. By-and-large, the American people are kind and generous people. In times of strife, they pull together for the common good, perhaps like citizens in no other nation. They fiercely defend their rights and freedoms, and are generally fair-minded, and more than ever, seem committed to egalitarianism.

The USA was born of rebellion against the dictates of an imperialist Great Britain by a populace that was tough and independent by nature. Those characteristics are exactly what was required to establish a nation where only wilderness prevailed. The United States of America has progressed in fits and starts during its existence as a nation-state. The fits have been the product of drifts away from its founding principles, and the geopolitical drama that has unfolded over those years. The starts have been the result of being drawn back to those same founding principles.

Perhaps it is more wise to judge the success of the United Stats, not be its absolute success, but by how far it has come in light of all the struggles it has had in moving toward the ideas of democracy put forth by its founding fathers. Booker T. Washington exhorted the American blacks, struggling to succeed in the period after the Civil War, with that very idea. The inherent optimism of his sentiments at that time, may be for this time too.

Hegemony still has no place under my dome of heaven, but the people who struggle against its evils, and right those evils through democratic means, do. We need to return to hegemony in its most benign form which serves society, not dominates it.

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More on Hegemony

In my last post I gave a flavour of why hegemony is excluded from under my dome of heaven. In this post I will be more specific as to why I exclude hegemony from beneath my dome of heaven. Just before I get into some specifics, I would like to remind my readers that the theme of this blog relates to the preservation of memories. We preserve memories by taking photographs or recording thoughts and events in a journal. This post, and posts to follow, are something like a retrospective journal. Everyone has ideas and philosophies that they hold to closely, and ideas and philosophies that they reject. One way to firm up your memories is to analyze your rational for selecting or rejecting particular ideas and philosophies. In the process, events and experiences that led to your decision need to be reviewed. The events and experiences recalled will relate to others, generating a web of memory. This post is the first of several that informs the reader about the specifics behind my thinking.

Hegemony is one of the “deadly sins” of society. A societal deadly sin is different from the personal deadly sins of “Christen ethics” fame, in that we have choice regarding the so-called Seven Deadly Sins, but the deadly societal sin of hegemony reflects the evolution of human behaviour. Anything that becomes engrained in human behavior and part of the fiber of society, requires us to be particularly vigulent.

My first brush with hegemonic influence came with a question. Why was it necessary to pledge allegiance to the flag each morning with an included phrase that invoked a role for God in the process ( ….one nation, under God….). This is a ritual enacted in every public school in the United States since the 50’s. What exactly did God have to do with it? Whose God were they talking about? Why were we required to invoke God in a country that is based on the separation of church and state? Subsequently, I discovered that the “God element” was not part of the pledge until 1954 when the US Congress amended the pledge on the suggestion of President Eisenhower. The anti-communist fervor in the US seemed to require some way to differentiate the democracy of the USA from the godless Soviets. This legislation was challenged in the courts on the basis that it constituted a prayer, but the court decided that the simple phrase did not constitute a prayer, so it was allowed to stand. After 60 years, the “God phrase” has been uttered countless times each day. The dominant culture of the past, continues to impose its version of reality on the majority,  which has an increasingly diverse with an increasing non-Christian component.

The phrase “God Bless America” is uttered by every president and presidential candidate as a default terminating statement in every speech.  If there is a God, why should he/she/it wish to bless America in particular. What about the rest of the countries in the world? If church and state are truly separate, then why would God even want to bless a state whose founding fathers rejected Gods involvement. The USA was supposed to be a place of equality and religious freedom. Did God bless the America that took almost a century to legislate equality of opportunity for the American black population? Did God bless US incursions and wars in Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? Did God bless the US support for various political strong men and political movements that were inherently undemocratic? Does God bless the NRA, big oil, big pharma, the military industrial complex, insurance companies, wall street, and all the other groups that spend so much money to buy influence in Washington. If there is a God, I don’t think that lobbying for influence in the context of self-interest would be high on the list of things to bless. Lobbying reflects the interests of the dominant elements in US society that need to control the flow of things in order to retain their domination and control over the aspects of society from which they derive their wealth.

The hegemonic structures of every empire known through recorded history, served to solidify the hold each of these empires had over the lands and people they dominated.  Once the leaders of a society lose sight of the need to act in the best interests of all members of society, hegemonic practices become a tyranny, not a triumph.

Hegemony has generated more evil than good. Hegemony flies in the face of humanism and egalitarianism. Hegemony is excluded from beneath my dome of heaven because it creates stress when there should be peace. In its most benign state, hegemony is necessary, but we need to safeguard society from its inherent evils.

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Hegemony – Not Under My Dome

My last post presented an argument for emphasizing the positive, as various elements drawn from life’s experiences are selected and collected to fill the area beneath your dome of heaven. Another way to emphasize the positive is to exclude the negative whenever possible. Excluding negative experiences is not possible since the are inscribed in your memory. The best you can do is dilute or overwhelm the negatives of your experience with an increasing number of recollected and as yet to be discovered positive experiences. However, there are some negatives over which you have power . These are the negatives of attitude, ideologies, philosophies, practices, and beliefs.

What lies beneath your DOH is for your mind’s eye only. Even those individuals you include in the confines of your dome cannot visualize the entirety of any dome of heaven but their own. What you include under your dome of heaven reflects ‘you‘ to ‘yourself’. What others see, is a you based on what you stand for. They see and know you by your attitudes, ideologies, philosophies, practices, and beliefs. These overt behavioural and attitudinal elements define your persona in their eyes. Thus, in many ways you define your public self by the attitudes, ideologies, philosophies, practices, and beliefs you reject and exclude from your dome of heaven. What you exclude from your DOH, is as important an indicator of the true nature of you as a person, as what you include. I will use the remainder of this post, and a number of subsequent posts to share some of the negatives I have exclude from beneath my dome of heaven.

Hegemony has no place beneath my dome of heaven, even though hegemony is what makes the world go around. The word is derived from the Greek, and means leadership in terms of who is in control. In its most benign form, hegemony is the force that generates a stratification of society with the leaders at the top, and all the various other components of society forming strata below the leaders. The uppermost strata, composed of a commonly recognised and acknowledged, but not necessarily homogeneous leadership group, imposes its rules on that society. This, of course, requires the consent of  society as a whole. Hence, one leads with the consent of the led.

It is interesting to note that Hegemon was the Greek goddess who held dominion over plants, whose role was to ensure that they would produce flowers and bear fruit when they were supposed to, and to bear the best flowers and fruits possible. Likewise, the role of leaders in a society is to ensure that it is a healthy structure and bears its metaphorical fruits and flowers prolifically as required. Unfortunately, leaders who have dominion over societies often transmute the ideas of dominion into the reality of domination. How often in recorded history do we see the revolutionary leadership become the next dominating force, controlling the lives of individuals, and limiting their freedom. Domination can be overt or covert, but it is domination non-the- less.

I’ll have some more to say about hegemony, and why it is excluded from my dome of heaven in my next post.

As always, your faithful blogger,

L. Alan Weiss – Author – Through a lens of Emptiness: Reflections on Life, Longevity and Contentment

Please visit my author website at www.lalanweiss.com

What would the Tea Party Republicans think about this? Please comment…

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