Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Re-retiring . . . or a Second Retirement

Yes, I'm retiring at the end of May from my position at Maharishi School as news writer and social media support.

I'm enjoying the countdown, and I'm making plans.

Some have asked, "What are you going to do?"

Well, I plan to continue engaging in life-supporting activities. I'll just have more time and choice as to what those life-supporting activities will be. To answer one question: no, I won't just be sitting around doing nothing. If I'm "doing nothing," it will be the productive "nothing" of meditation. Even in retirement, TM will still be a useful and effective preparation for activity.

  • reading and writing
  • being supportive of my wife's new business
  • being a good parent and grandparent
  • gardening
  • bicycling and bike camping
I have a few other possibilities, but first I want to focus on self and family. I've enjoyed my job this year, but there are some things I want to do that are more difficult when I have to show up to work five days a week. Bicycling and gardening, for instance. When the weather is right, I want to be able to take off, even if it's a Tuesday or Wednesday. That will be an enjoyable freedom.

So . . . this week and next week. More time for this blog, too. Good thoughts to my co-workers, and happy trails ahead.

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Saturday, May 9, 2015

I've Enjoyed Being a Journalist

I suppose writing news for Maharishi School makes me more a press agent than a journalist since I'm writing press releases often for the media, but I still prefer journalist since I'm using the 5W + how for accuracy and detail. Besides, journalist is more Indiana Jones; press agent is more James Boswell.

I could also be called a professional blogger, even though I'm not living off my own business blog. Most of what I write is for Maharishi School's website blog, and when I shuffle pieces off to the media, I rewrite if necessary to a more conservative style and tone. (That's not usually necessary for sports, though! "Pioneers Crush Trojans!")

One result of this year's news writing for marketing is that I've worked with more everyday prose on the skill of writing for a particular effect. I write an article to motivate people to come to an event or to participate in a fund-raiser or to admire a student's achievement. Getting across the facts is essential, but also essential is having the words produce a subtle but real emotional response. Honing the prose to hone a reader's response has been a rewarding and illuminating experience.

An example of using detail to hone readers' response is the recent article "Spring Gala 'Iron Chef' Competition." Yes, I wanted to provide the basics of describing the contest and who won, but I also wanted to provide detail that revealed the expertise of the chef and, therefore, the success of Maharishi School's enrichment elective cooking program. I decided to accomplish this by using the winner's description of process and ingredients, allowing the specificity of detail to indicate competency. I think that worked.

Writing Maharishi School alumni profiles was also another experience in writing for an effect. In the profiles, my job was, in about 150 words, to project success, fulfillment, and expertise--that these alumni are in the "top of their game" in their fields. This, of course, wasn't a stretch since they are experts, innovators, and role models of how to succeed in making the world a better place. However, projecting this in 150 words or fewer was an excellent exercise in "less is more." It was fun to write the rough draft and then to begin leaning down the writing. What words could I eliminate and still say the same thing? How could I concentrate meaning? What events, awards, and activities really portrayed dynamic, successful interaction in a particular field?

Focusing on the connotative elements of language is not a new experience for me. Especially when writing poetry, but with all creative writing, the connotative flavors of a word are just as important as the denotative exactness. Working with this reality, though, in non-fiction news was a new experience, and I think I'm a better writer for that experience.

I always told my students that writing was a skill that improved with practice. And dang me if it ain't true!

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Friday, April 17, 2015

The First Sentence of My Next Novel

The night before last, lying in bed and drifting off to sleep, I sat up and said to my wife, "I'm writing something down." I walked to the kitchen, clicked on the light, and wrote a sentence.

"Nice that you're thinking about your next book," my wife said when I returned.

No, I'm not going to write the sentence here. It will probably change. It's about a trail in the mountains, sounds echoing off the walls of the ravine.
  • What are the sounds?
  • Why is the character in the valley?
  • What is coming his way?
It was good to start. For this novel I want to write a more substantial overview, even though I've written the first sentence already. I'll probably write more images and scenes as they come to me.

I've got about 6 weeks of my job left. Good things happening. The light in the valley is lambent with possibility.

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all right reserved

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Thank you, Holly Moore

This is what my Facebook friend and former neighbor posted on Facebook the other day:
That half hour after storms when the greens are so green and the retreating rain clouds are so blue, and the cottonwoods look like white lace against the sky with their bright red catkins hanging from the tips of branches, and the red-winged blackbirds are posed perfectly on the pollen blanketed cedars? Yeah. That was my dogwalk this morning.
Thank you, Holly, for the beautiful inspiration. And the word inspire, or course, literally means "to take in spirit."

Spring is that time of year where we are reminded, where we are infused with dynamism arising from silence--spring arising from winter. Thank you, Holly, for the beautiful inspiration.

My wish is that we all take in Spirit, that this spring we find the greater reality--that we live this spring as just one aspect of the Wholeness, that the wave is just one manifestation of Ocean.

The beauty of bright red catkins hanging from the tips of branches! The beauty of the bright! The beauty of the red! The beauty of the branch and the tree and the earth from which life grows! The sap within the catkins, within the branches, the essence of it All!

Thank you, Holly, for the beautiful inspiration. That was not a dogwalk you took, rather, a Godwalk.

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sons of Anarchy: Over 60 Hours of Tragedy

It's gripping, it's addicting, it's tragic, it's FX's series Sons of Anarchy.

Loosely based on Shakespeare's Hamlet, Sons of Anarchy is about Jax Teller, the "prince" of the motorcycle club Sons of Anarchy, trying to deal with the problems of his kingdom: his father's death, his mother's moral ambiguity, and his own life's path.

The production, direction, casting, and acting of the series is a black hole of entertainment that produces a gravitas that cannot be denied or resisted. One cares for the principal characters; one appreciates the unfoldment of the flaws and strengths of the "crew"; one wallows in the dark humanity of the series, hoping and praying for light.

The sun does not break through the clouds of violence and despair.

The classic purpose of tragedy is for the audience to experience a tragic hero's attempt to rectify his screw-up, to heal his tragic flaw, and to purge the kingdom of the "rot" that he has created. Sons of Anarchy fits this mold, with Jax Teller's attempt to break free of the motorcycle gang's evil ways and to follow the vision of his dead father. Jax is the Hamlet of the series, the son of the gang's founder. There is a Claudius, a Gertrude, an Ophelia, a Polonius, a Fortinbras, and a "Ghost" of the father presented as a journal that Jax finds. A sense of fate and a subtle sense of the supernatural flavors the series.

In tragedy, the audience is supposed to leave the theater purged of dark emotions, having experienced a catharsis and realizing that one must be a better person, live a better life, and leave a better mark upon the world. This is the playwright's challenge, to cleanse the audience with a bitter brew of one afternoon's or evening's partaking. "I can do better, be better," thinks the audience upon leaving the theater, the stage littered with bodies.

After 60 hours of hoping the characters in Sons of Anarchy would get it right and extricate themselves from a morass of violence and deceit, when that doesn't happen, the end result is not rebirth but depression. In the end, even though this series is done so well, my cathartic realization was that 60 hours of tragedy was not a "purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions." Rather, viewing such suffering and failure for such an extended time causes its own sorrow.
Suit the action to the word, the word
to the action; with this special observance, that you
o'erstep not the modesty of nature: for any thing so
overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end,
both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere,
the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of
the time his form and pressure.
     Hamlet, Act 3, scene 2
My thanks to Kurt Sutter, the show's creator, executive producer, writer, and director. I do want to be a better person. Mostly, though, I just want to avoid watching the long-suffering of extended tragedy that such a series as Sons of Anarchy brings.

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved