Friday, May 20, 2022

My Love/Hate Relationship with Zane Grey's Writing, Part 2

Oddly enough, "Part 1" of my love/hate relationship with Zane Grey's writing was posted on this blog twelve years ago. So in the last twelve years, have I reconciled my conflicting perspectives of Zane Grey? The short answer is no; I am still conflicted. Seeking wider perspectives, I searched for other articles about Grey's bigoted writing, the racist and sexist elements in his writing. An article posted on Literary Hub, "In Praise of Racist Books: Notes of an Immigrant Reader," drew my interest, written by Black scholar and professor Louis Clude-Sokei. (A hit on my "Part 1" Zane Grey article also was pulled up, always a hoot to find myself on the internet.) 

Clude-Sukei grew up reading whatever books he could get his hands on, most of them by default White writers writing for a White audience. A first his reading simply matched his life experience--it was a bigoted, racist world he lived in, and the books he read were consistent in vision. Then Clude-Sukei grew more sophisticated and grew "to enjoy the frisson of contradiction." He writes about how "those damned racist books": "taught me that we are all shaped and rendered impure by racism, colonialism, and various forms of inequality, all the time and in all texts. Who or what we would be without those forces is unanswerable." The racism and gender rigidity in Grey's novels are historical footprints of times past (and present). 

Here are a few concepts from the article that resonated with me:
  • "I’ve [Louis Clude-Sokei] lived by Joan Didion’s evergreen dictum, 'Writers are always selling someone out.'”
  • "Not seeing myself in any of the characters enabled me to identify with all of them, so innocence was impossible. And suspecting that the author might have been hostile to someone like me only made the dance of interpretation more exciting. This all taught me to find freedom even in narratives hell-bent on my erasure."
  • "One can love a work of literature while vehemently disagreeing with it. This seems so obvious it’s hard to believe it must now be defended. To teach students the opposite is to hobble them with a need for innocence."
  • "To cleanse the past, though, is not only to rob ourselves of the prickly pleasures and unique challenges of such works. More importantly, it can aid in the removal of evidence from the scene of crime."
  • "To make sanctuary in hostile or indifferent territory is a necessary skill."

My recent foray into Zane Grey's world was his romance The Light of the Western Stars. In the novel, Madeline Hammond leaves the privileged world of the East, seeking her brother in the wilds of New Mexico, during the beginnings of the revolutionary times in Mexico in the early 1900s. She experiences the vivid roughness of the environment and the people who live there. Action includes lightning storms, fast horses, wild cowboys, gunfights, and of course love. Grey's ability to describe the Western environment is at times sublime.
Rain fell steadily. The fury of the storm, however, had passed, and the roll of thunder diminished in volume. The air had wonderfully cleared and was growing cool. Madeline began to feel uncomfortably cold and wet. Stewart was climbing faster than formerly, and she noted that Monty kept at her heels, pressing her on. Time had been lost, and the camp-site was a long way off. The stag-hounds began to lag and get footsore. The sharp rocks of the trail were cruel to their feet. Then, as Madeline began to tire, she noticed less and less around her. The ascent grew rougher and steeper—slow toil for panting horses. The thinning rain grew colder, and sometimes a stronger whip of wind lashed stingingly in Madeline's face. Her horse climbed and climbed, and brush and sharp corners of stone everlastingly pulled and tore at her wet garments. A gray gloom settled down around her. Night was approaching. Majesty heaved upward with a snort, the wet saddle creaked, and an even motion told Madeline she was on level ground. She looked up to see looming crags and spires, like huge pipe-organs, dark at the base and growing light upward. The rain had ceased, but the branches of fir-trees and juniper were water-soaked arms reaching out for her. Through an opening between crags Madeline caught a momentary glimpse of the west. Red sun-shafts shone through the murky, broken clouds. The sun had set.
I enter Grey's world as an immigrant, a time traveler. The author has his "boxes" or perspectives that inform his writing: the sensitivity and intuitions "unique" to women, a "let's bash Mexicans" box, the insipid anemia of Easterners and the childlike impulsiveness of Westerners, the regenerative qualities of nature (which at times Grey romanicizes until it becomes a cliche).

I love Grey's description of the natural world, and I love his passionate characters and storylines, even with their brittle characterizations and moral binary development. As an immigrant reader, I enter Grey's novels, recognizing that I'm entering territory that will sometimes be hostile to my world view. I enjoy the frisson of being on guard, of advancing into a perspective that I at times will vehemently disagree with. Like all travelers, I advance cautiously into the "history" of the writing, the world at times beautiful and at times ugly, a stranger in a strange land--a situation not all that different, actually, from every time I walk out my front door. 

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Sunday, April 3, 2022

Upping My Travel Writing Game

Guyana Highlands of South America
"Tom, why don't you plan out a route to California?" My wife Sandy asked me this question after lunch last week--when we had been planning a camping trip that same morning to an Iowa state park a half hour's drive away. That required a shift in mental gears, I can tell you--not a bad shift but certainly a significant change of perspective!

By happenstance, my step-daughter had recently given me the new issue of National Geographic magazine, the April issue, and I was reading the article "Up the Mountain, to a World Apart," about a "venture into a remote part of Guyana with no roads and no guarantee of getting out" to a region of "sheer-sided, flat-topped mountains known locally as tepui." A scientific expedition would climb these unpopulated, untrammeled environmental time capsules to learn more about the process of evolution.

Reading the article was an eye-opener for me, a reminder of just how powerful and immediate travel writing can be. The opening paragraphs place the reader right next to conservation biologist Bruce Means. 
"Grasping a sapling in one hand for balance, Bruce took a shaky step forward. His legs quivered as they sank into the boggy leaf litter, and he cursed his 79-year-old body. At the beginning of this expedition, Bruce had told me that he planned to start slowly but would grow stronger each day as he acclimated to life in the bush."
Later in the article, writer Mark Synnott places us deeper in the bush, describing the conditions that the explorers were facing. 
"For days we'd been trudging across a swampy floodplain through ankle-deep mud that almost sucked our boots right off our feet. It rained incessantly, and even when the sun poked through the low clouds, it never penetrated the dense canopy overhead. Down in the steamy understory, mosquitoes and biting flies reigned, and our sweat-soaked clothes, slick with mud and ripped by thorns, stuck to our rashy skin. Every day we crossed countless tea-colored rivers and creeks via precarious log bridges. The slow-moving water, which was also our drinking source, was stained from decaying vegetation--something that no amount of purifying could remove."
Ah, what lovely, descriptive prose! The writer follows the most basic and important descriptive writing axiom: show, don't tell. He uses "sense words," words which connect the reader's experience to the description, not ideas but physical sensory input. Look at the touch words: grasping, shaky, and quivered, to name a few. The sentence that begins with "Down in the steamy understory" is rich with sense words: "steamy understory" with touch and vision; "mosquitoes and biting flies reigned" evokes sight, sound, and touch; "sweat-soaked clothes" evokes, of course, smell. Taste? With every breath filtered by steamy jungle air, with sweat on the lips and mud everywhere, how could one not be tasting the jungle? The sentences weave together our life experiences and imagination to place us in that jungle--all while we sit comfortably in our chair at home, perhaps a cup of tea (with sugar and milk) beside us. Travel writing at its best!

Canary-yellow writing pads and Ticonderoga #2 pencils, and I'm ready to begin the planning!
Now as I sit at the kitchen table planning my route, my old habit of planning with tablets and pencil to make my lists prevails: a list for food, a list for last-minute preparations, lists for our children as they keep an eye on the house for the month we'll be gone. We're packing for our five-nights out, knowing that we'll have food stores available at our destination. We'll be driveway-mooching at Sandy's parents, hooking up to 120v electric power to run our 12v refrigerator and lights.

The pencil scratches its way across the page, either adding an item or crossing one out. I'm glad I had the wheel-bearings packed last month at a local RV dealership. I've listened to the pounding of my little air compressor as I've topped of the trailer's tire pressure, and I've leaned on the torque wrench as I've checked that the wheel lugnuts are tight. I'll be de-winterizing the trailer next week. I was on my hands and knees yesterday, scrubbing the interior and removing my gear from this winter's 1-3 night local camping outings. 
I've spent the time in front of the computer screen, studying Google Maps and locating possible campgrounds and RV parks for overnight stays on our trip. Since Sandy will need a strong phone signal for her online work, I've called the overnight sites to inquire about connectivity. Of course, I'm not naive enough to think all the information I receive will completely match our needs, but it's a beginning. After that, it's just take it one day at a time. Our longest mileage planned is a little over four hundred miles, with most days ranging between 250 miles and 325. We hope to leave early enough so that Sandy will have some time to work in the late afternoons if necessary. 

I may very well be writing by hand in my daybook as we journey, skipping the computer and just taking notes and writing down impressions, details that I can include when I finally do post about our journey on my travel blog, Green Goddess Glamping. A few notes, a few photos, pleasant conversation with Sandy while on the road. Audiobooks have been strongly recommended for us while traveling, but Sandy and I are looking forward to just looking out the window and chatting. I've traveled before by myself on a trip off to the Carolinas, chronicled on my traveling blog under the label Green Goddess Expeditions

I've researched and written before about writing and travelogues, so long ago, in fact, that the original blogs I read for inspiration and direction are now defunct, the links no longer active. Mine are still available, though, the most recent being "Travelogues and Tiny Trailer Travel." I'm excited to travel with my wife Sandy. The last time we traveled the Iowa-California route was from west to east when we drove a much loved yet worn 1975 Ford F-150 from my parents' home in California back to Iowa, a gift from my parents to my son. That was quite an adventure, considering the worn steering linkage and the lack of heater or windshield defroster. I remember how the engine would cut out and stall at stoplights on the continental divide because the old carburetor wasn't fuel injection, and the high-altitude air was too thin for the carburetor adjustments. I just feathered the accelerator, though, and once on the road we were okay, especially when we dropped out of the mountains. We made it, finding peace of mind on the trip by deciding that if the old orange "Pumpkin Wagon" broke down, we'd just have it towed to the nearest gas station, hand the owner registration title to someone willing to take it, and then take a bus home. 

On an early winter overnighter with our Airstream Basecamp
This trip should be more pleasant with our 2021 Airstream Basecamp and our 2018 Nissan Pathfinder (with only just under 18,000 miles on it). I'm looking forward to sharing our time together. Sandy even wants to learn how to drive while pulling the trailer, and I'm sure there are some not-so-busy stretches of highway on the trip that will provide her with some low-stress experience. Travelogue writing is a skill that I'm continually developing, and I plan to focus this trip on sharing those travel moments the best I can, those moments of flicking the turn signal and then pulling off the interstate freeway, heading for the night's campsite, having rolled down that long, lonesome highway, a song in my heart and my wife by my side. 

Follow by email my travel blog, Green Goddess Glamping, if you'd like to read about my travel adventures. Follow this blog by signing up below if you'd like to learn more about my life of writing. 

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Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Cozy Mystery: Kick-A** Women in Corsets

I've been reading a lot of cozy mysteries this winter--and enjoying them. My wife and I have formed a book club of two, and we've spent a good deal of time reading side by side or discussing the books we've read over a meal or cup of tea. Sometimes I'm a book or two ahead in a series, and sometimes my wife leads the way. Sometimes I've read a series that my wife's chosen to skip; sometimes it's the other way around. You might say we're easy with the cozy, or cozy with our easy-going reading schedule. However cute I want to get with my syntax, it's been a good winter in terms of our reading arrangement. We've read some good books and had some fun talks about those books.Therefore, it seems perfectly reasonable to share some of our conclusions regarding cozy mysteries beyond the two of us--hence, this article.

The website has published an article describing the qualities of a cozy mystery, "What Makes a Cozy Just That?" The identified characteristics in this article are as good as any other articles I've read. (Plus the website includes alphabetical lists of cozy authors.)

  • "The cozy mystery heroine is usually a very intuitive, bright woman." (A newer cozy series that features this is Sherry Thomas's Lady Sherlock series, which cleverly recreates the Sherlock Holmes mythos.)
  • "The occupations of the amateur sleuths are very diverse"; that is to say, usually the female protagonist is not a professional private investigator. (In Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy series, though, the protagonist does become a PI.)
  • "Although the cozy mystery sleuth is usually not a medical examiner, detective, or police officer, a lot of times her best friend, husband, or significant other is." Anna Lee Huber's Lady Darby series features the "anatomist" plot feature.)
  • "Cozy mysteries are considered “gentle” books… no graphic violence, no profanity, and no explicit sex." As the cozy article additionally mentions, authors sometimes push those boundaries. (Julie McElwain's Kendra Donovan series is an example of where the "gentle" mystery becomes more gritty. The character Kendra Donovan is an FBI agent who time travels to Regency England, where she solves murders.)
  • "The cozy mystery puts an emphasis on plots and character development." This is why cozies become series--the journey of the main characters becomes as significant as solving the cases--or they become entwined. Often the romantic interest is a more modern-thinking male who assists the female protagonist, eschewing the social restrictions of the times regarding women. (A great example of this characteristic is Andrea Penrose's Wrexford and Sloane series, with one of the finest assembly of interesting characters of all the cozies I've read.)
My wife and I have a few other comments regarding the cozy mystery. One is that I'm trying hard right now to remember if any of the cozy series my wife and I have read were written by men, but I'm coming up blank. I do know, though, that I've seen some male authors in the book lists I've read. One casual reference was to John Grisham, that his novel The Pelican Brief could fit the cozy definition, although it relies more on action than many cozies. 

Another point to make is that cozies repeatedly put the female protagonists in conflict with the restrictive sexist views of the times, whether it's Regency England, Victorian England, or American and Europe in the times prior to (or during) World War II. Most of the cozies I've read pit the female protagonist (and often the male partner) against the extreme limitations that were imposed upon women. The concept that women are only meant to be eye candy and heir-producers is a common conflict in the novels. A common theme is how far we've come with gender equality--and how we haven't come very far at all. 

A third quality of cozy mysteries involves the literary device of anachronism, "a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists." Although often used to mean something inordinately old-fashioned in a modern world, the anachronism in cozies is a modern, self-reliant, independent woman living in times where women are socially and legally without power. Often the female protagonists fight two conflicts at once: solving the murder mystery and struggling to act independently in a social milieu that represses a woman's independent spirit. Since issues of women's rights still resonate in today's modern world, this social conflict resonates for modern readers.

One of the pleasures my wife and I experience, now that we've read many cozy mysteries and quite a few series, to to determine and discuss how well the authors work within the boundaries of the cozy framework. Some authors are better at the social issues, some better at realistically portraying the romantic conflicts, and some shine at creating unique and interesting characters, including minor characters. This sub-genre of cozy mysteries is a safe and enjoyable environment to return to after a long day's work. The novel format rather than TV series medium highlights curiosity and mystery as a precursor to action, and in the end we are intellectually satisfied and not just stimulated by non-stop action. 

Soon I'll be heading out this spring to garden, camp, and bike and hike. I'm looking forward to more activity and fresh air. It's been a good winter, though, in terms of reading. I've discovered new writers that are a pleasure to read, and I've learned a few things, too. Welcome to the world of the "gentle" mystery--a cutthroat world where "gentle" is a facade that must be maintained in order to exist and broken to survive.

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Saturday, March 5, 2022

Read My New Flash Fiction Story Published at Every Day Fiction

"He saw her reflection in the chipped mirror on the wall."
That's the first sentence of my short story "Out with the Old," published at the online website magazine Every Day Fiction on March 3. Flash fiction of a bit over six hundred words in length, it's a story of reconciliation and rebirth. 

I wrote the story in the dead of winter at a time when "the dead of winter" literally felt just like that, frozen and lifeless. Waking up before dawn with the story idea (and in the depth of winter it's not so hard to wake up before dawn), I sat down at my laptop and wrote the story in one sitting, finishing as the rose fingers of dawn caressed the eastern horizon, to paraphrase a Homeric epithet. The flash fiction story is not, of course, epic in length, nor is it an embodiment of a people as is Homer's Odyssey. However, writing the story was satisfying and even healing for me, representing my belief that we have great power over our lives, and that choosing the right action at the right time is one of the great benefits and opportunities that human consciousness provides.

"Old with the Old" was written in one sitting, revised a couple of times in the next week or so, and then revised on a few technical points, based on the Every Day Fiction editor's comments, then resubmitted. Every Day Fiction publishes one new flash fiction story every day of the year, paying its authors a whopping three dollars. Twelve years ago, I published another story for EDF, a Halloween story titled "Spider," which one reader's comment was "A great, creepy tale for Halloween!"

Three flash fiction stories are compiled in my Amazon ebook Tri Odd, which besides "Spider" also includes "Cull," a mildly macabre story about a retired English teacher (go figure!), and a science fiction genesis story, "In the Beginning." All three stories have been published in online magazines over the years.

In addition to flash fiction, I also have published at Amazon another three short stories from my The Stone Dragon universe--Who Listened to Dragons. These short stories emerged from a map from The Stone Dragon novel. I looked at the map and asked myself, "I wonder what's happening there?" And thus the stories were born. I have several other unpublished stories written that are set in The Stone Dragon universe, and when enough are written, I'll publish a short story compilation, Tales of the Stone Dragon Inn

Getting back to "Out with the Old," it's a story I submitted under the "Spring" category at EDF. It does have that sense of a breath of fresh air about it, one that I created for myself by writing the story--and if you're ready for a bit of spring yourself, follow the link to the story and enjoy!

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Thursday, February 17, 2022

"70" Is a Compelling Number--and "Septuagenarian" Is a Mouthful

I graduated from high school in the 1970s and survived my 20s during that decade. It was a significant time, especially if we back the time up a little earlier to 1966 or 1968--political assassinations, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the space program and a trip to the moon. Now, it's a half a century later and I'm celebrating another aspect of the 70s; I've now lived that long. February is that month where I become a septuagenarian, and just passing that mark leads me to some reflection. What I'm realizing is that many of my core beliefs have remained with me all my life and that now in my retirement I find them no less powerful and no less compelling. There is a certain timelessness in that--that what we are is not lessened by time. The times we may find distracting, but inside us there is a timelessness that remains.

I find myself increasingly compelled to listen. Yes, I still have things I want to say, ideas I want to share, but the necessity and need to listen has grown in my life. It was always there. I remember when I was eighteen years old on my high school's "senior skip day," a bunch of us guys got in our friend's old Packard and drove to Sacramento, California, (about an hour and a half drive) to visit one guy's parents and to watch the movie Woodstock. My friend was living with another friend's parents so that he could graduate his senior year with all of us. His parents had moved because of a job transfer that could not be postponed. Part of our excursion to Sacramento was a trip to a local park, which happened to be a gathering place for the homeless, many of them alcoholics. One Black man who called himself "Johnny Walker the shit talker" regaled us with stories, wowing our naive young selves with entertaining stories . . . and then he hit us up for our spare change, which we happily gave him. He asked for us to give, to us as a group and then individually without being pushy. When "Johnny" got to me, he said, "And how about you--you with the wise eyes?" Of course I contributed, but even then at eighteen years old, I realized what the man was saying. We had made eye contact several times during Johnny's story-telling, at a deeper level than that of audience and raconteur. There was the jive, and then there was the humanity. What I was doing was listening, with both my mind and my heart. I was including the old alcoholic in my world, considering him and the moment significant. We need to listen to one another, to include and absorb the perspectives of others into ours. I intuitively knew that when I was young and appreciate the importance of listening and inclusion more consciously now that I am older and have the benefit of my years of experiencing listening . . . and not listening . . . and the ramifications of each.

Researching a situation prior to engaging is increasingly important for me. Listening, of course, is an important aspect of research; in fact, it's primary research. In a world increasingly polarized, I want to bring balance to my decisions and actions. Research is an important way I learn, too. Therefore, by considering all sides of an issue, I can bring a more balanced approach to moving forward in my life, one that involves both intellect and emotions. Even after research and consideration if I find that my perspective hasn't changed, I might find a more positive and integrative way to act or speak. I'm thinking that this approach might seem "old person conservative," but to me it doesn't feel that way. There's a lot of creativity and discovery in considering many possibilities--and then there's the advantage of spending time in that field of all possibilities. Coming to a decision actually erects barriers and boundaries. Why rush to do that?

My family is a powerful defense against alienation and isolation. I am fortunate to be surrounded by my family--my wife, our blended family of three children (in their 30s), and our five grandchildren. I remember in my first years of public school teaching in the early 1980s that statistics determined that single parents or blended families had finally exceeded the number of nuclear families (mother, father, and genetic offspring). My mother was adopted, my son was adopted, and my entire life I've been taught and lived the truth that families are formed in many ways. "Family" is not a matter of blood but of spirit. My wife and I are fortunate to have our children and grandchildren living in the same town as us. However, I also realize that if this were not the case, we would create a family of friends and activities to keep us involved with people and engaged in vital activities. As Bob Dylan sang, "Those not busy being born are busy dying." My family provides me with an easy means of engagement with life--sometimes a bit too much, in fact! Then I pack up and go camping for a while. It's important, though, to live in the present and to not feel that our best years have already passed. I'm excited about my daily activities and my future hopes and plans. Having my family around provides many opportunities for participation in life. Extending family to its greatest scope, when "the world is my family," then how can there be alienation and isolation?

Freedom, variety, and creativity have increased in my life. Retirement has provided more time for me to choose my daily routine, to structure my time more around fulfillment rather than survival. I don't have a lot of needs. There isn't an outstanding list of things for me to buy and do--snowmobiles and trips to the geographic wonders of the world. It's not that I'm against owning a snowmobile or a new Ford F-150, or that I'm against visiting the Grand Canyon or Mayan ruins. The need isn't that great, though. I don't have a Santa's list of things I want or a bucket list of things I have to do before that bucket gets kicked. Possessions or accomplishments are not the ultimate summit of achievement. Fulfillment for me is an inner state, a state of being which cannot be located by gps or deed. Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that we cannot find a better world by traveling because we take our old perspectives along with us when we take off. I'm so grateful and fortunate to be practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique twice a day--and to have been doing so for forty-nine years. Being healthy and dynamic is a gift, but it is in many ways a gift that I have given myself by lowering my stress and developing my inner potential by practicing TM. I look forward to meeting the joys and challenges of each day, just as those in business enjoy the market, having first stopped by the bank. 

We must be kind--both to ourselves and to others. When I was a full-time public school teacher, I once had a colleague tell me, "I was talking to a student the other day and the student mentioned you and the kind of teacher you are. He said, 'Mr. Kepler is a kind man.'" My response to my teacher-friend was, "What better legacy than that?" I once had a student--a 7th-grader--ask me about gay rights, whether being gay was right or wrong. I told her that many people had debated this question, and after listening to all the arguments for each side, I had finally realized that for me the "right/wrong" debate about others wasn't the most important point for me. What I realized was important for me was the following question: "Do I want to be the kind of person that makes other people suffer, that hurts the lives of others?" I told that young student that I chose not to make others suffer because of my beliefs, whatever they were. I felt this was a good answer for a public school teacher, where children come to school from families with many different perspectives and beliefs. Any parent with any belief would have a hard time condemning me for telling their children to be kind. It was also an American answer, too, because I was telling the student that we have a right to live our lives according to our principles, but others with different principles also have that right in the USA. Nurturing ourselves and others is not just a good idea, I think. It's an essential idea, a survival trait for our species. We are such an intelligent species, human beings, yet we have to temper our cleverness with wisdom. We have to look beyond our immediate desires and fit ourselves and our dreams and actions into the greater wisdom of the world.

What quality of life am I living? A current buzzword is "intentional" living, and although I'm not entirely comfortable with that word, since it seems to somehow and to somewhat disparage spontaneity, I do understand the basic idea that we should think about what we want and what's important to us in order to make choices that will be more fulfilling. Even Joseph Campbell's "follow your bliss" is in many ways advocating an intentional life--if I actually understand what people who are living intentional lives intend the word to signify. Some choices are not easy, perhaps because their impact on others creates complications, or perhaps because some choices require a level of self-scrutiny and honesty that cuts close to the bone--a kind of intentionality noir, as it were. I wonder, though, if the intentional life becomes easier in some ways as one grows older. Energy and activity slow a bit; lifestyle choices and routine expand a bit in retirement; and if one has any level of self-awareness, then experience will impact one's choice and priorities. Since wisdom is knowledge tempered by experience, perhaps an intentional life in one's elder years is simply learning to pause and wait for wisdom. 

I think all the above are part and parcel of a meaningful life--being a part of our natural and social world, being true to ourselves yet still honoring and cherishing the differences in others, speaking out for what is true and right yet still allowing for differences in others. Integration of life, integration of opposites, holding the entire world within ourselves and not just one tiny part: this has been my lifetime goal, to live an integrated, balanced life of fulfillment. I feel I'm getting better at this as I go along, and I'm thinking that living the decade of my 70s will be just as exciting as when I lived my 20s. What about the fifty years in between those two decades? Fifty years is half a century, and yet somehow it feels like it's been no time at all. Let me reflect on that a bit--perhaps consciousness exists in time but is not of it? In the end, though, I tend to enjoy and pursue more simple, productive and nurturing activities. It's like Voltaire said at the end of his play Candide. As one translation put it regarding the frenzy of life--"That is very well and good, but let us tend our gardens."

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