Monthly Archives: December 2013

Other People’s Books–#2: A Soul’s Calling

Here’s the next entry in my recommendations of “indie” books that I’ve read and loved and would like to recommend to my readers here.  The book is A Soul’s Calling, by Scott Bishop. If you’re interested in travel, adventure, or spirituality (or–if you’re like me–all three), this is the book for you, particularly if you’ve ever wondered what it would really be like to make the trek to Mt. Everest’s base camp (you will no doubt be surprised in many ways).  Here’s my review:

“‘I couldn’t put it down’ is kind of a cliche among book reviews, but I read A Soul’s Calling in a quick two days. The book is a memoir about a man who does what “conventional wisdom” (something I’ve come to pretty much despise) would advise him strongly against, and challenges himself to fulfill a spiritual imperative (HIS spiritual imperative–he never tries to force his spiritual vision on the reader, or on those with whom he comes into contact) by making what may be considered a kind of pilgrimage to the Everest Base Camp. He is guided by visions and communication with spirit in various manifestations; one of the most beautiful elements of the book for me was his personal, loving, respectful relationship with the natural environment, which for him is also a manifestation of spirit.

The author makes no apologies for his relationship with/belief in the “spirit world”; it is simply part of HIS world, and he wishes to use his ability to interact with it for the benefit of all beings (and, again, he considers things like the mountains he approaches, the sun and moon and stars, rocks, and all the natural gifts of the earth as “beings”). This may make some readers uncomfortable, or skeptical, but those feelings should not be used to judge the quality of A Soul’s Calling. A reader with an open mind and an eye for good writing should find a lot to love in it. Even if one isn’t “into communication with spirits”, the descriptions of the people and landscapes of the Himalayas, and of the tortuous journey to Base Camp, as well as the wonderful knowledge that there are still people out there who are willing to flout conventional wisdom for something that they believe is truly meaningful, make A Soul’s Calling worth reading.” 

Here’s the link to the book’s Amazon.com page:

http://www.amazon.com/Souls-Calling-Scott-Bishop-ebook/dp/B00AWQCRWG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1387495326&sr=1-1&keywords=a+soul%27s+calling

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Other People’s Books–#1: Only Shot at a Good Tombstone

I’m going to take a break from my regularly (or irregularly) scheduled discussions of my books and make some recommendations in the next few posts about some “indie” books that I’ve read, and loved, in the past year or so.  I’ve mentioned a few here before, but they’re worth mentioning again. (And there’s still time to get them as holiday gifts; I assume that they’re all eligible for the Amazon “MatchBook” promotion, which allows you to buy the Kindle version of a book for a significantly reduced price–usually 99 cents, and in some cases free–if you buy the print version.  One for you; one for a reader you love.)

The first book I’ll mention is Only Shot at a Good Tombstone, by Robert Mitchell.  I LOVE this book.  Robert is one of the best writers I know; he loves Kerouac and Salinger and Joyce and Steinbeck, and it shows.  Tombstone is definitely (and refreshingly, these days) not a light, frothy beach read; it requires a reader’s attention, and rewards it. Yet it’s unfailingly entertaining and thought-provoking and just downright wonderful (did I mention I love it?).  I was thinking just last night that it’s a book about a hero’s journey, albeit a decidedly unconventional one.

Here’s the review I wrote of the book a while back:

“As I read Only Shot at a Good Tombstone, I kept thinking about how I could possibly describe it to anyone else. On one of my Goodreads updates early on, I said something about how reading it was a little like getting on a ride at an amusement park, and having no idea what the ride would be like, and then finding yourself “hanging on for dear life” as the ride takes you to all kinds of unexpected places. I stand by that description.

If you’re the kind of reader who needs a conventional story-line, unfailingly upstanding and “respectable” characters, and tidy answers in order to enjoy a book, OSAAGT probably isn’t for you. There is no real discernible “plot” to the book; it simply follows a protagonist known only as the “young man” through a couple of days as he wanders around the smog-choked, chaotic city of L.A, allowing himself to be drawn into one tableau after another. But if you can just allow yourself to be led where the young man takes you, and keep in mind that “real life” doesn’t have any particular plot either (except, perhaps, in retrospect…perhaps), and tends to be more of a long series of encounters that are defined in large part by what you make of them, you should be able to really enjoy the ride.

It’s those “encounters”–each one elegantly detailed and engaging–that make up the book. What binds them all together and keeps the book from being nothing more than a random, piecemeal–albeit remarkably literate and well-written–gathering of scenes, leading nowhere, is the world-view and unfailing humanity of the “young man.” Although a self-described “freak”, his (and the author’s) compassion for every lost soul he comes across during his wanderings (one of the things that he considers “freaky” about himself is his ability to see the beauty in just about everyone), and his easy willingness to care in an unassuming way for others, allows US to see the characters in his world–and, perhaps, our own–as real, significant, and deserving of our attention. Each one of those characters, and his or her circumstances, is fully drawn and remarkable, and each tableau draws the reader in and turns pre-conceived ideas about “types” inside out, so that, perhaps, when she closes the book and goes out into her own world, she will be forced (in a truly positive way) to look beyond those types out there as well. And that can only be a good thing. (I found the character of Harold, a Jesus-like kind of “street prophet”, particularly affecting.)

But there is nothing “boring” about the book, and the author is not trying to hit the reader over the head to make a “point” (although the book is anything but pointless). Every story and encounter is fascinating and often haunting. Only Shot at a Good Tombstone is by turns funny, heartbreaking, illuminating, profane, “obscene” (but not gratuitously so), cynical, shocking, and just plain sweet. As in life, there are no easy answers, and no tidy conclusions, and each situation and character we meet will be affected by what we ourselves bring to it.

Yeah–I kinda loved this book. It’s one of those good, “old-fashioned” books in which the writer can actually write, and thinks deeply about what he’s writing, and is willing to take all kinds of unconventional chances (and has the talent to do so). I believe that it’s what we used to call ‘literature.'”

OK.  Go buy the freakin’ book! 🙂

http://www.amazon.com/Only-Shot-At-Good-Tombstone-ebook/dp/B0032JTVGU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1387381374&sr=1-1&keywords=only+shot+at+a+good+tombstone

Jung, Psychosis, Spiritual Emergence, and Fear

Since anonymously publishing Love in the Broken-Bird World, I have been deeply conflicted about whether or not I should disclose that it’s mine, for the rather obvious reason that I’m afraid of being branded delusional, psychotic, or just a no-account scammer (I am none of those things).  I’ve also thought that perhaps everything contained in it was meant for me only, and that to send anything like it “out into the world” always seems to lead inevitably to misunderstanding and distortion (as with, say, for example, religion, to a large degree).

On the other hand, I woke up this morning thinking about something that’s occurred to me many times since the whole experience described in the book started–that perhaps it’s that kind of fear of being labelled and/or misunderstood that has kept people from being open to more than what’s right in front of their faces (or, as the Hopi might say it, “closing the doors on top of their heads”).  Aside from a few understandably frightening experiences at the beginning of my own experience about six years ago, the overall outcome of it all for me has been incredible joy, peace, and even bliss (things not normally associated with, say, schizophrenia).  There is more about all of that in the preface of the book, which you can read using the “Preview” feature on the book’s Amazon page (see below) without actually having to buy the book.

A little later this morning, I just happened to come across something about Carl Jung’s “Seven Sermons to the Dead”, which I’d never heard of (I’m embarrassed to say that, although I keep meaning to, I still haven’t read any Jung at all).  In a commentary I read about the work, I found a quote of Jung’s about the experience that began it all for him.  The description was remarkably similar to some of the things that I experienced very early on (there have been many different, and often more subtle, things that have happened since that rather boisterous awakening), and my coming across it seemed to reinforce the thoughts I’d had earlier this morning.  This is what Jung said:

“It began with a restlessness, but I did not know what it meant or what “they” wanted of me. There was an ominous atmosphere all around me. I had the strange feeling that the air was filled with ghostly entities. Then it was as if my house began to be haunted….

Around five o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday the front doorbell began ringing frantically…but there was no one in sight. I was sitting near the doorbell, and not only heard it but saw it moving. We all simply stared at one another. The atmosphere was thick, believe me! Then I knew that something had to happen. The whole house was filled as if there were a crowd present, crammed full of spirits. They were packed deep right up to the door, and the air was so thick it was scarcely possible to breathe. As for myself, I was all a-quiver with the question: “For God’s sake, what in the world is this?” Then they cried out in chorus, “We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not what we sought/’ That is the beginning of the Septem Sermones. (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p190-1)”

(It was in particular his description of the “thickness” of the atmosphere, and the sense of there being a “crowd” present, that resonated with me.)

Finding that led me to look up again something I’d looked into on a number of occasions in the past; I Googled, “psychosis versus spiritual emergence.”  This time I found a paper written by Dr. Nicki Crowley entitled, “Psychosis or Spiritual Emergence–Consideration of the Transpersonal Perspective Within Psychiatry” (one could also, of course, read the work of Stanislav Grof).  This section also resonated with me:

“Psychotic phenomena such as delusions and hallucinations…follow clinical observations, which in western society are understood as symptoms of illness. This is based on the assumption that we understand the nature of ‘reality’, and that there is a narrow band of ‘normal’ perception, outside of which there is little useful potential. That certain dramatic experiences and unusual states of mind could be more than part of a purely pathological mental state, and hold some potential for personal growth and transformation is the subject of this paper.”

I have, as a result of the things that have happened to me over the past six years, come to firmly believe that we are trapped by just that–the arrogant belief that we are capable of truly understanding “the nature of reality.”  There is great freedom in taking absolutely nothing for granted, in not being limited by what others tell us is the “truth” (if there is such a thing), in “not believing everything you think.”  I don’t know how to explain that any more clearly; it’s probably something one has to come to on one’s own. (I do want to be clear in saying that I’m not a person who doesn’t believe that there is such a thing as mental illness–clearly, there is, and in most cases it must be utterly terrifying and destructive.)

The latter is also the case with Love in the Broken-Bird World.  Although some of the “sayings” it contains are quite straightforward and could possibly be useful to others, much of it seems to be geared solely to me and my understanding of things at the time (within the context of other things that I’ve been hearing or that have been happening).  There are parts of it that even I don’t understand, or that can be understood on many levels (or, as one of the sayings in the book goes, “…hearing, within the same song, fifteen different choruses”).

My point here, I guess, is simply that I know at this point that there is much more to things (a clumsy way to put it, but the best I can do) than what we tend to limit ourselves to.  As I was often told at the beginning of whatever it is that has been happening to me over the past six years, Let it happen.  If the result is consistently love and compassion, trust it (that sounds hokey, but if you experience it you’ll know what I mean).  If it’s anything else, my strong suggestion is that you see it as a problem and seek help with it right away, particularly if there is any suggestion at all that you harm yourself or anyone else.

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Broken-Bird-World-Dreamers-ebook/dp/B00D7V4PCS/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid

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