PLAYING WITH FIRST NAMES

Carmichael’s, the restaurant her family owns in my new novel, has me looking more closely at others.

Long before I ever anticipated what’s evolved into my newest novel, What’s Left, I ended my first published novel with a young woman named Diana, in part because I liked the two puns it allowed. Her husband-to-be, a student of Tibetan Buddhism, had returned to Indiana – and now he could boast of a love that allowed him to be in Diana as well as in Dhyana, or deep meditation.

Not that you have to understand Sanskrit to read it. Shouldn’t the mere hint of something exotic should suffice?

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AND HAVE A GOOD DAY?

In the early days of Friends, they’d often greet each other with the question, “How does Truth prosper among you?” Not “How are you doing?” or even “Good morning.”

Strikes modern ears as puzzling, even problematic, beginning with that verb prosper, which we tend to consider along financial terms rather than thrive or even proliferate. Equally unfamiliar is the idea of Truth being active – alive – rather than static and unchanging.

To further thicken the plot, consider their linkage of Truth and Christ, so the question also asks, “How is Christ alive among you?”

How would you answer that!

~*~

For more along these lines, take a look at Religion Turned Upside Down.

 

RAISING THE STAKES

The kids raise a valid point when they notice how much we teach them about Quakers back then – but what about now?

Yes, what about NOW!

We need to get our act more together and acknowledge many of the remarkable ways we continue to witness today, usually in individual callings that deserve more support from the rest of us. So maybe the kids’ question can help us better focus on our greater purpose.

I’d like us to proclaim more of the courageous work of Friends internationally, too – I can think of examples in Cuba and Kenya in our own time.

Not all of the action involves peace and forgiveness issues, either.

Consider, too, two points from a visit to an Evangelical Friends Church on the other end of the Quaker spectrum from my own Meeting:

“Is Jesus Christ going to be exalted and praised?”

Her shocked look haunts me, considering the big Quaker gathering where I’m headed. I think, Yes, but in ways you wouldn’t recognize.

Also, humbly, as another realizes from one difficult exchange with a customer at her business previously that week: “I may be the only Jesus they’ll see.”

Now we’re talking business.

~*~

For similar thoughts, check out Religion Turned Upside Down.

RECOVERING WHAT HAD BEEN LEFT UNSAID

Decades ago, faced with a question of just what Friends believe, I embarked on an exploration that might provide a more inclusive answer than “Some believe this …” or “Most do that …”

To the surprise of many, the Religious Society of Friends does have a rich underlying theology, one so radical our First Publishers of Truth (one of the original names for the Quaker movement) couldn’t voice it in its fullness in the earliest years before settling into a system of practice rather than fully pursuing its intellectual implications.

Call it an alternative Christianity if you will, but even Friends need to understand its dimensions.

~*~

For more, check out my essays, Religion Turned Upside Down.

WITH GRATITUDE FOR THE INSPIRATION

You know the disclaimer, “Any resemblance of the characters to real people living or dead …” Something along the lines of purely unintentional.

But let’s be frank. The fiction is that you can create a character without having someone real in front of you, somewhere in your past or present. No, you need flesh and blood somewhere. Anything else would be a caricature.

It’s a special problem when you’re composing in a semi-autobiographical vein. You’re trying to be true to the dictum, Write about what you know. The details, especially.

(Oh? What, then, makes it fiction? Other than changing a few dates?)

Admittedly, the personalities work best when you take your inspiration and abstract it, so that a real individual would no longer recognize himself or herself – or those who were no way involved will imagine they, themselves, were.

And, by way of further confession, I’ll note that my most recent outings have led me to new characters lacking immediate introductions for me – but I’ll know them when I meet them if I haven’t already come across them here and there in pieces.

But back to the argument at hand.

I have one character, Nita, who runs through four of my five Hippie Trails novels and is a major character in the new one I’m writing, set years later. She was inspired by impressions I had of a friend’s girlfriend – or more accurately, mostly his impressions conveyed to me at the time – as I sat down to draft a half-dozen years or so later. She becomes a catalyst for much that happens around her.

In reality, we all drifted away.

And then, a few years ago, I met her again.

Nothing like I’d remembered. Or the idealized character in my fiction, now infused with another two or three people I’ve met. The lines blur.

I can say this person never did X, Y, or Z, unlike the character. Or that these two worked together on a controversial project or became known for certain accomplishments. In fact, she doesn’t resemble the other one at all, not anymore, if she ever did.

Still, it’s an eerie feeling. Something other than deja vu. Something still spurring gratitude for the inspiration.

For more on the series, click here.

~*~

THE INVISIBLE FACTOR

In the buildup of national elections, once again a major influence remains the elephant in the room. I’m referring to the legacy – make that plural, legacies – of the hippie outburst, especially in contrast to those on the Vietnam war side of the divide.

The wounds and tensions haven’t gone away. Just look at the continuing proliferation of POW-MIA black flags across the landscape, on one side.

For the other, the lines are much more hazy yet festering. As I’ve been arguing, hippies came – and still come – in all varieties and degrees, and likely nobody ever fit what’s become the media stereotype. With the end of the military draft, the movement lost a crucial motivating force and focusing definition.

Complicating the situation was the distancing many youths on the antiwar side felt when it came to politics. With its support of the military at the time, liberal politics were tainted with outdated Cold War ideologies like those of the conservative side. For hippies, radical was the label of honor. And the Democratic Party base of the left was splintered as its youthful potential allies had nowhere to turn or direct their forces in the political arena.

The horror meant going from a hawkish LBJ administration to one of Richard Nixon.

Fast-forward now to the present American landscape. Gone are the grandparents and parents of many of the now senior baby boomers – the core of the hippie movement versus the older generations. Yet political candidates still tiptoe around many of the reality issues, beginning with marijuana and other illicit substances, as if they’re too hot to touch. Let’s get real. Want to talk about litmus tests?

As we look at candidates, ask where each stands on a scale of continuing issues from the hippie stream. I find it enlightening.

  • Peace and social justice activism.
  • Sexual equality … including abortion rights.
  • Racial equality.
  • Environmental and ecological issues, including the outdoors.
  • Educational alternatives and opportunities.
  • Sustainable economics and fair trade.
  • Spirituality and radical religion.
  • Fitness along the lines of yoga, bicycling, kayaking, hiking.
  • Organic and natural foods.
  • Marijuana reform.
  • Arts and crafts.
  • Community as common wealth, including health care.
  • Labor as a matter of respect and a livable income.

Well, we have Bernie running straight true to the cause. Hillary, more cautiously so. But on the right? Let me suggest being wary of anyone in the pro-war camp who hasn’t served. Period. As for other life experiences?

~*~

All of this returns me to my Hippie Trails series of novels. I’d love for you to come along. Just click here.