“Living in Interesting Times”

»Posted by on Oct 15, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Today is October 14, three days before the US government runs out of money — that is, the power to borrow more money to cover our out-of-balance budget. The partisan conflict in Washington is intensifying: on one side are those who see financial default as the end of life as we know it; on the other are those who see Big Government, exemplified by Obamacare, as evil. Viewed with a little detachment, the situation brings to mind what I wrote in chapter 86 of The Accidental Peacemaker: At the ‘usual time and place,’ Walter got into Mac’s pickup, fastened his seat belt, and accepted the customary cup of coffee from Mac, but he couldn’t contain his enthusiasm very long. “The world sure looks different from what it did the last time we went fishing. It’s been an interesting couple of weeks.” Mac laughed. “There’s said to be an ancient Chinese curse, ‘May you live in interesting times,’ although its authenticity is questionable, because those who quote it are unable to supply the original Chinese. Supposedly it was the first of three curses of increasing severity, the second being ‘May you come to the attention of powerful people’ and the third ‘May your wishes be granted.’ So just because you’ve made it this far doesn’t mean you can relax.” The invocation, ‘May you live in interesting times,’ here suggested to be a curse, can also be regarded as a blessing. That fact, in itself, is enough to create suspicion of Chinese origin — that is, in Taoism, where thinking is non-dualist. In dualist thought, exemplified by Aristotelian logic, things are either true or false, right or wrong, good or bad, black or white — they must be one or the other, and they cannot be both. In Taoism, things can not only be both at the same time, but that is how they always are, always have been, and always will be. There is no ‘absolute’ good, because the very existence of ‘good’ implies the simultaneous existence of its opposite, ‘evil.’ This notion seems strange — even erroneous — to us here in the United States, in the Western world, but it is how life is viewed in Eastern cultures. Moreover, I suggest that we would do well to adopt that point of view. Instead of seeing the Affordable Care Act as the epitome of evil, we might admit that our health care system is under-performing and overly expensive (as compared with other nations) and therefore in need of radical overhaul. And instead of seeing financial default as the end of the world — that is, the death knell of American exceptionalism — we might recognize that it could open the way to a more balanced and equitable world financial system, with less difference between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ nations. I don’t know how to get this idea into the heads of extremist politicians in Washington, or provocative talk-show hosts, or even my fundamentalist neighbors (who are nevertheless my friends), much less religious fanatics intent on jihad or political wing-nuts committed to revolution. It’s why I wrote my book in the first place, but that was the easy part, compared with getting people to buy it and read it. If you are reading this now, please give some thought to how you can help. — George Lindamood 14 October...

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“More Weirdo Thoughts”

»Posted by on Sep 22, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Watching the US Tennis Open, observing which players catch our interest and gain our support, brings into awareness how our travels abroad have changed us. We would never have become fans of Li Na if we hadn’t spent seven months in China in 2004. Now, however, with some awareness of the culture she comes from, we are curious to see how she adapts to international tennis competition, which is dominated by Western culture, and how the Chinese sports bureaucracy adjusts its priorities based upon her success, especially her winning the French Open in 2011, making her Asia’s first and (so far) only Grand Slam tennis champion. Then there’s Ichiro. He had played nine years in Japanese baseball before becoming the first Japanese-born position player in Major League Baseball in 2001, but most American fans didn’t appreciate how unusual it was for a Japanese player to be known only by his given name. (His family name, Suzuki, is as common in Japan as Smith in the US.) Nor did they understand that his player number in Seattle, 51, can be read “Go ichi,” like a cheer for him. Instead Seattle fans made a different association and right field, where he played, became known locally as Area 51, a metaphor that is probably lost on most Japanese citizens. Of course, once he led the league in batting and stolen bases, became MVP and Rookie of the Year, and broke several long-standing batting records, Ichiro became a household word among baseball fans everywhere. Having lived almost four years in Japan a decade before Ichiro played pro ball, we knew nothing of him personally in 2001, although we had developed some appreciation for Japanese baseball, even attending a few games in Tokyo. But our interest in the Seattle Mariners — even Major League Baseball in general — ratcheted up several notches when he joined the team — and it fell again when he was traded to the New York Yankees. And, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit, my feelings about the damned Yankees also changed when they got Ichiro. These are small things — trivial, really — but they are not insignificant. They affect how we feel and consequently how we think. The fact that several of my closest friends in China were members of the Communist Party affects my feelings about the Chinese government, China as a nation, and even Communism as a system of government. So that’s who I am, for better or worse, and if knowing that affects how you think about me and what I write, so be it. That’s how humans work. — George Lindamood 22 September...

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“Reply to Reader Comments”

»Posted by on Aug 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve received some feedback suggesting that a few readers of my book found some of the dialogue “unrealistic” or “unbelievable.” In attempting to understand why, I got suggestions that (1) those readers are well under the age of 40, whereas nearly all of my characters are 40 or older; (2) those readers have spent all (or nearly all) of their lives in the northeastern US, but my characters live in the Pacific northwest; (3) I the author am older than most of my readers and I’ve lived the last twenty of my 75 years in Washington state; and/or (4) I’ve also lived and worked in Japan (four years), China (seven months), and Thailand (two months) and traveled for shorter periods well outside the four-star hotels in Barbados, Brazil, Canada, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, and the Philippines, which gives me a perspective that probably differs significantly from that of the typical US citizen. (Statistics can be misleading, but only a third of US citizens have passports, and most of our international travel is to Canada or Mexico. The fact that I’ve put in this much time in non-European countries may mark me as some kind of weirdo.) So what if I am a weirdo? I have found that my atypical experiences — items (3) and (4) above — have given me a valuable perspective, and that is what I want to share with my readers. My hope is that it will help them be a little more tolerant, a little more understanding of people with different accents or skin color, and that is one reason I wrote the book. I hope that readers will find that valuable, precisely because it is sometimes discomforting. So, if my prose stretches your vocabulary or your understanding or your credibility or even your faith, relax. That’s what it’s intended to do. Enjoy! — George Lindamood 24 August...

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“What is Your Book About?”

»Posted by on Apr 30, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

“What is Your Book About?” This is always the first question I get when I tell someone that I’m writing — or now, that I’ve written — a book. I used to have trouble answering it at all, much less succinctly, but having had nearly three years of practice, I think I’m finally getting it figured out. So here goes. The book is about “the second half of life.” The message is that the second half of life need not be — I would even say should not be, although my wife says that’s preaching — a simple continuation or a repetition of the first half. People who have studied human development — Angeles Arrien, for instance — say that the motif of the first half of life is ambition but in the second half it becomes meaning. So, somewhere in the middle, there is a change — a “midlife crisis” perhaps — and for anybody who has ever tried to change horses in midstream, there are some difficulties and some dangers that must be dealt with, and that’s what my book is about. From that it follows that my intended reader is somebody who is in the midst of that, or is on the verge of that, or possibly who has come through that — somebody who has been divorced, downsized, depressed, discouraged, or at least doubtful. That pretty much includes everybody beyond puberty, but I was really thinking of people over 35 when I started writing. I’ve been through all of those things: divorced once, downsized three times, and the other three “D-spells” more times than I can count. So I wanted to write about what I had learned and to provide some answers, many of them somewhat unconventional, that might be helpful to others. But I didn’t want to write a “self-help book.” One of the last things the world needs is more of those. There are a gazillion of them already and almost everybody buys at least one at some time or other, but very few of them get read all the way thru and even fewer of them get heeded, because people don’t like to change. They think that change is abnormal or painful, so they go to great lengths to avoid it, to avoid even thinking about it. Thus I wrote my self-help book as a story — sort of sugar-coating the pill to help readers to swallow it — just like Jesus used parables to get his points across, and likewise other “wisdom teachers” from all times and cultures. (Sufi tales are my favorites.) I wanted to make my story interesting enough that people would keep reading all the way to the end without getting hung up on whether to accept into their own belief structures any of the ideas I’m presenting. I felt I was writing a “didactic novel” in the same tradition as Marcus Borg’s Putting Away Childish Things or William Young’s The Shack or Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead or any of countless others written with the intention of teaching more than entertaining. Consequently, I was surprised when the first editor who reviewed my book said that I had written “a thriller,” but the more I thought about it, the more I was pleased because it meant that I had done a better job of sugar-coating than I had expected. So I hope that readers will find my novel entertaining, and if that’s all they get out of it, that’s OK with me. But there’s lots more there that folk might find rewarding if they take the time to reflect on it, stuff that I could just as well have left out and made the book half as long. I did hold a good bit of that back, and edited out some of it after the first draft, so I have plenty of material for a sequel, perhaps two or three, but I won’t even consider starting to write another book until I see how people react to this one. I don’t want to limit myself to just what my own little imagination can produce. — George Lindamood 30 April...

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