The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Choke: 30th Anniversary? Say Not So!

I just wrote a foreword to the (almost) 30th anniversary edition of DREAM PARK, which will be published prior to the publication of the 4th novel, THE MOON MAZE GAME, next year. Wow. A lot of water under the bridge. So much fun, and sweat...wouldn't have missed this ride for the world.


The whole "birther" thing is impossible for me to take as anything other than mental dysfunction. Then again, my problem is that I don't believe in vast conspiracies. Really, in conspiracies that require more than a few dozen people, at absolute maximum. I suppose that the closest Liberal equivalent might be the 9/11 conspiracy folks. Is there a better one?


My postings haven't been as regular as I'd like, and once again, it's because life is so busy right the best possible ways. Television, film, fiction, non-fiction and lecturing are all popping at the same time. I'm dealing with my son's anger issues (BOY, does he hate to lose! Reminds me of someone...) and have finally, finally, after a lifetime of searching, have managed to balance all my different fitness, skill and health components in a single program that takes about a half hour every morning. My communication with my wife isn't just important, it is critical to our personal and professional life, so we have to take that to a whole different level. We are re-writing a film script at the direct request of a studio, preparing a television series pitch, I'm writing a science fiction novel with my mentor Larry Niven, writing the third Tennyson Hardwick detective novel with my wifie, researching a contemporary thriller involving quantum physics, National Security, and the damnedest cult you ever saw. All those balls in the air at the same time means that I, as the juggler, have to find a moment of peace in-between the times that the balls touch my hand. I have to sigh deeply, relax, let it go, and in each individual moment do only what there is to be done IN THAT MOMENT, without concern for tomorrow or yesterday. Yes, there are times to concern oneself with future and past. But when you are actually engaged? Only NOW exists. Only NOW has power. Everything else is a drag or a distraction.

Where, in your life, writing, relationships, you avoid the NOW? Where have you lost power in such a fashion? When have you let fear of the future, or guilt of the past drain your strength, throw you out of balance? If you can identify such moments, you can prevent them. The most important thing you can do is to strive to remain conscious of actions, intentions, and results, strive to be optimally appropriate in every moment. Try to catch yourself in lies and false justifications. Catch the areas in which your reality map is warped. How can you know? (We are all so damned good at lying to ourselves!)

Simple, and ruthlessly efficient: look at the three major areas of your life. If your performance and results do not match your values, something is out of whack. If they are IN alignment with your values, but do not bring you far more pleasure than pain, something is out of whack. Don't pay attention to the voices in your head with a million justifications. Every worm moves away from pain and toward pleasure. If you haven't worked that one out, it has NOTHING to do with a lack of capacity, and everything to do with a lack of clarity, with value conflicts, with negative emotional charges anchored to actions and beliefs.

This stuff must be sorted through, daily. Because the natural human tendency is to go back to sleep. To mistake the dream for awakening. And that can be disastrous to your chances for real happiness.


Marty S said...

Steve: I don't know why you bother to mention the Birthers. It gives them more credibility than they deserve. I may not like many of Obama's policies, but, he ran for president, he was elected president, he is president. Period. End of story.

Bennett said...

Funnily, I was reading and listening to this right before I came here and saw that thing about birthers. Marty's absolutely right, paying this much attention to people makes their claims more credible. And when those claims are so spiteful and outlandish, that benefits no one.

Regarding where I fall asleep? Using your rubric, it's got to be relationships. I haven't dated for years, haven't attempted it, haven't moved past crushing on a friend (and mooning over her helpless has kept me in limbo and misery for a while now, though I'm starting to get a hold on that). My career and health are the best they've ever been, almost exactly on the path I want to be following.

But I'm always looking forward and back on relationships, never in the moment. I guess because the moment hurts, what with it being full of loneliness.

Which would support your hypothesis pretty solidly. Anesthetizing myself with distraction and daydreaming to get away from pain and all that.


Anonymous said...

Andrew McCarthy is a former federal prosecutor who went to court for the Clinton Administration against the 1993 WTC bombers. His recent overview of the Obama birth-certificate issue is the best-reasoned and -written thing on the "birther" issue that I've so far seen.

McCarthy points out that, while Obama doesn't have any real issue over his birthplace, he may well have a real issue over unresolved dual citizenship with both the U.S. and Indonesia -- which might explain why Obama's gone to such inordinate lengths to keep a full replica of his birth certificate itself (along with a number of other things from his early life, such as his Occidental college records) from being made public.

--Erich Schwarz

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

I like this take on the Birthers (recommended by a blog at the Economist, of all places): Alex Knapp has a lot of fun, there.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

The thing about the "dual citizenship" argument, as it's posed in the article Eric links, is that it would just make Obama a US citizen in the same fashion that I, and millions of other Americans, are citizens; I know that I could have qualified for Greek citizenship through my father, had I taken advantage of it, but it never occurred to me that that would make me any less a "natural born" US citizen. In fact, no one raised the issue with Dukakis, who like me was the child of a Greek immigrant, and therefore like me could have qualified for Greek citizenship if he'd chosen to.

Every argument for Obama not being a natural born citizen either posits really a implausible large scale conspiracy or winds up making millions of Americans whom we've always treated at natural born citizens and who never had reason to believe themselves not to be such suddenly not natural born.

Marty S said...

This birther issue just a symptom of our current problems in this country. I am depressed by the media these days. Whether its FOX, MSNBC, or AP articles the news reporting is so slanted its a;most impossible to learn the truth anymore.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

True, Marty. It's pretty much the same deal as the "truthers" on the left with their conspiracy theories about 9/11.

Anonymous said...

"'dual citizenship' ... would just make Obama a US citizen in the same fashion that I, and millions of other Americans, are citizens..."

Could be -- I Am Not A Lawyer (though McCarthy is).

All I know is, it is somewhat strange that Obama would go to vast lengths to keep a birth certificate non-transparent and unavailable to the public when, as far as anybody's willing to concede, there is zero information on that birth certificate which would be interesting to anybody.

McCarthy's article at least gives some vaguely sane reason why Obama might have bothered to lawyer up so heavily over the alleged non-issue of his birth certificate -- a reason that doesn't invoke Obama having been flown from Kenya as a newborn, and that is consistent with documented mendacity from Obama about other features of his own past life.

--Erich Schwarz

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

All I know is, it is somewhat strange that Obama would go to vast lengths to keep a birth certificate non-transparent and unavailable to the public

I've seen no evidence that he has gone to vast lengths. He's supplied the usual birth certificate that everyone born in Hawaii gets, people looked at it and promptly made up a bunch of conspiratorial nonsense about how it wasn't real (which was then refuted by fact checkers who looked at the birth certificate and compared it with known other Hawaiian birth certificates), and then he didn't bother to press Hawaii for an extra-special birth record that no one normally ever gets or uses just to satisfy the tin foil hat brigade. They don't, after all, look especially susceptible to rational examination of evidence.

Similarly, Sarah Palin didn't go out of her way to get all her hospital records released when bloggers like Andrew Sullivan questioned Trig's really being her child.

bothered to lawyer up so heavily

Eh, the courts have been giving short shrift to the birther suits. It seems to me that the heavy lawyering up is being overstated here. All that's going on is a pretty standard sort of defense against frivolous lawsuits.

Anonymous said...

"... the courts have been giving short shrift to the birther suits."

Well, let's break it all down into components, then.

What makes the suits even an issue? That Obama isn't willing to produce a copy of his actual birth certificate, rather than the laserprinted subset of birth certificate information that Hawaii issues.

Why isn't Obama willing to do it? To prove some sort of point, apparently.

What point? Beats me. McCarthy's argument (that the actual birth certificate might have gotten Obama in a legal battle over dual citizenship) may be wrong, but it's at least consistent with all the available data, including the undisputed fact that Obama travelled to Pakistan at age 20 on a passport of unspecified nationality at a time when American citizens were being officially advised not to travel there.

But isn't there an alternative hypothesis? Sure. Though, as near as I can make out from the Left comments I've seen, the alternative explanation is this: Obama needs to keep from producing a copy of his actual birth certificate because he just needs to, so shut up, birthers!

(Which is not exactly what I'd call dialectic that would make Socrates blush with envy, but we can't have everything.)

Is Obama's ongoing legal defense being done for free, or even inexpensively? Please.

Is Obama's legal team small, or large and expensive? I'd guess the latter; how about you?

So, is it fair to say that Obama's "lawyered up" about this? I'd say so. Obama's gone to probably great legal expense and effort to avoid doing something that would take most of us ordinary citizens a few weeks and $50 to do, if we were running for the Presidency and people actually wanted to know something about us.

But isn't Obama entitled to do that? As far as I can tell, as an utter legal amateur: yes! Even if Obama did travel to Pakistan on an Indonesian passport at age 20, that probably doesn't invalidate his eligiblity to be President. Nor does it invalidate his right to fling around lawyers like a Hamptons socialite caught in a hit-and-run accident.

So why would Obama bother to keep his full birth certificate, or the nationality of his passport in 1981 on his Pakistan trip, or other such matters secret? I don't know. But it seems likely to me that he badly needs to maintain an image that would be weakened if certain details of his life -- even if they were entirely lawful.

Does that make Obama a "Manchurian Candidate" then? Not to my mind. But it also doesn't make him somebody who I really feel able to trust much. For some other people, Obama's deliberate obscurity about his own past life evokes much stronger negative reactions than mine.

So they're nutters, right? I certainly hope and believe so. I've been burned politically enough times in my life that I really don't need Obama's concealed life to have something truly awful in it. I just need to have him quietly serve out his Presidency without leaving behind too much Marxist damage. If somebody did turn up proof that Obama was born in Kenya, it'd produce a political Apocalypse that I for one could live without.

So, it'd be better not to know about Obama having been born in Kenya, even if impossibly he was? Oh, no, I didn't say that. I'd want that truth out even though the heavens fell. But then, I'm an agnostic with a hard-science Ph.D. who suspects that people really are happier believing in God and an afterlife, and yet refuses to assent to that belief. Unhappy truth is my stock in trade.

So you do want Obama to have been born in Kenya! No. Truly, the best thing that could happen with the birther thing would be for Obama to produce his full birth certificate and shut all but the utter zanies up. Second best thing would be for things to stay where they are now. Worst thing would be if he suddenly was shown to be Kenyan and the country exploded.

--Erich Schwarz

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