The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, July 30, 2010

Who is Responsible for the BP Oil Spill?

Who is responsible for the BP Oil Spill?

We are. Every person who was willing to spend 4.00 a gallon for gas was responsible. Every one of us has to wake up and realize that giant corporations are just acting out our unconscious drives to expand, eat, work as little as possible. They are vast, dispersed, protozoic quasi-organisms suffering the macro-version of America’s obesity epidemic. They are no better, and no worse, than the human beings that compose them. And the only answer to their growing power is that we, as the component cells of these “organisms” had better wake up and make conscious choices.

What stops us from awareness, awakeness, from taking adult responsibility for our lives and the world is fear. Face our fears of scarcity, of “the other”, of death, of loneliness, and virtually all the selling propositions of Madison Avenue, Washington, and Hollywood evaporate like vapor.

We can point the finger, or we can re-examine our priorities, and heal our hearts. Hypediaphobia (hy·peg·i·a·pho·bi·a) is the fear of responsibility. And responsibility is the door to adulthood. Trying to seek enlightenment? Fuggetaboudit unless you have first taken responsibility for your existence here and now.

And as long as you blame “them” for larger versions of what we, as individuals, do every day…this nightmare will continue, unabated, growing larger and stronger as we squabble. Wake up, people.

Our grandchildren are watching.

The <i>Real</i> Reason Couples Divorce

Fear kills love. A beautiful article detailing another way of understanding how "fear and love compete for the same place in our hearts." A couple that wants to survive will DELIBERATELY create bonding moments (sex, play, planning, meditation, exercise, prayer, family time) understanding that under stress, ego will do all it can to blame the "other." And that other people start looking mighty good--until you're in a relationship with 'em. Remember: no matter where you go, there you are. The only thing in common in your past relationships is that YOU were there. Take responsibility. Start with loving yourself and acknowledging that you are afraid and lonely. That honesty, once embraced, can guide you for the rest of your life.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Psychiatric Issues Behind Cyberbullying

Fear is your body preparing you for action. Cyberbullying removes the capacity for direct response, and that hormone cascade can turn against the victim, becoming chronic anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and helplessness, and a kind of destructive deep anger that can explode against self and others. We must help our children, and ourselves, find healthy ways of dealing with these feelings. Once the pure emotional energy strikes the prism of perceptual experience, it splits into love and fear, which compete for room in our hearts. The value of introspection, meditation, self-expression and self-acceptance cannot be overrated. We must find these values and skills in our own lives--only then can we pass them to our children.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Faith Fights Fear

I just got this note from a student and
wanted to share it:

Dear Steve,

I'm not sure if you read replies to these or
not, but I wanted to share an epiphany I
had while meditating. (I get a lot of
epiphanies while meditating, since it's,
you know, easier than actually meditating!)
Anyway, I re-read your "A Meteor Will Hit
Your Dog" post often, because it seems
like every time I try to get back into
meditation, or finish a short story,
the universe whomps me upside the head
like Mike Tyson. I don't mind so much
when it's just me, but when my friends
and family start hitting the skids, I
take it kinda personal.
So this time around, I've been bullheaded,
and just pushed my way through it, and
lately I've found the universe is also
throwing lots of GOOD stuff my way,
completely at random. And I remember
you mentioning this was a trick, too.
And (here's the epiphany, for what shiny
pennies it's worth) it reminded me a
little of the Book of Job (ok, so I'm
melodramatic) - but if you hold tight
to God, first your life gets flushed
down the toilet, and then you get it
back again even better, but in the
end, it's really just you and God,
and all the rest if fluff. I've
heard you can't really understand Job
unless you approach it from that
kind of esoteric slant, and that seems
like a good lesson to take from it.
So I just wanted to share that, and
thank you for the advice. Hopefully
soon I'll have more than 1 poem
published, but it's a start.

-- D.
This is spot-on. If you hold tight
to your goals, your dreams, your
values, and find sufficient faith
to make it through the “dark night,”
what you find on the other side is
that the Universe can collaborate
in your advancement as easily as
your destruction.

Remember: "Faith" is belief in one of three things
1) A higher power
2) The integrity of your allies
3) A deeper strength within yourself.

Faith fights fear


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The "A-Team" (2010)

So I went to see the "A-Team" last weekend. Eh. It was pretty much what I expected, so I can't complain. Anyone who needs a plot summary isn't the audience for this thing. It's amiable enough, and won't annoy your higher brain functions. Give it a "C", I'd reckon.
“Briefly speaking, ‘fear’ kidnaps the ability to think clearly, increasing the possibility of being lead into error, and decreasing the chance of opening the positive exit doors that may be available. Depending upon the context, ‘fear’ can lead to complications, losses, and tragedies, both big and small.”--Jagdish N Srivastava

One of the best approaches to characterization is to design a perfect human being, and then deliberately build in flaws. Damage them. Choose one or more of the seven key arenas of human life and create fear where they need courage.
Then, you need only design a plot that gives them an opportunity to gain the lessons or allies they need to overcome, to grow, to evolve or heal.
And how do I suggest writers gain the insight to accomplish this? Simple, really. Look within yourself. Ask yourself--where has fear stopped you in the past? Where does it stop you now? Too often, people won’t even admit that they want love, happines, health, because they would then have to confront their demons.
There are two basic ways of dealing with fear: increase the motivation to accomplish the goal, or decrease the actual pull of the negative emotion. Once you admit that you crave change in your life, you become responsible for that effect.
You can actually have your dreams--but the first step is admitting you desire them. Don’t cheat yourself: life is entirely too short. Use your “Diamond Hour” today to write your goals in all three basic arenas: health/fitness, relationship, and finance.
And tomorrow? Start bringing those dreams to life!

Walk with courage!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Back Home...

Been on the road for a week, researching the new books. Drove about a thousand miles over the last couple of days, and I'm deep-fried. But happy to be home!
Don't remember if I said this here, but INCEPTION is a remarkable piece of popular entertainment. Basically, a 150-million dollar art film Or: "Mission: Impossible" meets "The Matrix." Truly, a great time at the movies. See it!

We did a survey recently, asking for feedback
on a writing course, and I was shocked at the fact that
better than 70% of the responses, one way or
another, related to issues of fear:
writer's block, creativity, maintaining a
schedule...then I got dozens of private emails
asking about FEAR stopping people from
keeping commitments, finding a single hour
a day for themselves...fear that
manifests as guilt, blame, shame, freezing, anger,
grief...and far more. So my original intent was to
discuss CREATIVITY tomorrow, but we're going to
combine this with what is more of a core issue
than I realized, for more good people than I knew.
Please join us!

Sat., July 24, 2010, 1:00 PM Pacific Daylight time
Connect via phone or VoIP
(724) 444-7444
Call ID: 77111

Your question today:
Every human being feels alone and afraid.
Where do you hide YOUR loneliness and fear?

Me? I seek to communicate with an audience that
gives a damn about the things I care about. I tell
the people I love that I love them. I practice
martial arts. Meditate. Teach. Yoga.

These are the ways I deal with my negative emotions--
turning them into positive emotions. How about you?

Monday, July 12, 2010

New 'Anti-Rape' Condom Invented in South Africa

Would he kill her? Possibly. But the pain and shock would also give her a moment to retaliate. A slender nail (or thick pin) inserted into the proper part of the anatomy can kill at short range. I would think that, if she can keep her cool, it might give her a tactical advantage. When it comes down to it, freedom is only available to those who demand it, and are willing to risk death to have it. As horrendous as the situation is, anything that enables women to take power back from those who would diminish them...even at the risk of a worthwhile thing. Making them victims? Hardly. It makes them potential heroines.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thoughts and Actions

The following conversation took place on Facebook, regarding hate speech:


Actually, language doesn't make you a bigot. Actions make you a bigot. I am unaware of any specific actions (from Mel Gibson). That said, his language suggests a certain disordered thinking that may include actions...or might not. Don't know. I do know that I don't appreciate the language, and the assumption that either blacks are more likely to rape, or that ... it is a deeper shame to have it done by them. Either is...distasteful at the least. I will feel free to vote with my dollars. Such words give aid and comfort to the worst in our society. but I can't say for certain whether the man is a bigot. Evil language doesn't make you evil any more than positive language makes you good.

A reader responded:

That's a very interesting argument-- actions, not language, make one a bigot-- and I'll have to think on that for a while. I tend to think it is beliefs that make one a bigot or racist. Believing, for example, that one race is superior to others and/or that another race is inherently inferior qualifies as racist thinking, in my opinion. I think ... S merely seeing a well dressed black man in a new luxury vehicle and thinking privately that he must be a drug dealer or some sort of criminal is racism whether or not any action or spoken word accompanies the thought. The well dressed man is unaffected by the other's thoughts, of course, but that is precisely the kind of thinking that still poisons our justice system and our children's minds.


I can understand that perspective, but we can't read minds. I have thoughts about lots of things that I never act out. Thinking something brave doesn't make you brave. Thinking about murder doesn't make you a murderer. I think that if we become thought police, every human being is guilty, because our thoughts are never 100% under our control. ... See MoreOur actions, on the other hand, are far more directable. Speech is action, but it is easy to say things in total opposition to our behavior. "I love you, baby," the wife beater says. Which is true? the word or the action?
I think we have to cut ourselves a little more slack than that...or we would all be so consumed with guilt we couldn't move. Or worse...if words and actions are in any way equivalent, why not just do whatever we think? After all, we're damned anyway...

What do YOU think?

Friday, July 09, 2010

Fear as a gift

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, `I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along."--Eleanor Roosevelt.

This has been true in my life, and in the lives of my students. Fear is often a warning that real growth lies on the far side of an action or change. To gain clarity on this is to gain wisdom.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

My Next Book?

Nolan's "Inception" is getting stellar reviews across the board. Can't wait. Cracks me up when people say "Hollywood" has lost creativity. "Hollywood" is nothing but thousands of separate artists and business people trying to shake hands. The human race has been here a long, long time. How egotistical for some to think WE just happen to be living in the first generation without ideas. Everything goes in cycles.
Sleep Yoga
I’ve been getting odd pains in muscles and tendons in the sides of my legs. Yoga or certain kinds of exercise eases it, but it ticks me off and subtracts from the joy of waking up in the morning. So I experimented this morning with actually sleeping (or really, resting) in bed in a Pigeon Pose. Drowsed a while like that. It’s tricky to describe, but if you Google it, you’ll see what I was doing. And it seems to have had a great effect. Hmmm. I wonder if there are other poses I could actually sleep in to positive effect?
There was some controversy over on Facebook about Wonder Woman and how she no longer wears a flag. Some one called this “America Hate.” Jeeze, that’s a cheapening of the term “hate.” “Hate,” it seems, now means anything other than thinking the world revolves around the object of attention. Why in the world would an Amazon attach specifically to America? There is no real logical sense to it...and it makes sense only in the terms of a comic book iconography. She isn’t Captain America, after all.
Hey, a question. I forget if I’ve asked this before: Who out there thinks Bin Laden is still alive? I think he’s been dead for about eight years. His “images” don’t seem to have aged a day, and this is a guy on dialysis who is sneaking from cave to cave. He should look like hammered shit. And hasn’t given a single interview to Al Jazeera, which strains credulity. I think he’s dead, we know it but couldn’t produce the body, but everyone likes a boogyman. What do you think?
The recent discussion of relaxing strictures with Cuba prompted some Senator to complain that this was bad timing, “we have the Castro regime on the ropes.” What? Now...this shouldn’t be a Democrat-Republican or Liberal-Conservative issue, because every administration in fifty years has kept this crap going. And Castro is the longest-running strong man dictator in the world, to my knowledge (I guess he’s semi-retired now.) I mean, if we HADN’T isolated him, how much more successful could he have been? I find it likely that our very isolation of Cuba helped him stay in power, allowed him to blame the “Norte Americanos” for anything in their culture his people disliked. And the fact that we openly do business with China and Russia kinda makes our attitude toward Cuba seem...well, like there’s something else going on there. My favorite conspiracy theory? Castro had something to do with the JFK assassination. We couldn’t make it public without triggering an outcry to invade. And invading Cuba would have triggered a nuclear exchange. That puts us between a rock and a hard place. The available option was to isolate Cuba to “punish” her for whatever role she played, a policy that could never be discussed publicly, but has been maintained by administration after administration...
Hey, don’t tell me someone couldn’t write that book!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A little scared...

I'm working on a book with one of the few people who intimidate me, National Book Award winner ("Middle Passage") Charles Johnson. He's a buddy, and the nicest guy in the world, but God, he's brilliant, and accomplished and (gulp!) an academic icon. The project we've planned out is just great... if/when I pull it off it could be the best thing I've ever done. But wow, the butterflies. I think that's a good sign. Shows I'm still alive, and still have room to grow. I don't even think I want the fear to fade...might keep me on my toes!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

I need your help!

I Need Your Help!

It’s been almost twenty years since I created the original, bestselling Lifewriting course, and I’ve been working furiously on an update incorporating everything I’ve learned over the last decade. The new course will be called THE SEVEN SECRETS OF PROFESSIONAL WRITING.
But I need your help narrowing down the material, deciding what to include and exclude. If you would take five minutes and go to:
and answer just ten multiple-choice questions, it will help me create the most valuable and dynamic course possible!

Thanks in advance!


"The Last Airbender" (2010)

No, I haven't seen it, and almost certainly will not. If ever there was a movie that deserved to fail, it is "Last Airbender," with its disgraceful whitewashing of an Asian motif. If ever an artist sold himself out, it is M. Night Shyamalan. What white director has never made a film with Caucasians? Female director who has never made one about women? He has cut himself off at the root, and I doubt he will ever find his way home again. Reports say it is an incomprehensible mess. How could it be otherwise? Films and novels are too complicated to hold purely in the conscious mind. And on some deep level, Shyamalan has to KNOW what he has done. Ang Lee or John Woo can dabble in Hollywood...but can go home and work with the mythologies of their own people, or look back on a body of work that reflects their own culture and genetics. What director, ever, has been in such denial? There are damned few writers who have never labored in their own vineyards, culturally speaking. And speaking from my own personal experience, there would only be a few reasons to do this:
1) A genuine and deep fascination with the "other." There are a few white writers who are so fascinated with, say, Asian culture that they have created characters set in ancient China, and to my knowledge have written nothing or little else. This is really remarkable, and rare
2) Money. The knowledge that if they write about "their own" they risk rejection and/or poor sales. This is the road to hell, because that artist has to deal with a few ugly things, for instance the belief (valid or invalid) that the group he creates for has contempt and/or disinterest/ disconnection from people who look like him.
3) Fear/Protective coloration. This is the "self-hating Jew" path: changing the name, bobbing the nose, and pretending to be Protestant. Or the self-loathing Gay conservative who votes against gay marriage while cruising the bars at night, courting self-destruction. It is the "see? I'm just like you! Don't hurt me! I actually agree with you about "those" people. I'm not one of them!" This is a horror. I would say that maybe 2% of such artists are case #1. I don't think Shyamalan is one of them. I think that if you go deep enough, he would want, at the least, to create multiethnic stories . At best, nurture and create stars of his own "kind" to tell stories that reflect his culture and genetics. To CHOOSE to do otherwise is one thing. To be FORCED to in order to have a career, to sell out your heart for money and fame, is something else all together.

When we do that, we are raping the creative child within us. I think he is a brilliant man. I also think he is lost, and can no longer recognize the sound of the human voice. He has nothing but intellect now, no heart to guide the way. And was he right to believe he couldn't reflect his own reality and appeal to America? I would say absolutely. I would reiterate that Hollywood is LESS racist than America as a whole, and America more open to those "others" than the world as a whole. The problem is human perception itself, tribalism, deep survival patterns that kept our ancestors alive in ages past. It is not "America," "Hollywood" or "white people." It is us. The way Liberals and Conservatives each use language suggesting they are more human, wiser, smarter, more ethical than their political opposition. The way most religions quietly assume their own superiority, and that everyone else is going to hell. The way nationalism assumes that everyone's country is "exceptional." Or that most people think they are above-average drivers or lovers.

This is what we are. We are all victims of it, and we all oppress. The only difference I see is that some people are aware, and try to swim against this tide, and others believe if we all just stop acknowledging differences and "special interests" it will all work out. All that is necessary for bigotry to triumph is for people of good will to believe we are "Post Racial."

I think the trainwreck that is M. Night Shyamalan's career is a classic example of self-denial devolving to self destruction. If I was an Asian actor, I would want to strangle him. On some deep level, M. Night would probably want to help.