The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Week To Go

"...I will eliminate hatred, envy jealousy, selfishness and cynicism, by developing love for all humanity, because I know that a negative attitude toward others can never bring me success"--Napoleon Hill


My, my. The more I get into "Think and Grow Rich" the more I remember why I loved it in the first place. Or changed my personality to the point that I feel completely aligned with its precepts. I wonder who I would have been without my Mom's constant bombardment of positive thinking material? I wish I knew what triggered her interest in this stuff. What was she searching for? I fear that she didn't find it...and that is tragic. But I've taken it to heart, and hope that whereever she is, even if only buried in my own subconscious, she knows I've done the best I can to live up to the standards she set for me.


Reading "Timon of Athens," arguably Shakespeare's least-performed play. It's about a wealthy man who finds out that all his "friends" are parasites, unwilling to lift a finger when he is in need. It's a nasty little piece of work, in some ways, but certainly entertaining.

## week until the new Tennyson novel is finished. One thing I've noticed over the years is that I have to finish one project for the next major project to present itself. After "Capetown" I'll move onto the "Lion's Blood" sequel (I hope) and a suspense novel, "12 Days", which is a semi-sequel to "The Kundalini Equation." Still working on the outline for that one...but it's looking good.


Pagan Topologist said...

This positive thinking stuff amazes me, even to this day. I wish I had been indoctrinated that way as a child, but the Xtian message in Appalachia was to avoid the sin of Pride, no matter what. Self hatred was next to Godliness. The ongoing message was: You are unbelievably worthless; only by the blood of Jesus can you claim any worthiness at all, and even then it isn't your worthiness.

This is why I feel that Christianity is so totally evil (even though many of my Pagan friends say this is an unhealthy misreading of the situation.)

Mike R said...

My mom loved (and still loves) self help books, but I could not stand them growing up. She listened to self-help books on tape (when they were actually on tape) in the car all the time and I would tune them out any way I could.

It wasn't until my late 20's, early 30's (ie, now) that I started reading and enjoying self-help books. My mom is amazed at this, but even more amazed when I put things I've read into practice. Like your Mom, I think my Mom is searching for something in them but I don't think she is finding it.

Scott said...

Looking forward to 12 Days.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...


I agree with your condemnation of Christianity. In claiming to exalt the weak, Christianity enshrines their failure as nobility and demands the systematic cultivation of self-denigration so as to level all with the most abject and debased. Imagine the wondrous and positive social transformation if "the Meek shall inherit" meme were replaced with "The strong, smart and determined shall win" as an ethical directive.


Vince Moore said...

A sequel to The Kundalini Equation?!? Count me in sight unseen.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Pagan Topologist, any religion with as much history and as many people as Christianity isn't going to be just one thing.

In particular, while I think most Christians believe in original sin, there's a lot of variation in how much emotional emphasis they put on it. There are Christians who basically focus on the idea of a nurturing God rather than a punishing God.

Hypothesis: Any scripture rich enough to support a major religion will have so much in it that it will be something of a Rorschach

The Basement Guitarist said...

Oh man, three sequels that I can't WAIT for! "Kundalini" was my favorite book you'd written right up to the point you released "Lion's Blood". And I am loving the Tennyson novels, so I can't wait to read "Capetown".

Thanks for the good news!

Unknown said...

to avoid the sin of Pride, no matter what

My father constantly modelled the sin of Pride :-). In a lighthearted way.

When we played Botticelli, if one of us was thinking of someone beginning with a "G," he would ask, "Is it a famous scientist?" and we were to answer, "It's not Denos Gazis."

Shady_Grady said...

PT- I think that is a slight misreading of Christianity, though perhaps not some strains of Calvinism.

EI, I wouldn't necessarily look at anyone who is "weak" as a "failure" and I don't really think that's what you meant? Maybe I am misunderstanding.

Anyway I don't think Christianity was trying to say that weakness or failure is a good thing so much as it was (in some respects) making a relatively revolutionary claim that there are duties and rights greater than those owed/granted to or by worldly authorities and that might doesn't make right.

If in the beginning Christianity had come out with a message of "the strong shall win (and deserve to)" it NEVER would have been able to persevere. With that message, people just would have stuck to the Roman gods since the Romans were definitely the baddest thing going at the time. =)

I am also looking forward to a Lion's Blood sequel.

Anonymous said...

I'm thrilled to hear about the Lion's Blood sequel. I'm waiting with bated breath. BTW, have you ever considered writing a Young Adult novel? You mentioned once that you were a bit discouraged by the non-growth in the Black sci-fi market. Maybe a Black Harry Potter might change that. Something to attract the young folk?


Ethiopian_Infidel said...


The weak aren't automatically failures, no. Non-sociopaths generally agree that compassion is rightly owed the abject. Empathy for the meek is a basic mammalian behavior program indispensible for parenting, courtship and general social living. The various relationships that comprise mammalian life comprise a complex dynamic wherein the powerful and subservient alternately care for and exploit one another.

Christianity's problem isn’t its commendable enjoinment to protect the weak; it’s the faith’s disgusting idolatry of decrepitude. To assist the downtrodden is to work to uplift them, whereas to glorify their wretchedness is to perpetuate their misery. Wretchedness is a contemptible state whose very ignobility motivates ennobling improvement.

The crucial distinction lacking in Christianity is between suffer and affliction. The indigent may be noble or wretched, respectable or dirt, whereas poverty is itself wretched and contemptible. To assert otherwise is a transparent lie that placates the afflicted by contorting their affliction into virtue, suggesting that the downtrodden should retain their dignity by avoiding improvement. At its extreme, Christian meekness devolves into sick masochistic revelry, enticing the capable likes of Tolstoy or Pascal to emulate the pitiable, instead of using their genius to enrich humanity! Further, Christian worship systematically programs the faithful with failure-lust. Consider the endless nauseating mistrals wherein the singers harp on their presumed wretchedness, e.g. “Saved a Wretch like Me..” Why the singer is presumed wretched? By contrast, an ethos intended to truly elevate the debased would promote compassion for the afflicted, while praising achievement and glorifying noble virtues such as strength of physique and character, resourcefulness and intelligence, creativity and vision, audacity and boldness, i.e. the means and abilities by which the weak empower themselves.

Unknown said...

Consider the endless nauseating mistrals wherein the singers harp on their presumed wretchedness, e.g. “Saved a Wretch like Me..” Why the singer is presumed wretched?

That particular hymn was written by a slave trader who, on being converted (I suppose from religious indifference, since he grew up in culturally Christian England) repented of and abandoned his slave trading. So, every time I sing "saved a wretch like me," what I am thinking is "convinced a slave trader of his wrongdoing."

"Wretch" seems to me an appropriate description of the moral depravity of slave trading, and thinking of it that way makes the line much more appealing than I suppose it would be if I saw it as some general affirmation of original sin. And, of course, I read "saved" here as "led me to abandon my wretched acts," not, "left me still a wretch, but admiring God more."

Incidentally, there's a movie, about the fight of William Wilberforce, in England, to abolish slavery, in which John Newton and his hymn also figure; the movie's called Amazing Grace.

Steven Barnes said...

Did that reformed slave trader donate the ill-gotten gains to charity? If not, he wasn't really all that sorry, in my opinion: just covering his ass in the hereafter.

Unknown said...

Not that I know of. Actually, looking at his Wikipedia entry (John Newton), he seems to have gotten into slave trading to begin with by joining a slave ship crew after earlier being unwillingly pressed into naval service (willingly taking other people's liberty to preserve a bit more of his own?), only gradually disentangled himself from the business after his conversion.

After his conversion, he started out continuing slave trading while satisfying his conscience by being, in his view, a little nicer to the people whose liberty he was stealing, to quitting the trade but still investing in it, then finally, years later, came out with a pamphlet that forcefully denounced slave trading and described the horrific conditions in the middle passage. He himself said that "I was greatly deficient in many respects... I cannot consider myself to have been a believer in the full sense of the word, until a considerable time later," and that his opposition to slavery was "a confession, which... comes too late," and, though he's been applauded as an opponent of slavery, he's also been criticized as a hypocrite for continuing to profit from the slave trade.

It's certainly not as neat a life story as the conversion description in the song. I still like it as providing meaning to the word "wretch."

Shady_Grady said...

EI, have you read Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil?

If not I think you would appreciate them.

Actually I am an atheist so it's not my intention to defend Christianity or any religion too much.

However I do think that excessive pride is a sin and one of the deadliest. Sure, there are some elements of Christianity that make a fetish of false humility but there are other elements, I think the majority , that attempt to maintain a proper regard for human accomplishment in this world. One major point of Christianity (and also Islam and Judaism) is that next to the accomplishments of the Creator, those of the greatest human are next to nothing.

I don't see mainstream Christianity as currently engaging in self-abnegation or self-denigration. I think that that's a misreading of Christianity's belief that all the worldly power, riches and pride a man or woman may have mean nothing in the afterlife. Also Christianity helped build an ethos that each human has value independent of his/her status in life. Of course this was rarely lived up to and ignored completely on occasion but humans aren't perfect...

Obviously such teachings would have been attractive to the downtrodden of an area. Jesus' quote about a rich man, camel and eye of a needle is a great example of this.

I don't know of any Christian teaching that suggests that the poor should avoid improvement as some sort of moral imperative.
Some of the biggest agitators for improving the lot of the poor (individual internal changes or external systemic changes) have been and are Christians. Some of these people have been willing to lay down their life for these beliefs (Oscar Romero, Rutilio Grande, etc).

There are a LOT of modern Protestant churches that practice "prosperity gospel". I think this is a crock and virtually blasphemous but one can't say that they see anything good in poverty or are teaching people to remain poor.

Unknown said...

Of course, I also tend to like songs with stories and the full negative emotions that belong with the story. Holly Near has a song, "We Are a Gentle Angry People," and I've heard some people, when it's sung, ask for it to be sung only as "gentle loving people." And when I hear that, I think, no, we are a gentle angry people, because the song was written in response to the assassination of Harvey Milk, and anger is darn well an appropriate response there.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

" I cannot consider myself to have been a believer in the full sense of the word, until a considerable time later,"

We may justly question how truly relevant Newton's newfound Christianity was to his eventual renunciation of slavery. For every Newton or Wilberforce who fought slavery as an abomination before god, scores more planters, clergy and Establishment figures defended the Peculiar Institution as divinely sanctioned and a righteous means of Christianizing heathen. The Southern Baptist movement is thought to have originated partly to defend slavery from a Biblical perspective. As pointed out by Christopher Hitchens et al, the numerous Bible verses that either accept slavery as a given or explicitly sanction the barbarity suggest that, were the Christian deity real, he'd be on the side of Calhoun, not Newton.

Unknown said...

Oh, I'm pretty much with Nancy on "Any scripture rich enough to support a major religion will have so much in it that it will be something of a Rorschach
blot." If Scientology lasts as long as Christianity has, and if we had the ability to check in on it that many years later, we'd find it to have developed all kinds of different contradictory schools of thought, and to have both inspired great and admirable acts and really despicable ones.