I Read Banned Books!

I must say, I’m addicted banned books.  Maybe it is because when I read one, it’s like giving the middle finger to all those who try to place restrictions on literature.  Banning books in schools is something that I never understood.  I’m privileged to have gone to a school district, where during my tenure, there were no literary restrictions.  While my school’s libraries were structured to conform to the reading and age level of students, I cannot recall any books within those levels ever being labeled as “banned”.

This was something that I took for granted.  In my naivety, I did not realize the gift that was bestowed in going to a school district that didn’t really ban books.  The first “adult” book that I ever read was Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.  They day I discovered this book is forever burned in my memory.  My school district’s middle school was 6th through 8th grade, and on the first day of school in 1994, a lucky band of new 6th graders were having school orientation.  One of the first stops was the library.  As the librarian was giving us a tour of the vast shelves of books and card catalogues, I spied on a shelf a white paperback with the trademark T-rex skeleton silhouette.  Before I even read the title, I knew what the book was.  The breath caught in my throat.  Up until this point I had no clue that this specific book even existed.   The only knowledge I had of Crichton was that he helped write the screenplay to the Jurassic Park movie.  How could I not have known that he wrote a book that the movie was based upon? (note: this was an era before the Internet)  With pure euphoria, I snatched the book off the shelf, checked it out, and devoured it the moment I made it home that afternoon.

Thinking back on that time in middle school with this specific book, by the standards of what is considered a “banned book”, Jurassic Park should have been listed.  But at my school district it wasn’t.  As a 6th grader, I had full access to read it any time it was available.  It existed along with a plethora of other books that helicopter parents and censorship leaders normally deem as “demoralizing” and “disturbing”.i_read_banned_books_-_button_pin_badge_1_1_2_inch_46ca04c4

To this day, Jurassic Park is my most read book.  And honestly, the content, at least during the 90’s, was very mature: visceral slashing of Velociraptor claws across fleshy human abdomens, crunching of bodies by the mighty jaws of a T-rex, the processes of being eaten alive.  Even the “F-bomb” was thrown into some strands of dialogue here and there.  As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, we were not wholly privy to this kind of violence or language.  It existed, we were exposed to it in moderation, but not like today where it appears in every day commercials and TV shows.  Children today are much more desensitized to these things, and yet they are the one who are having literature stringently banned.

My senior year of high school, in regards to the literary world, was eye opening.  It was during that time that I realized the brevity of the “book banning” situation that was being more strictly introduced in school systems across the United States.  It disgusted me, especially as a girl who was on the cusp of adulthood.  To an extent, I do understand not wanting certain pieces of literature due to violence / language / sex to be available for certain age levels of children.  However, the idea of this type of literature from being inaccessible to older teenagers is, quite frankly, ludicrous.  These teenagers are about to become young adults and move on with their lives, away from controlling school systems.

I don’t give my school district a lot of credit, however, in regards to literature during my tenure, there was no better place to attend.  And truly it was due to the English department, more specifically my senior AP English teacher.  This was a woman born of books and literature coursed through her blood.  She loved the written word so much, that she was inspired to create and produce a High School musical production of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.   This is the teacher who gleefully gave us 1984, Brave New World, Catch 22, The Catcher in the Rye, Siddhartha, The Sound and the Fury to read and dissect without giving any regard to the content of the stories.  Sadly, these specific books rarely grace the halls of schools today as they are at the top of the banned list.  It is such a shame these stunning, inspirational, and poetic works are being withheld from students.

Earlier this week, in the LA Times,  I read an article “The most banned and challenged books of 2014“.  Needless to say, this article sent me spiraling into a rant that is today’s post.  After a few days of grumbling, spewing, and cursing, I have finally calmed myself enough to eloquently write about my dissatisfaction of banning literature.

This is the 21st century and by some unrelenting force, we are being pushed back to what seems to be a “Victorian” era.  Why, in this age of expansive knowledge and technology, are books being banned in public schools?  The specific books listed in that LA Times article absolutely floored me.  First off all of those books, when read at the appropriate age level, are perfectly acceptable.  There is not one thing in those books that cannot be found on television at any hour of the day.  Granted the comic book Saga has illustrations that are sexually explicit and should not be seen by anyone under 18.  I agree it is not “school” material.   However, that being said, listing a reason for Saga’s ban is due to “anti-family” values is extreme.  If the censors are going to make that claim, then remove every one of Shakespeare’s plays from school textbooks, because the context of Saga is purely Shakespearean with a sci-fi twist.  The relationship of Alana and Marco in Saga are, in a way, a futuristic Romeo and Juliet without the suicide (at least as of issue #23 there is no dual suicide.  I am a little behind in reading).  The family lifestyle of these two couples have many similarities, yet Romeo and Juliet is allowed in schools with its anti-family values (and double teenage suicides) while Saga has this category marked against it.  Also, just to add fuel to the fire, Shakespeare’s work is so laced with tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendos that it, to a point, out does any graphic sexual imagery in the Saga comic art.

This post isn’t meant to be a dissection on why certain literature is allowed and other literature is not, but merely a statement to ask “Where does the line get drawn?” if schools are going to continue this extreme banning of books.  In my opinion, there will never be a line.  More and more of these precious works will be banned for the most insignificant nuances because one parent is so upset that a book contains a lesbian or a Goddess or drug use or the word “damn” or someone farts.

Let’s stop this and stop it now.  Libraries in schools should be an area of freedom where any book, given the students age and reading level, is available for his or her reading pleasure.  Does it matter if the book contains magic or dinosaurs or homosexual parents or a single mom or an abducted teenager?  NO!  If you don’t want your child reading these kinds of books, then be a parent and tell your child what they are or are not allowed to read.  Other children should not have to suffer and have Harry Potter taken away from them because one child’s parents doesn’t want to see magical world of Hogwarts appear in their child’s school.

enhanced-buzz-1494-1379943821-22

I once had a dream and wanted to be able to say that I had a publication that made the banned book list.  It would have been a badge of honor, but I am changing that tune.  It is not what I want anymore.  My new dream is to see the ban of books in schools eliminated.

I hope I never make a banned book list, because I no longer want the ban on books to exist.

Mark you calendars:  Banned Books Week is September 27- October 15, 2015.  Make sure you celebrate the freedom to read!

Writing with the Dead

(c) TheBrassGlass

(c) TheBrassGlass

I found inspiration while sitting with the dead.  Their buried bodies beckoned me to join them and write.  The dead don’t impede while one is trying to concentrate.  They lie idly by, allowing masterpieces to blossom.  No comments, no critiques, no interrupting questions.  The dead provide a quiet, nurturing atmosphere.

Today is warm and sunny as I aimlessly drive through Bucks County–going nowhere and anywhere.  The act of writing, at this point, has left me.  It’s as though the spark that makes up my inner most self–my soul–has abandoned me on this blue-green, wayward planet.  The words no longer come, and I am anxious and agitated.  My life’s purpose has disappeared, leaving me empty and lost.

A small cemetery comes into view while traveling down a desolate, pothole riddled road with no dividing yellow line.  Something inside of my mind whispers to stop.  Instinctively my body takes control and steers the car off into the megar gravel parking lot.   Without a thought as to what was occurring, I exit the car and walk to the grass covered plots.

The landscape is speckled with headstones, which are old and hand hewn.  Green lichens and mold cling to the cool white stone.  Some markers stand as clean slates, the body’s identity wiped away by the hands of the weather and time.  This cemetery is ancient.  The dead have been here for many centuries.

It is well cared for, this small cemetery.  The grass is low and the surrounding trees are maintained.  It is picturesque.  Somebody truly loves it, devoting their time to care for the hallowed ground that houses these long dead people.

Sun filters through the trees creating little pockets of light among the shadowed darkness.  All is quiet and serene.  The only sound of life comes from the birds in the trees and from my own breathing.  Here in this land of the dead, a solace for the boundary of time, I find peace.  A peace that is limited by mortality.  A peace of knowing there is only one chance to achieve dreams.

And then they come to me, pounding into my head.  Reverberations and echos drown out the natural sounds of the cemetery.  Words.  They fill my brain and suddenly I find them spewing from my mouth.  I speak out loud stories–stories of my own creation–and they fall upon dead ears.  Quick!  A pen, some paper!  I hastily run to a sunny spot shining amongst the graves, fall to the ground, and pull my pen and moleskine from my purse.  In handwriting, illegible to anyone ‘s eyes but my own, I fill up a page.  Then another.  And another.  So on and so, the lined white pages of the notebook fill with loops and curls, all the while I sit in a fevered trance surrounded by the dead.

They watch me, quietly and uninterrupting.  This living being sitting atop their graves spilling words from her brain onto paper.  She has found herself while sitting among them.  But what will come of it?  The answer is unknown, but the dam has broken.  A flood is unleashed and the world once again seems brighter, happier.  There is a future.

The dead speak of these things to the living.  This life is unique and should be cherished.  It is the only time that this instance will be lived.  One must find inspiration and take hold of it with both hands.  Feel its invigorating life force, for once a life is over, the creativity for that person ceases.

I had to travel to the dead to find my reason to live.

Are you Alive or Dead?

(c) Jie Qi (CC BY 2.0)

(c) Jie Qi (CC BY 2.0)

I once heard that when you die, you relive every second of your life all over again. This is more than just your life flashing before your eye.  Your whole “existence” relived as though you are living it for the first time.  So that begs the question, your existence right at this moment: are you living it for the first time or reliving your whole life before die (which will happen within the next few seconds)?

Why do I feel like this is like a “Schrödinger’s cat” kind of question…

If this were true, while reliving your life would you consciously know you that are experiencing it again?  If you are consciously aware, then you can most likely have the power to change things.  And if you can change things, could you live your life the way you wanted it?  Think about it… you could redo your awful high-school experience, not date that jack-ass in college, choose the career path that you really wanted, subtly hint to a dear friend they “may” have cancer and will die from it.  If you are consciously aware of this ‘reliving’ experience you can make the life you wanted.  Being consciously aware, you would already know everything and the actual outcome of the original path.

But you know… this “second chance” is not reality.  You could try to be that evil persona that lives deep inside of you.  That hidden persona that everyone has, but refuses to acknowledge.  You can act out the hurt on all the people that you have wanted to hurt.  Be the assassin, thief, marauder, sadist, monster of your dark thoughts.  Morals, ethics, everything-out the window because there is no impact on anyone in reality.  Your life is only all about you, isn’t it?  Does it really matter what happens to other people, as long as you are satisfied?  You become a serial killer.  If you got caught, so what!  You may be thrown in jail, you may get the death penalty-but that’s ok!  Hey, you are about to die within the next few seconds in reality anyways.  This whole “reliving your life again” is just playing out in your head.  And in your head there are no consequences.

Right?

Right?!?!

Well, you did just live the last moments of your actual life in your head replaying your life cast as Jack the Ripper.  Is that really how you want your life to end?  To be an eviscerating serial killer instead of someone who actually did a lot of good in their real life.  Someone who didn’t intentionally murder anyone.

You got caught up in your last moments of who you wanted to be instead of reliving who you actually were.

So what are you:  Alive or Dead?

 

 

Will you, won’t you join the dance?

Envisioning your true desires in life is the easiest way to achieve them.  Think about what your really want.  I mean really, truly want.  Think about it every morning, afternoon, and evening.  I have begun the habit of thinking about my desires right before I eat – even before snack time.  Place your desire in a positive light when you envision it.  I am a firm believer if you put enough thought into something, it will come to fruition.  Though, a little physical work helps to bring about the desire even faster.  It really does help to take some steps in order to bring the desire into reality.  Things are not going to magically appear out of mid-air.  How boring would it be if life were like that?  With a snap of our finger we could have what we want.  Each person would have millions and millions of dollars and cherry red Ferraris.  Yeah, it would be fabulous to have all that, but then we would all be the same.  No one would be unique as we would all have the same things.  And in that, we would not appreciate our desires if they were just handed to us.  So, the Universe dictates that we are to do use little elbow grease to make our dreams into reality.   The hard effort that we put in to make our desires real, make us treasure the reality of our desires.

Exciting, isn’t it.  You can have whatever you want just by thinking about it and a little hard work.  Our mind is a very powerful tool.  It creates kings, sends people to the moon, builds empires, and inspires technology.  Amazing what a little “thinking” can do, right?  We should all follow the advice of the White Queen, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  1

Now, keep in mind the tone in which you are manifesting your desire.  You have to make it positive and be very meticulous on how you think in order for the desire to be born in the way you want to.  Your mind and the Universe cannot distinguish between positive and negative.  So if you have this horrible fear that you will be trampled by pink elephants, do not say to yourself “Do not think about Pink Elephants”.  When you say that, all that is heard is pink elephants!  Merely do not even conjure the though in your mind.  You can not only manifest your desires, but also your fear.  If you do not give any thoughts to your fears, your fears will not be born.

Give yourself a timeline with your manifestation.  Depending on the amount of elbow grease that could be involved in assisting the manifestation, the reality may not be immediate.  Say you are building your dream house.  Everyone knows all the run-around and issues that can be sometimes involved with construction companies.  If you want to avoid all this hullaballoo, and then say to yourself “My dream house will be finished from 90 days from today”.  Then each day after in which you envision your desire, adjust down the days.  With you personally tracking the progress of the construction, keeping in constant contact with the builders, and working hard on your daily manifestation, your dream home will be finished within three months from the day that you began your first thought of desire.  Now, keep in mind that you may not be living in your dream home at that time because your manifestation was just that the house will be finished within 90 days.  If you have an extremely specific desire, then you need to make your vision of that desire specific, “Within 90 days, my dream home will be finished, furnished, and move-in ready.  Within 100 days, my new job will begin, which is only 20 minutes down the road from my dream home.  Within 80 days, the house in which I currently live in, which is also up for sale, will sell for $900,552.00”.  See, be very specific and everything will fall in line with how you want it to be.  Remember, your mind and the Universe can only produce what it is asked directly.  Do not leave any loop-holes or open-ended desires.

It is time that humanity becomes more determined to seek out producing their desires.  Too many of us sit around depressed, seeing the good fortune of others.  We all want to share in that good fortune, but so many of us have become too lazy and unwilling to do anything about it.  And we all can make our lives into the dream life in which we want to live!  Yes, it is going to take some time.  Rome was not built in a day!  Yes, it will take some hard work.  Your desire has to always be on the forefront of your mind, and you will have to get your hands dirty.  Keep your manifestation positive.  When your thoughts turn negative, fear arises and the outcome of the manifestation will be that of negativity.

Always remember, when you manifest your desires, never create physical, emotional, or mental harm to anyone or anything. 

Is it not time for you to join the dance?

1  Lewis Carroll. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. London: Oxford University Press, 1971.

Title:  From the Mock Turtle’s Song by Lewis Carroll.

©2011, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative – visit  Amanda Headlee — It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn for the original source of this content.

Enlightenment

The end is only the beginning.  For when one is at the end, the atmosphere becomes clear and the understanding of what needs to be done in order to move on is acknowledged.  Endings are never bad; Endings are an evolvement.  One should never look upon the end negativity, but rather a push to move on to the next level in level of life.  With this climb into the next level we gather enlightenment and definition, even if the next level looks like a step back.  In reality, no backwards steps exist.  What looks like a step back is only a needed learning experience to help propel a soul out of the current “slump” and onto the next enlightenment.  With each level that ends, we grow – despite the outcome. 

As a writer, this is sometimes a struggle:  to acknowledge an end.  Each draft of a story that I script is a better evolution from the previous, yet I feel horribly disheartened when the editing finally ends.  I feel that even though I brought it to life on paper, ending the story has killed the process of the writing experience.  I struggle with not allowing the story to die and move on where it could possibly flourish and be published.  For at the end of each story, I return to rewrite, and “retweek” the story to the point where it is never finished, and always changing.  Thus, the evolution becomes stagnant and I stop my writing career from moving on to the next step.  In order to push my career on to the next level, I need to allow these stories to end.

And in this push for closure, only positive things will come (in which for me, I wish for publication). 

The end is only the beginning…

©2011, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative – visit  Amanda Headlee — It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn for the original source of this content.