Saturday, January 07, 2006

Last Rites

The question of disposal of human remains is unpleasant, but we all have to face it at some time. Taking care of your disposal after you die is best done as early as you can. Just like making wills and living wills, though, such preparations are far too often left until too late.

After my mother died, my father and I had a long conversation about this, and we found that we agree on many points that others will find scandalous, at the very least. The largest issue is that a body is not a person. Upon their death, a person's essence (whether you call it soul, spirit, ka, consciousness, or whatever) leaves the body. What is left is disposable. What purpose is served by preserving this body, putting it in a very expensive decorative container, and burying it in the ground, where it will occupy a piece of land forever? That does the decedant no service at all. Funerals and burials are not for the benefit of the deceased, but for the living.

My mother's wish was for us to stick her body in a pine box and put it in a hole somewhere. That is, unfortunately, impossible these days, and she will call some people to account for it in the Hereafter. Poor fellows, I would hate to be them. As it turns out, the very minimum casket, vault, etc. runs somewhere in the neighborhood of $6,000 US. Death has become a racket, with regulations and laws, and a lot of people minding other people's business. But, then, that's how the world works these days, whether I like it or not.

I decided years ago, that I will not suffer this fate. No matter how futile my life may turn out to be, at least I can serve some purpose in death. My current wishes are to be creamated. Whoever is in charge of such things will then take the ashes (not my ashes, I will be long gone by then), drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway until they see a spot that feels right, and consign my mortal remains to the mercy of the wind and rain. At least I can fertilize the mountain laurel and wild azaleas. There is the possibility, though, that I may change my mind and will my body to one of the "Body Farms" that have spring up over the past few years. That would be a benefit to mankind.

"But what about those who want to remember you?" Just let go. Get on with your lives. When my life is over, I'll be gone. Mourn, grieve, find acceptance and move on. If I have not done anything memorable by then, then just let my memory join those of the great mass of humanity in anonymity. Visiting a grave strikes me as not conducive to healing and has some disturbing connotations with regard to beliefs in the afterlife and attitudes toward dead bodies.

We have to face the fact that we're all mortal. We will all die. It's part of life. The least we can do is plan ahead and make things a little easier on those we leave behind.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-- Robert Frost "The Road Not Taken"

All the difference, indeed, for me and for numberless others through the generations. What a difference in my life to have stopped by woods on a snowy evening, to have walked in the autumn woods thinking that nothing gold can stay, to have watched the people on the beach neither out far nor in deep, to have spoken to my neighbor while mending the fence between us! All the difference between living and merely existing.

As we walk our separate roads, occassionally meeting or just waving at each other in passing, we pass through many crossroads. How many do we even notice? We fix our eyes on our destination and our minds on the most direct path, forgetting that it's not the destination that matters, it's the journey. It's the paths less traveled by that make all the difference. When we reach our destinations, we want to be able to say: "It was worth the trip."

As you walk through this new year, I encourage you to pay attention to the crossroads, the forks in the road. Stop and consider. Take the one grown up in weeds, sometimes. It's scary, sure. None of us know what monsters may lie in wait around the bend, but we must face our monsters. We must prove our worth. Some of us are destroyed by them, sure, but those who face their monsters with determination and honesty will win through. Scarred, probably, battered, oh yeah, but victorious, nonetheless. Better to take the road less traveled now than to get to the end and find all those monsters gathered there in a bunch.

Writers who stay on the pavement get nowhere. Nobody wants to see Interstate America. The dirt roads and shanty-towns are vastly more interesting. Through the maps out the window. Take that left turn at Albuquerque. Show us what you find out there in the wilderness.

I don't want to reach the end of my life, look back, and say: "Damn! I wish I'd gone another way." I want to say: "That was interesting. That was fun. I'd do it again, if I could."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Just Curious

How stupid do you have to be to talk on a cell phone while driving a stick shift in heacy traffic?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Only a Novel 2006

Firming up my idea for my 2YN novel. It involves the war between idealism and cynicism as expressed through a conflict between magic and mundanity. Still pretty nebulous right now, but a lot of possibilities are showing themselves. This feels like a good fit for me, with a lot of room for conflict, high stakes, and an enormously powerful Dark Side. I hope I can maintain my interest and enthusiasm for this idea through the inevitable doldrums and tedium to come.

I have also jumped onto the Reading List bandwagon. In the next few days, I'll post a link to the post in the sidebar, so anybody that wants to can keep up with what kind of crap I'm feeding my brain these days. That supposes that anybody but me really cares, of course. Heh.

Monday, January 02, 2006

2006 Reading List


In Progress

The Infamous TBR Stack

Pass In Review!

Ok, I'm back. Thanks to everyone for the expressions of sympathy. We've finally got most of the details settled. Death is just too complicated a business these days. I recommend avoiding it whenever possible. ;-)

Around this time last year, I was considering my goals for 2005. One thing I certainly learned in 2005 was the truth of the saying about the best laid plans. I only completed one of my declared goals, but I also accomplished an awful lot that I didn't plan on. I commented last December that I thought 2005 would be a break-out year for me. Ah, the confidence of youth! Again, life had other plans for me. I do actually consider last year to have been a break-out year, just not in the way I envisioned. Here's a breakdown of 2005's goals and accomplishements:

1. Finished first draft of WITB: average of 2k words per week. I can do that. Didn't make this one, though I did get some 27K words done. I learned an enormous amount about novel writing and about the story I am trying to tell. Progress continues apace.
2. Finish and submit one short story per month. Also eminently do-able. Didn't make this one, either. I did finish several stories that I really like, and sketched out several more that have great promise. Submission has become a regular habit.
3. Finish and submit one article for each issue of Vision (6 issues). No sweat. 3 articles and 1 Web site review. I can live with that.
4. Minimum 25 points in the Great Rejection Slip Contest at Forward Motion. Made 10 points in 4 1/2 months this year, so that seems reasonable. This one I made: 38 points.

In concrete terms (details here):

1 short story publication
3 articles and 1 Web review in Vision
6 articles for Associated Content
6 book reviews for Green Man Review

Not much in the way of income, but a lot of exposure and a lot of practice. Good for me.

Now for 2006. Should I even set detailed goals, knowing in advance that things won't work out the way I plan? I think I'll just leav it at: Write enough and well enough that I can continue to feel good about my progress and submit constantly. The rest will take care of itself.

Hope everybody has a great 2006.