Quality of death is an issue for us living

Sunset with birds
The end may not be so bad if it's a new beginning

In nature and popular fiction metaphors, the end of the day is marked by sunsets and twilight. It’s often portrayed as beautiful, a great time to reflect on life’s wonders, miracles, and pleasures.

Photographers love to take sunset and twilight photos for the quality of the light and the vivid colors. Artists love to paint end of day scenes, too. People like to gather in their favorite spots in nature to watch the show.

But what about the sunset and twilight that are end of life for people? Are they held with sweet regard for a life lived or does the scene become a rush to revive the body at all costs–literally and figuratively?

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Dirty words

Words ripe as cherries
Ripe new naughty words

To my way of thinking (oh, geeze!) one of the most absurd concepts to be etched into the granite of society is the one about dirty words. Personally, I think it’s insanity.

We’re conditioned to respond with anything from lust to rage to outrage by the publication, broadcast, or mention of certain words. You know what they are.

The irony I see in this is that all words, clean and dirty, are quite simply symbols that stand for concepts. By their very nature, words are abstract ideas. That makes them fantasies. Our response to a word, whatever the word may be and whatever the response may be, is a fantasy.

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Born wonky eyed

Born wonky eyed
Natural selection and crossed eyes

I can’t go my whole life without commenting on this: I was born cross-eyed.

When I was a little kid I had experimental corrective surgery. Growing up I looked pretty normal. It wasn’t until middle age that I had more of a lazy eye again.

While cosmetic surgery is an option, one opthamologist told me that there were no guarantees that I would not end up with double vision. Oh, joy. Ultimately I decided I’d rather live with wonky eyes than double vision.

Despite what you might think, this hasn’t really been a devastating situation. First off, no matter what it may look like to you, I barely notice it when I am inside looking out. To me whatever is going on in my vision is normal for me. The  only time I notice it is when I look in the mirror. That’s when I scream!

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Breath After Death

Breath After Death takes place in Kauai.
Breath After Death in Kauai

Writing a novel is an incredible journey in consciousness. It’s time spent with focused attention on a set of themes and ideas, which for me meant stepping out of the box.

I decided to write Breath After Death when I became bored with metaphysical stories that pulled up painfully short from attempting to explain things. For example, I saw a movie where some people were blown up in a terrorist suicide bombing. When they woke up in a new world, they groaned about being dead and gone.

Yeah, they groaned about being dead and gone.

Well, hello? If you can think new thoughts, you aren’t dead. You may have moved from one dimension to another, but in the big picture you’re still alive and groaning. But the movie dumbed it all down, and while these dead people did all sorts of action-adventure antics in their new world, they still thought of themselves as dead. And the peculiar part of it was that they were afraid of being killed again, which makes no sense considering that they were already groaning about having been killed once.

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Thinking the good life


Look for the good stuff
Look for the good stuff


I’ve heard it expressed in different ways: Beliefs create reality. What you think is what you get. Careful what you wish for; you’ll probably get it.

Psychologists call it selective perception. We see what we expect to see because that’s how our brains process the streams of data gushing through our life at any given moment.

The quality of our life comes down to how we focus our attention. Isn’t that an amazing idea?

Our happiness or sadness or fright is largely determined by how and upon what we focus our attention. Your brain is like an auto-focus camera that is constantly looking to bring you clarity, but it’s you who is holding and pointing the camera.

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Love letters mirror my internal world


love letters
Love letters happen on the inside first


All the world is a mirror for me. Whatever I see and react to mirrors something in my internal universe.

When I respond positively to something, I am seeing something that stimulates my internal universe in a positive way.

When I respond negatively to something, I am seeing something that does not fit into how I think the universe should be.

Despite the fact that I can make split-second decisions on what I like or dislike, it’s actually an amazingly complex procedure to describe.

For example, what do you think of Tiger Woods? Bill Clinton? George Bush? Sarah Palin? No matter where you go in your thoughts with any of these people, you’re making all your judgments based on your internal universe and the data you have fed into it. Unless you know these people personally and intimately, you are getting all your data through filtered, mostly opinionated sources. You may make snap judgments on them without even thinking. It doesn’t matter whether they are heroic or demonic to you.

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Being different is nothing to commit suicide over

As are many people, I am saddened by the recent suicides of gay teens.

Being gay is just one flavor of being different. I wish it were more commonly known and appreciated that there are so many ways to be different.

I have found it quite ironic that we who live in America and think of the US as the “land of the free” have a peculiar intolerance for people who are different. That’s a bit absurd when there are so many flavors of difference.

People young and old tend to focus on the one or two areas where they are the most different. Often they obsess on these differences and use them as a means of self-punishment.

I have had an uncanny ability in my lifetime to hang out with a lot of different people. This could include such stereotypes as nerds, gays, lesbians, fatties, polyamorists, hippies, near-death experiencers, unpopular kids at school, celebrities, artists, sex workers, religious fundamentalists, and basically the “fruits and nuts” of Northern California as the popular expression went.

Of course, to my mind stereotypes don’t mean much because everyone is unique. Everyone is a composite of different characteristics and predispositions. It’s common to lump all people together, such as all gays think alike, when clearly that’s not true.

I have spent hours upon hours in various workshops and intimate conversations with people who were greatly bothered if not traumatized by their special brand of being different. It is sad to see so many people with such diversified differences feel so similarly weird, alienated, alone, and unloved. We’re really all in the same boat, although most of us don’t recognize that.

Of course, the problem comes when we listen to other people who do not appreciate our flavor of being different. Often, the people who criticize us the most are people whose role is supposed to be a support person like a parent, priest, or teacher. This gets extended out to God and Country and is communicated to us by proxy. So, for example, if parents and preachers condemn a kid for being gay, or virtually anything else, the withhold of love and approval cuts to the core. Some religious people imply that God hates gay people and the laws often make it criminal.

With all our technology and know-how, we as a society should spend more time and attention helping people feel better about who they are, about the blessings of individuality. I think we must recognize that so much of our mass entertainment is based on deriding, ridiculing, and shaming people who are different. The superstars of news, opinion, and even religion often pit one group against another, playing demographic favorites that market research tells them is the right move. If it’s popular to bash gays, they’ll do that. If it’s popular to call near-death experiences psychotic fantasies, they’ll do that.

So much of our economy is based on using fear to stimulate buying products and services. Commercials constantly tell us that we won’t live happily (ever after) if we don’t have what they’re selling. I did not realize the extent of all the negative messages bombarding me until I quit watching commercial television and got a new perspective.

Ultimately, however, everyone who feels bad for feeling different for whatever that difference is has to find his or her own way out. That, I have come to believe, is part of the spiritual challenge we all take on. While we might easily be able to point our fingers at people who damned us, shamed us, or beat us down, the ultimate responsibility to rebound is ours alone. Don’t wait for the world to change.

Learn to appreciate the differences you have as part of your unique gifts and blessings. Being different does not make you wrong or inadequate. You are the ultimate authority on what is right for you. A Facebook friend describes her transformation this way:

“When I judged myself as being different, I made myself wrong. I was rejecting me and judging me saying I am wrong for being who I am…different. I was not loving and accepting me for being me and I felt bad, unloved, not accepted, and I didn’t feel I belonged or fit in. As I began to love and accept myself more, others changed in response to my changes in myself. Others are just a reflection of what is inside of you that they are mirroring back to you!”

When you accept and love yourself for who you are, the negative voices drop away and you find yourself attracting people into your life who get you.

Joshua Bagby plays with ideas that go ooh-la-la in the night