Scott Langston

Authoring Adventures

Category: Blog (page 1 of 3)

The regular meanderings of an author’s mind. This author’s. Thoughts and commentary about just about everything, bookended in the context of my writing career. Links to fascinating tidbits I’ve inadvertently stumbled across, reflections on intentional living and a good dose of mindfulness to boot.

A poem for a goddaughter

This, your first communion,
Gives no assurance of celestial reunion
It’s a yoke you choose to wear
The empty promise of unheard prayer
Its tenants and rituals offer only confusion

I’m feeling tarnished and somewhat complicit
In this indoctrination, this illicit
Eight year old’s promise of servitude
An abuse of childhood, crass and rude
This institution is humanity’s deficit

This s no tool of education
This is simple subjugation
This supplication to the divine
Subjecting the child, a crime
Colluding in foolish fabrication

Perverse, this virgin creed
A cloak for mankind’s greed
Grown of nomadic superstition
Deaf to rational petition
Not a solution, not the one we need

A god who needs your pledge of devotion
And delights in such frivolous commotion
Lifted not a finger nor cried
For all the babies which today have died
He feels not, cares not, lacks emotion

This ritual, this cultural veneer
Superstitious nonsense to mask the fear
Of no purpose beyond that which YOU create
You have no need of divinity to make you great
You life, you can learn to better steer

Trees and trains

Trees are flying, blurring into the past

Metaphorically, literally

The train tracks its clanking route too fast

Trees are flying,  blurring into the past

But the fuel it’s using cannot last

Are we seeing reason, finally?

Trees are flying, blurring into the past

Metaphorically, literally

 

Folkestone, England.  June 2017

Black coffee

Black liquid flows, dark and revitalising,

Jump-starting and igniting me

Hard disks and systems reinitialising

Black liquid flows, dark and revitalising,

Myself, my present moment recognising

Invigorating and re-booting me

Black liquid flows, dark and revitalising,

Jump-starting and inviting me.

Top ten reads?

I was challenged to produce a list of ten ‘must-reads’. With the proviso that I have issues with the concept, here it is. Of course, this would be a different list were I to write it again tomorrow, and this list is restricted to fiction. I may produce a non-fiction version if I’m pressured enough…

Theses are not in order; that would be too challenging.

 

David Mitchell – The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Nikos Kazantakis – The Last Temptation

Richard Bach – Illusions

Donna Tartt – The Secret History

Salman Rushdie – Midnight’s Children

Hermann Hesse – The Glass Bead Game

Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Terry Pratchett – Small Gods

Oriana Fallaci – A Man

Milan Kundera – The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

 

Of course, now I’m frustrated with what I had to leave out, and I’m sure I’ll wake up at two in the morning with an absolute inclusion which I forgot to include. Such is life.

What would your list look like? Feel free to add it in the comments…

Rondeau

Following the format of the Rondeau – 15 lines, three stanzas, 2 rhymes and 10 syllables per line. Here goes nothing…

 

Cornwall

For the first time it felt like coming home

After so many years on the roam

A seemingly simple trip to Cornwall

A family reunion for us all

It remains the county I’ve always known

 

I’m returning, in some sense fully grown

A sense of oneness I at last condone

Memories plunge in like a waterfall

For the first time

 

Childhood beaches washed with sea-spray cologne

Reminiscences yielding up the throne

Demons fading now once and for all

Acceptance and peace hold me in their thrall

For the first time

 

Saulzais, 17 May, 2017

 

Poetry

Six Poets: Hardy to Larkin: An Anthology  Alan Bennett

I was moved and intrigued, both by the poems themselves and by Bennett’s commentary. I find myself genuinely interested in poetry for the first time in my life and it’s as though a whole new world has opened up. I’ve tried with poetry before, so maybe I’m just a late developer and this arrived at the right time.

On a disappointing AirB&B in Canada

So it’s a beautiful sunny day and we’re seeing this place at it’s best.

Sunlight is trying to stream through the bay windows, impeded by months of neglected housekeeping, dappled dust all but obscuring the view of the maple trees slowly turning to red and gold in the late September coolness.  It’s not exactly a ‘spacious’ one bedroom apartment, as advertised. Comparing the photos on the website to the reality, it’s possible to see where the camera was held up to the corner of each room. The actual 3m square kitchen does appear to be large enough to cook in; the actual 3 by 4 metre lounge big enough to lounge in. There is single glazing in all the windows and none of them locks. The fact that the apartment is on the third floor does not instill much confidence – there are custom-cut lengths of bamboo slotted into the inner rail of the lounge and the bedroom windows. It’s only for two nights, he’s thinking. The hallway cupboard reveals discarded trainers and a shoebox full of cigarette lighters, playing cards, disembodied electrical cables and a forlorn-looking remote control, minus batteries. This place has been deserted in a hurry, he’s thinking. Trying out the Lazy-boy armchair, he notices the recent ceiling paint-job, the edges having been amateurishly rushed before the roller applied, giving an unintended border to every wall. He sighs and gets to his feet, wanting to leave but knowing he’s too tired to do so. The bathroom seems clean, at first sight. But opening drawers and cupboards, he finds razors, cotton buds and toothbrushes, not all of them clean. For fuck’s sake. The bed looks comfortable, at least, and an experimental bounce confirms it. Okay, so we’ll stay and leave a shitty review, he’s thinking. Is that honest? Is that decent? Better to leave now, or better to suck it up, stay and leave quietly? He checks the cancellation policy and sees that they can’t leave early. At least not without losing what they’ve paid. It could be worse. it could be way worse, he knows, A little psychological effort and he’s got a calming mantra going in his head, Windows are open, and some organic music is filtering through the fug of abandonment which seems to pervade the apartment. Salt in the corners of the rooms, he’d once read, would absorb bad vibes. Tomorrow would be another day. There was a Canadian Shiraz in the fridge; how bad could that be? Resignedly, he washed the glass he’d found in the cupboard above the sink. Was it really that dirty, or was it the general ambiance which cast it’s gloom on everything he saw? The first glass emptied almost before he’d tasted it and, to be fair, he’d had worse. Well, much worse. This was okay. No, really, this wasn’t too bad at all. He sat back in the fake leather mammoth armchair, depressed the ‘recline’ switch and inhaled the aroma of what was, in fact, pretty good wine. This was okay, he repeated to himself. This was okay. Right here, right now, this breath. The perfection of the moment. There was always a new day, another opportunity to make new choices.

On The Year of the Monkey

This year, The Year of the Monkey, will be the year that my next novel, The Year of the Monkey, gets revived. Not finished, you’ll note, I’m not that confident, but revived. For sure. It’s playing out in my head and it’s growing of its own accord. It’s changing direction. It’s taking on new life. It’s ditched a character, and opened the door for another. It’s entering the realm of magical realism. It’s alive!

An here’s an extract:

It was dark when she awoke. She was cold. The air-conditioning remote control showed her both that it was eleven pm and that the room was at 20 degrees centigrade. Neither of these particulars was a comfort to her. Channel surfing twenty minutes later, Tien berated herself for not being sufficiently courageous to step out into the night to explore. There was no rush though, this was an investment in her future – she didn’t need to follow the back-packer route around the country in less than three weeks. There was no desperate need to ‘do’ Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it remained in her stolen memories. She had enough money to stay comfortably ensconced in middle-of-the-range hotels for the next month or so before resorting to looking for work. She found that in fact she was happy, sitting cross-legged on this strange bed, having settled on a soundless MTV as background to her thoughts, mentally ticking off everything that she had going for her. An unanticipated confidence sprang from unfamiliar depths. She was charged, with jetlag, or caffeine, or plain excitement. She sat in a trance-like state, breathing in the optimism she now felt about her life. Suddenly the lingering doubts had vanished, and she knew she had made the right decision.

Ngoc smiled knowingly. She didn’t interfere, but instead revelled in the strength of her granddaughter. All was coming together. Her smile broadened.

In the morning, when Tien awoke to the clatter of metal shutters opening, motorbikes starting and street hawkers announcing their wares, she would vaguely remember dreaming of her grandmother, of a parting wink and a pat on her shoulder. The aroma of garlic and chilli would linger in her room, but she would assume it came from the street.

On setting mindful moments

 

Mindful keys?

Mindful keys?

Bringing mindful, paying non-judgmental attention to the present moment has been gaining in popularity these days – once considered a developed a spiritual practice, it’s now got a foothold in pop culture. Research shows time and time again that people are happier when paying attention to what they’re doing. While the best way to build up a strong level of mindfulness into your life is by developing a regular sitting meditation practice, the ultimate goal is to make it a part of your day-to-day life – paying increasingly peaceful attention on the present moment.

In this online store, there are a range of products to buy which you might use everyday, each with a Mindfully Growing logo as a prompt to you to Stop and Be.

Of course, you don’t need to buy anything to do this! Here’s a picture of my computer as I write. A simple post-it note reminds me to Breathe. There’s one on my office door that I see when I leave, one on a mirror in the bathroom – clearly, leaving notes to yourself to remind you to stop and be present is easy.IMG_5050

Using an app with reminders might also work for you. I use an app called Productive which sets reminder bells throughout the day and as each rings, I take the next opportunity to sit and focus on my breath for one minute.

You can also set regular daily activities as mindfulness prompts. Brushing your teeth, tying your laces, making coffee, sitting to a meal – all of these things we tend to do mindlessly and yet they can be some of the most powerful reminders to be present in the moment.

Mindful waking. Do you hit the alarm and jump out of bed, or retreat groaning under your duvet? Try to be aware of your transition from sleep to wakefulness. Make waking each day a moment to cherish as you become mindful of your breathing, how your body feels, sounds in the room, thoughts which race for your attention.

Mindful eating. Do you ever finish a snack or even a meal without remembering having enjoyed the food you were eating. Make a commitment to have one good slow mindful mouthful of each meal you have during the day. Pay attention to the smell, texture and taste of the food. Wait until you have completely finished your mouthful before reaching for another!

Mindful housework. Seriously? Yes. Be it the washing, washing a plate or cup, sweeping or vacuuming a floor – bringing a sense of awareness and alertness to the activity will intensify your experience and make it something positive and constructive in your life, rather than a chore. Notice movements of your hands and arms, shifting your weight and the sounds you create.

Mindful showering. A great moment to stop, enjoy the sensation of water on skin, to breathe calmly, feel the texture of your own skin under your hands as you wash. Notice water temperate and movement, notice smells and sounds. See the shower not as a process to complete, but as a place you are. Now.

My advice would be to pick one activity and go with that for a week or so, before trying to be mindful in your entire day.

On choosing compassion instead of hate…

I’m currently taking an online mindfulness course offered by mindfulschools.com, and in the material on a section about training for compassion, I found this story which I felt compelled to share.

Mark_Brunner

This iconic photograph was taken in Ann Arbor, Michigan, during a White Supremacist parade in 1996. Protestors had turned out in this progressive University town to send the message that the KKK were not welcome there.  One of the SS tattooed marchers got on the wrong side of the fencing, and find himself surrounded by the anti-march protestors. He was chased and beaten to the ground.

18 year old Keshia Thomas reacted to the shouts of “Kill the Nazi,”.by jumping on the man to protect him from the mob attack she feared was likely to seriously injure or kill the man,

“Someone had to step out of the pack and say, ‘this isn’t right’… I knew what it was like to be hurt. The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me… violence is violence – nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea,” explained Thomas, when asked why she did this.

Months later, she was approached by a young man who thanked her for saving his father (though she never heard from the father). She observed, “For the most part, people who hurt… they come from hurt. It’s a cycle. Let’s say they had killed him or hurt him really bad. How does the son feel? Does he carry on the violence?”

Mark Brunner was the student photographer who captured the image. He observed, “She put herself at physical risk to protect someone who, in my opinion, would not have done the same for her. Who does that in this world?”

Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator Leonard Pitts Jr. offered this in The Miami Herald: “That some in Ann Arbor have been heard grumbling that she should have left the man to his fate, only speaks of how far they have drifted from their own humanity. And of the crying need to get it back. Keshia’s choice was to affirm what they have lost. Keshia’s choice was human. Keshia’s choice was hope.”

Compassion and empathy, as well as a not-small-amount of bravery, are essential tools and skills. I would argue that empowering children to be this way – especially through mindfulness training – is a vital step in turning the tide of hatred and violence. This is something we should be doing in schools. It’s probably more important than teaching Maths and Science (or any academic subject), to be honest.

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