The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed

Stephen King~

And so begins one of the most powerfully lyrical pieces of fiction in the English language. The unrelenting harshness of the desert sun is somehow cast in tones of twilight, as we meet the Gunslinger about his end-times work. His quest is inimical, his progress inexorable. His intent dimly understood but utterly honorable. He is an archetype driven by a force truer than the shadow he casts on the hardpan beside him.

Stephen King wrote this novel as a young man and it is unquestionably his finest work. The Dark Tower series is his opus and anathema bound between covers and burned into pages. The cadence of his language resonates on a level that is difficult to articulate, but utterly manifest. The impact of his prose is subtle but profound; you look up from reading with the taste of dust in your mouth, squinting from the hard desert light burning at your eyes.

We are introduced to Roland The Gunslinger as he is in pursuit of The Man in Black. It is made evident in stark and grotesque terms that this Man must be called to account, but we do not know what started the chase to begin with. Roland haunts this figure for reasons that only become clear through the cracked and hazy window we are afforded into The Gunslinger’s memory.

Strewn in his path are obstacles and dilemmas cast there by The Man In Black with supernatural power and demonic glee. As the stakes of these complications mount, The Gunslinger is forced with increasing urgency and against his will to look inward to observe his nature, his actions, and his unswerving devotion to his ultimate end; The Dark Tower.

Within the greater context of the tale, there are constant echoes of a relentless progress toward an ineludible end. Under the mountains in the eye-aching darkness the pull of his ordained act is palpable, hideous, and necessary. When Roland makes the choice he is not at liberty to avoid, and in the service of his quest loses most of what remains of his soul. We must wonder if he can or even wishes to be redeemed if it cost him his aim. 

I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. It should be required reading for any person of imagination and spirit. It will touch and open both beyond reckoning.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.   ~Rumi

There is an almost constant din in my head. I find it hard to slow the spinning and be still, silent. I am thinking, worrying, dithering, plotting, reviewing, nigh on ceaslessly. Meditation leaves me feeling more anxious, mostly because I cannot seem to locate the peaceful place to simply be and breathe. It is a valuable pursuit, the attempt, but I rarely access that particular quiet.

I like to communicate, and I fear being misunderstood. It is perhaps one of my less endearing traits, this constant need to explain myself. I feel it, even with regard to things that don’t need much explanation. I find it difficult, in company, to let silence occur, to stretch.

So I am following the noise, back to it’s source. I want to ensure I realize I hear me, so that the clamor can subside, once I acknowledge whatever it is trying to tell me. Perhaps the work of listening and gently letting the message echo away will help me get closer to the inner quiet.

“The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly” Richard Bach


It is hard to let go of our beliefs about how things are. For some reason it is especially hard to do when “the way things are” has been difficult or frightening. We can become so deeply committed to our own point of view that we may not be able to imagine a future where our life could become something entirely different, and in some cases, amazing. We can choose to ensconce ourselves in a set of beliefs about what is that, originally meant to protect us, can leave us in darkness and unable to move. 

There is a common logical fallacy known as the Appeal to Tradition. It hinges on the notion that just because something always has been true that it will continue to be true going forward. Like most fallacies, on first blush, it seems to make sense; things are this way because the events have led them to be thus. Things will most likely proceed as they have, creating the same results. However, this denies a wealth of truth about the nature of the universe and the timbre of the human condition. We are constantly undergoing change at the cellular, psychic, emotional, and intellectual level. Even if we do not feel these changes during the course of our everyday lives, we are literally and in every sense entirely different people at the end of our lives than we were at it’s beginning.

I am noticing, as I proceed with this project, that most of the quotes I am coming across in my random, haphazard way are about dealing with change. I think this is partially because most of the self-reflective traditions, such as religion and philosophy, are concerned with trying to help people cope with change in a positive way. But I also believe in synchronicity; the concept of meaningful coincidence. I believe that for the first time in a long time, I am ready to undertake tremendous changes. I know I should and do expect to see great rewards as a result of this process. I am also experiencing a fair amount of anxiety and trepidation about these changes, for even though I have not been entirely content for some time, neither did I feel resilient enough to risk the dangers of an untested flight.

I suspect it is no accident that I am coming across these pieces of truth that assure me that though these changes can be frightening, or can literally mean the end of life as I know it, that life as I know it hasn’t always been worth the living. That life as I have never known it offers possibilities for joy that I am eager to discover, if only I am brave enough to break through the truths I have embraced to protect me, and fling myself into an unknown of limitless potential.



“The Victory of Mercy, The Mercy of Victory” The Witches Tarot Ellen Cannon Reed

Transition is difficult, under the best of circumstances. Even the most desirable change that leads to the best possible results can be painful, frightening, and trying. Telling yourself that the process is necessary doesn’t always make it any easier.

In the symbolism of the tarot, death virtually never signifies an actual physical passing. Instead it is meant to exemplify the need for one of these transitions to occur. Usually the message of this archetype is that change is coming, and to fight it will only make the process more difficult and traumatic. It is meant to try and gentle the experience, but we are so often deeply committed to our patterns, even if they are awful and ugly, that we will resist to the end of our strength, and in defiance of our own best interests.

And so the mercy we must show, is often toward ourselves. The kindness to allow the change to happen, and thus to grow and move toward what serves us and away from what does not. The victory is in the reward for doing so; growth, progress, and hopefully greater wisdom to take with us going forward.

“A breeze can lift waters from a gorge; rising as mist, it blows away” ~The I-Ching

dis·per·sion definition

Pronunciation: /dis-ˈpər-zhən, -shən/
Function: n
1 : the act or process of dispersing : the state of being dispersed
2 : the separation of light into colors by refraction or diffraction with formation of a spectrum
also : the separation of radiation into components in accordance with some varying characteristic (as energy)
3 a : a dispersed substance
b : a system consisting of a dispersed substance and the medium in which it is dispersed : COLLOID 2b called also disperse system

dispersion. Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Inc. (accessed: January 18, 2011).


Forces work upon each other in remarkable ways. The water laps against the rock, aided by time immemorial and turns it to sand. The wind courses across the river and lifts the waves into the sky. Clouds, heavier than mountains drift until they must let their content fall upon the earth.
It is easy to forget that this process is constant and part of the dynamic course of life. That even when we are content, we must prepare for what we have gathered together to pass away from us and radiate into the universe. It can be difficult to allow this to happen, but without this movement, there is aught but stagnation and death.
To allow this momentum to work on oneself is especially difficult. To relinquish the illusion of constancy and control to the chaos that surrounds us is by no means simple, but it can allow for new and critical truths to become plain. The same wind that lift the river to become a cloud can dry tears, too.

“And if there come the singers and the dancers and the flute players, buy of their gifts also. For they too are the gatherers of fruit and frankincense, and that which they bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul.” ~The Prophet Kahlil Gibran

For in the everyday commerce of our lives, let us not forget the pleasures that sustain us. Not so much an admonition, this is instead the reminder that sweetness and indulgence too have their place in a well-ordered soul. The aesetics took their task too far; by denying all pleasure they forget we are enabled us feel joy and ecstasy in that we may have a hint of the divine. We must conduct our business, indeed, but so too must we nurture the vessel by which the work is done.

This is not a blanket endorsement for debauchery  but instead the reminder that the simplest pleasures are worth your most precious commodity, be that time or effort, or indeed coin. That to engage in the material support of your own pleasure is the most satisfying use of the sweat of your brow. To truly earn your delights a great gift.


I’ve elected not to review this book until I’ve finished the entire Hyperion Cantos. This novel has all of the excellent qualities of the first in the series, and really feels more like a part of the entire rather than it’s own entity. As such, I’ll save the gushing for later.

By Jonathan Franzen

Much praise indeed has already been heaped upon this novel, and justly so. It is one of the most deftly written pieces of modern American fiction I have had the pleasure to read; poignant, witty, and deeply insightful, this book offers a tremendous opportunity to anyone who will bend its spine.

We enter the family life of the Berglands, who at first seem very ordinary, but soon reveal themselves as each in their own way a very archetype of American culture; their interactions with each other and those around them providing a perfect vignette by which Franzen can flawlessly satirize the stereotypes he reveals. His use of language is inspired and leaves no one unscathed:

“[T]he Berglunds were the super-guilty sort of liberals who needed to forgive everybody so their own good fortune could be forgiven; who lacked the courage of their privilege.”

The attention to the family as a whole gives way to a portion of first-person-writing-in-third-person voice. The effect seems slightly tried at first, but it becomes obvious that this is partly because the “autobiographer” Patty, is only just learning to speak in her own voice. Doing so, she is somewhat clumsy and self-conscious; perfectly reflecting the emotional state of her character. She describes herself as undefined without competition to shape her, but most of her reflections lead one to think it is rather opposition she craves. Her portrayal of her mother is a singularly unsympathetic, if nevertheless amusing bit of vitriol:

“[T]he Honorable Joyce Emerson, known for her advocacy of open space, poor children, and the Arts. Paradise for Joyce is an open space where poor children can go and do arts at state expense.”

She classifies the rest of her family of origin in similarly wry and less-than-flattering terms, and in her way she has chosen to be as unlike them as humanly possible, less out of any wholehearted contempt for them, as simply having always thrived on antagonism.

When Patty goes away to a mediocre midwestern school to pursue an athletic scholarship she does so as much to enjoy the best chance to exercise her talents as to confound her parents. Once there she meets Walter who finds her contrariety charming instead of exhausting, and her height enchanting (this was a basketball scholarship after all) instead of merely odd. And while she finds his attention pleasant enough, it is really his glamorous rock-star-wanna-be best friend and roommate that Patty finds herself drawn to.

For Walter, is boring. He is the epitome of The Good Man. He has risen from his humble Minnesotan roots to become a lawyer and advocate of zero population growth. An avowed and vocal feminist, he is impressed by Patty’s independence, her toughness, and her body.

“Patty had never been around a man so obviously in love with her. What he and she were secretly talking about, of course, was Walter’s desire to put his hands on her.”

Which in no way diminished his desire to be respectful and honorable at all times. Which ends up being a bit of a drag for their sex life, as time goes by.

Richard, on the other hand, is Walter’s best friend and the Bad Boy to Walter’s Good Man. Richard (Dick?) is a tosser aside of women. A user of drugs and a shirker of responsibility. Though he knows full well that Walter is more-than-half-but-less-than-all-the-way in love with Patty, he agrees to take her and her heaving bosom across country with the intent of letting something “happen” if it was going to. Though nothing does, it remains a point of almost obsessive regret on Patty’s part after she realizes that the Bad Boy would not think wonderful things about her the way the Good Man would, and flees, mid-road trip, to northern Minnesota to give herself body and soul to Walter’s eager love of her.

Married life produces children also struck in an archetypal mold; the dutiful daughter and the favored son. Jessica, like her father, is hardworking and earnest. She does all that she should and;

“was smitten by books[…] not so pretty as to be morally deformed by it.”

Also like her father, she does not seem to have the natural gift for getting what she wants. All that luck has landed on her brother, Joey.

This golden boy seems possessed of all the traits required for great success; he is handsome, witty, charming, and strong-willed, but he has inherited his mother’s need for opposition. Or at least a healthy unwillingness to submit. In this vein he moves out of his parent’s house while still a teenager to live with a girlfriend he is largely ambivalent about, largely because he knows how much the idea will madden his mother.

The family drifts away, not just from the home they had together while the children were small, but from one another as well. As the fabric of the Berglund family begins to unknit itself, Patty no longer knows who she is or what to do with herself. Having chosen to forgo a career and be a devoted homemaker (as opposed to the working mother she had herself) now that the children are no longer small or dependent upon her, she has no idea of her value or purpose. She falls into a serious depression and as she puts it in her autobiography “mistakes were made.”

These archetypal figures work on each other in mysterious but beautiful ways. Patty seems empty-headed and obstinate at first, but exposure to her Good Man and a series of wounds inflicted by the Favored Son and the Bad Boy create in her a greater sensitivity to her own ability to hurt others. The Favored Son continues to get almost exactly what he wants in every possible situation, but rather than spoiling him, it makes him increasingly mindful of the responsibilities this implies.

Jessica becomes rather a bitter figure, retreating increasingly into the distance, and Walter develops and ultimately unleashes a heretofore unseen rage against a system that he has incrementally become entangled with. All those good intentions getting him much further down the road to hell than he can credit. But when he finally chooses to embrace his anger, it is utterly cleansing.

The collapse the family suffers is inevitable, but heartrending nevertheless. Recriminations fly in the face of the beautiful discoveries they were always on the verge of. Each one of the Berglunds seem unable to relinquish their position; a stance that propagates the unwinding of their lives together until they no longer have one at all.

However, they manage, somehow to pick up the threads of their lives, and weave them back together again. The pattern of their family is irrevocably changed, but what emerges is a more honest and fully realized version of each person as well as the clan as a whole.

By the end of this novel, the family and the autobiographer in it have matured and changed enormously. There is a confidence in Patty’s voice that lends her a sympathy that was hard to muster in the earliest chapters of her story. The greater understanding she extends her own family of origin extends itself around all of the Berglunds like a mantle. And with this, we have the freedom to love them unstintingly.


By David Ebershoff

enjoyable to read, capably written, this novel approaches the history and present of multiple marriage within the LDS church.

a fan of historical fiction, i appreciated the extensive research and attention to detail the author afforded his subject matter. while the mormon church enjoys a wealth of documentation due both to its relative youth as an organization and its doctrinal position that keeping records of heredity and history are critical functions of the church, these records are not usually available to “gentiles” and the more controversial the subject matter the more difficult these records become to access. Ebershoff even uses this circumstance as a literary mechanism within the context of this interestingly structured novel.

the book is portioned such that there are really three threads running concurrently throughout. there is the reconstructed memoir of Ann Eliza Young, the notorious 19th wife of Brigham Young, there is the modern-day murder mystery set in the backdrop of the sect of the LDS church which still practices polygamy, and interspersed are vignettes in the form of recreated newspaper articles, personal letters, and archived documents pertaining to one tale or the other.

the stories herein are interesting enough to have kept me entertained, if not especially inspired. the novel was well-constructed but lacking a certain resonance of tone considering the powerful emotional themes broached therein. themes of faith, human dignity, and the dangers of theocracy are approached, but not plumbed.

overall a fair piece of historical fiction. worth reading, especially for those with any curiosity about this particular aspect of the Mormon historical record.

By William F. Buckley

plucked this one off of an endcap at the library and was hoping for better.
written in an approachable, easygoing tone, this novel took a different tack than the typical Washington Scandal Book, most of which are rigid, intense, and gripping. here instead we had a scandal, cover up which resorts to arson and murder, and the ruination of a presidential candidacy all discussed with a remarkable lack of engagement or urgency.
this lackadasickal emotional approach translated into a rather unengaging read. action was interestingly conveyed, but improbably casual. even the reactions of many of the characters to the circumstances in which they found themselves seemed disingenuously detached and unemotional.
the end comes rather suddenly and without the drama one would expect from the events as they unfold. i expected to find at least 3 or 4 more chapters after the last page and was left feeling a little perturbed. not so much because i was so interested in the story as to long for its continuation, but because i was incredulous that it would end with such percipitance.
i felt like the underlying plot was interesting and could have made for a gripping Washington Scandal Book but was poorly handled and incompletely developed. ( )

Harper Paperbacks (2008), Paperback, 288 pages

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