Like many of my readers, my political views are not easily labeled or placed in a box. For me, a healthy democracy requires freedom of expression and the defense of personal privacy. It also requires a certain amount of civil discourse. This is why the unrelenting partisanship of today’s political landscape makes me worry about our future.
I’m not going to conceal my opinion of Donald Trump. Read the recently published Fire and Fury and you will realize that the P...resident is a real estate con man from Queens with the attention span of a goldfish. But what concerns me more that Trump’s tweets is the fact that many Americans refuse to speak to someone on “the other side.”
In response to this problem, I have written a short, free e-book titled HOW TO FREE YOUR MIND IN THE TRUMP ERA. This is not a political rant or an attempt to tell anyone how to think. But I do have a few ideas about how get some perspective, talk to each other and achieve political change.
THE RULE OF ONE
Black Friday has passed and now FedEx workers are pushing trolleys stacked with gift boxes down the sidewalks of New York.
During this time of giving and receiving, I'm inspired to write about walking away from possessions....
I've only done this once. The vision that engendered the Fourth Realm Trilogy also caused major changes in my life. I walked away from a house, furniture, two cars, -- pretty much everything I owned.
For two years I tried to follow The Rule of One: a life style that encourages you to only have one of everything: one table, one chair, one bowl, one spoon.
Instantly, my life became simple and basic. I didn't have to maintain anything. Although my one desk was piled high with manuscripts, the rest of my flat was clean and spare.
If I had been living in a monastery, everything would have worked out. But I was definitely in the world. Friends set me up with blind dates, but when women visited my flat it was usually a disaster. One woman stood in the doorway for about a minute, then turned around and hurried back to the elevator
I bought a small green couch so friends could sit down and then a set of wine glasses and...a decade later...I own four chairs and two throw rugs.
After The Rule of One experience, I came up with a few basic conclusions. There is nothing wrong with possessions. They can give us comfort and pleasure. But we need to be careful that these objects don't own us.
Happy Holidays to Everyone! Here's a link to a live show of a British afrobeat group. Feel free to post your favorite live performances.
Whenever I take off my shirt in front a stranger, they usually say the same thing: “Wow. You’ve got a lot of scars.”
That’s true -- although several of the scars have changed over time. Many years ago, I was riding a bicycle down Park Avenue when a lady opened her car door into the street. I hit the door and the unwrapped end of my racing handlebar skewered me in the stomach....
That belly scar has faded along with a scar I received on the bridge of my nose after a idiot drinking at a bar smashed a glass in my face because he thought I was chatting up his girlfriend.
These days, my scars come from various accidents and operations. Yes, I know, it’s fun to ride motorcycles, but eventually you are going to go down.
It’s taken me some time, but now I put my scars in the same category as my most painful memories.
Certain things happened to me – and to you, I’m sure – that really hurt. Please don’t deny these incidents or try to forget them. That strategy doesn’t work. Acknowledge your scars, but don’t allow them to define your life.
Is there anything good going on in your life right now? One of my children has fallen in love with a great person and this makes me really happy.
Attached is a love song from the Pretenders. Feel free to add a link to a favorite love song.
The French version of Against Authority is now available on my website as well as on Amazon.ca and Amazon.fr. I want to thank Gilles Maranda for his excellent translation. German and Spanish translations are on the way.
Over the last few years, this free eBook has been downloaded by more than 50,000 readers, Against Authority is an unusual protest book because it's being read by individuals not just in one specific country -- but all over the world....
The chattering class believes that most people no longer care about the attack on privacy by governments and large corporations, but they are talking to themselves in a echo chamber.
There are deep waters in our modern culture and beneath the surface -- in daily, private ways -- people are trying to create lives that use digital technology while not allowing it to track and monitor our actions.
If you haven't read the book, it's available for free on johntwelvehawks.com and on a variety of other websites.
WHO ARE YOU?
What this young woman was wearing on a Sunday afternoon sparked a question in my mind. In our daily life, we engage the world with a variety of "faces." At various times we are customer or employee, parent or child, student or teacher, etc.
And in the digital world, we project an even wider variety of selves. In AGAINST AUTHORITY, I advocate parallel identities. We should have a private Self for our friends and a "created self" for dealing with surveillance techn...ology.
As we offer a wider variety of faces to the world, it becomes crucial that we know when we are truly our "Self."
I am my true Self when I meditate at 2am in the morning, when I'm with close friends and when I response instinctively to great beauty. What about you? Is there a moment when you know that you are really you?
Note: I took this photo at the Rei Kawakubo show at the Met Museum in New York City.
I’ve been living in Amsterdam and Berlin this summer. Read the previous posts and you’ll find a more detailed explanation of why I’m here.
One aspect of my life here is that Europeans are constantly asking me to explain Donald Trump. They can’t understand why – no matter what he tweets -- he seems to retain a core of supporters....
What I tell them is that there are two different Americas. Many Europeans have visited New York City, the Grand Canyon and Hollywood. But they haven’t visited West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.
I have lived in these Red State areas. As mentioned in a previous post, I once worked as a lumberjack for two brothers who owned a small ranch. Cutting down big trees was exhausting, dangerous work. Men were constantly getting injured.
Many of the congressional districts that went for Trump are in rural areas with a small percentage of minorities and recent immigrants. These areas are not prosperous. The world trade economy and digital technology have not raised real wages (purchasing power) for most American workers for decades.
One key difference between the two Americas is that most of the men working for logging crew were dealing with daily physical pain. Forget the image of the urban junkie. A large percentage of people in rural America carry pill containers in their truck’s glove compartment.
People are angry that their economic condition is not improving and that their children have limited opportunities. They don’t have the skills, confidence and resources to move to a city with 21st Century jobs. This situation engenders the politics of resentment, fear and rage
Racism and bigotry is repulsive. I’m not excusing any of that. But there are significant economic reasons why some Americans are angry and calling them “stupid” is not going solve any problems.
These pictures were taken about a year ago when I was in Cheswick, a small town in Southwest Pennsylvania. My friends had a teenage son and I drank beer with his friends. All of them hated their hometown, but no one talked about leaving.
Feel free to disagree. I want to know what you think.
Here is my friend, Marni, wearing a million dollars at the "Trump Show Your Taxes" march in New York City. Scroll to earlier posts and you'll see her dressed up as Miss America.
Anyone who has been reading these posts during the last year will realize that I live a fairly restless life. I am comfortable sleeping on a couch anywhere in the world.
Right now, I'm in living with friends in Amsterdam. Usually, the first thing you do in a foreign city is buy some sort of Metro/Tube pass, but instead my friends took me to Mac Bikes and I bought a used rental bicycle....
In Los Angles, the car is the dominant means of transportation. In New York City, everyone walks. But in Amsterdam, pedestrians give way to bicyclists obeying traffic laws. Bike parking turns out to be a major problem here.
A reader recently asked "what is freedom?" Ride a bike in Amsterdam and you'll get a daily lesson. Freedom is being able to travel where and whenever you want while being aware of others and respecting their rights. So ride your bike...but don't bash into another rider.
“I have met only a very few people—and most of these were not Americans—who had any real desire to be free. Freedom is hard to bear. It can be objected that I am speaking of political freedom in spiritual terms, but the political institutions of any nation are always menaced and are ultimately controlled by the spiritual state of that nation. We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know, and the American dream has therefore become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels.” (James Baldwin in The Fire Next Time)
When is the last time you were faced with a complicated situation and had to improvise a solution? Was this stressful or enjoyable?
I have thought a fair amount about improvisation because I deal with it every day I write. I have a plot, characters and a general story structure, but I am open to my characters breaking free of the outline and reacting in a surprising way....
Musicians, of course, improvise during a live performance and I’m including a clip from a “pick up” band of stars put together for the final night’s performance at the Django Reinhardt Festival in New York City.
“Dark Eyes” is a standard in gypsy swing and all of these musicians have played the tune countless times before. Plus they have all memorized a series of individual riffs to play whenever they wish.
Bottom line about improvising. It’s requires practice, discipline and structure to sound wild and free.
Hope all is well in your life. Is there any live music you want to share?
One question readers often ask me is: where do you get your ideas? That's a complicated question and it can only be answered by specific examples.
In The Dark River and The Golden City, Maya is trapped.in Hell. So where did I get that idea and the visual images described in the two books? Some of it came from my imagination, shaped by the life I was living at the time. I had worked in a country that was going through a genocidal civil war. The violence and cruelty I... saw in that environment lingered in my dreams.
I lived in New York City while I was writing The Dark River and almost every day I would walk to the Metropolitan Museum to view Christ's Descent Into Hell, painted by a 16th Century artist inspired by Hieronymus Bosch. It's a dark, murky painting, but if you stare at it long enough, it inspires some dark thoughts.
These days, I'm mostly living in the light. But I still admire the painting.
A SIGN IN THE CROWD
My friends are always amused when critics categorize me as a fantasy or sci-fi writer. And why is that? Because a great deal of my writing is directly personal. Like Gabriel in The Traveler, my father died when I was young; my mother was loving, but overwhelmed; and my older brother was an ambitious hustler involved with real estate schemes.
When I was a teenager, I was a mediocre student in a mediocre high school. I wanted to escape from this cage, but di...dn’t have a clue how to do that.
Then I met an English teacher who – for some reason – decided that I might be worth saving. She challenged me, inspired me and changed my life.
So why am I telling you this? Well, there were a great many signs waved during the Saturday demonstration in New York City, but this is a photo of the one sign that touched my heart. It's the sort of sign that my teacher would have written.
My life was transformed because of my encounters with a series of strong, intelligent women. Which is why, when women take to the streets and begin protesting, I stop and listen.
Like many of my readers, I don't like whining, surrender or apathy. If you have an opinion about the new president -- pro or con -- then express it!
If you don't know how to influence others, then take a look at my short essay: Expressing Your Opinion in the Digital Age.
You can find it on http://Medium.com .
A friend of mine died a few weeks ago. Ray was a 103. The photo shows his daughter holding his hand in the hospital room.
When I was growing up, I always liked to hang out with old people. If they were angry and bitter, I learned a lesson from that. If they were happy with their lives, I tried to find out why.
Ray was a playboy in his twenties, the only son of a wealthy family in China. The family fortune was lost during the revolution, but Ray never complained. He immigrat...ed to the U.S., went to college and became a chemist.
Although Ray would talk about the past, he never succumbed to nostalgia. He was interested in what was going on right now and was open to trying something new.
Even in the hospital, the nurses were draw to this frail, elderly man. He always asked about their lives and their dreams for the future. When one of the nurses got engaged, he surprised her with a present and she burst into tears.
Ray was a ballroom dancer when he was young and he loved watching Dancing With the Stars. And that's how I will always remember him -- as a graceful dancer with a firm grip who moved with the music that was always around him.
I hope that all of you were lucky enough to meet someone who gave you the example -- and the hope -- of a graceful life.
What other author page will provide you with an image of dancing Japanese Elvises? I met these guys in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park one Sunday afternoon. They are serious...about their hair.
News! My johntwelvehawks.com website has been completely redesigned. It will provide you with biographical information, collected quotes and free downloads of Against Authority....
Yes, the world is a turbulent place, but if you have some quiet days between Christmas and New Years, sit in a space that inspires you and write down a list of the positive elements in your life.
I am grateful for my friends, my family and my readers. Your encouragement has sustained me during some difficult times.
Hear the beat and dance in a park.
"NO. IT'S CRAZY."
I watched the American election results at a friend's apartment in East Harlem. I spent the night there, and then traveled downtown on the subway at around 5:30 in the morning....
Working people ride the train at that time and the atmosphere was grim. People didn't read the paper or listen to music on their head phones. They just stared into space.
I turned to an African-American man in his fifties who wore a maintenance service jacket.
"It's bad," I said.
"No," he answered. "It's crazy."
I realize that many people believe that a demon has been unchained. The photo is a demon rising up from hell that was painted on the wall of a church in Ethiopia. This new demon in our lives is now in control of the most powerful country in the world.
But that fact shouldn't change our values. I will still continue to believe in freedom of speech and tolerance. I will see the demons clearly, but will not allow myself to be infected by their madness.
Hello from Berlin! I've been living here for the last few weeks. One of my friends has a seven-year-old girl and I've been taking the child to Berlin playgrounds while my friend deals with some family problems.
There are major differences between playgrounds in Berlin and playgrounds in New York City. The short answer is that Berlin playgrounds are a bit more dangerous and a lot more fun. They have improvised playground equipment that (in America) would be shut down by an arm...y of lawyers.
Berlin playgrounds allow a wider range of play. The most adventurous one of the batch is the Kolle 37 adventure playground in Bauspielplatz. Children are given tools and lumber and allowed to build little houses and bridges. There is a "fire day" each week (see photo) when they can experiment with fire and a stone day when they can carve stone (they do wear goggles).
One or two adults are around during these activities to give instruction, but most projects are run by the children. Recently, they built an amazing tunnel.
I love Kolle 37 because it duplicates my own childhood. My father give us tools and materials and we were allowed to make anything we wanted. But you need to understand one thing...
Kolle 37 has a list of basic rules and you are expected to follow them (a photo of the rules in English is attached). If you do a good deed, you get a green card. If you do something wrong, you get a yellow card. But if you break a major rule, you get a red card and -- unless you apologize and explain what happened -- you're out.
We have a great many laws in America, but powerful people don't follow them. I wish we all followed some basic rules that sustained a society based on mutual respect -- and more fun for kids.