Author, Novelist, Writer, & Public Speaker

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Square Pegs & Round Holes

July 14, 2014

I recently returned to my hometown for an evening. I always find it strange to see the hand of time at work.

In a quick conversation with a friend’s mother, we referenced an odd moment of my past. A moment that is nothing shy of laughable to me and the man I have become…but, as a child? that moment accounts as the vector for a huge portion of stress from my adolescence. Offhandedly I deemed it a matter of square pegs and round holes. But later that night, driving home, I thought about how often those cases eat at the world – cancerous, leprous, rotting away at the fabric of society. Culminating in small instances of insecurity for some adults, or going so far as to twist others into violence and malice.

And the asinine cause is – square pegs and round holes. That’s it. Simple. Easy to overcome, but often left to fester.

There’s nothing wrong with the square pegs. There’s nothing wrong with the round holes. They just don’t work together. They’re in the wrong place. But, instead of seeing the difference as blameless, as part of how the universe works, they typically find it’s easier to feel that the reason they don’t go together is the fault of the other. Opposition. That’s how society works, right? That damn dualistic perspective that pits man against woman, black against white, good against evil, the lightside against the darkside, dogs against cats, Ohio Sate against Michigan, heads against tails, and so forth and so on…that perspective keeps people entrenched in a limited world.

The universe is infinite. It’s the limited human mind that sees things in twos. How much and how many do you see? … that’s up to you.

~Nick Shamhart

It’s Hard to F@#k Up Vanilla

July 10, 2014

Sometimes when I travel to a book signing nearby I bring a friend along with me. He’s a young man. A good kid. We bullshit, chew the fat, and sometimes just listen to the radio.

…..Look, I never set out in life  to be some guru or sage. I watch the world go by and sometimes I make an observation about what I see. Sometimes those observations help people. Sometimes they hurt, though that has never been my intention and those who were ever hurt by my words I hope you have the strength to forgive me.

Somehow I still find myself in that role of teacher, though. With that in mind, I’ve found that direct answers are easily forgotten. It’s lessons that are learned when a student comes to their own conclusion that sticks with people.

On the way home from a recent signing my young friend was telling me about some S’mores flavored milkshake from somewhere that was amazing. I told him I liked vanilla. His response was, “But vanilla is boring.”

I said that may be true, but it’s reliable. I know I’m going to have a sweet, tasty drink no matter where I purchase it. Other flavors can be chalky or too sweet and cloying. How often do you hear about some new flavor? All the time, right? Something better. Something newer! You build it up in your mind and when you finally try it … well, it wasn’t all that great. Meanwhile I’m sitting there enjoying my boring old vanilla. It’s hard to fuck up vanilla, brother.

Now, of course I like vanilla shakes. My ever fluctuating waistline is a testament to that. But I was hoping he would take that concept and apply it to life in general. You know the drill, learn to appreciate all the small, little boring things life gives us. That’s what life is, isn’t it? A bunch of boring things. A breath. A smile. A laugh. Small, tiny, insignificant, wonderful, boring things.

…………. Last Friday, a week after his seventeenth birthday, my friend had an accident. He suffered serve head trauma from a fall, and has had a craniotomy to lesson the pressure in his skull. His pressure has continued to fluctuate over the last week. His family and friends wait and wonder. We hope. We pray. And we hope some more.

Small things matter, friends. Little things. Boring things. Take a moment and enjoy them.

~Nick Shamhart

Gays, Blacks, and the Handicapped are Destroying America!

July 7, 2014

Dear Reader, I am so proud that you made it here beyond the bitter and spiteful invective of the title. If you’ve read my books, articles, or attended a speaking engagement of mine you know I firmly believe the opposite. Variety in all its forms keeps stagnation and destruction in check. Hate is a cancer eating away at the world’s soul.

The harsh title was to prove my point. We live in a Headline Culture. People fly off the handle at the littlest connotation or misinterpretation. I receive weekly emails of a bitter, diatribe-like nature where if the person complaining had focused the energy of their spite upon reading the entire piece I had written and examined what it was that caused such a visceral reaction, they could have saved themselves undo suffering. (I can already feel the inbox filling up from this headline alone). If people will not take the time to read three paragraphs before they act then what hope does the publishing world have? What future does the written word have? In a solitary response – bleak.

So, why do people do this? Why participate in the destructive Headline Culture? Is it lassitude? Is it the availability of information without a focused intellect to absorb it? Is it nature, nurture, or both? It could be many things. What I offer you is an opportunity to see who among your friends, family, and social media swimming pools belongs to the Headline Culture and who does not. Share this everywhere and see who flies off the handle and who empathizes. I would never go so far as to deride those who do not read before they rage…but, perhaps this will grant them an opportunity for self-reflection and growth – to think before you speak, to be sure you have as much information as possible before you lash out.

~Nick Shamhart

Uncle Sam’s Ego

July 4, 2014

I am an American. What does that mean? The world holds very different views and opinions on this subject. To some being an American describes a self-involved and absorbed mindset. Walk around any of our major cities and watch folks pass. You would be hard-pressed to disagree with that view. To others American means privileged. Sure, it is the Land of Opportunity, so privileged indeed. I see nothing wrong with our privileged lifestyle as long as we do not take it for granted, embracing our gifts and giving of our haves to the have nots.

Let’s take Independence. Our battle cry echoing through the centuries, slowly fading as all points do. Much like American, what does independence mean? Self-sufficiency? Once, yes, but no longer. Our measure of privilege has gone beyond that scope of possibility. If America was to test that famous Independence once more she would collapse. We are dependent upon other nations for our privileged lifestyles. We need them and they need us – Independence bred co-dependence. We look down on the violence and depredations of the third-world, but the thing is those hardy souls are survivors. They would last after our collapse. It would not be pretty, to be sure, but how many Americans have that edge? Could you survive on the gallon or two of potable water most third-world  families have for consumption on a daily basis?

What we were and what we are never remains the same. Americans were a cantankerous bunch of disenfranchised souls – survivors. Now we are the very dandies we once raged against dependent on others for our privileges. We litigate, subjugate, retaliate, aggravate, and violate our pasts.

I am an American. I am a survivor. On this, our Independence Day, I would ask you to reflect upon what that means to you…be you of my nationality or not.

~Nick Shamhart

You’re Worth More Than a Million Kardashians

June 28,  2014

I often wonder why people obsess, fixate, and idolize celebrities. Most days it seems like people listen to what Opera has to say more so than their friends and family – people they love and are loved by in return. Anyone else find that odd? to value the opinion of someone you have never met, and will never meet, over the people who breathe the same air, drink the same water, and eat the same food as you?

I’ve witnessed social media cluster fucks beyond count over such asinine concepts as what a celebrity was wearing. Why should the world care? Is it smoke and mirrors for the travesties surrounding us? Is it escapism to lands of fairy tale princesses with ghetto booties like the Kardashians? Why? There’s plenty of booty to go around. What makes the Kardashians’ so obsession-worthy?

Celebrities are not your friends. They don’t care about you. They would not piss on you if you were on fire. Not a one of them would trade places with you…ever. Even though your life has value. It has substance and meaning. In fact, your life is better then theirs because you have people that love you for who you are, not who they think you are. If you’re completely alone with no friends or family you are still better off because you can go out and make new friends without the worry of do they like me for me, or my fame?

Remember that you have more value than any American Idol.

~Nick Shamhart

The Small Town Virus

June 20, 2014

Sadly I’ve been told that another man from the same small town where I was raised committed suicide.

What is it about that town? I will not name it, but with the age of Google at hand it would not be too difficult to track down. One of the greatest parts of my life is talking with people from all over the world. Many of whom are from small towns, but they all have that “Aw, shucks, yeah I’m from So&So” rueful, almost pleasantly reminiscent mentality. That is rarely the case with people from the same suburban geographic mileage as yours truly. Truth to tell, for many it is a small protected Xanadu where the outside world only intrudes through the television and summer tourists. But, for many others they believe it to be the very pits of Hades where their neighbors are the likes of  Brutus and Judas Iscariot.

To dig out the exact statistics, while I write this on a rainy afternoon, would be too morbid to bear. Off the top of my head I can think of almost a dozen suicides from different social strata and age groups over the years in that very same small town. That’s just names floating around in my head, mind you, imagine how many more there are.

The unifying trait is they all went through the same school system in the same small town. One boy even chose to end his life from my graduating class our Junior year.

So, what is it? Why? Those aren’t questions with ready answers.

It has always felt like a virus to me. A spiritual malady that is passed on from generation to generation. Those who were not born and raised there are immune, but to pass through the system is to be assured of exposure. Once contracted, they all feel it. Some only notice a mild cough or cold, yet others have daily migraines. Some flee, hoping that distance and time will lessen the severity of the reaction.  Others still? It tears them apart, slowly or rapidly, a few years or over decades, doesn’t matter. Once the virus is contracted there is no cure. Strength of character works for some, as does perspective. Friends help, family too, but sometimes the virus is too strong. We are only human. Sometimes no amount of love, compassion, and caring can counteract the damage done by the virus over the years. It’s insidious in nature. It rides the soul all through childhood and adolescence, crippling the spirit when it should be growing.

I see existence for the infinity that it is, so maybe, just maybe an inoculation is possible. It has to start on a community level, and it has to be allowed to mutate and grow as the virus fights to reassert itself. There is no way to stop the virus if the host refuses to fight it. The children need to build confidence and gain identity at an early age. Adults need to prove their humanity by opening their hearts and minds to others. They need to help each other find their strengths to combat their weaknesses … or else they will rot from within.

They need to be able to look back on the past with solace, not spleen, so when the day is darkest the light from yesterday can illuminate the possibility of tomorrow.

~Nick Shamhart


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