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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


The World is Only as Intolerant as You

June 11, 2014

I read about a Toledo girl with Progeria that has been bullied and humiliated by her fellow students. I’ve been attempting to wrap my mind around how children can be so cruel. I will not delve into questions of nature or nurture. That argument has gone on so long that perhaps its flawed. It’s an age old question of humanity that at its core requires finger pointing. Which is it? Which is the problem? Nature or nurture? We want to know so we can hate it!

Wiser men than me have said it, but it bears repeating. We can’t stop hate with hate. Anger with anger. Fear with fear. You don’t empty a pool by adding more water.

Tolerance should not be a subject that children have to be taught. It should be a way of life.

I’m not blessed. I’m not cursed. My friends are my friends because I see them for their flaws and their talents. I have friends that are black, white, rich, poor, male, female, gay, straight, old, and young. Their walks of life vary from musicians to politicians, lawyers to criminals, WASPs to bikers, Christians to Atheists, fighters to cowards, TV personalities, authors, journalists, actors, artists, laborers, doctors, nurses, teachers, preachers, and more. I know the difference in the feel of a blind man’s handshake. I’ve carried a crippled man to his wheelchair. Hell! I’ve even been the man it that wheelchair.

They all have and they all have not. That’s what it means to be human. That realization keeps us from just being tailless monkeys.

I won’t preach. I won’t teach. If you haven’t learned to live with your haves by embracing others’ have nots, then nothing I can say will change that.

I’d only ask that you look to what you have before you hurt someone for what they do not.

~Nick Shamhart


Get Off Your Ass and Read to Your Kids!

June 4, 2014

As of this morning LeVar Burton’s Kickstarter campaign to re-boot Reading Rainbow has raised 3.5 Million dollars. What an amazing example of the power of celebrity and social media! I mean wow, gosh, and golly gee!

Now, let’s have a little tête-à-tête shall we, hmm? A spot of palaver with Nick as I wipe some spit and reality polish onto this situation.

Reading Rainbow is the progenitor of these wacky book trailers I’ve seen and heard about. Commercials really, where they film a thirty second to a minute teaser trailer type scene of what the book could be like if you read it. Why? Because, publishers have nifty little business spreadsheets that compile reader information. That information says that what is left of the reading public is lazy and dumb. They need the literary equivalent of a Coors Lite commercial featuring girls in bikinis playing beach volleyball.

Burton has been quoting scholastic statistics from the success of his original venture as rationale for the re-boot. But, numbers are ticklish things, my friends. The aforementioned publisher’s numbers say the public is too lazy and stupid, remember? So let’s look at the reality, not the numbers.

I am of the Reading Rainbow generation. Kids who were enticed to read a book because we couldn’t stop staring at the TV screen. The range for this generation is about 45 to 20 year-olds in America. Guess what? That is one of the worst demographics for pleasure readers since written language was passed beyond the borders of cloistered monasteries and moldy collegiate studies and libraries. So take a moment to reflect on what that says for the longevity of this multi-million dollar project. Money that could have supported a new filmmaker who has a brilliant story but no business backing, or a musician that just wants to sing and not show us her tits.

I speak from experience. My numbers are faces in crowds. People not spreadsheets. I have spoken at hundreds of libraries over the last few years. The faces that read? The bulk of them are late middle-age to post menopausal women. Gals who have lived, loved, and been around the same block too many times to count. Women who may read a romance, but chuckle and snort at the unreality of the story. My kind of ladies! Ladies that did not have Reading Rainbow growing up. they read because they wanted to. No enticement needed beyond what the pages held.

The harsh reality is that the Reading Rainbow generation taken as a whole doesn’t read. Even the most empathetic among us has a tendency to be self-involved with our hobbies and likes. Yes, you may read. Yes, your group of close friends may read, too. But trust me, there are seven billion souls in this world, your circle of readers is a very small slice of that ecumenical pie.

Let’s give those millions of dollars to entrepreneurs who haven’t had the chance for their voice to be heard. Get off your lazy ass and read to your kids, so LeVar can retire in peace.

~Nick Shamhart

P.S. To give LeVar his due the publishers have a statistic that says that at the moment the most likely person to pick up a book for pleasure reading in America is a college-educated black. You must have done something right right, LeVar. You did succeed, brother!


Thought-Provoking Secrets of the Brain

May 31, 2014

I have never cared for the critique catchall term – Thought-provoking. This has been used many times to describe my writing. I’m fine with it. I don’t mean to be insulting toward any individual person who uses it. What doesn’t work for me is this – Who is this supposed to be thought-provoking for? It means that the critic is offering it up as something they felt was thought-provoking and then you should as well, right?

Let’s face it, readers, thought and his tag along friend provoke are not many people’s strong suits. I’d give Vegas odds that “Green Eggs and Ham” when stripped of rhyme has more depth of thought-provocation than most folks can handle.

Jayson Blair, remember him? You should, he was the journalist who resigned from The New York Times after it came to light he was fabricating and plagiarizing his stories. The NY Times of course washed their hands of him, but are we to believe that his case was a fluke. Hmm, thought-provoking isn’t it?

Anytime thought-provoking is used it implies that the reader has an insight into the speaker or author’s thoughts. These are things I find thought-provoking: M-theory, Escher’s ability at perspective, the delineation of body, mind, and spirit, Copland’s imagery evocation, and blending dogmatic religion with philosophy. So, if I tell you something else is thought-provoking you now have a basis for comparison. Context is key. I’ve read reviews by BIG name critics (who shall remain nameless for privacy) but some have worked for a certain previously named periodical *wink wink* They have used “Though-provoking” to describe a novel, but they have also said similar things about Twilight, 50 Shades, and worse. So, with that basis for comparison, what are we to conclude?

~Nick Shamhart


Facebook Losing Face?

May 22, 2014

One of my readers sent me an email asking why she hadn’t seen my posts on Facebook and if I had stopped using that platform.

Not to worry, my accounts are still active and utilized on every social media site, folks. The thing is for those of us that have been using Facebook for years (odd to be able to say that) the changes have been dramatic. I will do my best not to criticize the company. It is after all a free service, but longtime users still do not understand why they don’t see every post from their friends, family, and favorite pages on their feed.

The first reason is that most people and pages refuse to pay-to-promote their posts. The second, from the page’s front, is that there are the verified pages that BIG NAME products and celebrities have that benefit Facebook financially by just having an account. Then there are the lesser known ones (Hi, nice to meet you. I’m one of those). And lastly the complete unknowns and random junk that is added to the social media trash heap daily. Facebook makes money off of us middle of the road, lesser knows. We are the ones with a reach but not the dynamic fame of say Beiber, Disney, Doritos, or any other mega product.  But our supporters still want to know what’s going on with our careers and whatnot. So the idea is that the Big Names don’t need to pay. The unknowns won’t pay… so, the middle class is supposed to. Hmm, sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t  it?

If you’re unwilling to jump platforms to the abbreviated world of Twitter (inane and really full of nonsense posts, but you’ll still see them if you’re following somebody) then the best solution is to try and utilize the Facebook algorithms. Don’t worry, it’s easy. If you want to see posts from a page or friend more often you have to increase your interaction with them  - quid pro quo. That means go to that page or profile and “Like” every damn post and picture (even if you don’t), comment (even if you have nothing to say add a happy face), and share the posts you really like on your profile. Do the same as you see new posts on your timeline and that will up the visibility of future posts.

Good luck!

~Nick


Still a Better Read Than “Fifty Shades of Grey”

May 15, 2014

Yes, Americans are lazy. Yes, they are (at times) stupid … and ignorant … and dumb … and, well, you take my meaning.

The thing is Americans can only shoulder so much of the blame for the plummet in reading statistics. The greed and foolishness of the publishing industry bears the Atlas-sized weight of it. When you trade quality for scandal, sensationalism, and a quick buck as publishers have, why should the people take the blame?

For too long the major publishing houses have been in control of what the world was supposed to read. They were (and still are) falsely considered judges of literature, gatekeepers for the art of storytelling. But they are a business. Never forget that. Money drives the machine, nothing more.

Case in point being that in a world with all time low book sales and fewer and fewer readers, Charles Ramsey was allotted a book – Dead Giveaway. Yes, the man did a good deed. In a neighborhood that, politely saying, isn’t the safest. You would never see any of the publishers who are selling his book there let me tell you. But. Let’s not forget that he heard a scream, put down his Big Mac, and opened a fucking door! That’s it! He didn’t fight the entire Castro clan single highhandedly, or rescue orphans from a burning building. He opened a fucking door! That does not make him an author. That does not mean he deserves to have his story told in print. Hell, I just told it! Scream, Big Mac, Door. That’s it. Story told.

Despite all that … Charles is being taken advantage of. What’s left of the reading public is being taken advantage of.

Rich white men who wouldn’t have spit on Charles if he were on fire a little over a year ago are now making money off of him – again. He is seen as a gimmick and not an individual. He deserves better. Everyone deserves better

The real bitch of it is that it’s still probably a better read than Fifty Shades of Grey.

~ Nick Shamhart

 


The Greed of Man vs. The Death of Art?

May 12, 2014

To look at the history of art is to look at the history of man. They are interrelated, symbiotic, and to a point – codependent. When our ancestors first began to tell stories, sing songs, pound out tattoos upon drums, sketch on cave walls, and carve stone, wood, and bone into shapes they hardly did so because they, “Like wanted to be famous and stuff. You know, like J.K. Rowling and the Twilight chick.”

I cannot count the number of people who have told me that they want to be writers. When I ask them why, none have yet to respond without some desire for fame and fortune behind their words. Greed does not create. Greed destroys.

Art is and always has been about creation. It connected us as people when we were singing to keep the dark at bay or telling stories to ebb our pervasive loneliness as the only sentient beings on our planet. With the songs, stories, paintings, and statues came companionship; a connection to other men and women. A candle in the dark. We are not alone in our feelings and dreams. Someone else sees images in the clouds.

It wasn’t always as greed-fueled as it is now. The Venus of Willendorf does’t have an asinine copyright or trademark stamped under her copious buttocks, accompanied by a chipped signature. Imagine the cavemen cocktail party conversations: “Oooo, did you see the new rock by Ug? It’s to die for!” … “How about Grunt’s new drum solo? I wish I could be like her!”

Art kept our souls alight. It drug us out of the world of tooth and claw. Why did that change? Why did greed corrupt our art? And, is it too late to take it back?

Will future generations look at our “art” and laugh at its vanity and hubris, pandering to carnal desires for a dollar? Or, will our greed only spread further and art (the externalization of the internal) become so tarnished that it is only a business to be consumed? A mental fast food hamburger, all greasy and limp that only vaguely resembles sustenance.

The greatest artist to ever live is the girl whistling a nameless tune in a graveyard to keep the dark and dead at bay.

~Nick Shamhart

 


Education Is a Community Issue

May 5, 2014

Community is a noun that seems to be devaluing as our world contracts. It seems we spend more time in here (in the world of pixels and social media) where our friends and neighbors are represented by a profile picture and not a handshake. Our personal community grows as our expanded community shrinks.

Perhaps it is raising a mentally handicapped child who cannot speak. A child that needs a buffer, translator, and guardian from the world around her that makes community such a poignant concept to me. I need to trust that the people around me would protect her as if she were their own. I do my best to lend a hand where I can to all the other children in my community as if they were mine. Call it humane reciprocity, I will not deny it, but…why should we treat other people’s children with less dignity and respect that we do our flesh and blood?

Educating our youth…is there a nobler purpose? Passing on what knowledge we have gained so they may grow and have more opportunities than we had? Isn’t that human instinct? If not…then it should be.

In a perfect world education would be free. Look around. The world is far from perfect. If you believe that education is important then you will pass that on to your children, to your neighbor’s children, to your friend’s children, and maybe we can keep our community growing without as well as within.

Education is never a poor investment.

~Nick Shamhart

 


Why Stupid People Are Angry

May 2, 2014

I find it to be the epitome of irony that we live in the Information Age and we are now, with all that knowledge at out fingertips, discovering just how ignorant we have become.

There is an agitation simmering in the world. It was always there. But with everyone shouting their opinions to the heavens for all to hear, that aggressive negativity is more in-your-face and culturally pervasive. Aggression and anger are direct human reactions to fear, and fear’s favorite bedfellow is ignorance. Fear of the unknown.

There is nothing wrong with ignorance in and of itself. We were all, and still are, ignorant of so many things. We learn. That’s how we combat ignorance and fear. But people are prideful apes. We don’t like for the other monkeys to think that we are ignorant. So, on topics that we only have the slightest knowledge of – topics that we are too ashamed to admit our ignorance to – we lash out. We fight. It’s a fear response that has saved our collective genetics asses for quite some time now.

It’s humorous because when we have an extensive mental lexicon on any given subject we tend not to argue about it. The fear that breeds aggressive zealotry is sated by comprehensive knowledge, and we arrive at the realization that if another person is so agitated at their own ignorance that they are verbally lashing out (the truest sign of doubt is in overcompensation) it only stems from their ignorance and there is no plausibility that countering their argument will change that. Your knowledge cannot, and will not, convince them of their ignorance. They already know they are spouting, shouting, and raving as a product of their insecurity. The problem is accepting that they can only learn if they are willing to set aside their anger response to fear.

There are angry people all over the world, digital agitators filled with spleen, malice, and resentment, transferring their insecurities and fears into online bitterness. I guess that’s the morality tale that is the internet: Learn from it…or wallow in ignorance. The information is there. It’s your choice to open your mind and grow, or close it and stagnate.

~Nick Shamhart


I Tried to Use That Map-Thingy But I Couldn’t Find the Key to Turn It On.

April 30, 2014

I’m often asked the naive (yet well-meaning) question of, “What’s it like to be a writer?”

My response depends on my mood, and quite frankly the size of the audience. I was recently posed this query at a smaller venue. The girl was very sincere when she asked, “What’s it like to be a writer?”

Without missing a beat, I replied, “Honestly? It’s like being a cartographer in a world of GPS.”

She asked, “What’s a cartographer?”

I nodded, sadly, and said, “Well there’s the answer to your first question, kiddo, and I suggest Googling the second.”

~Nick Shamhart


Why Books Will Always Be Superior to Movies

April 26, 2014

Despite trends and statistics, books will always be superior to film. There is an exercise I like people to try whenever I speak at a creative writing class or an author panel. Give it a try.

There is a man standing in the doorway. He has his arms crossed and the wooden frame supports the bulk of his weight where his shoulder rests.  Long swimmer’s limbs suggest he could easily add on muscle, but the mischievous glint in his eye hints that there are more important things to occupy his time than lifting weights. A few days stubble and hair that seems perpetually in need of cutting are slovenly attributes he uses to his advantage.  A smirk travels up one side of his face, crinkling and bunching at the corner of his eye. He chuckles, and shaking his head, walks away.

All right, you have this man firmly pictured in your mind, correct? One paragraph of description that makes him wholly unique to you – the reader. Your experiences, attention, and memory make him distinct. Perhaps your man had a scar? Blue eyes? Was he black or white? All of those details were filled in by your imagination.

Now. Lets take that paragraph and make it into a movie. Are you ready for the Hollywood screenplay?

Brad Pitt stands in a doorway.

There may be minor alterations, but for the most part you are all picturing the same thing. If it were on the screen you would all be seeing the exact same thing down to the same shirt, shoes, jeans, face, build, and every little detail that can be spoon-fed to your mind.

Everyone born with the sense of sight can watch a movie. Reading is a skill we are taught. Since skill is required, a book will always be superior to a movie.

~Nick Shamhart


Is God Real?

April 21, 2014

The question is not, nor has it ever been, “Is God real?” This may seem like an issue of semantics, but trust me, it isn’t. God is the question of reality.

What is real?

Our minds’ interactions with our five senses dictate what we, as humans, perceive as real. We are the only species on our planet to build churches, mosques, shrines, and other such complexities to our God or gods. Ants may herd aphids. Dolphins and apes may have recognition of self. But, despite these complexities, none of those animals have a structured dogma. If they practice a faith it is so ingrained in their daily lives as to be indistinguishable from acts of instinct or survival.

So, God is the question of reality. If God only exists in our minds, is that any different from the concept of a separate entity? The classic Zen kōan: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? The tree exists. The tree makes a sound. The mind to perceive it is what is absent.

There is an individualistic taste to God. That has to do with the mind’s relationship to the concept – to reality. Why is God a paternal creator figure to some, and a destructive force to others? Which is real? The mind that interprets the stimulus defines the concept of real.

Again. Whether or not God is real does not matter, because God is the question of reality.

~Nick Shamhart


Like a Walrus With a Finger Jammed Up Its Ass

April 17, 2014

Kids love to stand on their heads, turn cartwheels, roll somersaults, even flip, and pretty much anything else they can do that inverts their perspectives. Their bodies and minds are so fluid and limber that juxtaposing earth and sky is an activity to giggle about. When was the last time you non-yogis tried it? I just did, and trust me, the noise I made didn’t come close to a giggle – more like a walrus having a proctological exam.

That fluidity of the physical is probably way behind me now, but, what about the mind? Children accept things at face-value, don’t they? That’s not always an issue of innocence and ignorance. Sometimes it is the suppleness of a mind unburdened with the weight of age. Can we drop that weight and allow our minds somersault again?

Cause and effect  are what most of human knowledge is built upon. That is the progression. But? What caused the Big Bang? Was it God speaking? Was it a repetitive cycle of collapse and expansion that has always existed? Is that possible? Perpetual universal motion outward then in, but again, where or what was the cause?

Perhaps to see the universe for what it is we need to stand on our heads like children do. Perhaps for things to make sense we have to unmake our beliefs. Perhaps, sometimes, the effect has to come before the cause? Perhaps to giggle again all we need to do is roll along with life as it sweeps us head over heels…

Or, we can just keep on grunting like a walrus with a finger jammed up its ass.

~Nick Shamhart


The Meaning of Life

April 11, 2014

I’m not overreaching. I do believe that I know the meaning of life. It’s simple. It’s something we all know and fear – Change.

Whether it is through the hands of God, Allah, Yahweh, or the complex system that chains so much together through guanineadeninethymine, or cytosine  it is still change. The universe needs to be in constant flux. If stagnation occurred it would spread, destroying everything. That progression, that elemental stimulation has so far culminated in sentient mind. Humanity’s meaning in this life is to be a catalyst for change. Good or bad, and other such labels have no bearing on change. Those are foisted on deeds and actions by humanity. The meaning is change. There is only change. We have evolved by design. We eliminate stagnation. We destroy. We create. We change.

Made in God’s image. He creates and destroys. Made of molecules and compounds evolved to create and destroy through ingestion, respiration, defecation, procreation, and more.

The meaning is change…but, the decision to view it  in a certain light is strictly a human characteristic. It can be a wondrously horrific change, or a monstrously delightful one. You choose how you see it. You choose the meaning of change.

~Nick Shamhart


Hope Springs Anew

April 10, 2014

I love the smell of a warm spring rain on a northern night. It’s the scent of hope. Winter has beaten us cruelly in body, mind, and spirit this year. Month after month of cold, snow, wind, ice, and chill. I sit here, looking out at the dark, and the occasional breeze blows the earthen aromas of mud, clay, water, and  newly budding greenery across my face. The dark and the cold have had their turn. Hope springs anew as the rain falls on.

~Nick Shamhart


Cattle-Prod Your Mind!

April 8, 2014

Mantras are important. Call them prayers if that fits better within your ideology. It’s a way to cattle-prod your mind along a path of focus. Our thoughts are so easily congested with inane babble.

…”Did I leave the oven on?” “I should workout more.” “Did Ross and Rachael ever end up together?” “What does he think of me?” “I should eat more fiber.” “What does she think of me?” “Why aren’t they called orange fish? They’re orange. Not gold.”… and on and on all day and night long.

Harnessing a mantra or prayer can can silence that garbled mess we call thinking, or, at least momentarily focus it. I recommend a phrase or benediction that holds multiple layers of meaning for you. Something that calms your nerves or lifts your spirits as the case may be.

If you want to borrow mine until you feel inspired, I’m happy to share. A set of mental training wheels, perhaps? In this chaotic swirl of day-to-day when I find myself agitated over thoughts of, “How are Stephen Hawking and Honey Boo Boo’s mom even the same species? …Or are they?” I remind myself that I’m just passing through. I’m only here for a limited amount of time. The cells, molecules, atoms, quarks, and strings that are ‘me’ have a shelf life just like the planets, stars, and galaxies. It’s all just passing through, but my mantra allows for momentary clarity and perspective. Everything is important and at the same time…worthless, when I’m just passing through.

~Nick Shamhart

 


Stupid or Lazy?

April 6, 2014

Why is it that people refuse to fully read? If someone reads past the first few sentences of anything the writer should consider themselves lucky. Most often it is only the headline or title that filters in and then the reader passes judgement based on next to no information, but for their own prejudices. Honestly if that was as far as it went I may be sad about it, but I could accept it.

I began adding “Blog Journal Posts” to this website on the advice of several public relations consultants and the unasked for suggestions from many fellow authors. I simply write what strikes my fancy on that day (hence why the post is dated) for the joy of writing.

The previous entry Do Vaccines Cause Autism? was an answer to how often I am asked about the unscientific, celebrity-based idea that vaccines cause autism. I have received a ludicrous amount of angry emails and posts on social media defaming, slandering, and ridiculing me for that blog entry. Any author has to have a thick skin for criticism. That’s par for the course.

If you’ve made it this far you are in the extreme minority of comprehensive readers. So, thorough reader, do you want to know the crazy part? Every single fucking one of those emails and criticisms was saying that I supported the claim of vaccines causing autism. One in particular was multiple paragraphs long, supposedly written by someone on the spectrum. Now, as I write this my severely autistic daughter (the one who the bestselling novel, soon to be motion picture The Fog Within was based on) is screaming because I will not let her squeeze onto the bottom shelf of the linen closest where she plans to hide with a tub of Ricotta cheese and do God knows what. She cannot speak. She cannot write. She cannot be left alone because she is self-injurious. It must be nice to be on the mild end of the spectrum where typed out diatribes are possible.

The message of this entry? Please, please fully read something before you make a judgement. And, never, ever venture an opinion in a slanderous manner when your point is exactly that of the author, but you were unable to suss that out due to illiteracy, lassitude, stupidity, or all three. It makes you look churlish and incompetent.

~Nick Shamhart

 


Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

April 4, 2014

People tend to ask me for my opinion on vaccines and diets, and how they affect (or don’t) autism. Unlike other celebrities without formal scientific backgrounds, I refuse to pretend my own rhetoric is fact.

The most I will propose is the advice we all should have learned by this day and age – Follow the Rich White Man.

Examine the situation fiscally. Insurance companies despise paying out on mental illness claims. Rich white men hate giving any of the money they have “earned” back, even if it is a legitimate claim. The government is fit to bursting with rich white men. Soon more and more of these children being diagnosed with autism will turn eighteen and become eligible for government assistance no matter how much their guardians make per year, costing more rich white men more of their money.

What does all this tell us? Ignore the science. Ignore the celebrity propaganda. Ignore our human need to blame something for what is perceived as wrong. That leaves us with a bunch of rich white people fighting tooth and manicured nail not to have to pay for the mentally handicapped to receive treatment and resources.

Maybe it’s just me, but if vaccines or protein allergies cause autism don’t you think that instead of spending billions in legal claim wars that those rich white men would stop it all at the source and save themselves tons and tons of money? After all that’s what rich white men do. What’s best for them and their bank accounts.

So I suppose my opinion on vaccines causing autism really boils down to a matter of math.

~Nick Shamhart


Blue Light “Specials”

April 2, 2014

I never put much stock in statistics. By our “Best Fit” model of reality something is true if it can be repeatedly recorded more than half of the time – 51%. I find it difficult to view the world in a way that if the majority believes something, then it is supposed to be an established fact. Too many variables, I say. The nature of an infinite universe implies by definition infinite variables.

Autism is defined as a marked reversion into fantasy. What is fantasy and what is real? Are autistics simply the other 49% that disagrees with the majority’s definition? Oddly enough those variable-prone statistics seem to be hinting that that may very well be the case as the number of diagnosed children continues to grow.

There is one more statistic, or fact, or figure, or definition, or variable that I would like you to consider today. Please feel free to double-check this, (variables are everywhere) but when all the charitable donations are added up for previous years the amounts show that citizens of the USA prefer to give money to animal-based organizations than to mental health and hospice combined…

Is that right? Is that wrong? I would not begin to judge. There are simply too many variables.

~Nick Shamhart


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