2005-03-22 - 10:40 a.m.

Interview meme.

Here are the rules :
1. Leave a note requesting an interview.
2. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions and leave the answers as comments on my blog. [Personally, I think a link to the answers in a comment would be sufficient, but the directions as I received them say to leave the answers.]
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Now for the questions asked by desdemonia (BTW, I love the Hepburn pic) at my demand :

1.What prompted you to start writing? And out of all the genres of literature you could have chosen why did you finally decide to write for children?

Let's see. That's a tough one. I actually remember being bitten by the writing bug back in 2nd or 3rd or 4th grade (I never remember when things happen, just that they happen). We would sometimes write stories for language arts and read them to the class. Well, I remember one time we were asked to write a story about frontier trappers and I wrote this long, rambling tale about a trapper running into some Indians (this was before PC, ok?) and they tried to kill him. I don't think they had any motive or anything, that's just what always seemed to happen in the movies. Anyway, there was a lot of violence and people shooting each other with guns, arrows, etc... and the class just dug it and from then on, I wrote on and off all my life.

Sometimes I would go longer or shorter amounts of time between writing things, but it was always at the back of my mind. That is, until I had a really nasty bout of depression a few years ago. I put down my pen for several years. I had lots of rationalizations and excuses, but looking back, I just lost the will to create. But since there is another question about depression, I'll come back to this later.

As for writing children's books, this is a fairly new and untested idea/goal. Basically, most of the books I've read recently that I've really enjoyed have been children's books. My favorite novel of late has been The Wind in the Willows and I've been really loving C.S. Lewis' Narnia books. I'm a little pissed that they are making a movie out of them, but who knows. I was resistant to LOTR, and that turned out to be really good.

Also, I am trying to maintain a rather childish attitude towards life. (In my more self-congratulatory moments I tell myself I'm not being "childish", I'm being "child-like".) The reason for this is that I have noticed lately how much pride I have been dragging around, and I feel that I need to follow Jesus' advice to become like a little child. Now, it's important to realize that Jesus wasn't romanticizing children as being especially good. Let's face it. A kid's favorite words are "mine" and "now". I've had a number of mothers confirm this so don't go telling me that kids are angels. Go have some and then tell me that! Martin Luther (or was it St. Augustine?) went so far as to say that if a child were capable it would grab its mother by the neck and demand its milk.

Jesus was drawing our attention to a child's sense of dependence and trust. Those things are the antidote to pride.

Anyway, my writers group has decided to challenge each other with minimum daily word counts and I've been struggling to find a project to work on. I have some ideas but I also wanted to write something which would be conducive to the child-like state of mind I am trying to cultivate. One day I was IMing with Oomm and it came to me in a flash - a children's book! So, blame her.

2. Do you participate in a religion? If so which one and how does it help you deal with your life? If not, are you spiritual or do you prefer believing only in yourself?

First off, let me apologize. A lot of my long-time readers are probably sick to death of hearing about my religious views. But, I did agree to the interview so you'll have to listen to it all over again! Mua-ha-ha!

I consider myself a Christian. By that I mean that I have looked at my life and see that I am fundamentally broken, driven by pride, vanity and self-absorption, (I have an online diary, for crying out loud! What could be more self-absorbed than that?) and riddled with sin. In addition, even if I do manage to do something good once in a while, death and time steal the significance of these actions, so nothing seems terribly meaningful. Even if I save hundreds, thousands or even millions of lives in an act of self-sacrifice, what would it really matter? All those people would die anyway. I hadn't really saved them, I just added x years to their meaningless existence. Heck, some of them will probably go on to make other people suffer. If I create a great work of art, it will be appreciated only by a small number of people and will only give them a few hours (at most) of fleeting joy which ultimately will only distract them from their inevitable doom.

I searched around in a number of religions and philosophies for a solution to this problem and found that there were only three decent contenders (IMHO):

  1. Egoism - My basic problem is not that I fall short of my moral ideals, but that I have the wrong ideals. I need to look out for numero uno and once I shed my altruism I'll be happy. As for meaningful living, who cares? I need to suck all the joy I can out of life and if it fades into insignificance after I die, well, I'm dead so I wont care.
  2. Buddhism - The problem is that my mind is out of control. Once I learn to focus my mind and eliminate my sense of self and control my passions, I'll be able to meet my moral ideals. Eternal significance and meaning are irrelevant. I only care about those things because I have a stubborn illusion that I exist as an independent entity. Once I overcome that illusion, I will no longer feel the need to create meaning.
  3. Christianity - No matter how hard I try I will never be the person I want to be. My attempts to lead a good life will always be frustrated by my own inability. Any attempt to lower the bar is an act of bad faith. Telling myself that "Everyone is doing it" or that "At least I'm better than him or her" is hypocrisy. No creative or altruistic deeds I perform will have any eternal significance. My only way out of my failure is to let God save me and the only acts of eternal significance are those which God performs through me.

I couldn't consistently maintain egoism and Buddhism still left me with a sense that nothing really mattered. Christianity not only showed me that there was a way out of sin but also showed me that I could be involved in something with eternal significance.

Anyway, my spiritual journey has been full of ups and downs and I wont go into this question anymore because I plan on talking about some of this in an "Easter Meditation" I plan on posting on Friday in celebration of my Savior's resurrection. So, if you are really sick of hearing about what I sinner I am and how great Jesus is, then don't bother reading my dland page this Friday.

3. Do you think that you would ever want to try and live somewhere that seemed empty or lonely? Not forever, but maybe for a few months to see what you would get out of the experience?

My ideal lifestyle would involve a private retreat for at least a week once every few months. I would love to spend a month or two isolated from society. I don't know if I could go two months without any human contact, but I certainly could go with very minimal interaction and would very much look forward to something like that.

However, I would view these times as strategic: a chance to recharge, reflect and recreate myself. Life ultimately involves other people. As tempting as it would be to completely retreat from society, I am called upon to be in the world. See my answer to number two for a little more detail on this.

4. You wrote about having to deal with depression. In what ways have your depression shaped you? What do you think you have learned from it?

It's shaped me in more ways that I could write about given my limited amount of time. First, it has made me a very suspicious, bitter and proud person - and those are just the good results!

More importantly, it has helped me to focus my attention on things about which other people would rather not think: death, the meaningless nature of life, humanity's inhumanity, etc....

It also sparked my spiritual journey. That combined with the things above has led some of my friends to assume that nothing good has come from my depression. I look at these things and see them all as positive outcomes. Who's right?

5. Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

If you are pondering why my cat never blows spit bubbles while I have my digital camera handy, then yes. Otherwise, probably not.

Reading Master and Commander Margarita

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