Celebrating an Atheist Christmas

25 12 2014

It goes without saying that, for an atheist like me, Christmas is not a time for religious expression – but neither is it a time that I would try to deny that expression to others – even in the public square. On the other hand, the meaning of Christmas is nothing but secular to me.

For me these days, the Christmas season is mostly about memories: of the familiarity and love of family and friends from when I was a young boy; memories of my wife, daughter, and I getting to know each other, and becoming a new family around our first few Christmas trees when I was a young man; of spending time with friends that I consider family today, and appreciating and loving my daughter for the wonderful woman she’s become.

Then there is the kindness and felicity of others to appreciate at his time of year, when so many set aside their differences and share good cheer and fellowship. While it’s not possible for a reasonable man to believe that Christmas will foster “peace on Earth, good will toward men”, it is certainly a pleasure to see simple acts of kindness being carried out around me; a solicitous type of behavior, even among strangers, that does not seem able to survive the daily grind during the rest of the year.

For all of these things and more I’m grateful, and it’s all because of the season, and what we were taught about it as children. Not having grown up in a religious family, the meaning of Christmas was about loving those closest to us, as well as a gentleness of spirit that we might share with those who were not so close.

For me, at this time of year, I sense within myself a fellowship with all rational beings; a sense of hope that it is possible for reason to prevail and that humanity can live in peace; that, despite our differences, we might someday overcome the largely irrational belief systems that separate us to find a way to share this world, and this life, in harmony.

This does not require belief in anything “greater” than me – or you.

While I do not expect to see this transformation in my lifetime, and while such thoughts may not be the most rational a man can have, it is each year at Christmas that I see the greatest possibility for these things to become reality. So, this Christmas season, I ask that you be hopeful and helpful; be kind and compassionate; be the type of caring and loving person you wish others would be and, just perhaps, we can make this world a better place to be.

Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Life…

A PC Holiday Greeting

25 12 2014

Hey everyone,
holiday tree2
In an effort to be as inclusive as possible, and to promote diversity and togetherness, your Season’s Greeting this year should never be “Merry Christmas”, or even “Happy Holidays”, but instead should be “Mer’appy Kwanz-annukah Ramadismas!”

So, to one and all this holiday season, I say  Mer’appy Kwanz-annukah Ramadismas to you and your families!

Just sayin’…

Holiday Inspiration

24 12 2014

I’ve been trying to think of something to post here as a “Christmas Message” that might offer inspiration, or peace, or joy to anyone who would see it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t come up with anything, until I remembered this short piece that was being shared on Facebook just before Thanksgiving. The response was so enthusiastic, I thought today might be a good time to re-post it.

Some thoughts as we enter the holiday season…

It is important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays, and some of us are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. Many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now. If I don’t see your name I will understand.

May I ask my friends, wherever you might be, to kindly copy, paste and post this status for one hour to give a moment of support for all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know someone cares? Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the Facebook Timeline of all my friends, just for moral support. I know someone will! I did it for a friend and you can too!

I wish I could recall from whom I originally received this bit of writing, but I have no idea. So… Take it and use it as you please, and know that many will find and share it too.

Merry Christmas to all…


Thanksgiving Memories

27 11 2014

In July 1983, my young family and I moved to the Denver area from Southern California. We were actually looking forward to our first winter – wondering what it would be like to “live in snow”. That first Thanksgiving in Colorado we found out, as we experienced not only our first snow storm, but also our first blizzard.

And what a blizzard it was, with about 2 FEET of snow falling in 36 hours or so. For a family from sunny California, it was an eye opening experience, to say the least.

At first, my daughter, wife, and I were delighted by the early arrival of winter. We had never seen anything so beautiful and, for those of you who’ve never experienced it, the SILENCE that accompanies a heavy snowfall is also a beautiful thing. Eventually though, it just became TOO much, and trying to move around town for the next couple of weeks was incredibly difficult.

The entire metro Denver area shut down for days. We pretty much stayed inside and watched movies on the VCR, after trudging through the snow to rent them. (Remember renting movies on VHS tape?) We must have watched a dozen rented movies over that long weekend. And, of course, we also learned about shoveling snow and scraping windshields.

The snow was so heavy that weekend that we actually had remnants of it still on the ground when June rolled around.

Today of course, with the passage and blurring of time, it’s a fond memory of our first “wintry” experience together as a family, one that makes me smile and think “I remember how close it made us feel.”

That was quite a Thanksgiving, believe me.

This year, I hope your family creates a fond memory for you to share some day. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


There are No Random Acts of Violence

18 09 2014

Richard's Ride

No human being has ever contemplated or taken a random action. Only nature is random. Human beings are at all times willful, while nature is not. Human action may be arbitrary, of course, but their actions may never be random.

Therefore, there can be no “random acts of violence,” or “random acts of kindness” either for that matter, when human beings take action – in any situation and under any circumstances.

Randomness implies a lack of conscious will, not simply a disregard for outcome. It also implies a lack of responsibility for outcome. However, an arbitrary action is a conscious act of will that is indifferent to the results of the action taken, yet the actor remains responsible for the result.

Words have meaning

The “gang banger” who fires a gun into a crowd without regard to whom the bullet hits has not committed a random act, and neither has…

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What Does Depression Feel Like?

20 08 2014

Depression is something I’ve dealt with for many years, having been diagnosed originally in 1997. Since my original diagnosis, I’ve come to believe that I suffer from dysthymia, a mild but chronic form of depression. With this type of depression, certain situations can exacerbate the situation. For example, I’ve been more than mildly depressed every day since hearing about Robin Williams’ suicide. Yesterday was different, however.

I was working and feeling fine. I finished a project at about 11:30 AM, then poked around the internet for about half-an-hour. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an almost overwhelming feeling of despair hit me. I lost focus on anything external, and could only focus on me, and how I was feeling – which was pretty hopeless.

It was confusing in the extreme, since nothing had happened to spark such an episode; at least not consciously.

I took a short walk. I tried to resume work. I tried to watch the LLWS. I tried to read. I tried to nap. Nothing helped. All I wanted to do was sit down and cry, but I had nothing to cry about.

Episodes like this are unusual for me, which made the moment difficult to process. The good news is, I had no sense that I wanted to harm myself; I just continued to experience a sensation of feeling miserable – of being miserable. The best way to describe it is with a word that is not a word – BLECH!

The bad news is, such feelings tend to force a focus inward, which only seems to prolong the depression. It’s a bit like having a tooth ache, and worrying at it with your tongue until it goes away. It only makes the pain worse, as did the inward focus.

Yet, I simply could not concentrate on anything else.

I draw no conclusions from this. I have none to offer. I am simply trying to describe what happened, in the hope that it will bring clarity, for me, and anyone reading this and wondering what depression feels like.

It ain’t fun, believe me.


What is Creative Writing?

1 08 2014

The past two weeks have been extremely busy around here, as I worked more 10 hour days than not; creating fresh copy for a variety of clients, while also working hard to develop a new product to sell to a fairly narrow niche client base. My point in explaining this is two-fold: to explain why I’ve posted next to nothing here, and to share an idea I had recently about “creative writing.”

First, I’ve posted next to nothing here because I’ve been very busy. (There, I said I’d explain that, right? DONE.)

Next, it occurred to me recently (as it has many times before) that the phrases “Creative Writing” and “Creative Writer” are applied by most, and almost exclusively, to fiction and writers of fiction. On one hand I can understand this, I suppose. Fiction writers and/or novelists are definitely creative, even going so far as to create whole worlds from nothing but their imaginations; peopled with characters we will never meet in the real world.

The “Harry Potter” series jumps most quickly to mind, though “The Sword of Truth” series and “A Song of Ice and Fire: Game of Thrones” are not far behind. These series’ of books were, and are, stunningly creative and exceedingly entertaining. I could name many others, but these will do for now. I find myself envious of the authors, JK Rowling, Terry Goodkind, and George RR Martin for the creativity and inventiveness they display, as well as the sheer talent for expressing themselves through the written word. Not to mention the perseverance required to create such massive works. BRAVO!

And yet, I find myself compelled to argue that what I now do for a living is also creative writing and, though the writing I do is most certainly not fiction, to defend it as such. Need proof? How about this for an example?

Non-fiction writing is creative writing too

Imagine yourself sitting down every week to write two pieces of about 500 words each on a single subject, say coping with stress, for a particular client – the same client and the same subject every week – for FOUR YEARS. That equates to 104 blog posts and articles per year, and 416 of them over four years. That is also some 52,000 words per year, and more than 200,000 words in four years – all devoted to a single subject – coping with stress – for a single client. This implies a regular audience who have seen most of what you’ve written over those four years, so your writing had better not be repetitive. You must find a new approach to the subject every week, every month, and every year.

Would this require creativity? If you did that, would you call yourself a Creative Writer?

Well, that is what I do nearly every day. I try to creatively describe what it is that my clients do, or value, or wish to promote, in clearly defined, well-written terms that allow their readers to appreciate more fully the things the client has to offer. I educate and illustrate; I explain and proclaim; I praise and promote – all in my clients’ name – and in my clients’ voice. Is this “Creative Writing”?

My clients include medical doctors; psychologists and psychiatrists; therapists and counselors; health coaches, nutrition coaches, fitness coaches and business coaches; attorneys and realtors; website designers, screen printers, and IT support companies. I write about coping with stress, anxiety, depression, suicide, the loss of a child, the loss of a parent, and divorce. I write about feet: healthy and unhealthy feet, and about how to maintain healthy feet or how to repair damaged feet. I write about weight loss and dieting; about dieting fads and scams; about healthy nutrition and juicing for health, as well as exercise and healthy living. Can anyone deny that what I do qualifies me as a “Creative Writer”?

Hey, I even write about writing: website copywriting, sales copywriting, writing for SEO, article writing and blog writing, eBook writing and eBook ghostwriting. Do these fulfill the definition of “being creative”?

It may be simply a matter of semantics to most but, to a writer who must use all of his creative power to continue making a single subject interesting, informative, and original on a regular basis and over time, it is far more than a semantic argument. In fact, it’s the very essence of what that writer does, how he views himself, and how he values his work. I may not be a Creative Writer (with caps), but what I do is most definitely creative writing (lower case).

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