Gena Showalter

You Say You Want an Evolution

You Say You Want.png

When three paranormal fantasy superstar authors (Kresley Cole, Larissa Ione and Gena Showalter) get together to put out an anthology, Blood Red Kiss, well, I had to read it, of course. I was a bit disappointed to see that the Kresley Cole offering was a retread of "Warlord Wants Forever," an excellent short story, but one I've read and listened to, although not written about previously. The second offering, by Larissa Ione, called “Forsaken by Night,” was a real page turner and left me wanting more, as only a master writer can do. In the story, Ms. Ione gives us just enough of the world building to give the story weight and coherence, but not so much that I fully understand all that I'd like to know. She skillfully weaves several themes into the short piece, but the one that caught my attention, as it often does, is the theme of change. Apparently, change is the one constant for humans and paranormals alike. The thing about change is that it can be fast and dramatic, as in a revolution, or slow and easy, as in evolutionary change.  In this story, the protagonist is forced to accept that the clan leader who exiled him more than a decade previously had changed enough to warrant a second chance, even as the protagonist himself was given a second chance based on his own evolution. That was the most dramatic element of the story—the lack of drama. Neither the outcast nor the clan leader who exiled him had had any sort of revolutionary shift. Just the steady forward movement toward wisdom and growth that constitutes evolution. Less an earthquake than the gradual erosion of rock under running water. 

Evolution is not nearly as sexy as revolution. The slow and steady march of time that leads us toward progressive and meaningful change isn't glamorous, and often we don't even know it's occurring. It's not until we realize that we are meeting a situation with a new set of eyes and seeing things in a different way than we used to, or we notice that we are more or less reactive than before that we realize that evolution has happened and we are no longer who we were.

Sometimes, these evolutionary changes are for the better, but not always. I've learned to avoid wearing yoga leggings or sweats all the time, or really anything with spandex in it, because I don't notice when I'm slowly gaining weight until the muffin top threatens to breach even my stretchy pants and my regular clothes no longer fit. Similarly, we can skip a trip or two to the gym for a week or two in a row, but we need to be careful because before we know it, we're out of the habit of working out entirely and that pesky muffin top is back. Or we have a couple glasses of wine several times a week, which turns into every night, which turns into a drinking problem down the road. We've all been in one or more of these situations where the slow creep of bad habits turns into a much bigger problem than we realized because the progression was so incremental. 

On the other hand, good habits can slip in under our radar as well, and before we know it, we're doing well without really trying. That's the theory behind adding green foods (i.e. veggies) to our plates; if we slowly increase our consumption of the good stuff, we'll have less and less room for the junk food that is ruining our health. Adding one minute a week to our treadmill or elliptical routine gets us over an hour by the end of a year if we started out at ten minutes. Adding five seconds every few days to our planks gets us to two minutes without our ever noticing it.

And what about other habits that seems so overwhelming when viewed in their entireties? Like people pleasing? Or the opposite of that, being a curmudgeon?  Taking tiny steps out of our comfort zones can make a big difference. Even something as small as saying we didn't enjoy a movie when our friend clearly did can begin an inexorable evolution toward speaking our truth. Every little drop of water over that stone is one more step toward transformation, maybe from rough to smooth or heavy to light or sadness to joy. Each small step counts. Not dramatically, in and of itself, but slowly and steadily over time. 

The thing about evolution is that it's a lot less scary than revolution. And it tends to leave much less of a mess in its wake. In my work as a health coach, I often tell people that while a pill or maybe surgery might seem to work faster, the mess such revolutionary tactics create often hardly seems worth it. It's like going out to dinner because we don't feel like cooking. Most of the time, it's actually faster and easier to throw something together than to get in the car, drive to the restaurant, order our food, wait for it, send it back because something wasn't right, eat it, drive home, etc. It may seem like it would be easier, and in some respects it is.  But until we get a Star Trek-like device that can conjure whatever we want to eat out of thin air, most nights it's easier to just eat stay put.

As a society, we don't like to wait much. We have the collective attention spans of chimps on crack. With evolutionary changes, that can actually work in our favor. Sometimes change happens when we were paying attention to something else. Like we realize that "all of a sudden" we're looking forward to yoga class, or we wake up one day and understand that the ex-boyfriend we exiled to the friend zone is stirring decidedly more-than-friendly feelings. Or we realize that all the work we've done to launch a new business over the past five years has made us an "overnight success."  The payoff in each of these situations was the result of evolution, even though, from the outside, it might appear revolutionary. 

So don't knock evolution till you try it. As in Larissa Ione's story in Blood Red Kiss, we may find that change happens, even when we aren't paying attention. If it's change we like, we'll continue to go with the flow.  If we find we've fallen—slowly—into bad habits, it might take a more revolutionary approach to stem the flow.  But evolution beats revolution for ease and comfort every time, although it makes for a more mature story. 

Hope Is Not the Thing with Feathers

I've written about hope several times. It's a topic that fascinates me, and one I contemplate often. I've written about the relationship between hope and fear, where, according to Karen Marie Moning, hope strengthens and fear kills. I've also written about the two faces of hope—the uplifting one and the one that crushes us under the weight of disappointed expectations. But Gena Showalter gives us a whole new spin on an old topic. In her Lords of the Underworld series, as introduced in The Darkest Pleasure, she depicts Hope as one of the scourges of humanity, unleashed from Pandora's Box, and hosted by the most evil of the Lords of the Underworld.  Hope is a demon who, "purposely raises expectations, makes people believe there's a potential for a miracle, and then he crushes those expectations, leaving nothing but ash and despair."  Wow. Harsh. 

In case you don't remember your Greek mythology or your nineteenth century poetry, we'll have a brief refresher on both. In the myth, Zeus gave Pandora a beautiful box (jar, actually, but it was mistranslated in the 1600s), as a wedding gift, and told her not to open it. But, like Lot's wife, Pandora couldn't keep her curiosity in check, so she opened the box, and unleashed death, destruction, disease, misery and despair on an unsuspecting world. Pandora swiftly closed the box, keeping Hope inside, as an antidote to the demons she'd released.  Now, this whole story doesn't make a whole lot of sense, as releasing the demons loosed them in the world to plague humanity, but keeping Hope in the box preserved this slight amelioration for all. Confusing. But the gist is clear:  that in the face of terrible things, where there is life, there is hope, and where there is hope, not all is lost. Check.

With respect to the poetry lesson, Emily Dickinson taught us that "Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul/And sings the tune without the words/And never stops at all."  There's more, and it's lovely, but you get the idea. Hope is a light and precious thing that elevates us all. Or so good old Emily wrote in the late 1800s. Check, check.

But what if they are all wrong, and Gena Showalter is right?  What if Hope is a demon from hell, discharged into the world to create the most evil of all? A particularly disturbing scene from the Game of Thrones series comes to mind. Theon, who has betrayed his foster family, the Starks, and committed atrocities beyond imagination, has himself bee captured and tortured. One night, a savior comes to rescue Theon, and lead him away from the house of horrors where he's been living. So Theon and his deliverer escape and ride for a couple of days. Theon is beyond relieved and grateful. He is full of hope that his escape will be successful and he will go home. But it turns out that his rescuer is none other than Theon's tormentor, who has posed as his rescuer to twist the knife more intensely. When Theon realizes that they've ridden back to the house of horrors and that his "rescuer" is his torturer, his spirit is irreparably broken. Which was the point of the exercise. It is so much more effective to crush someone's spirit after you've falsely raised their hopes. In this case, hope was an exceptionally effective weapon of total destruction.

Hope is a beautiful thing. Until it's dashed. Until we can no longer reasonably hope for anything good, when we cannot do anything but despair. Then Hope is the spawn of Satan, worse than cynicism, or being jaded or have low standards and lower prospects. Someone recently suggested to me that I'm afraid to become too attached to any desire, which is why I'm having trouble owning my shit and doing what needs to be done.  My friend said that I was taught at a young age that when I hoped for good things, those hopes were dashed so thoroughly that I lost my ability to hope. It's an interesting idea. And I hope it's not true.

My mother and I had a troubled relationship, as you know. To say the least, she did not encourage my hopes and dreams.  As a result, because I'm not an idiot, I learned quickly to keep my dreams to myself, and then to abandon them altogether. It was too painful to want things that were just for me, just for my joy and never get them.

But leaving aside my sad upbringing, it's also interesting to ponder the supposed sign on the gates of Hell, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."  What if that were wrong, and Satan uses the hope of salvation from the fires of Hades to torment sinners all the more. Then Gena Showalter would be right.

But I'm not ready to subscribe to Gena Showalter's view of the universe. I think we need hope, even if our hopes are thwarted. Hope gives us some time of happiness while we didn't think the worst. That might not, in the end, be worth the pain of disappointed dreams, but often it is. It's like Pascal's Wager:  God may or may not exist, but I can derive such comfort from believing while I'm on this mortal coil, that I might as well believe. If, when I die, it turns out I was wrong, well, then, that might suck, but I would have had the comfort while I lived. And if I were right, and this God cares about such things as belief, then I will have made points with the big guy—always a good thing. So, I'll continue to root for Karen Marie Moning and believe that hope strengthens and fear kills. I still like Gena Showalter's fantasy books, and her interesting premise. But I'm going to hope that in truth, she's wrong. 



The Blame Game

The Blame Game.png

I'm still enjoying Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series (and will be for quite a while, as there are at least 14 books, maybe more—this gal can write!). Today's contemplation comes from The Darkest Pleasure, although my thought experiment reflects the premise of the entire series, so it is not specific to any one story. In the Lords' world, Hunters seek to capture the Lords, enslave their demons back into Pandora's Box, and rid the world once and for all of Pain, Misery, Disease, Death, Violence, etc. The Hunters believe that once the demons are no longer able to influence the world, then all will be utopia. I first thought that this particular aspect of the backstory was a little weak, because, really, who would believe something so stupid and patently false?  But then I started thinking about the world today and even those in my own household, not to mention my family of origin. And while I cannot personally relate to playing the Blame Game, and making others responsible for my actions and my life, apparently, there are a lot of folks who can. Donald Trump supporters come to mind. Oops, did I say that out loud? In the book, Reyes and Danika have an exchange about the Hunters and the philosophy of those who seek to inter the Lords of the Underworld and incapacitate their demons. Reyes says, "As long as humans have free will, the world will never be perfect. We do not force them to do bad things, they do them of their own volition… Hunters are disinclined to consider that truth, however. It's far easier to simply blame all their problems on that which they do not understand." Amen, brother. You got that right.  

Before I continue, I need to disclose that I'm virulent on the subject of playing the blame game. There is no personality trait I despise more than not taking responsibility for our own shit. I hate excuses and I particularly loathe the idea that we are a victim of unlucky circumstance or other people's bad behavior. Makes me insane and reminds me of my mother, of whom I have few fond memories. So this is a topic near and dear to my heart and about which I have strong opinions (truth be told, I have strong opinions on lots of things).

So back to Reyes and his conviction that humans are disinclined to acknowledge their own agency in any bad behavior they exhibit and their tendency to point the finger at others as the source of any sort of unpleasantness. Kids excel at this game; in my house, it's never clear who's at fault for any given transgression. One twin will blame the other who will blame his brother in return. Reasonable doubt abounds and the little stinkers get away with murder as a result.

The most dangerous version of the blame game isn't the one we play with others, however.  It's the one we play with ourselves. And I'm not taking about onanism. I'm talking about the stories we tell ourselves about why we haven't succeeded or achieved or received. What we tell ourselves—and others—about how we got screwed out of the job, the promotion, the good grade, the championship, the girl, the guy, and the lottery ticket. Because it's always someone else's fault. It's someone else's stubbornness, or malfeasance or stupidity or whatever. There is no way that any of this was my fault or my doing. It happened to me, and isn't that grossly unfair?

And, as we know, the blame game leads quickly to a rousing round of the "If Only" game. If only that other schlub hadn't won the race, or dunked the ball or raised his hand first or arrived before me. Then, I would have won. I find this particular version of the blame game especially infuriating. As my mother used to say, "If only my grandmother had balls, she'd be my grandfather."  Quite. If "Just this once" are the three most dangerous words in the English language, then "If Only" are the two most dangerous ones. These two little works reflect one of the most tragic lines in cinematic history, when the late, great Marlon Brando said with such anguish, "I coulda been a contender."  Perhaps. If only. But it didn't, and you weren't. And blaming something or someone else not only means we're a failure, at whatever it was, but we're also a victim, which is the worst thing of all to be.

So, what's the solution here?  Easy peasy. Don't blame others. Grow a pair and own your own shit. We must admit our mistakes and learn from them. Nelson Mandela said, "Don't judge me by how many times I fell down. Judge me by how many times I got back up."  Ain't that the truth?  We all fail. And mostly, it's our own fault. And that is OK, because sometimes we need to fall down so that when we get back up, we can rise higher than before and we can become winners.  No one who plays the blame game ever wins. That's a game for losers. Reyes knows this, and his judgment of the Hunters is obvious. And I know it, and my judgment is the same. So, let's be winners. Let's abandon the blame game and leave it to the losers. They'll blame it all on us anyway.

Hurts So Good

I'm in the middle of book three of the Lords of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter, The Darkest Pleasure. This is Reyes' book, and he is host to the demon of Pain. This guy has a serious issue with cutting, a disorder I've never understood, although it seems to be the preferred method of self-destructive behavior for American Millennials. These poor souls, like Reyes, seem compelled to inflict pain on themselves. Without it, apparently, they don't feel alive. How terrible to be so desperate to feel—something, anything— that the sting of the knife in one's flesh is the only available relief. In the book, Reyes' demon exhorts him to administer pain, emotional and/or physical, either to himself or others. I've written several posts on the human tendency to avoid pain at all costs—even the cost of perpetual numbness. But what about the other side of that coin-—the pursuit of pain at any cost?  I don’t understand this affinity for affliction. But it is quite prevalent in many guises throughout society. We pursue pain in our athletic activities, our professional lives and in games of one-up-man-ship with friends, family and strangers on planes, trains and automobiles. We wear our pain as badges of honor, and some of us base our whole identities on our painful experiences both past and present. As I started to think about it, the pursuit of pain seemed almost as universal as its avoidance. Clearly, Gena Showalter has tapped into a universal truth in her depiction of Reyes and his demon. Who knew?

I think we've been told to "feel the burn" since the days of Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, Google "sweating to the oldies" and make me feel old—just don’t tell me about it). In every exercise class I've ever taken, I've been told, "No pain, no gain."  So we look for pain, and we wish for pain, and we revel when we feel it. How twisted is that?  I'm pretty sure new research has come out that repudiates the “pain is good” theory of exercise, but many continue to seek discomfort in pursuit of bulging muscles. Which seems highly stupid to me; pain is our body's way of telling us that something is wrong and that we should stop what we're doing, not double down on the activity. But that's not how we roll, now, is it?  Burn, baby, burn.

And what about pain in our professional lives?  Here on the East Coast, in cities like New York and Washington, DC, the more pain we endure in our work, the better workers we are.  Here, only sissies work an eight-hour day. Twelve is the bare minimum to be considered a good employee.  And for those twelve hours of cubicle hell, we don't need no stinking overtime. Overtime is overrated.  We're nobody until somebody notices that we get in before anyone else and we leave after everyone goes. Then, and only then, are we considered big league material. And the pathetic part is that we mostly inflict this stupidity on ourselves. We admire the idiots who've never heard of work/life balance, and we're sure the world will end if we're not putting in more time than Charles Manson is serving. Crazy. In the real world, if you can't get your work done in an eight-hour day, you're not very good at your job. We should be judged on quality, not quantity.

And what about those of us who delight in cataloguing our aches and pains in loving detail?  We can go to websites for "my arthritis", "my migraines", "my cancer", and "my diabetes."  I don't want that shit. But so many of us are invested in our illnesses and injuries. We pay more attention to our pain than to our pleasure. To the point where our pain becomes our pleasure, and not in a cool BDSM kind of way like we're living in one of Cherise Sinclair's Masters of the Shadowlands books. Nope.  We've just learned to love pain, crave it, even, so that it becomes that measure by which we validate our lives, just like poor Reyes. And like Reyes, we've stopped resisting so that we embrace the pain and give it a loving home. And how twisted is that? As twisted das a severely arthritic hand, I guess.

I just don’t get it. If it hurts, stop doing it, fix it, or run the hell away from it. I saw a graphic on Facebook (talk about pain—but that is another topic entirely) that said that women should pursue men who make their lipstick run, not their mascara—love it!). We should not accept pain, even though, as the Buddha said, pain is inevitable. But it is not eternal, because nothing is. Further, while pain may be inevitable, suffering is not. We don’t need to build whole identities around pain. We could, and here’s a novel idea, build our identities around fighting our pain, and not making a home for it. The question for me is this: if we’re not housing the Pain demon, like Reyes, why are we so happy to accommodate all of the pain in our lives. So, let’s let learn from Reyes and let go of whatever pain we can and seek out the pleasures that this life offers us lest we end up hosting Pain for an eternity.

Endless Loop

Endless Loop site.png

I like to multitask. I'm totally ADHD and it takes a lot to hold my attention. Which is why I sometimes have several books going at once: a hard copy book (whatever non-fiction book is tickling my fancy); an audiobook (almost always a novel I've read before and want to revisit with someone reading it to me); and a new paranormal fantasy on my Kindle (unless I'm in a reading desert and have opted for an old friend to keep me company while I find a new author/series). So it's always kind of cool when I notice a theme or plot device in two books I'm reading at the same time. In the most recent occurrence, I was listening to Kresley Cole's Dark Needs at Night's Edge while reading Gena Showalter's The Darkest Night. And the common trope in both books was a curse that caused one of the protagonists to relive, in a very visceral way, the worst night of their lives. Over and over again, the nightmare reel is playing in a never-ending loop of pain and anguish. Sounds fun, huh?  Good thing this is fantasy and that could never happen in real life. But wait—that's not quite right, because, as we know, there is truth in fantasy and this is no exception. In Dark Needs at Night's Edge (Really?!  Again with the supremely stupid titles), Naomi was a celebrated dancer who is brutally murdered by a rejected lover. As a ghost, she is doomed to experience her death each night of the full moon, preceded by a compulsive dance that she can't control—it's as if she is a puppet with someone else pulling the strings. It's horrific. In The Darkest Night, Maddox, who houses the demon of Violence, is condemned by the gods to be killed each night in the same way he murdered another —stabbed to death and escorted to hell for the night, only to be reborn in the morning to do it all again the next night. More fun than the law should allow, is what I say. 

The common theme here is the idea that we are often stuck reliving the past—usually the most difficult or painful aspects of our history, and usually an event or moment that forever alters the course of our lives afterward. Anyone who's experienced a trauma knows all about this. But even those of us who have made a bad decision, like an extra drink before getting in the car, unprotected sex, just this once, marrying the wrong spouse or letting the right one get away—we have a tendency to put all of these actions or events on an endless loop in our brains and just hit "play."  It doesn't get any more depressing or limiting than this, at least for me. 

What do we hope to gain by pressing the "repeat" button over and over? We're not idiots, or at least most of us aren’t, so there must be some perceived conscious or unconscious benefit to all of this ceaseless self-flagellation. Perhaps we think we can gain insights from our repetitive analysis of the events in question. Maybe we believe we deserve perpetual punishment for whatever sins we've committed, even if the transgression involves being a victim of someone else's evil. Or maybe we believe that if we replay it again and again, we can change the outcome in the past and affect the trajectory of our future. It could happen, right?

For me, my endless loop involved my husband getting sick. I came home from walking the dog to find him unconscious next to our bed. Ambulance, hospital, tests, terrible prognosis (that was totally wrong, by the way, and who does that to a spouse?!). Worst night of my life. It was twenty years ago and I still replay it.  I'm still paranoid about coming home to see that terrible scene again.  I can't help myself, and I look for things he or I could have done differently, or what could have gone the other way for an even worse outcome so I won't do that in the future. It's all bad. But I watch that inner movie and I take it apart piece by piece, and then I put it back together and do it again. 

For some of us, our endless loop is more like Maddox's. We have one defining moment—the point before which our lives were one way and after which they were a different way, and we replay that over and over again so that we can punish ourselves and feel the burn. Or maybe we'd stop it if we could, but like Maddox, who is cursed by the gods, we can't hit the stop button, so we suffer continuous penalty. Whatever crimes we committed, real or imagined, I can't believe a benevolent Universe would want us to suffer for an eternity. If we're feeling guilty enough to relive our transgressions, we're probably sorry we did it and likely willing to make any amends we could and surely never do it again. At some point, haven't we paid our debt—to society, God, ourselves?  I can't imagine not. And yet we persist with the endless loop of misery.

And then some of us just want to change the past, which is, of course, a fool's task. The past doesn't change, no matter how many times we relive it. We can only change our present moment, and perhaps those of the future that haven't happened yet. But that other ship has sailed, and our attempts to alter what's done is pure insanity—doing the same thing over and over—in our minds no less—and expecting a different outcome. Just say no to that life-stealing, soul-sucking pastime.  Enough said. 

So how do we stop hitting "repeat" and play another song?  Therapy comes to mind, of any variety that works for us in our particular circumstances. I'm a big fan. Talking to friends, meditation, journaling, bodywork, self-hypnosis… there are many paths to healing. Love is also an effective answer.  For Naomi and Maddox, predictably, true love and a willingness of their loved ones to sacrifice for their benefit is the road to happily ever after.  And that can be true in our lives as well. Love heals. Always, if we let it. Time makes its contribution as well. But the secret ingredient of success for all of these scenarios is the willingness to let go of our pasts, and the conviction that we deserve a brighter future, one where we're not condemned to relive our misery endlessly. Turn off the endless loop and reclaim the rest of our lives.




Who's Your God?

Who's Your God_.png

I'm finishing up Gena Showalter's second book of the Lords of the Underworld series, The Darkest Kiss. And I'm excited because my friend who recommended the series assured me that the books get better as the series progresses, which is always a treat! Anyway, I've been intrigued by a sub-plot of the series wherein the pantheon of Greek gods, led by Zeus, has been overturned by the Titans, whom the Greeks had previously conquered to take over Olympus. Payback's a bitch, dontcha know? So, now we have a situation where a group of grouchy gods are newly returned to power, running the show and pulling the strings, taking an interest in people and circumstances that the Greek gods had been inclined to ignore for millennia. Note to self:  try to avoid becoming the object of attention of all-powerful gods intent on demonstrating their power and getting their revenge on. Not a good situation. But underlying that storyline is the extraordinary idea that our gods, or the idea of our God, can change over time and how that can truly rock our worlds. In The Darkest Kiss, the Titans, led by Cronus, are handing out assignments—which are not at all optional—to the Lords of the Underworld who have been mostly left alone by the Greek gods for millennia. This is not a welcome development for our favorite alpha hunks.  Our boys have learned to live with the demons they host and have even come to some accommodation of the death curse suffered by Violence, Pain and Death. Until true love frees them all from this vile curse in book one, The Darkest Night. I do love my HEAs. But now, Cronus has commanded Wrath to kill Pain's beloved, and Death to take the soul of the only woman he's loved in thousands of years. Talk about a buzzkill. Needless to say, the Lords of the Underworld are not big fans of these gods-in-charge and are hoping for another change in management, which does not appear to be forthcoming at this point.

Which got me thinking about the ways we each conceive of our own personal gods or God. I'm a big believer in the God of many faces—the Divine that exists and that isn't me. I'm happy and comforted to believe there is something bigger than me out there managing the chaos and creating purpose. But I haven't always believed as I do, and in fact, my concept of the Divine has evolved right along with the rest of me, allowing me to experience a change in Universal management whenever I feel the need. If only our friends, the Lords of the Underworld, could see things my way.

Now I understand that many people feel that God is a fixed entity or idea. Maybe He is that old man with a white beard who sits up on his clouds in heaven weighing our every move and judging the quality of our characters. Or perhaps your God is a more benevolent Jesus, trailing love and mercy in His wake for all who follow him and maybe even those who don't, depending on your particular understanding of Christianity. Or maybe your God is closer to the Jewish and Muslim construct, a non-personal energy that cannot and should not be depicted in any sort or concrete form, to avoid idolatry. I believe that the God of many faces is all of these embodiments and more.

I think God is so much bigger than our limited imaginations can conceive that it is the height of hubris to presume that any one of us, or any group of us can define the Divine in any sort of categorical way. And my apologies if I'm offending anyone, but that just seems silly to me. The Divine, by definition, is infinite. We, and our thinking, also by definition, are finite. Do the math.

If you buy into my logic, we can be like Cronus and his cronies and oust the current leadership in favor of a more proactive deity or deities. Or, we can discern that our needs are best served by a more distantly benevolent supreme being who is well disposed toward us, but perhaps a bit too busy to attend to our more mundane concerns. Which is OK, as long as the Big Guy shows up when we're in the foxhole, forgetting that we were functional atheists prior to our current consternation.

Or perhaps you prefer a more activist universal life force. No problem.  Being infinite, the God of many faces can help us with any problem under the sun, including what to wear and what to eat and who to date and which job to take. Infinity can accommodate anything we can throw at it. That's what it means to be infinite. Pretty cool. In fact, we can write the most perfect job description we can conceive, and the infinite will always have the exact quals we desire. Because that's also what it means to be infinite.

We can change our conception of the Divine and therefore our relationship to our God or gods as often as we feel the urge. If we're burdened by a concept of a frightening, judgmental God as a souvenir from our unhappy childhood, we can ditch that construct and build a more loving, compassionate, merciful God. If we're wracked with guilt and convinced we're going to Hell, we can work through these malevolent ideas and move toward integration and peace through confession, restitution and authentic remorse. All is possible with that which is infinite. Infinite possibilities is the name of the game. We are only limited by our finite thinking.

I love the world building in this series and I love the thought experiment inspired by the idea that gods can be conquered and ousted from power. I can't say I like either of these sets of thugs-in-gods'-clothing, but perhaps we'll see a third set of deities as the series progresses, or maybe the Greeks will be chastened by defeat and more benevolently disposed toward our heroes. In any case, it is all infinitely interesting and infinitely entertaining in my finite world.


Fighting My Demons

Fighting My Demons.png

I've just finished the first book in Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underground series, The Darkest Night.  Good stuff. As with most firsts in a series, there was a lot of setting up to do to establish the rules of the particular literary road and the elements of the premise, which is pretty original. A group of immortal warriors who opened Pandora's Box and killed Pandora are cursed to house the demons they released with their fateful act. So, we have a pack of hunky Lords of the Underworld (and one woman) who embody Death, Violence, Pain, Wrath, Disease, Promiscuity, Disaster, Lies, Misery (she's the female, an interesting choice we’ll explore another time), Secrets, Doubt and Defeat (the final demon, Distrust, was unleashed on an unsuspecting world when his host was killed millennia ago).  Each of these Lords battles their demon, some with more enthusiasm than others, and attempts to prevent becoming pure evil. Easier said than done.  Which got me thinking, of course. What a delicious premise—the idea that we must struggle to overcome our baser natures and prevent our descent into depravity. I suspect that some of us embrace the depravity. I know I've been sorely tempted myself. Resistance is hard. Resistance takes energy. Giving in is so much easier; it's like sinking into a warm bed and getting wrapped up in cozy demonic blankets. For a little while at least. Also, as difficult as resistance is, it's also imperfect. We may choose to resist our demons, but we don't always succeed in keeping them at bay. And when we fail, instead of feeling good, we disappoint ourselves. And once we slip, we may fall victim to the "fuck it" syndrome. Happens to me all the time. 

I've given a lot of thought to the whole idea that we do what we don't want to do and we don't do what we want to do. It's the line from the New Testament in Romans, 7:15. How many times have I decided to eschew chocolate, or cookies, or something else that's going to attach itself to my ass in an undesirable manner, only to be overtaken by gluttony? I've written before about my struggles with pride and envy. But the question today is about whether we struggle against our internal demons or snuggle with them.  The truth, for me at least, is that there are a number of my demons that are just plain entertaining. For example, it's not nice to gossip. But, I’m ashamed to say, I'm not above sharing a slightly wicked bit of information. But not ashamed enough to shut down someone who dishes in my presence. Instead, I’ll offer them a drink and my full attention. I'm also not above embellishing a story to make it more engaging—I'm a storyteller, after all. Although I do draw the line at outright lies. And I enjoyed many extralegal activities in my misspent youth; activities I would happily repeat because they were freaking fun… or were when I was young and more invincible.

And how hard do I really try to resist that chocolate? Or that second glass of wine? Truth be told… my efforts are less than Herculean. How much do I tamp down on my temper when I know unleashing its wrath will get me what I want—even if others are upset in the process? Maybe not as hard as I could, truth be told. After all, it’s one thing to embellish to others, and quite another to lie to ourselves. Just say no to that stupidity.

I think we’re all ambivalent about whether to struggle or snuggle with our demons at times. “Sure,” we tell ourselves, ”I’m gonna fight the really bad ones. For sure if I housed Lies, or Misery or Defeat I would fight for all I was worth.” But is that true? Or is that one more way we snuggle with the demon of Denial—one of my personal favorites? Maybe I’m the only one, but sometimes Lies, Misery and Defeat are quite seductive, and my will to fight quite weak. Those are not good days.

But, as I read about these warriors who host real demons, I was impressed with their forbearance—and embarrassed at my own lack of fortitude. Perhaps I can learn a lesson from the Lords of the Underworld. In fact, I'm sure I can. Sometimes, I find so much truth in fantasy, I'm ready to eschew reality. I tell myself it's time to close my Kindle and get off the couch. And then I tell myself resistance is futile and dive right back in to read another few chapters. So maybe my struggles are more like snuggles after all.