Category Archives: Life

“Erasmus Plumwood” is now available!

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 22.45.56CDT

I am happy to announce that my latest book Erasmus Plumwood is now available for purchase on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats! You can purchase yours today by clicking on the book cover at the top of this article or by clicking here.

Coming Soon: “Erasmus Plumwood”

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 22.45.56CDT

 

Coming 20 November 2018: my new novel Erasmus Plumwood !

When new opportunities appear, two best friends decide to go on a vacation just before Christmas to celebrate. While there they learn a great deal about themselves and grow deeper in their friendship.

The cover artwork was created by my friend, the fantastic artist Emily Henebrey.

Erasmus Plumwood will be available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle just in time for Thanksgiving and the Holidays. I will be announcing in person book signings in the coming weeks.

“Travels in Time Across Europe” is now available!

20664675_10213778819047319_3800166070242915045_n

I am happy to announce that my latest book Travels in Time Across Europe is now available for purchase on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats! You can purchase yours today by clicking on the book cover at the top of this article or by clicking here.

Introducing “Travels in Time Across Europe”

20785758_320378948370801_6506869756429809_o

Artist: Emily Henebrey

After almost two years of writing and editing, my first book Travels in Time Across Europe is nearing completion. I am happy to announce it will be available for purchase on Amazon this coming Autumn in paperback form to readers in Europe, and in the United States as well as to a global audience digitally on Kindle.

From snow-capped Alpine peaks to the low coastlines of England, Finland, and Ireland, Travels in Time Across Europe recounts my adventures while living in London from November 2015 to August 2016. Within the day-to-day elements of the story, moments both humourous and pensive from my life, I have interlaid the histories of the places and peoples I visited. From crossing the Alps in the footsteps of Hannibal, Caesar, and Napoléon, to retracing the footsteps of my ancestors back to the towns and villages they left behind for new lives in America, this is a story of exceptional breadth.

On top of all of this are laid the realities of the times in which we live, the major political and cultural phenomena that have shaped this our current decade. As I wrote this book, I couldn’t help but watch as tumultuous turn after tumultuous turn of events reshaped the world that I have come to know so well. The uncertainty of 2015 and 2016 run throughout this book, an uncertainty that is anything but unprecedented, despite what the pundits may say; after all our history is full of tumult and precedent.

Travels in Time Across Europe will be available for sale in both paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon this Autumn, just in time for Christmas. Keep an eye on my website, Twitter, and the Travels in Time Across Europe Facebook page for further updates on the book.

Nolan’s “Dunkirk” – An Abstract Tribute

dunkirk-christopher-nolan-trailer-images-75

Credit: Christopher Nolan [found at Cinemavine.com])

What I found especially gripping about Christopher Nolan’s latest film, a retelling of the Miracle at Dunkirk, was that each of the individual people in the story were not the main character. That role was filled by the seemingly indomitable human spirit, and will to survive and struggle ever onwards. Dunkirk might well be one of the most defining moments of the Twentieth Century for Britain, and quite possibly as well a crucial turning point for the whole world.

The film follows three main groups: the soldiers on the beaches, the sailors both civil and naval crossing the Channel, and the RAF in the air trying to keep the fighters and bombers of the Luftwaffe from wrecking further havoc to the men stuck at Dunkirk and the ships trying to ferry them to the safety of home, a mere 26 miles away. Though the plot is not in itself chronological, it nevertheless helps tie together each disparate group, connecting their experiences in a spiritual fashion as each come ever closer to the film’s climax.

For British and Commonwealth viewers this film will certainly reinforce that Dunkirk Spirit, that steely determination that even in the darkest of hours Britain and her sister countries will never surrender. I became quite emotional when, after witnessing the sense of doom the soldiers on the shore felt for a good hour, the hodgepodged fleet of little ships arrived in the waters off of Dunkirk. This moment, though one of the darkest hours in British history is also equally one of the most inspiring to have transpired in that island nation’s long story.

For American viewers this film should give us pause. In our present hour of immense internal divisions, of political unrest and civil discontent we should consider what it would mean for us as one people to come together for a cause we all knew to be necessary for the continued survival of our country and the liberty it’s Constitution assures. In this hour of great uncertainty we should be looking not to what divides us but what can unite us.

Hans Zimmer’s score is a welcome change from his usual set of loud brass, excessive strings, and choirs primarily singing “Ah” for far too many measures. While loud, this score adds to the energy of the film, and in a musical sense is largely understated. The music helps bring the viewer into the picture, onto the beach, aboard the small boats and naval ships, and in the cockpits of the Spitfires high above in the air. I really appreciated the echoes of Elgar’s Nimrod that played over the final scene as Britain and her forces came to rest aground again and prepare for the inevitable Battle of Britain to come.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and just a few minutes prior to sitting down to write this review I told my writing partner Noel that I have to go back and see this again soon. Dunkirk is a film that triggers both the conscious and sub-conscious, that calls upon one’s entire emotional and physical self. It is one of a number of films that are to me the new “talkies”; they address not only our visual and aural senses, but our emotional senses as well. I have a feeling there will be many more films like Dunkirk to come.

dunkirk-movie-trailer-christopher-nolan-screencaps-

Optimism and Belief

Cloud-line

In my life, there have been two things standing as constants: optimism and belief. I have embraced these two guiding principles, and striven in due course to live a better life as a part of the wider human community through them. For me, my faith as a Catholic and as a Christian is an inherently positive one; it is a faith in Resurrection, in Union with the Divine Essence, in the fulfilment of the circle and restoration of humanity to paradise.

Yet to allow this faith to persist I have found myself inherently optimistic, always expecting the best from people, and looking at even the darkest of situations with the hope that is required to believe in something greater than Reality. True, this is blind faith, something entirely counter to the principles of our scientific age, yet in the end is not blind faith equally necessary in a scientific setting? After all, we have yet to learn all that there is to know about nature, our sciences are as of yet unfinished in amassing the totality of reality. Therefore, if we are to accept science as an effective and prosperous measure of nature, then we must also accept that that measure is man-made and limited in its scope.

I see those things measured by science each and every day, and I am in awe of their wonder. I see how the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west, how the stars circle in the sky as the year passes. I hear the wind bristling through the leaves of the trees, and across the tall grass prairies. I have known what it means to be caught on the beach at high tide, and to be at the mercy of the awesome tempestuous power of lightning. Past generations might well have worshiped these forces of nature, seen them as gods like Zeus, Taranis, or Ukko, yet I see them as terrestrial, as natural, as real. The true force, the veritable essence to be worshiped is far greater than even the rolling thunder or bristling lightning.

In these circumstances I am reminded of the American hymn How Great Thou Art, yet in the smallest of moments too I am reminded of God’s coming to Elijah on the softest breath of wind in the cave. Divinity and the essence that made all that we know and love is so far beyond our own understanding, yet in that realisation I find my peace.

Often it can be said that I find my belief renewed through music, through that purest, most mellifluous of sound. Some of the most sacred moments of my life, the most moving moments in the story of my belief have come in moments of music, from operas like Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte to the Pilgrim’s Chorus in Wagner’s Tannhäuser to great orchestral outbursts of emotion as in Stravinsky’s Firebird and most all of Mahler’s symphonies; yet equally spiritually potent for me are the more recently composed naturalistic Mass settings that I sang with the Rockhurst University Chorus while an undergraduate student there from 2011 to 2015. Music has long been said to be the Voice of the Heavens, and certainly it has appeared to be so to me.

Yet what I find the most fulfilling to my belief in the Divine is humanity. In the Christian tradition we believe that humanity was “Created in the Image and Likeness of God.” For me, this means that our souls particularly were made in the Divine Image, but that our bodies also have Divine inspiration. When I see humanity, with all our faults, all our problems, all our pain and anguish, I can’t help but be swept off my feet in grief. Yet at the end of the day I always remember the old adage echoed by Little Orphan Annie, “Tomorrow will be a brighter day.”

I believe that one day that will come true, that one day all will be sorted out in our capitals, our courts, our executive palaces. I believe that one day we will march through our cities, not in protest or in anger, not out of anguish or to alleviate our suffering, but because we are celebrating that most essential characteristic of our humanity: liberty. I believe that someday all humanity will walk together, singing in unison, a multitude of voices, of languages, of cultures and creeds making one song. I believe in optimism, and I am optimistic about my belief.

Everyone Has a Place in the House of God

Courtesy of WCLKPhoto: WCLK-FM.
This evening while driving across Kansas on the way to a cousin’s graduation in Hays, I took the opportunity to listen to one of my favourite works of sacred music, Wynton Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass. Performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Marsalis himself, and Le Chorale Chateau, conducted by Damian Sneed, the Abyssinian Mass is a thrillingly poignant work of sacred devotion to God.

One particular element of the Abyssinian Mass that stands out from most other Mass settings is the inclusion of a sermon, a lesson, taught by the minister at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. The message, and following hymn, is simple: everyone has a place in the House of God. Everyone.

I have not written much on my faith of late in part out of my own annoyance for the obnoxiously vocal religious right in my own country and elsewhere around the globe. Those who preach a gospel of hate and hellfire give religion a bad name. My faith is founded on the belief, as a Catholic, that the Divine is inherently good and loving; that all evil exists solely out of the gift of free will, and the subsequent misguided decisions made by a variety of actors over the ages.

Yet though a Catholic I find that I cannot help but accept, and encourage those practises and beliefs in other traditions which are also founded on this same positive outlook on the Divine, this same understanding that God is Love. As this Protestant minister said, and as the choir sang, “Everyone has a place in the House of God!” Yes, yes, yes!

So then, I must beg the question, if all of us have a place in the House of God, if we share even this sole beautiful inheritance, then why do we constantly seek to find those things which divide us? Why do we continue to argue that one group, one people is greater than another? Why do we constantly stab ourselves in the back with jealousy, deceit, fear, and overthinking when we could be so kind to each other?

I say we try it out, we try being nice to one another. It may be a small thing, it may even be mildly unrealistic, but you never know it might just work.