Category Archives: Thoughts

What’s Dan Done?

I’ll admit it, my vision and attentive care for this blog have faltered.

I’ve been so busy tending to the new website, I haven’t been sharing the personal side of things over here. I don’t know what the future holds for us here on The New Dialogue, but I will give you the scoop – and it’s a good one – on what’s been making me wish I could stuff a few more hours into each new day.

Pencil and Paper in a Virtual World

Friends, family and followers – my ever more dextrous fingers have been wearing my keyboard thin over these past few weeks. There are a few factors behind this frantic foolishness.

Website Reviews

When I first conceived of The Parrington Review, I didn’t actually see web review as something either relevant or important to my plan for a reviews-based website. I was going to write about films and literature, you see – almost just a professional extension of The New Dialogue. I was going to tell you what I thought about my favorite (and least favorite) books and movies.

I haven’t abandoned that aspect of my new project, you know; it’s certainly taken a back seat, though, with the sudden and radical emergence of my website reviews. I’ve gotten involved with a number of neat groups and resources on LinkedIn in the past month and a half, see, and I figured something out pretty quick: everyone with an online professional life seems to have a website showcasing their value to the online world.

It’s a great concept, building a home for your online working presence. You pay an acceptable fee for the power to represent yourself, your work and your ambitions in any way you see fit. You create a doorway to the world: one that you can open as wide as you like, and through which the virtual community can visit and do business with you.

Everyone wants to share their corner of the web. What I found in many cases, unfortunately, was this: while many voices are raised across the internet in an effort to draw some much needed attention to themselves, few of us take the time to listen. The internet is a big mouth with tiny little ears.

As a longtime lover of all things technological, and as someone with an intuitive grasp of user experience and web interface, I soon saw that there was a small way in which I might make a difference – all while building a reputation for myself that would reflect my values and priorities.

I started to ask people for their website addresses, promising to give my feedback in exchange for their willingness to share. People began to open up, and then the process picked up momentum. Soon I was swamped with requests for website review – not as an expert, but as a peer and an average user.

Now here we are. I’ve written over 30,000 words in website reviews, and have even kicked off a paid service for more advanced versions of the basic review. I have a business partner who takes care of the technical side of evaluation, and I cover content, aesthetic and navigation. It’s a lot of fun, and it feels good to help make my part of the web just a little bit better.

Content and Copywriting

As a natural extension of my love for writing and getting involved in the projects of those around me, I have also been offering a wide scope of user- and internet-friendly writing services.

I write in quite an array of contexts, from blogs to web pages to corporate communications. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with a new set of data and a way of presenting my client’s business or subject matter in a way that appeals to their audience; I enjoy getting to know each new audience, and figuring out what they need from me as the communicator.

https://parrington.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=300&action=edit&message=10Following are a few of the very diverse situations in which I am currently writing.

(1) AtContent

These digital content distribution experts from Russia were my very first formal client. Their business is in enabling authors and producers of other content to extend the reach of their audience and influence. They accomplish this by means of a system that grants commissions to those who successfully share other folks’ content across the web. It’s pretty neat tech stuff, and I’ve enjoyed working with them so far.

Check out their Features, FAQ and About pages to see some of my work with them. I wrote those pages entirely! I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see the first of my professionally produced content appear on the website.

(2) Baldrige Resource Library

My second venue was a referral from my friend Brian Loebig of Loebig Ink. It doesn’t pay me a dime, but writing for a blog belonging to this prestigious national award organisation has provided me with widened distribution and visibility for my work. Brian, another gentleman and I write reviews and summaries on quality improvement articles for business applications.

Sound dry? Well, it’s not nearly as bad as you might think. In fact, Aura seems to genuinely enjoy proofreading my posts for this site. Here are my two favorites, in case you want to have a look:

Around the Bend: Eight Factors That Will Change Our World and A Global Social Responsibility Standard.

(3) Eye Spy Electronics

Dave Rogers, my client at Eye Spy, runs a security camera and alarm sales, installation and service business in St. Louis, Missouri. He’s one heck of a pleasant guy to work for, and pours a lot into his work. Dave has asked me to rewrite all the content on his site, which I’ve been doing page by page. I’m expanding my fairly raw web development skills through this process, as well.

I also write two articles per week on his company blog. I can’t express just how much I’ve learned through preparatory research about home securitytechnology! Here are my two most recent contributions:

Understanding the Security Camera and Part II.

(4) Criminal Thinking

Brian Loebig, who I mentioned above, has a past career in criminal rehabilitation. One of his major projects, particularly since leaving that field, has been the establishment of a website full of resources for those who still work it. Brian has created a great deal of material for instructional applications, and now he is converting a lot of it into web-friendly formats and expressions.

My role is as editor for new articles on the Criminal Thinking Deterred blog. Brian essentially passes me old instructional material, and I rewrite it in a more conversational style. It’s fun work – and again, I’m learning something new every time I prepare one of these articles.

Here are a couple more links for you to check out: Misguided Sentiments and Anger Unmanaged.

What’s Next for The Parrington Review?

Expect to see a lot of growth and change on my site over the next year. It’s only been up a month, and in that time the business has grown to what I’m sharing with you now.

In the near future, I intend to bring into play a reviews service for self- and e-published authors. The freebie aspect of this new feature is going to be modelled loosely on the website reviews service – a free option for anyone to take advantage of, with featured articles on great independant work.

We’re also considering having some of these same authors write their own reviews of given ebooks, providing them with the opportunity to have their voices heard on a platform of our provision. It’s just an idea, and we’ll have to see where it goes.

I do also want to get the film reviews rolling out with a little more regularity, if at all possible. I love film almost as much as I reel in books, and it would be satisfying to get some of that personal content out onto the site. It can be difficult to write content for my own site, however, when I’m so busy writing it for others.

What About The New Dialogue?

I’m not abandoning you, faithful readers! I may not be posting as often on this blog, but I will be here from time to time. When my schedule permits, I’d love to share with you the daily experiences, small victories and defeats, that come with this lifestyle. I have more stories to tell about friends and family, loved ones and special places. We’ll get there.

Did you guys get a chance to read Kieran and Emery‘s personal blogs? Each of them started one a couple weeks back, and they’re very proud of the result so far. Drop by, take a look, and leave a comment – these boys live and breathe for comments 🙂

That’s all for now, everyone. I’ll be back as soon as I can – I promise! In the meantime, hang out with me over at The Parrington Review, and join me as I continue to pursue my adventure in online work.

We’ve got a lot more ground to cover, folks, and I look forward to every step of it.


Growing Up, Pt. 2

[Part one is here.]

I may have started out as a wee fellow, but as the years went by, I moved on up the food chain. I became a pre-teen, then a teen. I got things like insecurity, hormones and a driver’s license. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though.

I had a paper route that defined much of my after-school experience for a couple years. Those were the years when my dad sat at home every day with a few beers, waiting for me to return with the collection money. Wait- sorry, that’s the plan I have for my boys. Only with them I think I’m going to go for modelling. They’re really quite striking lads.

The whole thing could take me up to a couple of hours. I got to know a lot of my neighbors this way, and really enjoyed doing so. People seem to like their newspaper carrier- or at least, they seemed to like me. I think one of the reasons for that was my passivity when it came to collections. Every week, on Friday, I collected mandatory delivery fees. Only with me, they were more like subjective delivery fees: subjective as to how much I was actually paid, and subjective as to whether they ever got paid at all.

Let me just add one more thing: my daily round was extra special because I had a big old crush on one of my customers. Well, I guess it’d be more accurate to call her the daughter of one of my customers- the real customer, her dad, I was vaguely terrified of. These things go hand in hand.

Whenever I came by her house, I would look up to see if she was in her window. Sometimes she was, and she would wave at me. That turned me into a little puddle of Dan every time. I felt as though all the inky fingers and unpaid fees in the world were worth it for that wave. Occasionally she even talked to me. To what extent I sounded like a bumbling idiot in my responses, we will not go into detail. One February I even snuck a valentine into her paper, hoping she would find it. I expect she did. In any case, a friend of hers emailed me soon afterwards and I denied everything.

In that line of thought, I once got a call from a girl who I went to class with in grade five or six. As I recall, she had with her another girl from my class- and naturally, this other girl was the one who I had a crush on. Girls know these things, I don’t know how. I guess it may have been the way I blushed like crazy every time she looked in my direction.

The conversation went something like this:

“Hi, Daniel, It’s Sam!”

“Hi, Sam.”

Pause.

“So, Jenny’s here with me…”

“Oh! That’s neat.” Dan’s mind becomes more frozen than ever as he contemplates the reality of being one person and a telephone away from Jenny.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m just… watching Alice in Wonderland. It’s on TV.” A this point the conversation becomes a little strained.

“Cool… are you watching it with anybody?” Because that’s what girls like to know. Naturally.

“Yeah, my… mom.” There sure are a lot of ellipses in this conversation, aren’t there?

“Uh, cool. Well, did you want to talk to Jenny?”

“Looks like the commercials are almost over. I’d better get back to the movie.”

“Oh… alright. Well, have fun watching the movie!”

“Thanks! Bye!” And in desperation, I hang up the phone.

Boy, were those some stellar years for dealing with the fairer sex. I would say that they were, in fact, more than fair with me, considering the way I dealt with them. Which is to say, not at all well.

I was a big league babysitter not too long after the paper route days, too. All around the neighborhood, I was the go-to guy for childcare, at least until my sister came onto the scene. The bitterness I held in my heart over her usurpation lasted for years. Maybe I exaggerate. In any case, these were golden days for me. I’ve always loved being with kids. It probably says something or other about my undeveloped personality, but it does remain true. It’s stood me in good stead in recent years.

I babysat, more than anyone, the two little gals who lived in the same house as Rupert. For several years they were the darlings of my heart, although I certainly didn’t have the words to say so. We horsed around playing Pokemon, or watched movies, or went to the park. I believe I had as good a time as they did. And there were several other families who meant a lot to me as well, as well as a few who terrified me.

Through all this babysitting stuff I feel as though I was able to share the sweetness of childhood that much longer. My peers were one thing, and I had my share of older folks at church, but my affection always lay most strongly with the small ones in my life.

I guess it all makes sense. Through many of my years as a young adult, I struggled to part ways from my inner child. I felt, in some respects, as though I were doing a rotten job of growing up. I looked at my friends and I thought, “Man, they’re so much more mature than me.” Maybe they were. But it was in finally embracing that child within that I found my feet- both in the ability to decide what I wanted, and in acting upon it. Instead of languishing in self-consciousness and indecisive thought, I learned to disconnect from my over-analytical mind when it came time to act and interact. Not that we- my child and I- don’t still get separated sometimes.

You know, I’m still growing up- but it’s a lot easier to chuckle about old foolishness than to look in the mirror and let out a belly laugh. So wait a few years, and I’ll tell you about all the ridiculous things I’ve done lately. Until then, do continue to take me seriously.


A Library of Babel

I’m going to make an educated guess.

What education qualifies you to make this guess, you ask? Well, I don’t really know, but let me have my fun.

I sure don’t want to presume anything about you, but I’d guess that you – like me – have sometimes wondered, “What’s the point? Why am I here? And what am I supposed to do about it?”

Not a bad guess, right?

We’re not going to crack that case today. It’s my personal conviction that those most certain that they’ve solved the riddle of existence are those farthest from the truth – if there is one. I’m what is usually called an agnostic. I’m also very much a skeptic – in Christian tradition, I relate most closely with Thomas. Show me the holes in your hands and I’ll hear you out.

My specific strain of agnosticism, by the way, is labelled agnostic theism: I live in the presence of a God I believe in, but consider my belief essentially impossible to prove. I’m a Thomas who loves his God, but doesn’t expect to meet his Savior. Instead, I seek to know God in the details of experience on a daily basis, and also through exposing myself to a wide variety of stimuli. Over the years, I’ve taken a share of both pleasure and pain; I have found knowledge and comfort in the concrete world around me.

There was a time when I sought God in the Christian faith. It was the faith I was raised in, and came naturally. I hold no grudge, today – but neither do I trust the answers I found there. In my mind, every human system is fallible. I don’t hold any of them in contempt for being so. I simply can’t walk that way, myself.

I know, I know – it’s not a human system, say the Christian, the Muslim, the Hindu; the fundamental truth lies in the conveyed word of God, or gods. I say: every written tradition, or story passed on through generations, is the work of man. The only God I know is written in the wind, the earth, and the hearts of the people I love. This God may even have something to tell me through the good and evil that man does – but God is not written on a page, nor defined by the wagging of a tongue.

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Imagine with me, for a moment, what our world would be like if it were one vast library. And not just our planet, but the entire universe. Imagine a library larger than our universe.

It would take all the space we know to exist – and more – to contain the library described by Jorge Luis Borges in his 1941 short story The Library of Babel. He writes about a library where people are born and live out their days – a library filled with 410-page books. The books contain every possible variation of 25 characters that could take place in their pages, and no two books are the same. The possibilities are endless.

I’ve been fascinated with the story since I first read it about five years ago. I’ve gathered a few things from it that are illustrative of the search for meaning in life.

(1) Much of what we experience in life is without greater meaning. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, or that my actions will resound down the corridors of time. I believe that life is meant to be lived for the time it lasts, and that I ought to be pursuing the fullest experience possible. When I die, do I transcend? Will we find one another in the afterlife? Do I become spirit, or am I given a new body and a fresh go of it here on Earth? I don’t know and, frankly, I don’t intend to find out for a while yet. In the meantime, I only want to seek happiness for myself and my loved ones.

(2) There is meaning in the details. Sometimes, I encounter something or someone that becomes very special to me. It’s not every day, but once in a while I find something that I want to hold on to. It’s my conviction that these special moments, places, things and people are worth nurturing – they have meaning and value in and of themselves. My idea of a life full of meaning and purpose is in the pursuit of my innermost goals, and in the promotion of life and love and wellbeing. I don’t need to look for a greater significance when I can find glory in the smile of a child.

(3) I construct my own destiny. All of us must pass on from this life eventually. Because I don’t know what lies on the other side of death, my destiny is all in the present. My fate engulfs me from moment to moment. I choose to build a path of meaning and significance within my own framework every day, and look for opportunities to enrich my experience with family, friends, work, and recreation. I try to honor the Golden Rule in any way I can: to do for those around me what I would have them do for me. I’m far from being a flawless example of the idea, but I know what I’m aiming for.

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With Kierkegaard, I feel that to embrace without doubt is credulity, not faith. Faith is the belief in something that I know cannot be seen, touched, or proven – it is a deliberate choice to trust in the power of forces beyond my comprehension.

Do I believe myself king of my world? Certainly not. So who’s in charge? I don’t know – but I seek God’s hand in my life from day to day. And while I do that, I never forget that I’ve got two hands of my own.


Conversation

Hope you all had a great labor day weekend – good luck to all those entering and re-entering school this year! I’m losing all three of my crew to the education system this year. Aura will be taking social work, and Emery is starting kindergarten. Kieran is going into grade three. Then there’s me, banging away in front of my computer, or stuck behind a book.

You’ll have noticed that I’ve given a new name to the blog. Welcome, dear reader, to The New Dialogue.

Gone are the first two months and their nonspecific title. I spent a long hour and a half batting ideas back and forth with my wife, and we came up with a ton of options. What we kept running into was a quality vs. quantity dilemma; whenever I would look up a nifty new potential, it was already taken by someone bigger and badder than me. On the other hand, most of the truly garbage titles were free for the taking. I believe I’ve found a reasonable balance.

Thanks to Brian L. for prompting this alteration.

At one point Aura suggested Den of Dreams. We were enthused. Great idea, I said. Den suggests home, and connotes Daniel and the lions’ den. That’s cute. Dreams can indicate aspirations, and in this case would probably mean shared goals. It’s a nice set of ideas, I said.

Just look it up. Look it up and see why I didn’t go with this. Imagine the comments:

“I was looking for something to stir my senses, and found your blog. Your writing is hypnotic, even delicious. I knew I could only resist for so long.”

Flattering, but misplaced. Thanks for nothing, Tasha Lynn.

That being said, I’m very happy with The New Dialogue. It’s surprisingly unique on the web, and describes well one of the things I value most highly in life: conversation. I started this blog as a means of conversation with you. It was going to be your window into my life, and my way of reaching out to yours. In many ways, this holds true; in others, my vision has broadened.

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I have a request to make of you.

As you’re aware by now, I’ll be starting up a reviews blog quite soon. It’s going to be covering two of the more major formats of communication today: movies, and books. In fancy talk, Film and Literature. In fact – I already have a name for the site: The Parrington Review! Easy to remember – provided my name isn’t too much of a hurdle – and straight to the point. It’s coming online as of September 25th – mark your calendars!

My request: tell me what you’d like to see reviewed. See, I have a list as long as my arm would be if my arm were as long as my hallway. There’s so much I want to share. I’ve read and admired a lot of books, seen and loved a great number of films. But hey – why write about them if you’re not interested?

So tell me what you want; I’ll do it. No reservations on my part. No conditions.

A word of warning, so long as we’re on this – The Parrington Review is not going to be family fare.

The New Dialogue – from its origin as Dan Writes a Blog through to the end of eternity – is and will always be family friendly. I don’t cuss, I don’t make naughty jokes, and I don’t deal with mature subject matter. It’s suitable for all ages, as the movie authorities say.

The Parrington Review, on the other hand, is going to be built to deal with the heaviest stuff out there. Many of the books and movies I’ll be having a look at and dealing with mature themes. I hope very much that if this perturbs you, you’ll simply stick around here and continue to enjoy what I have to offer on my personal journey.

For those of you, however, who think this sounds wicked – it is. We’re going to have a lot of fun. I’ll see you there.

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You may wonder why do I do all this. What motivates me to write, and to share it around at large? And why so suddenly?

I explained my primary motivation early on. I’ll reiterate it now, with a little perspective. I write to express myself, and to learn new modes of expression. I write because I have so much going on inside, and badly need a way to let it out. And I write because I’m happy – when I feel good, I want to reach out and share some of that warmth.

It’s challenging, writing so much and so often. It’s difficult to ensure that what I offer is worth reading. But the work itself is part of the pleasure.

This all happened at once because that’s how things changed for me – all at once. As a result of a few simple changes in my medical strategy, I went from zombie-Dan to inspired-Dan. I was fed up, and took things into my own hands. And I have the best people in the world to support me.

Creation is one of the fundamental impulses of human existence. As a writer, I’ve found a way to be true to that facet of my deepest humanity: I am a tool-maker, storyteller, dreamer. I respond to the call of my own nature, and seek transcendence. I seek to converse – to find illumination in the hearts and minds of others, and to illuminate what I can in return. I believe that through common dialogue, we find meaning; through conversation, we widen the scope of perspective.

This blog is just my way of taking part.


A new look

Well, what do you think?

I was encouraged lately by an acquaintance of mine to lighten up a little. Thanks for the solid advice, Brian.

I also want you all to know that in addition to providing the very personal, Dan-type stuff you’ve come to know and (I hope) love here on parrington.wordpress.com, I’ll be starting up a Books & Writing blog within the next few weeks. Turns out I need a professional image, too! Who’d have thought. (Well, Desmond did.)

This also seems like the right time to thank a few of the people who’ve made my first (nearly) two month in blogging both interesting and rewarding. A special thanks to Jason Alan, who always speaks his mind. Thanks also to Mysterious Man from the Shadows, whose thoughtful posts never fail to get my mind turning.

It’s been a particularly good two months, blogging aside. Almost four years ago, I was in the midst of alcoholism, drug abuse and major depression. The girl I met at that time- now my wife- helped me see myself as I was, and as I had become in the midst of all this. These past three and a half years have been a time of an intense struggle for healing. I was fighting for my body, I was fighting for my soul. And she was there, fighting alongside me, every single step of the way.

If you knew me then, but weren’t aware of what I was going through- you aren’t alone. I became an effective chameleon, hiding the reality of my suffering and self-destruction from even those closest to me. Some of you did see the flip side of me. I can’t imagine it made you feel all that good. But what can anyone do, really, to help someone like that?

I am living, breathing evidence of the transforming efficacy of love. It was my love for someone special, and her love for me, that allowed me to finally summon the will and courage to face the BS and get myself on track.

After an exceptionally nasty episode at the hospital, and many tears on the part of my devoted partner, I finally consented to begin treatment. I began seeing a crisis counselor and a psychiatric doctor. They started me on meds, and asked me to stop drinking. I did. Well, for the most part, anyways.

I felt like a slug for two and a half years. The meds made me drowsy most of the time, and I gained more than fifty pounds. This, surely, was my personal hell: no energy, and a body that would no longer co-operate.

But I was getting better, behind all that. Week by week, from month to month, the anger and confusion in my heart were being overcome. I choose that word specifically: they were being overcome, not removed. I still carry them, and many other pieces of baggage, today. It was the process of slowing down and engaging in a little bit of introspection, bathed in the care and affection of my family, that enabled me to get the upper hand in my struggle for self-control. And not just self-control, but self-love, and a sense of peace with my reality.

These past two months, however, have been the best yet. I started a new medication- got my energy back and lost twelve pounds. I rebooted my online presence, started a blog and reconnected with a lot of special people. I’ve been out to spend time with friends and family more than I have in years. And all this without getting blind drunk!

You may find all this a little strange. You may not even recognise me as I have described myself here. What I’m really trying to tell you is that I’ve found my legs again. I am revelling in change, holding tight while I once again become aware of the glorious adventure that is life.

And I’m awfully glad to have you along for the ride.


Like Tears in Rain

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time… to die.

Such are the last words of Roy Batty, lead antagonist in the film Blade Runner. They always make my spine tingle. Maybe I am imagining myself in black empty space, seeing the c-beams glittering beneath me. Maybe it’s the romance of a forsaken creature, a Frankenstein’s monster superior to its own maker.

Maybe it’s the struggle for freedom, a fight that ultimately ends in Batty’s death, and Deckard’s redemption. On that consideration, hear Rick Roderick:

I will call to your mind a scene from Blade Runner, where before the replicant dies, he slams his hand on a nail (and many of you may not know this), but when Batty does that in the film, it’s a reference to an action that Sartre has a character perform in “Roads to Freedom”. In “Roads to Freedom”, the Sartre character slams his hand onto a nail to prove that he is free. Because he chose to do it. It hurt like hell, but he chose it. I put my hand on that nail, and that shows I am free, because just as a calculus of deterministic pleasure I would never have done it. It’s a philosophical demonstration… a painful and stupid one in my opinion… but by the time we get to Blade Runner, the replicant slams his hand onto a nail just to feel anything. Just to feel anything.

When the attempt for immortality finally falls through, man must settle for memory; in Batty’s case, he chooses to leave what is left of himself pass into the hands of his enemy- his best bet in his hope of being remembered. In a sense, he chooses to live on through Deckard.

Would you want to live forever? Many people believe they will, in a spiritual sense. Do you have a belief in that respect? If not, how do you deal with the reality of death?

I am currently struggling with the sense that my grandparents- my boys’ great-grandparents- are coming to the close of their days. They may have five, ten- maybe fifteen- years remaining. But as life comes to its dusk, the odds stack higher and higher against us. How much longer, I ask myself, do I have these two wonderful old folks to share with my new family?

They meant so much to me, growing up. But you see, their legacy will continue in us. This is what Batty wanted. This is what he chose to do, exercising his ability to will: when I die, on day, I want to have chosen just the same; to have chosen, throughout my life, to draw my loved ones close and give them a legacy worth passing on.

Hear, now, Anthony Pate:

In contrast to Deckard is Roy Batty, the leader of the renegade replicants and Deckard’s doppelganger. Both men suffer the same pains – lack of knowledge and security about the natures of their identity and existence, the soul-deadening toll of their labors, their dissatisfaction with their circumstances and their subsequent inability to reconcile themselves to and master their reality. But unlike Deckard, Batty refuses to languish in inertia and depression because of the circumstances of his reality. Batty aims to do something – whatever he can – about it. Like Deckard, Batty is a murderer too. But unlike the murders Deckard commits for his job, which reflect his jaded dissociation and institutionalized impersonality, Batty’s murders are raw and impulsive, emotional and purposeful. They are also, in Batty’s mind, righteous.

A major symbolic element in Blade Runner is the eye: its reoccurrence throughout the film tends to indicate perceptions in general; and, more specifically, self-perception. Remember Jung’s Persona, the mask we develop as a representation of the Self- a representation that is so intimate that even we believe it to be ourselves? Blade Runner asks the question: what is it to be human- and what is an imitation? Does the difference between the two really matter?

To me, it does. I know that to some extent I am formed by the world I have developed in- the peers, situations and reactions around me have greatly influenced who I am now. I also believe that to a large extent I am capable of creating myself, of shaping myself into whoever I want to be. Does any of this make me false? I thought so, once. Now I accept it as fact.

I am a mixture of my environment, my upbringing, and my own devices. I may also be, at some level, programmed from birth. I don’t really understand how all these elements interact. There must be a healthy balance somewhere, a fine line where I can see myself as acceptable before God, so to speak: a whole and good person, redeemed in the process of refinement that experience provides.

It is my inclination to believe also that only once we have begun to accept ourselves as we are, beneath the mask, are we able to gauge with any accuracy the legacy that we are producing. I am Dan Parrington, stepfather, husband, son, grandson. I am Dan Parrington, straight-A student, dropout, reader, writer. I am also Dan Parrington, sometimes fearful, often in my own world, always sensitive to the needs and opinions of those around me.

A lifespan is what it is. I hope I can use mine wisely. I hope I can leave something good for those left behind. I fear the time when my predecessors’ mantles fall onto my shoulders, but I also intend to be ready. What about you?


Blood

I was raised in a tradition that placed a high value on blood, so perhaps it is no surprise that I have come to revere Faulkner the way I do. As a child I sang and heard stories about the blood of Jesus Christ; as a young man I was washed in the blood of the Lamb, that which was spilt by God’s only Son and said to bring life to those who would stoop by the banks of that inexhaustible flow.

Faulkner’s entire work can be said to be about blood: that which separates the races, that which flows into the ground and stakes out a land as its own. Blood also enacts a chemical bond that connects family across the generations; it represents and gives substance to the link each one of us has to the past. It is blood that ties us irrevocably to the sins and victories of our forebears, and to the fortunes of our living kin. Above all, blood is a spiritual connection: even when, biologically, we become disconnected, blood readmits us into communion with one another.

Faulkner was a high school dropout. He was a white boy raised by a black woman in the Deep South, and he was brought up in a constant flow of old stories about war and race and the struggle between the sexes. He was a D student in English, but a major player in the Southern Renaissance of literature. His attention to cadence and diction became larger than life. He was a dedicated perpetrator of the stream of consciousness narrative style.

It was through that last approach that I first found the man. The first Faulkner novel I ever read was The Sound and the Fury– an Oprah’s Pick edition, to my dismay. Sorry, Oprah fans- it just seemed so unlikely a winner to me. But I had heard Faulkner mentioned in connection with other great names of the twentieth century, and just had to give it a venture.

I was floored, from the first page to the last. Four narrative voices take turns in expressing their own perspectives, and each is entirely distinct. The first quarter is narrated by Benjy, eldest son in the Compson family, severely mentally disabled. In modern terms, he is a non-functional autistic. The narration here is impressionistic and emotional, dependent on immediate sense perception and a distorted or minimal understanding of events.

The second quarter is presented to us by the youngest Compson brother, Quentin. This narrator is deeply idealistic, and becomes equally despondent as he watches the fragmentation of his family unit, and in particular the disintegration of his sister’s moral and emotional wellbeing. Severe depression leads to the narrator’s suicide at the end of his section.

Third on our lineup is Jason, middle brother of the Compson family. His cynicism and pragmatic approach make this quarter the easiest to read- but also the most horrifying, for me. It mostly consists of Jason’s ongoing quest to make a dollar, and to control his household.

The last quarter is led by Dilsey, high priestess- so to speak- of the black family servants. Her role as matriarch over her small community also makes her chief caregiver to the Compsons; her perspective is high and wide. Divided from the white folk she serves by the color of her skin, she is even so the one individual who does the most to care for them through their final days as a family, administrating their wellbeing in spite of their self-obliteration.

Keep in mind that the sections overlap. Each character’s perspective builds on the limited scope of the previous. The result is rich, full and very powerful. Can you see why I was so impressed? What I was reading was the story of a home shattering outward, a family with a great Southern history that had finally come to an inglorious end. What I was reading was so layered, so textured; each new quarter brought home a new level of understanding in the tragedy of a doomed bloodline. And, strangely, it was the woman whose blood separated her furthest from the story- it was this woman who was able to provide the most balanced and sympathetic account.

Quite different, but equally important in its own respect to my experience of Faulkner was his Go Down, Moses. Composed of seven novellas, or short stories, it conveys a moving portrait of a collection of racially diverse family units over the course of a hundred years- especially focusing, as is typical with Faulkner, on one white family: the McCaslins.

The Old People- one of the short stories- deals very directly with the title subject of this post. Isaac McCaslin, child of the Southern woods, is initiated into the hunt by the son of a native chief. While accompanying his predecessors and elders on his first real hunting trip, Isaac kills a buck; Sam, the chief’s son, anoints him with its blood.

A second buck- a grandfather among the deer- is spotted by a member of the hunting party, and the group disperses in order to locate and kill it. Isaac finds himself alone with the beast and his mentor, Sam; he does not shoot it.

There follows one of the most powerful- and dense- monologues I have ever read. I’d like to share a portion of it here:

Think of all that has happened here, on this earth. All that blood hot and strong for living, pleasuring, that has soaked back into it. For grieving and suffering too, of course, but still getting something out of it for all that, getting a lot out of it, because after all you don’t have to continue to bear what you believe is suffering; you can always choose to stop that, put an end to that. And even suffering and grieving is better than nothing; there is only one thing worse than not being alive, and that’s shame. But you can’t be alive forever, and you always wear out life long before you have exhausted the possibilities of living.

The blood of the hunted falls to earth and becomes part of it. The blood rises up in life again, and is once again subject to the hunt. Leaves fall and decompose; their decay becomes part of the living forest, and once again the leaves fall. Just as flora and fauna follow on themselves in this seemingly eternal exchange of energy, so man passes on his blood, his traditions, his values- and the passage continues down through time. Isaac’s bloody anointment pulls the paradigm tightly into focus.

In The Bear, we experience the brutal demise of a bear whose power is adequate not only to preserve him against traps and bullets, but to bring death to the dog that finally brings him down- and the very legend of the bear seems to be enough to bring about the demise of the man who trained that dog. The struggle in which all this takes place is climactic and, of course, bloody.

Isaac, who was involved in the hunt for Old Ben, renounces his claim on the family plantation. He finds himself burdened with guilt over what he calls the curse of God’s Earth: man’s efforts to own the land itself, his presumption is trying to own men of a different color than himself, and both the spiritual and physical destruction of what was the South. Returning to the site of the hunt for Old Ben, Isaac finds that it has become a venue for logging.

These two stories stand very tall, for me, among anything else Faulkner has written. The seeping, engulfing tide of which he writes- and his contempt of resistance to it- fill me with a sense of fear and splendor. Blood is inescapable in Faulkner, and irresistible in our world: good or bad, we are bound together as a species, as a lineage, as a great story.

When I was living in Okotoks, Alberta, on the ranch with my boss Jim, I learned of an idiosyncrasy he had. Jim loved to hunt with a crossbow. He would go out among the underbrush on his land and stalk the elk that populated those low, close hills; he would move as silently as he could, gaining ground and finding a thrill in proximity. But Jim never cocked his weapon, nor did he ever fire it; Jim never intended to kill or maim. For Jim, there was no blood.

I do not hunt. But for me, there is blood; there will always be blood (yes, I liked the movie, too). Faulkner is my literary hero, because he recognises this fundamental element in existence, and because he expresses it so eloquently. I’m going to include links, now, to a few of the novels I’ve read of his- who knows, you might come to love him too.

As I Lay Dying. A strange, convoluted narrative- compelling characters and vivid, sluggish prose. A lot of flesh and blood in proportionately little movement. A mini Odyssey; a tiny and demented Grapes of Wrath.

Light in August. Beautiful, hazy prose- horrible and somehow very real lives wrapped in layers of Southern perception. The Southern mind and the meaning of blood explored and molded as deftly as could ever be accomplished with words only- injections of deep and nearly imperceptible humor delineate the characters in their small, saturated existences.

Pylon. Best feature is its narrative approach to the passing of time- weaker is the dialogue, not the dark and fragrant stuff of other Faulkner. A compelling presentation of an interesting time in history.

Sanctuary & Requiem for a Nun. Dark, evocative passages from Sanctuary stand in contrast wit the sometimes awkward playwriting of Requiem. Long and winding pathways- flavored slowly, carefully with Faulkner’s typical attention to everything living and not living.


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