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Random Tidbit: Fever Dream

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When I was younger I had a reoccurring fever dream.

The first scene was a little girl and her grandmother eating at a table with a white and red checkered tablecloth and a small vase with a white flower in it.  All I could hear was the clanking of cutlery and some quiet classical music. Then it would switch to the second scene where these giant, sweaty, faceless construction workers were moving these huge concrete tubes around an endless shipping yard.  Everything was loud and industrial and there was dust in the air.  Then back to granny and her little charge, then back to the men and the muscles and the concrete. Classical music then thundering thunks and clanks.

It terrified me.

Because the girl and her granny were so small and soft and everything else was so large and hard. I felt there was no way they could survive in a world like that.  There was no place for them in all the enormity.  I was filled with a deep, aching and memorable existential angst.  How could they live?  How could any of us live?

When I was younger I didn’t recognize the feeling as existential angst so it only registered as terror.  But now I understand.  Sometimes I feel certain things are too small for this large world and I know what the dream was trying to illustrate: the impossible juxtaposition of our tiny, fragile existence against the infinite universe.

It’s interesting to know that my fears as a child aren’t unlike the things that gnaw at me today.

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Inspiration Series – Karin Orsini

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Inspiration is a beautiful thing. What inspires me? Honestly, I cannot think of something that does not inspire me. When I witness something beautiful such as an act of kindness, the simple peace in nature or even just a smile from a stranger, I am filled with that blissful feeling of love and hope. When I witness destruction, anger or injustice, I am with filled with an urge to take action to create change.  When I pay attention to the world around me I am inspired.

I have not always been inspired and I feel that many people have a hard time being inspired. I do believe that in order to have the capability to be inspired one needs to be mindful, to have a clear head. It is hard to have a clear mind in a world filled with anger, destruction and injustice. Through personal experiences and observations of the world around me I feel that it is safe to say many people seek to escape the world through meaningless distractions and through addictions that they have allowed to develop in order to numb the pain of what they have experienced in the past or what they fear they may experience in the future. In other words, I believe many people unknowingly block themselves off from the possibility being inspired and inspiring others.

I believe that true inspiration, the kind where action usually follows, cannot come to one who is in a brain fog, to one who is distracted or numb. My mind was once caught it the thickest of fogs, for many years. It is not to say that I got nothing done in that time, that I made no accomplishments, or that I was never inspired, but when I look back all I see is fog. In that time I fought hard for temporary periods of relief from my fears and it was in those moments that I was able to live life. I am inspired by my past and my own journey and the hard times that I endured which have given me the strength to face the ongoing challenges in my life today. I am now able to be grateful for my blessings despite the trials that continue to be thrown my way.  I am able to look back with satisfaction on the past few months of my life. With my head out of the fog I have been able to live in the moment and to appreciate the good and the bad in this world, after all how good is “good” if one has never tasted “bad”. Since having a clear mind and opening my eyes I have been inspired and that inspiration has led me to inspire others. It has given me a purpose and it gives me a feeling of great peace, as though I am doing what I am meant to do.

I now live to inspire. I want to give love in every way that I can, to generate more love which I believe is the key to true happiness. Love is the key to the defeat of fear. Fear leads to everything ugly and I believe that love can free one from hurtful thoughts and emotions and bring a sense of peace, a clear head, and a chance to be inspired and become inspiration for others. Once inspired I believe it is our duty to inspire others. Inspiration is a blissful feeling, a feeling full of love and hope. I continue to be inspired by others, I live to inspire. Be the change.

Karin is an animal rights activist born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She currently lives in Guelph, a short ride west from Toronto, with her husband Ryan and her furry daughters Clara and Miley. Karin spends her weekdays as an occasional teacher in Toronto where she enjoys working with and inspiring young students. Karin is on the Vegfest Guelph planning committee and is in the midst of raising money for and planning Guelph’s first ever vegan festival. Karin enjoys spending time in nature, blogging about the vegan lifestyle, keeping fit and staying healthy.

Blog: http://www.simplyvegan10.blogspot.ca
FB: http://www.facebook.com/#!/simplyvegan10
Twitter: @simplyvegan10

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Inspiration Series – Jim Murray

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I have been a writer since the age of 17. I was first inspired to write when I left my original home in Fort Erie to go and live with my dad and his wife Diana in Ottawa. I wrote my first poem in a letter to my then girlfriend Sandy Sparks who lived in Tonawanda, which Is a suburb of Buffalo. We eventually realized that living almost 500 miles apart really sucked, and so we drifted away from each other. But during that period I became a dedicated poet and man of letters of sorts.

All through college and my early working days, living downtown in Toronto with my Ottawa pal, John Wild, I wrote. I wrote poetry. I wrote essays, I wrote short stories. Many of them were influenced by the writers and songwriters I worshiped with like John Updike, Phillip Roth and Saul Bellow, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Leonard Cohen and Tim Hardin to name but a few.

I continued to write after I married and eventually got into writing advertising as a profession. During the 7th year of my marriage, we were living in Rosedale in Gordon Lightfoot’s coach house, and I had a chance to present some of the lyrics I was writing to Gord’s guitar player and a great songwriter, Terry Clemens. I thought I was pretty hot shit at the time, but Terry and his wife Roz sat me down and told me the truth. They said that my lyrics very good but were highly derivative and that I was emulating all of my influences. This was a big shock to my system, mainly because it was true. I went into a bit of a tailspin and it had huge ramifications in all parts of my life.

But the one thing I remembered, in all the emotional chaos which ensued, was Terry and Roz telling me that I had all the talent necessary to do anything I wanted, and I even had a lot of the discipline required to pull it off….but what I needed to do was find my own voice.

I have to admit that I had never really looked at the work I was doing in that way. A lot of us don’t. It never occurs to us to do that, as we are generally too busy creating to think about the philosophy of what we are doing. We automatically assume our point of view is our own and well, unique.

This revelation, as it sunk into my head, caused me to go through what most people would call a breakdown. I felt my spirit shattering into a million pieces. I was weak and helpless, both physically and mentally for several months. It took its toll on my wife, my work and a lot of other stuff too.

But the spirit is a lot like mercury and eventually the shattered droplets of my spirit met up with each other and reformed. One day I woke up and for the first time in what seemed like forever, I felt inspired. Not by anything I had read or heard or seen, but by something deep in my brain that was trying like hell to get out. My voice. Or at least I hoped it was.

This moment of inspiration led directly to the writing of this lyric, which even 35 years later still feels genuine to me and very much indicative of a pure moment of inspiration stated in what I feel to be my own voice.

SO MUCH TO DO

So much to do…so little time
So many mountains I’ve yet to climb
So many ups…so many downs
So many people …so little common ground

So many words pass through my pen
So much starting all over again
In a world where nothing ever seems real
It’s hard to touch what you truly feel

So many children
See how they grow
So much to tell them
Before they know
How to believe in a
World gone wrong
How to sing out
When they feel their own song
How to hold onto hope
When all the love seems dead and gone

So many people I’ve yet to know
So many heartaches yet to lay me low
So much confusion to suffer through
So many broken dreams before one comes true

So much to do in a single life
Too little harmony and too much strife
All we can do is fight the good fight
And hold onto each other tonight

So many lovers
How they come and go
You think you’re close to them
But do you ever know
Just what secrets
They have to hide
Just how much love
They have been denied
Just what they might
Really be feeling inside

So much to do…so little time
So many mountains I’ve yet to climb
So much to do…so much to say
I’ve got the fever and it won’t go away

This lyric was the linchpin for a number of things. Among them, one rather overwritten novel, a dozen screenplays, an editorial column called The Couch Potato Chronicles, which I wrote for 10 years and a lyric book that houses about 350 finished pieces. I don’t really care too much what happens to these pieces because I wrote them on the 40 year adrenaline rush that finally finding my own voice has provided for me. I write solely for the joy of it and I am lucky that way. If something comes of all this, great. If not….well there’s always my commercial writing, which I am very good at.

The piece below is the last piece I wrote, just a few weeks ago. And this is what I wrote about it.

Today I had an inspiration while I was riding back from Loblaws. (proof that these things can happen anywhere). It was just a line that popped into my head. “There’s a fire burning hot in the night”. I have been thinking a lot lately about the resilience of the human spirit, in the face of sociopathic corporations, soulless governments, compassionless bureaucracies and bullshit institutions that all work to break us down and make us fearful and subservient. And about how life has become about rising above all that crap to be your own dog, so to speak.

So I started thinking on that in more depth and this is the result. Still a bit rough around the edges, but the thought is expressed…a combination of inspiration leading to perspiration, powered by dedication.

THERE’S A FIRE

There’s a fire burning hot in the night
There’s a fire burning wild and bright
Everything that wants to live takes flight
From the fire burning hot in the night

There’s a fear burning deep in your soul
Always makes you feel out of control
Keeps you half a man, never whole
There’s a fear burning deep in your soul

There’s fire burning hot as the sun
There is nowhere anybody can run
Time to face the demons as they come
From the fire burning hot as the sun

CHORUS
Cause there’s a fire that burns the world clean
And that fire will destroy the machine
That devours everybody’s dreams
There’s a fire that burns the world clean

There’s hope you carry in your heart
And it causes all your fear to depart
It makes every new day a brand new start
It’s your own flame that sets you apart

There’s a fire that never burns out
Six billion voices, hear them shout
We’re comin’ for you so you’d better watch out
Because our fire will never burn out…

As you can see, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the first original lyric I wrote and the last one. There are a lot of intellectual highways I drove down in between then and now, but hopefully the tales of those journeys have been expressed in my own voice.

Jim Murray is a writer, art director, communication strategist and producer. He is also a screenwriter, lyricist and editorial columnist. He has spent pretty much all of his adult life in the marketing and communications business and writing all kinds of other stuff. He is basically an all round creative person. He is the father of Star Spider who is also a writer and Dan Murray who is a professional baker and bakery manager. He is extremely proud of both his kids. He has been married to his wife Heather since the time of Jesus. He loves to read spy thrillers. He loves good TV, pro sports and cycling. He is a very tightly wired individual, who always lets his opinions be known. His company is called Onwords & Upwords and the company name is his personal philosophy.

Contact Info & Links

Direct Line: 416 463-3475
Email: jim@onandup.ca or onandup3@gmail.com
Web Site: http://www.onandup.ca
Editorial/Promotional Blog: http://onwordsandupwords.wordpress.com
SME Presentation: http://tinyurl.com/lnrp3fg
LinkedIn Profile: http://tinyurl.com/pxlsvbe
Download my EBook, Small Business Communications For The Real World:
http://tinyurl.com/nqlgtu3

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The story of our lives

Last year on our anniversary Ben and I got our wedding rings tattooed on our fingers.

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The three rings symbolized three years of marriage.  We planned to get a new ring each year, but ultimately that idea was unsustainable because our fingers aren’t long enough for all the years we plan to live together.

So the plan changed.

We decided instead to write the story of our lives on our backs.

The plan is to pick a symbol each anniversary that represents the year and our lives in some way and to, over time, create something akin to a page from a spell book on our backs, telling the story of our life and love.

This (the first) year of our project we decided to choose a rune Ben invented when he was twelve.  The letters spell: CRAW.

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Craw is an undead dragon from a personal role playing game Ben and I are playing together.  Currently Craw is a bit of a villain, but I hope to befriend him (as my paladin character Nectar Sweetums) and turn around his heart to the side of goodness in the end.  Either way, he lives on our backs now, as part of our story and our journey.

The symbol represents more than Craw though.  It represents Ben’s early creativity and the recent re-emergence of that creativity in the form of gaming.  It represents Ben and I playing together in a world all our own and it also represents my own emerging creativity and endeavors to reclaim my inner paladin (hero) after a rocky road in the past.

I can’t wait to see what the next year with my sweet, awesome husband will bring!

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On Love

Love

Ben and I got married four years ago today and we met five years ago today. Love is great. Because I love Ben and because I love lists I thought I would make a list of what I believe about love.

What I believe in…

Love at first sight – it can happen and it can work out long term. Sometimes you just know a person from the very first second you see them.
Trial by fire – we were tested in the beginning of our relationship and it was shitty, but there was something wonderful about it too. It forced us to crack each other open and see all the bits inside, all the tough bits, all the rotten bits, all the broken bits. We fought side by side and came out alive and kicking. Even though I don’t recommend what we went through, I still recommend doing something outside your comfort zone with the one you love; travel the world, put yourself into a tough spot you have to get out of. Trial by fire forces you know a person deeply (and sometimes madly) and if you don’t come out of it holding hands, you will know the truth about your relationship.
Love is hard – it’s not perfect and to truly know someone and accept them for everything they are takes work. Endless conversations, sharing feelings, opening up. Working things out. Making sure you never shut up or shut each other out.
• Love is worth fighting for – if there’s a problem that seems impossible to solve, it’s always worth fighting for. Keep fighting until your hands are bloody and your body aches. But make sure you’re fighting together, because if both of you aren’t fighting or you are fighting against each other, something’s wrong.
• You can be with a person every waking moment (literally) and never get tired of them – people always talk about ‘needing space’ but I don’t need it from Ben (and he doesn’t need it from me). Sometimes we just sit in silence and work or read, but I don’t need to leave him to find peace.
Change is good – changing for each other is a good thing and it will happen naturally, but sometimes you need to work for it. It should never mean giving up who you are, but embracing who you are together.
Love changes – just as we are never the same person we were yesterday, neither is love. But if the change isn’t making your love stronger there is a problem. Every change should be for the best, bringing you closer not driving you apart.
Opposites do attract – Ben and I so different, but we hold the same beliefs, values and many of the same passions. As Ben likes to say opposites aren’t black and plant, they are black and white which means they are on the same spectrum. If you aren’t even on the same spectrum as someone and you are constantly clashing, that might be a problem.
Love is scary – because the idea of losing it is terrifying. I never worry we’ll break up, I’m more of a catastrophic thinker and I head straight to the old mortality angle.
It’s hard to find – you have to be diligent, don’t settle and don’t be afraid to turn it away if it’s not working out. But once you find it, work for it, hold it tight and love the hell out of it.
Our wedding was only the beginning – our wedding day meant very little in our relationship, it was cool, we eloped and had a good time. But every day that has come after that is the best day and the more we know each other the better it gets.
Intentions matter – even if someone gets upset it’s important to step back and inspect the intentions. There is never any intention to hurt or cause upset, so is the upset really necessary?
Ben is the best (for me) – although he started out perfect (for me), time only makes him a better match for me because we are growing together. He’s the patience to my impatience, he’s the calm to my insanity, he’s the grounding to my driving, he’s the person who makes me feel better no matter what. He’s the best. Ever.

Happy Anniversary Babe!

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Inspiration Series – Paul Valliere

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Interesting timing. I just saw this poem I scribbled on a scrap of paper and lost on my desk a while back and it decided to find me again.
 
 
Writing is like trying to
make love to a beautiful
woman – it scares you
but you have to go there,
 
Wanting to tell the truth
you end up expressing
only what you feel, that
thick layer that needs
ripping to shreds so
your soul can finally
climb from the abyss,
only it can pull you up
into the light.
                         P V

Paul Valliere was born in Belleville, Ontario in 1948 and grew up in Picton, Ontario under an assumed name. He knew he was preparing for something important and “came out” as a metaphysical poet circa 1996 with the self-published “Musings of a Metaphysical Man”.

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Finding your place

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The publishing world is harsh.  It’s cold and full of rejection.

You write a story, get excited and send it off with hope in your heart. Pick me! Pick me!

And more often than not they don’t.

And then they don’t some more.

Recently I’ve had a good run, six acceptances in a cluster! I cheered: Hooray! They picked me! But once all the celebration sushi had been eaten I started wondering: where did all this acceptance come from?

I’ve been actively trying to get work published for over a year and a half now with some publications and contest wins here and there, but nothing like my recent successes. So what have I been doing differently?

The one major change I’ve made is finding my place. I write magic realism and because I often have speculative elements in my stories I was sure I would find success in the world of sci-fi/fantasy, but that just hasn’t been the case. So as I’ve stumbled along I’ve refined my searches, sought out literary magazines with a subtle (or obvious) surreal/magic realism slant and really aimed as opposed to shooting in the dark. I’ve learned from my rejections.

I spent a lot of time trying to slot myself into the speculative fiction world because I thought it was the most appropriate place for me, but I’ve learned that’s not the case and it’s a good thing to know, because now I can really focus and hopefully hit the mark more often.

When I was an actor years ago I got the best piece of advice about rejection I’ve ever heard: they aren’t (necessarily) rejecting you because you’re bad, they’re rejecting you because you’re not right for the part. Don’t take it personally.

I’ve tried to keep that same advice in mind as I go through the process of becoming a published writer. I need to find the places that are right for me and that takes work, but it’s worth while when you start hitting the right note with the right places, because it can lead to amazing connections and great publications!

The moral? Buck up and focus on getting your work into the right hands. Just because you get a rejection doesn’t mean your story is bad, it just means you haven’t found your place just yet.