Bits & Bodhis #1

Welcome, brave souls, to Bits & Bodhis, where you will find little astounding facts to help you to carry on during the dark night of the soul.

Shedding the shadow and awaking spiritually is not for the feint of heart. If you ever doubt it, here are religious initiations from around the world that you must

NOT TRY THIS AT HOME:

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Fathers of the Crocodile tribe in New Guinea hold down their boys while loved ones slash off little pieces of their flesh….

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Photo: Peter Mugubane

In West Africa, initiates are known to die while undergoing a rebirthing ceremony under the influence of a psychoactive plant substance….

 

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Tibetan monk’s were once required to sit naked on frozen lakes at the height of winter, and thaw, by their own body heat, icy, water-soaked sheets wrapped around themselves….

Why?

To purge the shadow and connect with the gods.

So, awakening is no picnic at the beach.

MotherTeresa

Even the saintly Mother Theresa wrestled with darkness for decades. There were times when she felt completely disconnected from God and suffered deep despair. And then there were periods of devastating beauty, miracles, and illumination.

The Company of Heaven is presently shaking out humanity’s bugs. Illumination is a mandate. But, let’s keep a little perspective. If purging, flagellation, and abuse speeded  awakening, there never would have been a boy who grew up as Adolf Hitler.

Awakening has less to do with correcting human flaws than it does with meeting the real self. This acquaintance, painful as it is, makes us more—not less—accepting of those who are not like us.##
#VFA #healing #awakening #blacklivesmatter #tolerance #visionary #RobinGregory #diversity #SpiritualPractice

These are nutty times

I apologize if this offends you.

But I’m sincerely struggling with the following question:

Is it racist to include an organized crime character in a book who is defined by ethnicity or nationality?

I don’t know. These are nutty times…

On one hand, we have Jeanine Cummins, an American-born, mostly Caucasian novelist, author of American Dirt, being lambasted for daring to speak sympathetically on behalf of Mexican immigrants.

On the other hand, an esteemed colleague tells me that it is offensive to refer to a character in my upcoming book as a “Jewish mobster.”

Identity is a prevalent theme in my novels. In The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman, the main character is disabled and stutters, therefore treated as if he were unintelligent (though he’s smarter than most). Early-1900s America experienced a gout of immigrants. It was a time of unparalleled racial and ethnic intolerance. Moojie believes that belonging to a family will define him. But European immigrants mistake his striking dark features—which resemble his extraterrestrial mother’s clan—for Native American. The misidentification is further amplified as they believe the enigmatic clan is comprised of native renegades who’ve come back from the dead to reclaim sacred lands. In subtext, it’s their own guilt from having persecuted, or having allowed native persecution, that haunts them.

In my upcoming book, Halfkin, I delve deeper into Moojie’s self-image, exploring his spiritual-coming-of-age, self-mastery, and healing. He’s healed himself by now, and in a sense has outgrown his adoptive family. And the more he identifies with them, the more miserable he is. When his hapless father and meddlesome aunt try to pressure him into marriage with the daughter of a local mobster, he breaks away to find his lost love.

The father of the girl, who I gave a fictitious name, was actually lifted out of historical records of a well-known mobster of Jewish ancestry, Monk Eastman. He was a larger-than-life guy, who was abandoned as a youngster and rose to be a famous crime boss who dominated New York’s underworld in the early 1900s. To avoid stereotyping, my version of this character is likable. He dresses like a dandy, dotes over his wife and daughter, loves pigeons, and prefers to ride a bike because he’s afraid to drive.

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Monk Eastman

An esteemed colleague took exception to my calling him a “Jewish mobster,” calling it a racist.

Wow! Really?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t mobsters historically affiliate with ethnicity?

Is the concept of “politically correct” getting a bit uppity?
Is rationality being sacrificed to the gods of double standard?

In “real” life, it never occurs to me to profile others by ethnicity. Humans are not their skin color, religion, nation, or even their bodies. In my heart-of-hearts, I believe we are all of the same intrinsic “cloth” that has nothing to do with ethnicity, race, or culture. Everyone deserves respect.

So, how do I write about a criminal from a group with shared, historic affiliations with a clan, gang, or organization, without mentioning ethnicity? Is it racist to identify a character as a Russian, Romanian, Italian, Irish (Protestant or Catholic), Korean, Japanese, or Jewish mobster?

Was it racist of Martin Scorsese to tell a story like Gangs of New York, through the experiences of Irish Catholic and Protestant gangsters, or was it historically accurate? What about the portrayal of Italian mafia in Goodfellas?

Are writers expected to choose politically correct over historically accurate?

I’m may be walking a thin line here, but I don’t believe literature will be of service if it avoids ethnicity or history unless it is to portray characters through rose-colored glasses.

Book & Film Recommendations During Quarantine…

My love goes out to all who are suffering during this crazy quarantine. Please let me know if I can help you with prayers.

While you’re grounded at home base, books and films can be your best friends. Here are some of my recommendations. Click on book images from each of the following categories: Non-Fiction, Novella, Short Stories, and Novel. The links will take you to my reviews of them. Click on film images for trailers of award-winning stories of awesome children being leaders during difficult times. (*The Whale Rider is FREE right now on tubi.)

BOOKS

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FILMS

The Navigator - A Medieval Odyssey
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Wonderful Review by Kimber Silver

“Only dreamers, artists and misfits enjoy an alternate reality.”
—BanaNat

 

Behind the beautiful mystical cover awaits the story of a youngster named Moojie. An earthquake occurs on the night an abandoned baby is found by the nuns of San Miguel de las Gaviotas; the name Moojie is smudged across his tiny forehead. These events set in motion an extraordinary life. Magic swirls around this forsaken child as the nuns watch and worry that the imperfect infant might never find a family. But fate has its own plans for the babe and sets about bringing people into his path who can see all the possibilities that lie behind his enormous black eyes.

The road that this special young man must travel will be filled with potholes and washouts, but the pilgrimage will teach him everything he needs know so that if greatness calls, he will be ready. Impatience presses down on our uncared-for traveler, because a loving family is what he yearns for most. His quest to find where he belongs is both delightful and heartbreaking: I felt for dear Moojie, cheered his every victory and wished along with him that he would someday have his heart’s desire.

“Would anyone ever love him for his tender, kind, strange, ordinary Moojie-self?”

Robin Gregory has created a sparkling world filled with touching characters and magical folk full of spit and vinegar. This touching story stirs up those underlying human needs for belonging, acceptance and love, reminding us that love is all around if we’d only open our eyes and look.

This is a charming YA novel appropriate for the young and the young at heart. Moojie is an adorable misfit, and the ending left me with a starry smile that won’t soon dim.

“I used to be mad at life, mad at everything. And then, I woke up. It takes a long time to wake up. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who are in a hurry.”

Review of “Literary Explorations: Contemporary Fiction and Poetry,” by Abhimanyu Pandey

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A book for philosophers, writers, readers, and students. “Literary Explorations: Contemporary Fiction and Poetry” is an eclectic mapping of literary trends. It is a 104-page collection of academic essays and articles assembled in a way that touches on gender, voice, multi-culturalism, and spirituality in works from the East and West. Among essays exploring the texts of Atwood, Ondaatje, and Malkani, I particularly appreciate the way he handles magical realism as it concerns “The Tailor’s Needle,” by Lakshmi Raj Sharma, and my novel, “The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman.” While the author is an academic, he never gets too highbrow. The information is presented as he discovered it—through an obvious love for literature, as well as for intensive study and scholarly research.

Excerpt #3 from upcoming Book 2 of the Moojie Littleman Trilogy: The Boy Who Killed Time

Dear friends and family,

Here’s the third and final excerpt from upcoming Moojie Littleman Trilogy, Book 2: The Boy Who Killed Time. I’m finishing the novel and other projects, so I’ll be posting occasional interviews and articles for a while. But for now, I’d like to introduce you to Abu, Moojie’s sidekick…

CHAPTER 4

An account of the sage discourse that passes between Moojie and Abu, wherein much is revealed to complicate our ingenious hero’s plot

A long time ago, a holy man from Spain told Abu the map of his life could be found on his palms. When he looked at Abu’s hands, his brow furrowed and his left eye twitched. “You are leading a double life,” he said. The next time they met, Abu said, “Tell me something I don’t know.” To this the holy man said, “You will father a new race.” Abu grinned. “Either that,” said the holy man, “or you will grow fat.” Disgruntled, Abu asked if there was anything else? The holy man said, “There is no future in goats.”

Abu never could remember the holy man’s name. Anyhow, it was not important, he was long gone before Moojie came along. They met when the young Moojie was living in the village, a foundling adopted by Henry and Kate Littleman. Abu was a salesclerk at the grocery and dry goods store, at least until the pandemonium demolished the village. He and a handful of villagers took refuge in emergency shelters they erected in the fields of St. Isidore’s. By the time San Miguel was rebuilt, everyone but Abu had left the dairy. He helped dismantle the emergency shelters in the South field of the sprawling ranch, and soon moved into the barn quarters where he slept in the tack room on a roughhewn hammock. His walls were lined with musty-smelling books, stacked floor to ceiling, and his illustrious wardrobe of vests, breeches, and hats hung amid bridles and halters.

Apart from an insatiable appetite for food and literature, he had taken up knitting—spinning and knitting. He made goat-hair cushions stuffed with straw, which he used as cushions to keep the fainters from hitting his book stacks. He had never confided in anyone regarding his true origin. His almond-husk complexion and dark eyes advertised a mysterious foreign ancestry, and, in keeping with the times, he knew he must never let down his guard. Family? He never spoke of it.

Long after the Thanksgiving guests left the dairy, Abu was lounging in his hammock, swinging slightly, letting his beloved pigeon, Teresa, peck pellets from his hand.

Moojie knocked on the door and entered with a milking stool to sit on. “Driftin’, it’s kind of like a wing and a prayer, isn’t it?” He was weighing in on whether or not to trust the ranch hand to take him to Uta.

Abu made a “maybe” face.

“Faintin’ goats were never what I had in mind for the future,” Moojie said. “The poor things cramp up and topple over every time the wind blows…I should just heal them.”

“So they are different,” Abu said. “What is wrong with different? You above all should know there is nothing wrong with different.”

It was true that Moojie didn’t begin to talk at a normal age, and the whole village thought he never would. It was also true that he walked with crutches most of his early life. Not so long ago, villagers hung out their windows or gathered their children away from him as he passed by on his crutches. “There’s that half-breed cripple,” they whispered. “Found him in a bucket outside the chapel.” He pretended to be immune to their words and stares. His adoptive mother had kept him out of school and tutored him privately. She used to say, “If life were all sunshine and chocolate, there wouldn’t be any saints, and we’d never find our way back to heaven.”

“If it hadn’t been for the Light-Eaters,” Moojie said, “I might never have learned how to heal, how to forgive the villagers.”

“It is true, one must heal oneself before ministering to others.”

“How do you know so much about it?” Moojie asked. You’re not a Light-Eater.”

“Let us just say, where I come from, drifting is not only possible, it is a possibility.”

“Where’d you come from, anyway?”

“You would never believe it.”

“Try me.”

“Pleiades.”

“Very funny,” Moojie said, not believing him. He was in no mood for jokes.

“I speak the truth! Whereas I cannot read minds, speak world languages, or heal the sick, I am a planet-jumper, able to travel the dimensions. However, I am not supernatural in the least. Not even a halfkin.”

Moojie looked at him sideways. “So, what are you doing here?”

“I am looking for a place to settle down.”

Moojie paused to think.

“If that’s true, maybe you’re better off not bein’ a Light-Eater. They were hunted like crooks. It’s like Pappy and McTavish, and all the villagers who mistook them for American Indians, were shootin’ at their own guilt. They turned blind eyes to the broken treaties. Heck, as an Army officer, Pappy did his worst, when all along this dairy was probably stolen from the Indians.”

“Resembling the natives made it worse for the Light-Eaters,” Abu said.

“No wonder they holed up in the hills.”

Abu stroked his pigeon’s head. “In a world where you felt no sense of family or belonging, you identified with the outliers,” he said to Moojie. “You became their Robin Hood.”

“They came here to save stupid people from themselves. If only they were here now to save me from my so-called family.”***