Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘eric shaw quinn’

Grace

Last week I wrote about Valentine’s from an habitually single guy’s perspective.

Not surprisingly, I got a lot responses in commiseration with my “tragic” fate, but I also got a lot of advice.  My friend Skip pointed out something that got me to thinking.  We are culturally obsessed with sex and love.  Which movie/song/insert-form-of-popular-entertainment-here isn’t about this topic? It is, in fact, my belief that ALL human endeavor finds its origin here.  War, art, philosophy, politics, social unrest, sports, on the job excellence and scholastic achievement each spring from these most basic desires.

Maybe I’m overstating, but not by much.  If you were told you’d never ever get laid or kissed or loved, no matter what you did, ever, would you go to work, do a good job, hit the gym, watch your weight, overthrow the government so you could be king or at least hang out with him and those hot courtesans? Really? The people who flew planes into the World Trade Center did it for the virgins.

So, I was thinking, if this desire runs this deep in our clever species, how vast must the mating industry be?

The list of self-help, web-based, spiritual, magical, matchmaker, mail order, dating service, 900 number, seminar, individual, color-me-mine mating options I can think of is infinite.  Aside from numbers – you know counting from 1 into the zillions – dating catalyst options are the only other concept of infinity that my tiny mind can contain.  And, I live in California, so the fringier psychic, herb, Wiccan spectrum of options are still more available.

As I considered all of these possibilities two things occurred to me.  Of course my first thought was what a great book or documentary following these paths would make.  There would be no shortage of material and, who knows? It might just work.  What also came to mind as I thought about the project was another concept, perhaps not infinite, but certainly vast.

Grace.

We don’t take grace into account much in our instant, drive thru, Blackberry, iPod, download, online, Wi-Fi world.  Destiny is within our grasp and control.  As we become more and more the masters of our tiny universe, grace seems rather old hat.

Webster’s says grace is “unmerited divine assistance” and that, to my way of thinking, better describes the world than any other theory.  Before you dismiss me as some religious nut, think of this.  If, in fact, hard work and merit decide the outcome of human affairs, how do we account for the rise of some of the more odious among us? Are all the stars in Hollywood or Washington, DC there because they are the best, brightest and most talented? Are the best sellers the best written? Are the most loveable the ones who get the best mates?

How many talented, adorable, photogenic kids posted videos of themselves singing and playing musical instruments on YouTube and how many got to be Justin Beiber?

I’m not saying Justin does or does not deserve to be there, but I think it’s worth observing, why him?

My answer would be grace.  I’m more a great spirit, collective unconscious, haven’t-got-a-clue kind of guy than an organized religion guy, so I’m not trying to explain grace.  I’m just saying that I think grace should be factored into the equation as I try to affect destiny through my own puny efforts.

Affairs of the heart seem a particularly vivid example of the power of grace to shape our lives.

Let’s say I picked up a copy of How to Git Hitched.  I followed the examples, I did the exercises, I used the techniques and now I’m married.  Conclusion: Reading How to Git Hitched caused me to git hitched.  Or, I signed up for the website, I filled out the questionnaire, I posted a profile following the guidelines and now I’m living in iHarmony.  But what if I did all those things – and believe me I have – and I didn’t git iHitched? What then?

Using the non-grace based model, the only possible conclusion is that I’m to blame.  I followed the fool proof Git Hitched five steps to bliss and I spent my 52nd Valentine’s Day solo.  That must mean I’m too ugly or unlovable or incompetent to be in a relationship.  And yet as I look around me in the world, there are plenty of married hideous, hateful, incompetents.

Unobserved, my experience of life encourages me to believe that I’m causing my life to work out the way it does.  I believe that the raise and the promotion I got were entirely based on my job performance.  Everyone else, who didn’t get the same raise and promotion, just wasn’t as good or as deserving as me.  Remember the CEO of BP? He got promoted to that job at some point.

Cause and effect is tricky when it comes to human life.  I wore these socks and my team won.  Ergo, these are my lucky socks.  Right? How about, I wore these socks and my mom died.  Evil socks?  Not so much, right? But if I’m causing the good things to happen, I have to be causing the bad ones, too.  If I did it, every blessing becomes a curse and a fearful responsibility, lest I wear the wrong socks and screw it up.

Religions are often interpreted as telling us how to get the kind of luck we want.  “Act like we tell you to and get a new car!” But what if I’m following all the Ten Commandments and still living in poverty? How about all the lying adulterers in Congress? This Karmic cause and effect, also fails to describe my real experience.  I think it’s healthier to look at religious governance as instructions on how to live to good purpose, whatever the outcome or our circumstances, not as how to trick god into doing it my way.

That self help book The Secret, that sold a billion copies a few years back, seems to me the perfect example of the kind of thinking that brings me more heartache than results.  While I do think that making my best effort and keeping a positive outlook improve the quality of my life, it is not my experience that either are guarantees of, or even the route to, success.  Are the folks in Biafra starving because they aren’t visualizing a steak dinner? Is The Secret really a better written book than mine? Is Iran’s President Almondine really the best man for the job or even the one the people of Iran are visualizing?

Grace is a fearsome possibility to consider in such a savage world, but it offers me a better description of how my life has unfolded than the more comforting notions of the self-help or the world religion sections.  I don’t know how the universe works, but it seems clear to me that the work-hard-and-keep-your-nose-clean theory for success in any field is not it.

What I do know, is that when I’m living to good purpose by my way of thinking, showing up for my life as best I can and leaving the outcome of all that I do to heartless grace, at least it’s not on me when my life sucks or I’m solo mio on Valentine’s.  And when things do work out? I can be truly and humbly thankful for the gift.

 

Read Full Post »

Now available for download to read on Kindle, Nook, iPad and your computer.  https://ericshawquinn.com/store/

 

Michael was sitting on the front steps smoking a cigarette when his parents got there at twenty to nine. They blew the horn anyway.

He went to his father’s door and tapped on the window. The electric motor whirred as the glass went down.

“I’ll drive,” Michael said.

“I don’t mind driving,” Ashton said.

“Dad,” Michael said, “we have this argument every time you go to the airport. Let me drive.”

“Oh,” Ashton said, not moving. “Well, if you want to.”

“I do,” Michael said. “Get in the backseat.”

“Hello, darling,” his mother called across to him.

“Good morning, Mother,” Michael said.

“Why don’t I just drive?” Ashton said.

“Because we don’t have time. Now get in the backseat,” Michael demanded.

“Oh, Ashton,” Ann said, “let him drive.”

“You two are always against me,” Ashton shouted. “I don’t see why —”

“Because,” Michael cut in. “You drive too slowly. You don’t deal well with in-town traffic. And most of all, because I can drop you and your luggage with the skycaps at the door and park the car while you check in. Now hurry up. You’re late, and I’m freezing.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Ashton said as he always did at this point. Then, as he always did, he rolled up the window, turned off the engine, put the keys in his pocket, unbuckled his seat belt, opened the door and got out of the car.

Ann sighed, of course.

“May I have the keys?” Michael asked without looking to see if they were in the ignition.

“What?” Ashton asked. “Oh, the keys. Certainly,” he said, fumbling through his pocket and then almost handing them over.

“It’s this one,” he indicated.

“I know, Dad,” Michael said, not looking.

“I was just trying to be helpful,” Ash said, patting his coat pockets as if he had misplaced something.

“I know, Dad,” Michael said, getting into the car. “Just get in.”

It was quarter till nine. It was twenty minutes to the airport.

The flight was at nine. It was a ritual.

He started the car. The chimes sounded.

“Put on your seat belt,” Ashton said, closing the back door.

“I don’t wear a seat belt,” Michael said.

“Neither does Kathryn.” Ann sighed. “I wish you kids would. Allen wears his seat belt.”

“Allen,” Michael said, squealing away from the curb and making a questionable left on yellow. “Allen wears a safety chain on his zipper.”

“You know, Allen …” Ashton began sagely.

“I’m Michael,” Michael said.

“I mean, Michael,” he went on. “In New York they have a law requiring you to wear seat belts.”

“Mmm,” Michael said, weaving around a VW and running another “pink” light.

“If you plan on pursuing this acting thing,” Ashton continued, “you’ll have to go up there. So you might as well get in the habit.”

Michael tried not to laugh.

“That truck is turning,” Ann said calmly as she jammed her brake foot against the floor.

“How is your little company coming?” Ashton asked.

That acting thing had been Michael’s college major. His “little company” was he and a group of his college friends. They performed for local events and made enough to cover gas, if they were lucky.

“We’re doing fine, Dad,” Michael said. “We really need a permanent place to work, though. We could build a reputation and a repertoire.”

“You ought to buy a place,” Ashton suggested absurdly.

“I can’t even get a Visa card, Dad,” Michael said, trying to point out the absurdity.

“Well,” Ashton said, “if you’d listen to me and save some money like Allen does.”

Michael’s knuckles went white as he clutched the steering wheel.

“And you ought to go down to the credit bureau and check your record.” Ashton needled an old wound. “I just bet you it’s that brush you had with those furniture rental people.”

“Michael, slow down, this is your turn,” Ann said, absolutely rigid with fear.

“I know, Mother,” Michael said, taking the turn at full speed.

“If you get something on your credit record” — Ashton made a hissing sound — “that’s it.”

“Michael, slow down, there’s a curve in the road.”

“I see it, Mother.”

“I wish that boss of yours would give you a raise. Have you asked him recently?”

“No, Dad.”

“Michael, the pedestrians.”

“I see them.”

“You know you ought to look around for another job.”

“I really don’t want to talk about it right now.”

“Michael, you’re following too closely.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“Well, I was just trying to be helpful.” Ashton harrumphed. “If you’re going to take that attitude …”

“Michael, if you know you’re following too closely, then slow down.”

“Mother, we’re late. Listen, Dad, when we get there, I’ll pop the trunk. You get the in-flight stuff; Mother, you go on in and check in. I’ll get a skycap and send the luggage in to you. You go on to the gate. I’ll park and catch up.”

“Michael, you need to be in the other lane,” Ann said.

“Are you listening to me?” Michael demanded.

“I don’t know why we should listen to you.” Ashton sulked. “You never want to listen to a thing I say.”

“Because I’m not catching a goddamned plane to Miami in three minutes, that’s why,” Michael screamed as he changed lanes and turned, without slowing down, into the airport drive.

The abrupt move, the squealing, the horns and the shouting stunned everyone into silence.

Michael screeched to a halt in front of the terminal and everyone followed orders in silence.

After his parents had gone in, he slipped the skycap some money, which, added to the fifty cents his father would fork over, would make a nice tip. Then he parked the car, ran into the terminal, caught up with his parents and rushed them on to check in. By the time he got their stuff through the metal detectors they were ready to board and the plane was revving.

“Thank you, Michael,” Ann said, hugging him.

“Sure, Mom.”

“Don’t forget to get the car —”

“I won’t,” Michael said, hugging his father. “You all have a good trip, and don’t worry about anything.”

“Don’t be lonely,” Ann called back just before they vanished.

“I won’t.” He smiled as he lied.

And they were gone.

As he drove back into town, he sang with the radio, thought about Kevin and tried not to be lonely.

 

Read Full Post »

I feel as though I have been liberated.

I’ve been in with a cold pretty much since the year began.  Sorry to have gone quiet on you, but I can’t seem to write when I’m all hopped up on cold medicine.  Snuffling and under the influence, I find it impossible to remember how I started a sentence by the time I get to the end.  Either my sentences are too long or the Tylenol Severe Cold Formula has kicked in.  Whichever the case, I didn’t want to put you at risk.

But, all better now.

I’ve spent the past week nursing my shattered feelings as well my cruddy health.  The events in Tucson have left me stunned and speechless – a rare occurrence.

Of course my first reaction is, as always, thank heaven the lunatic was able to buy a gun.  Congrats to all those in congress who voted to end the ban on assault weapon sales in 2004.  Way to go.   Great idea.  Really worked out.  What’s next? Grenade launchers at Sears?

Those who are supposed to lead spend more time pandering to the lowest common denominator than governing or inspiring us to higher ideals.  It is sad that in the face of this gun related tragedy there is not enough courage among our alleged leaders to do anything about the problem.  If the guy had showed up with a knife instead of an assault weapon, how differently this might all have ended.

But even more than our refusal to address the corrupting influence of the gun lobby and all well funded special interest groups, I am more concerned with our interpretation of the first amendment than the second.  The sad events in Arizona have raised troubling questions about the tone of our national conversation.

The President has called for a more civil discourse.  There even seems to be some movement, a real effort on the part of many, to agree to disagree more agreeably.

Of course, the big quitter from Alaska is still determined not to lead — though hardly anyone’s asking her to since her formal refusal to do so at the state gubernatorial level.  I guess Grizzly-Pit-Bull-Moms do believe that their day has come, but they don’t believe in having the good manners to say “I’m sorry for rhetorically targeting you for assassination.”  It is a shame she doesn’t even possess the good taste to shut up about herself at someone else’s funeral.

I’m sure Quitter Palin will support my first amendment rights to call for someone to please blow her head off — with votes and the remote, of course, since declining television ratings would be worse for her than losing another election.  I know that she’d endorse my right to call for her desperately media hungry family to be chopped up into little pieces — by the critics, of course — and fed to the dogs of public opinion, all poetically speaking.  Isn’t that my right? And she doesn’t seem to mind what people say about her.  She’s been such a good sport so far – right, Mr. Letterman? Tina? Katie?

In fact, it’s not at all clear that the deranged young man in Tucson was inspired by the irresponsible words and oaths of those politician and pundits who are abusing their considerable power in office and the media.  It is interesting to me though, how quickly the topic came up and how much longer it has persisted than the story of the tragedy itself.

I continue to believe that we confuse the right to free speech with freedom from taking responsibility.  Shouting fire in a crowded theatre is NOT different than calling for an angry and heavily armed electorate to “reload” or saying that if ballots don’t work, bullets will.  Attaining the age of consent comes with rights AND responsibilities.  Calling for the assassination of anyone, metaphorically or otherwise, is calling for their assassination.  Calling Dr. Tiller “Tiller the Killer”, as one irresponsible television hack repeatedly did, was a key and undeniable element in the man’s recent assassination by domestic terrorists.

These don’t seem to be free speech issues to me.  Still, I’m not sure how I would want them enforced.  I suppose civil penalties seem the most likely, but that puts the burden on the victims.  Perhaps fines? But then who to enforce? I am more afraid of the return of McCarthyism than all the bombast on all the cable news channels.  I miss the old days of personal responsibility and editorial discretion that preceded the 24 hour news cycle.

I do still firmly believe that we need to reclassify prejudice and the irrational hatred of others as mental illness.  In fact, I think we could also broaden the definition to include ignorance.  I don’t think people suffering these maladies should be locked up or drugged or given shock treatment.  I’m not sure anyone but the most violently disturbed should be — the shooter in Tucson, for instance.  Ignorance and prejudice are undeniably mental conditions though and happily the cure for both is the same – education.

Meanwhile, I begin this New Year with hope.

I hope we will move toward a more civil discourse.  I hope that our leaders will do more leading and less pandering, baiting and posturing.  Most of all, I hope that as we demand our rights to free speech, or to keep and bear arms, or to petition the government for the redress of our grievances that we take up our responsibilities with equal fervor.

We can’t all just quit and get a gig on Fox.

 

Read Full Post »

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and New Year’s resolutions.  Often in life, despite one’s best intentions and hard work, success or failure are determined more by fate or destiny than hope and tenacity.

A few years ago I went on a spiritual retreat.  It took place at a monastery in the hills above mission-rich Santa Barbara.  The mission has since burned down.  I think there’s a warning in there somewhere or at least excessive symbolism.

Anyways, as part of the guided experience, I was directed to write a letter to myself.  The letter was to be waiting for me at the retreat the following year.  Whether or not it was just a sales ploy to get me to re-up for another dose of zen, it struck me as an interesting and positive assignment.  I have always wished that I could speak to my younger self and tell him to be less afraid.  So, filled with the self-help élan born of the previous days of small group work, sharing, guided meditation and monk cooking, I wrote to myself in glowing terms about the year both ahead of and behind me in the meta moment.

I returned the following year.  My letter awaited me.  I tore it open — the assignment long forgotten — and read.  It was devastating.  The year had been a brutal series of defeats and disappointments on every front in my life.  The hope and optimism of my words were salt in the wounds reality had inflicted in the months since I had written them.

At the end of the retreat I was faced with the prospect of writing my future self another such letter.  My first impulse was to run screaming from the building.  Sadly, I’d ridden up with someone else, so dramatic exits were a bit impractical.

Instead, I gave it some thought and wrote myself a very different letter.  I didn’t attend another retreat.  The monastery burned down but the hosts saved my letter from the flames and mailed it to me the following year.

I ran across it recently.  It comes to mind as I consider formulating my resolutions for the coming year.  I commend it to you here as you consider the year ahead:

Dear Eric,

Remember to be thankful for who you already are and not sorrowful for who you are not yet.

There was much progress between this letter and the one which came before it, yet the last letter left you sad and disappointed over your fate..

It seems wiser to celebrate the unfolding of your life than to anticipate the happiness winking at you from the horizon.  One never knows the distance to the goals of life and it is the journey that takes all the time.

Enjoy the ride –

I love you and you are doing a great job,

Eric

All best wishes for a Happy and Prosperous New Year, unless you have other plans!

 

Read Full Post »

The gumbo is simmering so I have a few minutes to check in on this most inauspicious of holidays – New Year’s.

I’m not a big fan.

Most of its alleged celebrations smack of desperation and amateur inebriation. In the end, there’s really nothing to celebrate. If we didn’t drop a crystal sphere and jump up and down, screaming when the clock strikes twelve, frankly, nothing would happen at all.

A new year begins every night – or morning, if you want to be technical – at 12:01.
The fact that the tax year ends on December 31st hardly seems to warrant the Rose Parade.

The last time I attempted to do anything on New Year’s, I went to Las Vegas for Y2K. The crowds were so oppressive and the wait for everything so long, that I left before midnight and was back on my little perch, listening to the shrieking on the Sunset Strip below me, at the big minute.

I prefer to have a few guests in on the Eve to eat the superstitious foods you’re supposed to consume for good luck, good health and good fortune. We eat gumbo and dirty rice, Hoppin’ Johns, collard greens and corn bread. We argue about which game to play. Some years we never play, we just argue. At midnight we watch Ryan Seacrest — and the increasingly inanimate Dick Clark — countdown their rerun from New York, pull the strings on our confetti poppers at the appointed moment and call it quits.

Don’t get me wrong. We have a nice time. I enjoy the company and I make the BEST gumbo in the world. But the same crowd could repeat the same ceremony sans Ryan and Dick, and have every bit as much fun on February 3rd. Maybe we should.

The desperation-inspiring part of New Year’s is that our taxes aren’t the only thing called to account at 12:01. The year’s eve, like birthdays, is a time for reflection. It is a moment to pause and compare myself to my expectations or just to where I was last year. That, for me at least, is one perilous chasm. Peering over the edge of one year into the unknown, from the ridge of disappointment that stretches back as far as I remember, can give New Year’s a fearsome edge if I’m not careful of my footing.

As with all views, where you’re standing makes all the difference.

I’m in particularly a good spot for this year’s soul searching minute. I’m looking to the New Year from atop a heap of years that have been anything but new. I’ve had pretty much the same year for the past five and I’m really ready for a NEW, New Year.

I think that’s hope. I can’t think of a better viewpoint from which to take in the broad expanse of the future that stretches before me. Maybe it’s just desperation in fancy dress, but I feel like, come what may, up is the only direction available to my fortunes. So, I guess that’s my New Year’s message as we bid farewell to 2010: Cheer up, next year has GOT to be better than this.

Read Full Post »

To purchase the novel for your Kindle, click HERE or for your Nook, click HERE.

If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and would like to download the Kindle application please click HERE

If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and would like to download the Nook application please click HERE

UPDATE: If you would like the free Kindle for PC application, click HERE

Read Full Post »

We are pleased to announce the digital re-release of the novel Say Uncle by Eric Shaw Quinn.

To purchase the novel for your Kindle, click HERE or for your Nook, click HERE.

If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and would like to download the Kindle application please click HERE

If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and would like to download the Nook application please click HERE

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: