Friday, June 27, 2008

Worth 520 pesos

One of my goals during my family's fun under Cancun's sun was to buy some books. My parents have always been able to pick some CD's on past vacations, but they never seemed to be able to find books. I don't know enough Spanish to do the language justice, but a book in both Spanish and English would be both great and helpful. Anyway, I got hunting in the resort's gift shop for books, and I turned up an English copy of 'Popol Vuh'; it's a book that contains the creation story of the Quiché Maya. Their Bible, for lack of a better word. As the title suggests, the book costed 520 pesos, or $52.00 U.S. The high price kept me wavering on whether or not I wanted to buy it. I wouldn't buy a book in Canada or in the U.S. at that price, but I've never come across such a find and I wanted something special from my trip. I could not find anything like it in Playa del Carmen or at the little shops just beyond the resort, so I went ahead and bought it.
The other day, I finally got around to reading this book. Sometime in the 16th Century, a unnamed member of the Quiché Maya wrote down as many oral legends as he knew and eventually, this book reached an open-minded parish priest who translated the manuscript from Latin into Spanish. This book goes through the creation story and recounts legends that really would have come in handy during that tour we took of that newly excavated palace two hours or so from our resort. Anyway, the story is similar in some ways to the one found in the Bible, but because it is a new experience, I am finding it a great story. The creator gods of the Maya tried several times to create humanity, and destroyed their mistakes and false starts. This proves that not all gods are perfect.
To my folly, I must say that I am not yet done reading this really fascinating book, but I am close. Most of the book's space is taken up by the Introduction, but the narration is pretty easy to follow. I admire Fr. Francisco Ximénez for being so open-minded and respectful of the Quiché Maya. Most of those priests tried to drive anything not Christian out of the world. Take that, small-minded fools! This book is definitely worth 520 pesos.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mes vacances

I usually post on the weekend, but not this time around, as paradise beckons me. My paradise is a place a few hours outside of Winnipeg. A little farm-red cottage powered by propane and the sun, in a place where Hydro is non-existent (and has been for a very long time). My grandparents built their little paradise back in the 1960's and brought their kids there every chance they could. My grandparents have two photo albums-worth of summer scenes (b/w and colour) by the water at the lake. I started going when I was six weeks old, and have long cherished those trips we made on long weekends, spring breaks, and the ever-popular summer vacation. I guess that's why I still feel an overwhelming sense of peace and serenity when I'm there. I have gone so far as to call it my 'home away from home' and I have a very strong feeling that the lake is what Heaven will be for me when I get there.
May 1987 was a tragic time for my youth, for that was the year the forest fire ripped through my paradise and burned most of the cottages to the ground. I feared at one time that this virginal place would never be restored. I should've had more patience with Nature. The trees grew back with a vengeance and the birds returned. There are squirrels there now, as there were before the fire. Tomorrow we're going for a few days. My grandparents sold the cottage to one of my aunts, so we can still visit paradise on earth. The water is warm and the fishing is probably really good. The mallards and loons will be out on the water, looking for bugs, fish, and all the leftover toast they can swallow. Hot dog and marshmallow roast ahead. I cannot wait to return to the paradise that is the lake.
It would be even better without the mosquitoes, but hey, I can't complain. A la prochaine!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Be like Nike

I wonder what the PR brains at Nike were reading or experiencing when they came up with their philosophy of 'Just Do It'. I had their motto running through my brain when I got half-way through 'Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake'. This is a book made up of various speeches made by a recently departed Zen Master. He had two important points to make to the students he was with, and these two points were repeated time and again in his speeches. One point was that when you think more than feel, what you say becomes complicated. People have a tendency to talk in circles or hide their confusion behind their fine-sounding words. I am among these people more than I care to admit. Anyway, this Zen Master counters this talking and thinking in circles mentality by saying 'Don't think -- just do it'. Sounds something like what Nike was talking about, doesn't it? The latter part, at any rate.
The second point this Master discussed time and again has to do with identity. In the final analysis, we as a people are very fond of labelling things and naming them. We call a dog a dog and we name the sky with the name blue. The dog doesn't name himself as a dog and the sky doesn't name itself as the sky. Our species needs to think of names for things, but I think we're the only one (on this planet, anyway). Through identity comes ego. Drop the name, you drop the identity. The answer to the question, 'What am I?' usually ends as a label. The Master in this book suggests that a more appropriate answer would be 'Don't know'.
Do I agree with these two points? I am not sure. The first point is not an easy one to live by for someone who does most of their living in their head. I do much more thinking than is good for me, it seems. My diaries are just full of thinking, and thinking is a hard habit to break. Of course, it is important to consider the pros and cons of something, but don't go too far. At the end of the day, just go for it and Do It. Thinking oneself into mazes and circles might seem safer, but the time comes when you need to stop thinking and just do what needs to be done. The second point makes me laugh. I usually say 'Don't know' to everything I'm asked around the house. Go figure.
Can I be like Nike? So long as I don't have to wear their overpriced running shoes, sure.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Unpublished and unsolicited

I love and highly respect the written word, and do what I can to honour it -- be it by reading voraciously or writing copiously. Hence the diary and the two blogs I'm occasionally part of, but it has never been enough for me. I am a frequent slave of a mercurial Muse as well, that comes and goes at its leisure. Sometimes I don't hear from my Muse for months, and then suddenly it shows up and I'm stuck to my laptop or to a pad of paper and hard at work scribbling. I decided when I was eight to become a writer, and have been a slave to my infuriating Muse ever since. I started in Fantasy but have gradually gone into regular fiction. I guess I will always have a soft spot for Fantasy, as I have quite a few books of this genre on my shelf. I wrote out a trilogy when I was in my teens that would have probably gone down okay in the bookstores (pre-Harry Potter). It did not get beyond a couple of polite rejection letters. I revised it until I was sick of looking at it, and it went nowhere after that.
I had a dry spell for a bit, then moved to Mystery. The premise was good, or so I thought. (An actual published author thought otherwise, but he's a whiner, so the point is moot.) I still think the premise was good, only I lost interest in continuing with that. At this point, I am working on two projects, both fiction, and both look promising. Rest assured, I will perservere. My Muse is with me once again, and I cannot ignore its lure.
The thing I wanted to complain about is the phrase 'no unsolicited manuscripts'. This phrase ticks me off to no end. Publishing houses are supposedly on the lookout for new and exciting material. Okay, so why then do they say 'no unsolicited manuscripts'? This is a source of unending frustration. Perhaps I do not understand what they mean, but based on my understanding of 'unsolicited', wouldn't new manuscripts count as this? If you solicit materials, you are asking for them. Anyway, I am a little peeved about this phrase. If there is anyone out there who can explain the situation to me a little better, I would be grateful. Otherwise, publishing houses who add 'no unsolicited manuscripts' can go to the Devil.