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I’ve Been A Hypocrite

Whenever young writers ask me for advice, especially with writer’s block, I tell them about a writing practice called “Morning Pages”. I tell them to spend thirty minutes every morning writing literally every rambling word that goes through their head without censorship or premeditation. It’s like clearing your throat, and overcoming the crippling fear or writing something terrible by committing to writing terrible things every day.

Doing this, invariably you will begin to hear a profane little voice rooting for your failure. I call this voice “The Critic”. When you’re writing your Morning Pages the Critic’s words go down on the page with everything else, and in my experience the voice eventually gives up, and you can move on.

I say I’ve been a hypocrite because even thought I recommend this ritual to others, I haven’t committed to it personally in years. I’m not sure when I stopped, or why. It could be that once I started writing for publication the private rituals of the craft took a back seat. But it could also be a product of depression and malaise, knowing on some level that journaling of any kind is the bane of self-deception. We all guard our delusions jealously, especially when we depend on them to stay afloat.

I’ve been frantically drafting in my head all year. It’s been like an obsession distracting me from productive work. But I’ve been hesitant to actually pound the keys. A big part of that has been because a hostile party, who I thought was a friend, has been monitoring my public utterances to use against me. The crazy thing is I don’t even know why … but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The truth is that I wanted to tell this story even before it became hostile. I’ve always strived to live my life as a story I can be proud to tell, perhaps even a story that can be instructive, or inspiring, or at least interesting to others. The potential retaliations of the hostile party are not the only, or even the primary thing holding me back. The fact is that even though I have at times lived a very public life, I have also led a deeply closeted life. I’d like to remedy that, even though the potential criticisms can be daunting.

Sure, I’ve published some books, and I’ve won some writing awards, but there’s no question that when I was younger I was less self-censoring, less concerned with success and failure, and more focused on the raw craft of writing. Now, I haven’t published anything serious since Survivor Max 3. I haven’t even really written anything, despite theoretically working on the fourth installment. I’m suffering from the same writer’s block I tell others I’ve somehow solved. So, if I’m going to overcome this malaise and tell this story I’m going to have to return to first practices. To get back to the raw pleasure of writing for writings sake. To take my own advice and write something terrible.

Paramour: By Way Of Love

by Corinne Barrios and Davi Barker

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What if it wasn’t a toxic relationship? What if it was toxic mold?

For some time now I’ve been tweeting about my progress through “The Forgiveness Workbook “but I’ve reached a plateau where 280 characters just isn’t enough to achieve real growth. So here we are, the first of probably many longer posts about this topic.

Here’s the thing. I just can’t shake this feeling… What if the problem has been the toxic mold all along?

I noticed [Redacted] had a major mold problem the first time I went in his bathroom in 2016. The walls were covered in these swirls of sage green and black, like a mint Oreo milkshake. I thought it might be a wallpaper at first, but no. It’s toxic mold. I know because I had it tested.

It started years before I arrived. He had a leak in the roof right above his head that dripped on his pillow when it rained. And the mold just followed the moisture, dripping down one side of the vaulted ceiling, and covering the adjacent bathroom.

Now, I never spent more than a few nights in his bed, but he stewed in that room for years before the recent hostilities erupted. And he was obviously stacking some serious undisclosed resentments along the way. We talked about mold remediation, but it wasn’t my house, and not really my responsibility. That was just how he chose to live.

Lab results confirmed unsafe levels of toxic mold in both the master bedroom and their oldest child’s room. Coincidentally, or not, their relationship is the most fractured out of everyone right now. I looked into it and both paranoia and delusions are symptoms of prolonged exposure to these molds. That would certainly explain all the baffling behavior. So I have to wonder, what if the toxic mold was the root of the problem all along?

And the crazy thing is, even after all he’s done, I still want to tell them to go see a doctor about it. Take whatever tests they’ve got. Get a full psychological profile done if they can. I’d even pay for that. But I can’t, because ironically he doesn’t trust me.

But suppose it were true. Suppose a decade living in toxic mold took some toll on his mental health? Well that would mean he’s getting better now, right? Ever since he decided to move out. That could mean that eventually, probably gradually, but someday the mold induced fugue would lift, and he’d be able to look back on his choices with a clearer perception. To see all he’s wrought objectively.

Personally, I would find that realization utterly humbling, but it still beats the alternative.

Paramour: By Way Of Love

by Corinne Barrios and Davi Barker

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A Flag Of Unity For The Holy Land

Last night I went through some old CDs and found backups of some files I thought I’d lost. Lots of treasure on these discs I’ll be sharing gradually, but these I felt were particularly prescient.

They were designed originally as non-state flags for the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in 2010. A fleet of six multinational civilian ships bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza was raided by the Israeli military before it reached shore. Nine activists were killed in the raid, which earned international condemnation and resulted in a deterioration of Israeli foreign relations. Israel ultimately loosed the Gaza blockade, and all surviving activists were eventfully freed. Unfortunately committees couldn’t agree on a design, and we couldn’t get them produced in time, so they never flew.

Non-the-less, the concept is still relevant, obviously. Recently, ethnically targeted evictions in a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and police action taken against peaceful Muslim worshipers outside al Aqsa mosque last Ramadan sparked a new violent clash. Israeli air strikes killed 42 Palestinians, including 10 children. Hamas fired seven rockets in retaliation. Some homes were damaged, but no casualties were reported. An Israeli air strike also destroyed a 12-storey building that housed the offices of multiple international press organizations, including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. The office of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund was also destroyed. 17 hospitals in Gaza were also damaged, including Gaza’s only COVID center.

I’m considering producing a unity flag anyway. As Malcom X said:

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

I think it’s important to understand that although the State of Israel is an oppressive regime, civilians on both sides of the wall are being oppressed to varying degrees. And this is a civilian flag. Not a state flag.

I want to be upfront about my interest here, because there’s an air of cultural appropriation about it. I’m muslim, but not Palestinian. I’m from a partially Jewish family, but not Israeli. My greatest interest is humanitarian. I believe no state has a right to exist, but all people do. I believe every peaceful person in the region has a right to live there peacefully and unmolested, as with any other region. My personal interest is I suppose spiritual. It is not only Jewish people who have a spiritual tie to the region. Any follower of any Abrahamic religion has a legitimate interest. Indeed any individual who has felt a call to pilgrimage to any of the region’s many significant sites, regardless of faith, should have a right to perform those rites, or even to visit them for secular purposes. And to whatever extent anyone is prevented is yet another, although lesser, injustice. My Jewish brother was able to travel there easily, while, from what I’ve read, I might face barriers and bureaucracies that are prohibitive for my temperaments. I want to see a world where everyone has free and equal access to the country regardless of what government (if any) is officiating it. So this is ultimately a call to unity and siblinghood, which I regard as appropriate for all cultures.

That being said, I welcome feedback from individuals of either of these cultures with special regard.

Option A

The lock and key became a motif in most of these designs because many displaced Palestinians keep the keys to the homes they lost and hand them down over generations. In both a literal and metaphorical sense, Palestinians hold the keys, and Israel holds the lock. But this is my least favorite design because it is the closest to the national flag, and being bifurcated it seems visually segregated.

Option B

Here the lock and key are abstracted to make the distinction of sides less severe. The Arabic reads “Salam” and the Hebrew is “Shalom” which both mean “Peace” and have identical linguistic roots.

Option C

An outlier from a design perspective. This option features a dove and olive branch, which have become an international symbol of peace. But, what’s less known is that the image originates in the Old Testament story of Noah, which both traditions share. The text reads “Salam” and “Shalom” again, but also “Tzedek” in Hebrew, and “Adl” in Arabic which both mean “Justice”.

Option D

This was the concept a group of high school kids came up with. I can’t say I understand what the flames and drips mean. I imagine it’s something along the lines of the flames being the rage of disunity that is cooled when the barriers are unlocked.

Option E

I really like this one, because it doesn’t reference either flag. These are patterns from Arab and Jewish traditional shawls. In other words, it represents both peoples, not the state.

Option F

Even though I prefer the symbolism of the shawls over the flags, this is currently my front runner because I think this design will be more readily understood by a larger audience. Like these two peoples, a lock and a key are irrevocably linked to one another. In deed, one could argue they are useless without one another. So, to call for anything other than unity between them, is to call for genocide of one of them. And the simplicity of the design will translate better to smaller items, like pins or keychains.

So, you got a favorite? Or a suggestion?