From the book A Guide to Nature in Winter by Donald Stokes:
“Trees are plants that have evolved woody stems so that their leaves will be supported in the air, thus avoiding the competition for sunlight at ground level. As with all green plants, their first priority must be to place their leaves in sunlight, for the sun is the primal source of their energy. This striving to arrange leaves in light is most clearly shown in the winter trees. Here in the outline of their bare branches hundreds of solutions are revealed, each species a distinct linear sculpture created jointly by the forces of light and life…”
Moderator (Ross) – (Tell us about) the first time you saw your face on a magazine cover.
Rebecca – Yeah. Well, like Ross said… OK. First of all, I think we all know the mindset and attitude that kind of goes along with being up here (Penn State) as a student, right? It’s what my husband calls the Happy Valley syndrome. You know… they say “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” but here it’s kind of the opposite of that… that you feel that what happens outside of Happy Valley can’t touch you in here. You know? And I was kind of traveling outside of the gravity of the college to do these shoots and so it always felt like, when I’d get in that car to go do a shoot, that I was kind of driving away from Christy and driving toward Rebecca. So that when I’d get to Gerry’s or down to Harrisburg to do the shoots there–
M – Just to interrupt: Gerry being one of the photographers you worked with.
R – Right. Yeah. Sorry. So anyway, when I’d get away from here, as I was driving I kind of felt Rebecca brain taking over. So that when I got there I’d kind of… I don’t know if “steeled myself” is the right term, but I did feel like I had made a kind of mental shift and sort of psyched myself up for doing this. Right? It’s like I couldn’t have done the shoots in my dorm room (audience laughter) and if college girl Christy had shown up at the shoots, that would have been weird, but Rebecca was totally fine with it.
I have a split personality, don’t I? (audience laughter)
So what was the question again?
M – The first time you saw your face on a magazine cover.
R – OK. Yeah. So there’d always been that very clear division– Christy and Rebecca. Happy Valley and Adult World. You know? And one of the biggest fears I had when I was doing this stuff at first… I mean, I wasn’t just a student here, but I was a student trainer for the football team. And I was horrified that Coach Paterno would find out somehow, or Jesus Mary Joseph, one of the players would see something or hear something and I would… my cover would be blown, I guess. Right? But I kind of told myself that, again, driving away from campus to do the shoots, Rebecca was out there. Christy was in Happy Valley. Right? And I think only… that first magazine was published, the one that I’d done the first shoot for… it was one of those “College Girls” magazines, called “University Girls USA,” and I had one picture in it. So it’s not like I was the cover girl, and it didn’t give my real name. It said “Rebecca Christy.” And when you looked at the picture, it didn’t look a LOT like the way I looked going out around campus. For one thing, I wasn’t naked… (audience laughter) …but also, the whole look, makeup and hair, all that. Anyway. Even when that magazine came out and it was sold in town and on campus at the bookstores, I felt… I may have gotten a feeling a couple times like “That guy recognizes me from the magazine.” But I still felt pretty anonymous and hidden. And like I said, like that was “out there” and here I was, in Happy Valley. Right? And that was really the only magazine that was published while I was a student.
But… OK. So a couple years go by. I had graduated as an undergrad, I was still living in town. I hadn’t done any work, you know, any shoots, in three or four years, and I was a single mom. And I was leaving town with my daughter to go to Bloomsburg to see my big sister, who, ironically, was one of the few people in my circle who knew what I’d been doing, what I was up to.
M – Or at least whom you’d told.
R – Right. We’ll get to that. So I stopped at this 7-11 near the exit on I80, so I still felt like I was kind of here, and I grabbed some coffee, some gum, you know, and there I am, in my sweats, no sunglasses or any disguise or anything, and as I’m standing there at the counter waiting to check out, I happen to glance at the rack of porn behind the counter and right there on the top shelf was the new issue of “Coed” Magazine with my face big right on the cover. And I mean, my body was behind a wrapper and they had a modesty shield over most of the cover, but there was my face, staring right out at me from the porn rack at the 7-11. I think that… if it wasn’t the first time I’d ever gotten a cover, it was at least the first time I’d ever SEEN myself on a cover. And I just… I felt a little weak-kneed at first, and like “Holy… CRAP!” And I felt my face turning bright red, and then looking at the clerk, the guy in line in front of me, the guy in line behind me, thinking not only did they see it too and they had to recognize me, but almost like I was standing there naked in line right there in front of them. You know? And really… it was all I could do to pay for my stuff and get the heck out of there. And the whole way to my sister’s I was, like, “Oh my God. It’s OUT THERE. What am I going to do?” As if it had never really occurred to me that from all those shoots I’d done, one of them might actually get published and printed on the front of a magazine that I might see for sale.
M – Well, and what you did next was the amazing thing.
R – By amazing you mean “ridiculous”?
M – Well…
R – But it was. I mean… I should say. What I did next was… I thought, “OK. I don’t want anyone I know to see this.” And so I got this… big redhead wig… and big Jackie O sunglasses… (audience laughter) …serious… and I took almost my whole next paycheck, because I was working as a grad assistant at the college, and I went around to all these newsstands, convenience stores, in and around State College, and I bought up that issue of “Coed.” Parked the car out front and let it idle with my daughter in the back seat, and I’d go in, scope out their porn… if they had my issue of “Coed,” I’d buy every copy they had. I think I had thirty seven copies of that magazine in the back seat before I finally thought, “OK, this is really… frickin’ stupid. You know? Obviously I’m going to run out of money before I get every magazine. And I can’t take the time and waste the gas doing this. And what happens if child welfare comes by and finds Maura in the back seat of my idling car with a stack of porn next to her?” (audience laughter)
This business is great for worst-case scenario thinking.
Anyway, I gave up after 37 copies. And I took them out to a barbecue grill at Bald Eagle and I stuck them in a grocery bag and torched the whole stack.
And now Marty says, “You know, I’ve seen copies of that issue of ‘Coed’ on eBay for thirty bucks a pop.” (audience laughter) Thanks, honey.
But see, that just goes to show–
M – Did you?
R – What?
M – No. Go on ahead. “That just goes to show…”
R – Yeah, well, I was just going to say, that that just goes to show how insulated I felt up here, and how I felt like that activity couldn’t possibly intrude into my little single mom life in Happy Valley. And when it did, it was a shock. It shouldn’t have been, but it was.
And then the thing that followed was: OK, if it’s out there HERE, then it’s out there where my FAMILY is. So THEY might see it. I think that was what really upset me and also made me realize that it was pretty retarded– sorry… some of us still use that word without thinking… pretty ridiculous to think I could actually safely buy up those magazines so that nobody I knew would see it. I mean, where would it end? You know?
Print editions are available from any online or brick-and-mortar bookshop. Here are the ISBNs to order. Books 1-4 each contain a “bonus track” extra story.
Book One (ISBN 978-1484950029) Book Two (ISBN 978-1490303116) Book Three (ISBN 978-1490581859) Book Four (ISBN 978-1490904733) Book Five (ISBN 978-1491241332) Book Six (ISBN 978-1492243137) Book Seven (ISBN 978-1493520206) Omnibus edition (contains all seven books minus bonus stories)(ISBN 978-1494325695)
Sometimes I don’t realize what a movie or a story is MISSING until after I’ve read a good critique of it. That was the case with Paterno, Barry Levinson’s movie about the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The movie was pretty tightly focused on the last couple weeks of Joe Paterno’s coaching tenure at Penn State: his 409th career win as a Division I coach, and then, less than two weeks later, his firing.
The main criticism of the movie seemed to be that it “didn’t draw any conclusions.”
But my problem with it was that it left the big question unanswered: how did someone like Sandusky get away with what he did for over two decades before he was finally formally charged? It was a lot more nuanced than just Joe Paterno “looking the other way.”
Sandusky was the founder of a children’s charity which helped disadvantaged and troubled boys. That was where he found his victims. How was it possible that he was affiliated with that charity for over two decades without someone NOTICING that something was “off”?
The uneasy answer is that most of the people who knew him professionally– including licensed psychologists, childcare professionals, and law enforcement officials– didn’t know exactly what they were seeing when they looked at Jerry Sandusky. He was considered not just a noble person, but a hero of sorts as a protector and advocate of the very children he was abusing in private. The idea that he was doing what he did was shockingly at odds with his image.
That is part of the way that child molesters work.
A friend of mine whose parents live in Lock Haven PA told me that after Sandusky left Penn State but a few years before he was formally charged, he was a volunteer coach at a local high school up there. One afternoon, another coach caught him in a compromising position with a teen boy in the gym. Sandusky jumped up and stammered that he was showing the boy “wrestling moves.” No charges were filed, but Sandusky was let go as a volunteer.
My friend said that when the story hit the local paper, residents were outraged, but not in the way you’d think now.
“How dare someone try to besmirch the character of this fine upstanding gentleman who has done so much to help children in this community” was the tone of the outrage.
It seems to me, therefore, that as a writer, if someone REALLY wanted to tell this story, they’d take the following tack: show Sandusky as he appeared to almost everyone around him before there was any hint of this.
Show the seemingly benign, “goofy and childlike” (the words of a former player) children’s advocate as he appeared to his players, family, church members, the college community, and the people at his charity.
Make him look like the saint everyone thought he was, and then proceed from there.
The audience has to be sympathetic to Sandusky and manipulated into dismissing anything that looks the slightest bit unseemly.
Just like most of the people around him were for almost 30 years.
Laurel: I can’t stay awake if I’ve got nothing to occupy my mind. Hardy: I’ll give you something to “occupy your mind”…
One of my favorite mystical teachers, A. Ramana, said that the rational mind “just loves to ‘get it.’ Just loves to have all this knowledge, all this wisdom, all this insight, all this understanding. It feeds on it. Thrives on it. You need to put it on a fast.”
I realized tonight that any belief in a secondary cause (any cause of the phenomena of life outside of my I AM, God within me, “my own wonderful human imagination”) really puts (or keeps) the rational mind right where it wants to be.
Because if I believe that I’m NOT the sole cause of the phenomena of my life, then the question becomes “what is?” And that’s a rabbithole of a question.
Did I also mention that the mind loves a rabbithole?
If I AM the sole cause, then all those problems have a simple short answer: “I created it.” And that ends the discussion.
Did I also mention that the rational mind hates to have the discussion ended?
“We aren’t speaking of anything ‘rational’ in this world.” ~ Neville Goddard
Here are some further insights from my journal, spurred by Neville Goddard quotes that I’m typing into the manuscript of the upcoming Still More Neville From My Notebook e-book I’m assembling.
First the Neville quote (from his lecture Test Yourselves)…
See the world as nothing more than yourself pushed out, and everything in it as aiding the birth of your imagination, for the behavior of the world relative to you (is) determined by the concept you hold of yourself! It doesn’t really matter what your individual personal life is; the whole vast world is yourself pushed out and everyone in it is there to aid the birth of all of your imaginal acts. Regardless of whether it takes one or one hundred thousand, everyone will play his part, and you don’t have to ask his permission, for your world is animated by your own wonderful human imagination.
…and now, from my journal:
I quote and parrot this line of Neville’s frequently, remind myself of it — everything I see is myself pushed out– but reading this longer passage, it struck me differently. Especially this line:
“The whole vast world is yourself pushed out and everyone in it is there to aid the birth of all of your imaginal acts.”
This is true especially for things that I ASSUME TO BE TRUE.
When I assume a truth, I assume a state. In that sense, the law that Neville speaks of is really “the law of assumption.”
Neville often asked, “What do you think is the cause of the phenomena of life?”
The answer is: we do not realize that by assuming a truth, we are assuming a state. And so we create the phenomena of our lives by giving life. And when that which we assume to be true springs forth, we say, “Look! See? That’s what I told you would happen!” We believe it’s true and thus re-create it, cementing it into place, so to speak.
That’s the cycle:
I believe X is true. X comes forth in my world, which I take as verification that X is true.
So Neville’s teaching really addresses, to me, the often unspoken question of “Why is my life the way it is?” As A. Ramana said, “Think your assumptions might have anything to do with that?”
What so many teachers and students of this stuff apparently pervert is that they practice law of ATTRACTION. When I see that something is “off” in my world, I want to fix it. I see LACK as an indication of need, in the sense that if I feel like I’m lacking, I believe that getting that which I lack will solve the problem. Or: if I feel that my lack is the cause of my unhappiness, then getting that which I lack will bring my happiness.
The tendency is to want to attract the opposite of that which I feel I’m suffering from. So if I’m poor, I think money will bring me happiness and solve my problem. If I’m ill, health will solve my problem. If I’m lonely, sex or love or companionship. Etc etc. Very shallow superficial examples. But they all sort of try to treat the effect by substituting another effect. And the underlying questions– why is my life the way it is? What is the cause of the phenomena of my life?– go unanswered, or only partially answered. Instead, we put our energy into attracting an antidote.
So law of ASSUMPTION implies that the law is working through what we ASSUME to be true. I can take that in a million different directions, but to me the greatest value is that it answers those two underlying questions.
Neville From My Notebook
More Neville From My Notebook
Two collections of quotes, passages and lectures from the mystical teachings of Neville Goddard, available now as e-books.
While typing quotes for a third Neville From My Notebook collection, I came across this, from Neville Goddard’s lecture Bear Ye One Another’s Burdens:
Don’t limit your friend because of his financial, social, or intellectual background. That’s a heavy cross for him to bear. Rather, lift his cross and set him free… You and I can lift the cross from our own shoulders, for as I lift your cross, I am lifting mine, and in a way I do not know, the burden is lifted from me.
It’s funny that Neville used the phrase “in a way I do not know,” because in the very next sentence of this lecture, he answers why this is true:
Everyone you meet is yourself made visible, for there is nothing but yourself in the world.
I get it. And I’m sure Neville did, too.
The proposition Neville put forth repeatedly in his teachings, which he urged us to put to the test, is that, in the words of poet William Blake, “all that you behold, though it appears without, it is within, in your imagination, of which this world of mortality is but a shadow.” “Seeming others” express and reflect that which I believe to be true.
So… if I “lift the cross” of “another,” I am, in effect, revising and changing what I assume to be true. And so I am changing self AND “lifting the cross.” Because that other is just reflecting me. So change “them” in imagination and I have changed self. Or, rather, change “self” in imagination, and then “they”– myself pushed out– is also changed.
That is the answer to “the way I do not know.”
Neville From My Notebook
More Neville From My Notebook
Two collections of quotes, passages and lectures from the mystical teachings of Neville Goddard, available now as e-books.
I’m repeatedly amazed when I read lukewarmly dismissive reviews of movies or books or recordings that moved me in some way.
I finally saw Max Rose, which was Jerry Lewis’s last movie, a drama about an aging jazz pianist whose wife has just died, and who has discovered a memento of hers that suggests that she had an ongoing affair during their 65-year marriage. I didn’t think it was a “classic” but I thought it was beautifully and sensitively done. I thought Jerry Lewis’s take on the aging widower was just PERFECT, and it resonated with what I loved most about the movie: a sensitive depiction of old age. Unless there’s a film subgenre I’ve been missing, this is a rare thing in popular entertainment.
And yet… I read a few capsule reviews of the movie that just seemed to miss this altogether.
“A soggy, fragile feature… mawkish, leaden drama… a maudlin, inconsequential waste… a truly unfortunate encore (for Lewis)…”
These are the lead lines in some of the negative reviews I scanned online.
And, as so often happens when I read such reviews, my reaction was: “Did this reviewer even watch the movie?”
This was no two-star tossoff.
This is telling: Max Rose is an hour and twenty minutes long. Not two hours, not three hours, not even ninety minutes. Barely 80 minutes. The filmmakers told the story and got out of there. Compactness in a movie is a rare thing lately.
We are living in a world that really is a psychological world. All things take place in the imagination of man… all things. And so, because they do take place there, let them take place there first before we expect to see them on the outside. So assume that you are the man that you would like to be. Believe that you are. Try to catch all the feeling that would be yours if it were true. Give it all the tones and the feeling of reality. And then sleep. Go sound asleep in that assumption that you are already the one that you want to be. Try that, and I assure you, from my own experience, what you have assumed that you are, you will become. You have already become what you are because you once assumed that you are it. Everything in the world is just like that. It’s all imagination.
“‘And all that you behold, though it appears without, really it is within, in your own wonderful human imagination, of which this world of mortality is but a shadow.’
“You bring the whole thing into this world. So you lose it? You can repeat it, for the reality never disappears. This is the shadow world. So how do you bring it back? By contemplating the state, and bringing it back once again,and feeling that you are now what you want to be. And bring it right back into your world. Man thinks it’s done and gone for good– no. The eternal forms are forever. They never disappear.
“One day you’re going to have this experience. You will see man differently. You will see everything differently. And when you see it, and you are in control of your own being, you’re going to see the whole vast world is dead. Actually dead. And you are the living reality of the world.”
This excerpt from my novel You Don’t Think She Is (chapter 37) was also published, with some slight modification, as a stand-alone story entitled “Planet Of The Brians,” first in the Vermont newspaper Green Mountain Trading Post, and then in my short story collection What’s With Her? For more info on those books, click the titles… or… scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Setting: Summer 1972; Quaker Valley, Adams County, PA (“Like Gettysburg, except nothing happened here.” ~ Margo LeDoux)
I got back too late on Saturday to see Margo, and unfortunately, two weeks at church camp did not earn me a free pass, so on Sunday morning at 10 am, there I was, sitting in a pew, dressed in a “light cotton” blazer, white shirt, and clip-on tie (perfect outfit for 90 degree weather), sitting tight between my parents, sweat rolling down between my shoulder blades and from my armpits down the insides of my arms.
“Wish they’d crack open a stained-glass window…” Dad whispered to me midway through the sermon.
Still, for as hot and as humid as it was, I didn’t take a shower when I got home. I’d already taken one before church. From this point on, the day was about doing something that would make me need another one… even though, judging from Margo’s note, we were probably going to do Something Cool.
So: no shower.
When I went over to meet Margo after Sunday lunch so we could go to the movie, she looked a little different to me. Not a lot different; just a little… nothing I could really put a finger on… maybe it was just the tan. In the summer, Margo’s skin got dark tanned and her hair light, almost platinum like Christy’s. Plus a detail I suddenly remembered when she opened her back door: “Up at the lake,” she told me a few summers before, “we skinnydip! So no tanlines!”
Skinnydipping… didn’t really want to think about that… so of course when I saw how dark her skin was, what was the first thing I thought of?
(Did they even have topless native girls in Canada?)
Margo brushed her hair out of her face. “Hey, Bri… wait… wait just a sec,” and she ducked back inside. “Dad?” she yelled. “My allowance…” and a few seconds later she was coming back out the door, five dollars in her tanned hand. “Late again,” she said. “I’m supposed to get it on Saturday after Mom and me clean. He always makes me ask for it.” And she zipped open her purse (!) and then caught my eye. “What?” she tittered.
I felt like Margo could see herself and the bevy of Topless Native Girls frolicking on my mental movie screen… but, fortunately, I had an out:
“When did you start carrying a purse?” I said.
Margo stuffed her money down into the neat red leather pouch. “Since Grandma got it for me in Kingston. Tres chic, huh?” and she pulled out a pack of Juicy Fruit. “Gum?” I took a stick and she unwrapped one for herself, and we walked downtown to the theater for the matinee.
I told Margo about Jean (“So you asked her to dance? Yay! Good work, Bri!”) and Ginny (“Awwww… she wanted you to ask her. Well, what can you do about that?”) and she told me about Canada (“No skinny dippin’ anymore. Aside from Jompaw, there is now a family from New York in the cottage next door. Who stare like Steve Kelly.”), and by 1:45 we were buying our tickets, the only two people in line. “Don’t people know this might be the last one?” I said as I held the door open for Margo.
“It’s like mom says, Bri,” Margo said. “People don’t care about art.”
As soon as we stepped inside, I knew we’d made the right choice. After the moist church service, and the sticky walk downtown, the dark, air-conditioned theater felt like a walk-in freezer… better than the pool. We followed my Seat Selection Formula (middle of the theater, width of the screen back) and we picked our seats, but as Margo reached for her purse so she could give me money toward popcorn (I always bought the tickets; she always bought the snacks), she got a sick look on her face.
“Yeesh…” she said.
“What’s that smell?” She screwed her nose up funny as she checked the air.
Margo zipped open her purse. “Come on… you smell it. You don’t smell that?” I shook my head no. “It’s gamey… like a zoo.” She handed me two dollars. “What, do they pump monkey odor into the theater to make the movie more real?” Margo always called the apes in the Planet of the Apes movies “monkeys.”
I took her money. “I don’t smell anything,” I said.
“Well, you must be… smell-blind,” she said as she zipped her purse shut, and then she slouched down in her seat, knees up on the seatback in front of her.
I walked back to the lobby to get us our cokes and corn (making sure they buttered and salted Margo’s popcorn halfway up, then buttered and salted it again when it was all the way full), and when I got back (“Did they butter and salt it halfway up and then butter and salt it again when it was all the way full?”), she was settled in her seat.
“Can’t believe you don’t smell that,” she said as the lights went down and the movie started, but all I could smell was the sweet buttered popcorn in my lap.
As the previews rolled, I could hear Margo munching away next to me, and just as I was about to say “Jeez, it sounds like a zoo,” she leaned over, right up against me, and sniffed.
“Ewwww…” she said as she sat back.
“Ewwwww what?” I said.
“It’s you.” She shrunk back into the far corner of her seat.
“What do you mean, ‘it’s me?’”
“I mean‑‑” and Margo pinched her nostrils shut with her fingers and sang “BEEEEEEEEE-OHHHHHHHHH!”
I laughed. “Shut up.”
“Brian, I’m serious… you smell!” She shriveled back into her corner. “Battle… for the Planet… of the Brians!”
I laughed. “It is not me…”
The movie started, and as I leaned forward to pick my coke off the floor, I caught a whiff of something that smelled like someone had peed into a cup of chicken broth.
I sat back… very subtly bent my head down… lifted my left arm… inhaled… and…
Margo, God bless her, didn’t say another word about it the whole rest of the movie. I was braced for insults, questions, wisecracks ‑‑maybe even a lecture‑‑ but she was silent all the way through the closing credits, right up until we started out of the theater.
“No, Bri,” she said as we started walking into the breeze. “Me in front.”
We walked up Dartmouth Street toward home, but she detoured across the street to Holbert’s Apothecary. “Wait here,” she said as she opened the front door, and I sat on the stoop in the heat, sweat dripping down my face, my back… every part of me sticky and damp.
O.K…. so maybe I shouldn’t have skipped the shower.
Less than two minutes later, Margo came back out, a small brown paper bag in her hand. “Did you even take a shower today?” she said as she removed a wax pack of baseball cards and some Juicy Fruit from the bag.
“I thought we were gonna go swim…”
“‑‑Pff! ‘Swim.’ O.K.” She handed the bag to me. “Here. Use this.”
I was kind of afraid to open the bag. What if it was Snakes In A Can (“BOY-YOY-YOY-YOY-YOING!”)?
Nope… no springloaded snakes… just a wax pack of baseball cards… and… an opened-front cardboard package with a bottle in it.
Right Guard. Extra Dry Roll-on.
I looked up at Margo. “You really think I need this?”
Margo tsked. “Brian, seriously… you smell like… chicken soup that somebody peed in.”
I laughed. “I do not‑‑”
“‑‑Brian!” Margo put her hand on my wrist and looked me in the eye, and I noticed she was wearing eye shadow: lightly applied turquoise powder that flashed when she blinked.
“Use it,” she said softly. “Trust me.”
I nodded. “O.K.”
She let go of my wrist. “Now let’s go home so I can hose you off…”
You Don’t Think She Isby Max Harrick Shenk…
“…You Don’t Think She Is by Max Harrick Shenk reveals a brilliantly composed coming of age novel… The short chapters speak volumes about the notion of first love, the workings of puberty, and the understanding of a blossoming sexuality …(and) give the reader a keen insight into each of the character’s youthful thoughts and ideas… Shenk’s book will take any reader back in time to their emotions and explorations during middle school. It is reminder of the innocence of youth and the burgeoning feelings of desire. –Kathy Buckert, author and English instructor