Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's Time to Stop Hating the Haters

I don't often see the ignorant rantings of homophobic, misogynistic, antisemitic and islamophobic haters on my social media news feeds anymore – either because they have unfriended me or because I have ceased to follow them. But I'm disturbed to be seeing instead the hateful rants of people justifiably concerned about the blowback from the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling on Friday. 
Concern is justifiable. Even anger is justifiable. But when the hated start hating in return, we become no better than those who hate us. 
Sure, the pastor who threatened to burn himself to death if marriage equality became the law of the land and then didn't is a hypocrite, and he deserves to be mocked. He doesn't deserve to die or to be helped on his way. 
Mock, too, the Donald Trumps of the world who defend "traditional marriage" from the "sanctity" of their third marriage. But, again, we lose more than we gain when we attack these hypocrites with vicious language. 
What about county clerks whose deeply held religious convictions make it difficult for them to perform their license-issuing jobs? They ought to follow the lead of Juli Luke of Denton, TX, who told her local paper that "as an elected public official, my personal belief cannot prevent me from issuing the licenses as required." Those who choose, instead, to resign should be respected for the sincerity of their beliefs instead of being attacked or called names. But even those who choose to flout the law needn't be vilified with violent language. Criticize and mock them. Sue them. But stop the hate. 
The "NO H8" graphic doesn't specify who should and shouldn't be hated. While it refers to California's Prop 8, it doesn't state "it's not okay for you to hate me but it's fine for me to hate you." It just states, simply, eloquently and inclusively, "No Hate."
Let's take the essence of that message to heart. Let's stop stooping to the haters' level. Let's end all bigotry, not just bigotry directed toward us. Let's demonstrate that hate, however it's expressed and whoever expresses it, is destructive. Let's remember that hate has consequences. Always.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

For Father's Day: A Tale of Love &Reconciliation

Few of the stories I share about my father in Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir are flattering. Physically and emotionally absent in my early childhood and dead before my 14th birthday, Sydney Gerson was not the kind of parental figure one thinks of as, well, much of a parental figure. 

On top of that, it turns out that he was probably not my natural father, something I learned long after all the principals in that drama – him, my mother and my natural father – had passed away (another story I tell in Acts of Surrender). 

And yet I carry his name, and of the three fathers I have experienced in my life, he is the only one I ever think of as "Daddy." 

So on this Father's Day, nearly a half-century after his death, I share this tale of love and reconciliation, adapted from Acts of Surrender... 

It's August 11, 1997. After nearly two months of full-time road travel, Roxy (my cocker spaniel) and I check into the Shilo Inn in Boise, Idaho. Once I get Roxy situated, I change into my bathing suit and settle into the white-tiled steam room that is a fixture in many of the chain’s properties.

I have no plans, other than to shut my eyes and relax into the steam. But after a few minutes, I feel another presence in the room. I open my eyes and peer through the clouds of steam. I see no one.


No answer.

I close my eyes again. Immediately, I sense a white-robed man staring at me from across the room. He is tall, dark-haired, with a trim beard and mustache and a muscular build. A gold coronet rests on his head.

“Who are you?” I ask silently.

“My name is Arctur,” I sense rather than hear.

“Right,” I think dismissively. My mind is playing tricks on me.

“This is no trick. I am Arctur,” he repeats.

A silent conversation ensues, but for how long I cannot say. Time has no meaning among the mystical swirls of steam.

“There is someone here who wants to speak with you,” Arctur says after a while.

I wait.

“Because this is so close to the anniversary of your father’s death...”

Suddenly I sense my father’s presence. My heart starts to race.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be the father you wanted me to be,” I hear my father say. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you in all the ways you deserved.”

I begin to sob.

“But I loved you and still love you,” he continues. “And I’m so proud of what you are doing and who you are becoming. I couldn’t be a role model for you, but you are now a role model for me. I’m watching you. I’m with you. I’m learning from you. Thank you.”

Moments later, still crying, I sense that Arctur and my father have left. I open my eyes. The steam room is empty. I wipe my face, collect myself and return to my room.

How close to the anniversary is it? I fire up my laptop and open my file of significant dates.

As close as it can be. My father died 29 years today — August 11, 1968.

© Mark David Gerson

• • • Get your copy of Acts of Surrender today – on most Amazon sites, from select other online booksellers, from my website (signed to you, while supplies last) or from your favorite ebook store

• • I share a different kind of Father's Day story – this time I'm the father – in this Acts of Surrender excerpt on video: "Guinevere, My Daughter" – https://youtu.be/M-1vgCCj_04.

• Photos (long before I was born) – My parents, around 1940 or 1941, and a family gathering in the later 1940s

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Your Story, Your Life

"What you have lived is unique. What you have learned through your years of living is beyond price. And the value of all you share through your words, and of all the ways you awaken and grow through your words, is incalculable."

You are a storyteller — not because you are unusual (though your experiences may well be), but because we are all storytellers. We each carry an infinite potential for self-expression-through-story that, if we open to it, can reshape our lives and the lives of others in ways we cannot begin to imagine.

In a sense, we are also all memoirists. From the moment the first caveman returned from a day’s hunting and grunted his experiences to his mates over the cooking fire, we have been not only telling stories, but telling our story. From the moment of our first newborn gurgle, we have been communicating something of our brief life. From the moment the first diary entry reflected back on days, months or years past, we have been unconsciously crafting memoir.

Yet writing a memoir involves more than reciting dates, facts and what-happened-next’s. A memoir is an intimate journey into what underlies those dates, facts and occurrences.

A memoir is also not autobiography. Autobiographies are vast and encyclopedic. Even should it span your life from conception until last week, a memoir is both more subjective and less comprehensive than any autobiography. Like an Impressionist painting, it includes more shade and texture than detail, more personality than panorama.

Nor is a memoir simply a published journal. While it may draw on your journals and may even quote from them, a memoir is more focused and less self-indulgent. It’s a story built, however unconsciously, around a theme. It’s a story that transforms the personal into the universal. It’s a recounting of your experiences that transcends your experiences. It’s a story designed to be shared.

Perhaps you have come to this book willingly — in order to leave a legacy for your children or grandchildren. Perhaps you hope to communicate your story to a larger audience — to strangers, as well as to family and friends. Or perhaps you come to this memoir-writing journey, as I did to mine, reluctantly, doubtfully, skeptically. Perhaps you don’t believe you have stories worth sharing, stories that others would want to read, stories with the potential to inspire. Of course you do. We all do.

Here’s the thing: What you have lived is unique. What you have learned through your years of living is beyond price. And the value of all you share through your words, and of all the ways you awaken and grow through your words, is incalculable.

It’s true for you. It’s true for me. It’s true for everyone.

It doesn’t matter whether you are eager or resistant, overflowing with anecdotes or unsure where to find yours. Whoever you are, whatever your experiences, whatever your perceived writing ability, From Memory to Memoir will connect you with the stories you remember and, perhaps even more important, with the stories you have forgotten...with the stories you are keen to tell and, perhaps even more powerfully, with the stories you are reluctant to reveal. It will serve up the inspiration guaranteed to get you writing and keep you writing, the tools and techniques guaranteed to help you craft a rich, compelling narrative, and the support guaranteed to sustain you from the initial word of your book’s first draft to the final word of its ultimate draft.

That’s why you are here. That’s why I am here.

So what are you waiting for? Turn the page and join me on this adventure of a lifetime...this journey into the experience of your own creativity as, together, we write the stories of your life.

© Mark David Gerson All Rights Reserved

Get your copy of From Memory to Memoir today --
 on most Amazon sites and in Kindle, iBook, Google Play, Kobo + Nook stores worldwide