Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What's in Store for Johnnie Cochran?

The news reported the death of famed trial lawyer Johnnie Cochran. He died of a brain tumor at age 67. He, of course, was the guy who (and I suppose there is a huge behind-the-scenes cast of support people to thank) got O.J. Simpson a much different fate than Scott Peterson got.

If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.

Remember that exciting bit of overacting by O.J. on fit-the-glove day? (“Oooh. Too tight. Hurts my hand…”)

I found it rather ironic that the bulk of the stories I culled through on Johnnie were filed in Google News in the Entertainment section. That nicely plays to one of my favorite literary themes about news as soap opera, news as infotainment.

But here’s something you aren’t hearing much about in the news: As Johnnie soul-rockets into the depths of the universe, it’s time for the trial of his century. It’s time for his life review.

It’s time to meet up with Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. The charismatic lawyer reported as still believing his client’s version of the story of that bloody night is getting the treat most of us will have to die for—the truth about that landmark circus. I mean court case.

I’m sure if Nicole or Ron even care anymore about being murdered, they will pay a visit to the famous lawyer and exchange a few smoldering words. Whether it turns out to be a real oops or true vindication for O.J. despite that legendary “mountain of evidence,” I suspect the principals will enjoy their debriefing.

As for O.J., who presumably knows the truth of what he did or didn’t do, he still has a life review to look forward to. If he was a naughty killer, he will have to not only re-live his own actions, but he will experience in larger-than-this-life detail how his victims felt every nanosecond of the way. If he didn’t do it, he will learn in exquisite detail who did it and why.

My own intuitive belief about murder is that while it is a deeply awful and revolting crime, it is not perceived in the same way in the Great Beyond. First of all, if no one really, truly dies, as millions of near-death experiencers insist, then it automatically turns the crime from something less than pain and suffering to more of a moral philosophy discussion.

Often near-death experiences insist that many if not all deaths are pre-planned. If this is true, then murder takes on a quality not that far removed from making a murder mystery. In other words, there could have been a whole cosmic Earth School educational exercise behind the crime of the century. It could be karmic. It could be like a Master’s thesis.

If people transform into spirit rather than terminate forever, then unlike the loved ones they left behind, Nicole and Ron may have little attachment left to their former physical selves. While a huge shock to the ego, being murdered would not be a shock to the soul, especially if that bullet to the head sent the so-called victim to paradise.

In movies like Ghost, victims like Sam Wheat are shown slowly realizing that they are dead. That’s the model many people have if they even consider an afterlife. NDE accounts often offer information about a much quicker realization. Real people are not as dense as movie characters. “This is death? Cool!”

That’s certainly not to say that murder is victimless—just in case you think I’m giving people permission to blow someone away! You will have to experience every iota of pain you dish out, so say those who’ve done the life review gig.

Yet it still intrigues me to wonder what Johnnie Cochran is experiencing right now.

There’s a twist of irony to all this. A few months ago I attended an IANDS meeting—The International Association for Near-Death Studies. A woman, a first-time attendee, told of the time she was clobbered by a city bus while driving in her car. During that horrific crash she had a near-death experience.

As far as NDEs go, it was pretty standard fare (but of course standard fare for an NDE is pretty extraordinary for those of us who have never consciously left our bodies.) When she returned to her body to endure a long recovery, she had become more than a believer in an afterlife. She became a knower.

At meeting she mentioned that she was in the process of a legal battle with the municipally owned bus company to get compensated for her ordeal. She was very excited over just having secured the services on Johnnie Cochran.

I don’t know if the case has gone to trial or what the outcome was, but it sure makes me wonder if Johnnie got any inside information on what would turn out to be his future!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Resurrection. Did it really happen?

In an article on Easter Sunday, Sandi Dolbee asked "Did it really happen?" Did Jesus really die and return?

I had to chuckle. Every monthly meeting at Seattle IANDS, people come forward to speak about how they experienced death and then returned to this physical life.

The whole gist of Ms. Dolbee's article is that many Christians sink their faith in the hope of eternal life. If Christian tradition is not based on fact, there will be some very disappointed dead people in the future.

"The classic Christian understanding of the Resurrection is that it did happen, it literally happened in a way that remains fundamentally mysterious," said the Rev. Lawrence Bausch, rector of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Ocean Beach.

Bausch turns to a famous passage in the New Testament from the apostle Paul, who writes that without the raising of Christ, all their beliefs are in vain. "In the end, if there is no Resurrection, then when you're dead you're dead," is how Bausch puts it. "There is nothing to be hoped for."

So here I go with another exciting chorus of "let's check in with the people who have died and gone to heaven (or even to hell) and see what they have to say about when you're (clinically) dead, you're not dead."

Monday, March 21, 2005

Fifteen Seconds to Query

I don’t write very much whiny stuff, so cut me some slack here, okay?

In the literary world, when you as an author want to sell your novel to a publisher, the accepted procedure is to write what's known as a query letter. In a page or so, you write out what amounts of a business description of your book and you request that a literary agent or a publishers reads it.

It's a weird system. It throws me into an unnatural state of mind quite foreign from anything I ever learned in a team player environment where the process of producing publications is organized and logical.

As authors already know, there are magazine articles and books and workshops galore on how to sell yourself to literary agents and editors and publishers. These venues contain a plethora of strategies on how to be oh, so seductive in your literary wiles to hook the interest of the biggest and best movers and shakers in the shark tank.

I think what annoys me most about the whole querying process is that we strip the humanity away—which is to say we strip my strength away—when we pitch projects by query letter.

In one four-hour workshop I took, writing guru Elizabeth Lyon, author of A Writer’s Guide to Fiction and four other books for writers, said that you’re lucky to get fifteen seconds of an agent’s attention. That’s why everything has to be as perfectly thought out as a NASA flight to the moon, and you’ll notice we aren’t doing much of that lately.

Fifteen seconds?

I certainly appreciate hard work, lots of writing and rewriting, learning my craft, attention to detail, saying something important, and not being the proverbial wannabe from hell. And I have devoted a lifetime (well, since I was 16) to that quest.

It has been a stunningly isolated quest. As I grew up and pursued a writing career, I did it without having any influential relatives. If I ever decide to reincarnate with this crazy compulsion to keep on writing, I will be much more attentive to pre-planning in the family department. I’ll set up those connections ahead of time to make sure I have a famous aunt or uncle working as a high-end author or a powerful literary agent or a major publishing executive.

Another benefit I have never had this lifetime is a writing mentor. I am still waiting for my cosmic connection, my matchmaker angel, to apply his or her magic and hook me up with someone mentor-worthy. I wonder how different my life would be now had I shot the breeze (and had my manuscripts dissected) by someone whose work I would list in the competition section of my fiction book proposal—Richard Bach, James Redfield, the woo-wooey side of Richard Matheson (What Dreams May Come, Mitch Albom. They all made a big dent in the bestseller lists, and yet I have found (and a few other aspiring woo-woo authors I have met on PM have found) that publishers often shun woo-woo fiction.

Richard Bach had a fabulous, life-changing mentor, but Richard Bach doesn’t mentor or read manuscripts from woo-woo wannabes.

Last month when I joined Willamette Valley Writers in Oregon I asked the prez Bill Johnson how to find a mentor. His distilled response was fat chance. He told me abruptly as if defending himself against any request I might make that he wouldn’t mentor anybody. I don’t know if he was taking evasive action from my puppylike enthusiasm for knowledge or if he was just grumpy, sort of like how a jaded prostitute views another horny client who just paid the money. Love the cash flow; hate the job.

He did go on to advise me that publishing is all about relationships. That, of course, fits in with my thinking. If I could sit around discussing future publishing projects as it’s done in the computer peripherals industry, maybe I’d get somewhere. But all I get is fifteen seconds.

I’d love to take more classes, attend a bunch of writer’s conferences (schmoozing in Maui would be especially nice), and get that great presentation portfolio including professional portraits and glitzy coordinated promo paraphernalia—anything to make that fifteen seconds work better for me.

Unfortunately, survival is one small step for Joshua more important than attending a writer’s conference where I can buy time with an agent to pitch and schmooze. I have been thinking of giving up my health insurance to afford to do that, but I would hate to be critically injured on my drive to the conference. Then where would I be?

Apparently there are very few agents who do woo-woo. I contacted Mitch Albom’s agent because my novel has a lot in common with The Five People You Meet in Heaven and even Tuesdays with Morrie. Said agent told me he wasn’t interested in reading it and advised me to find an agent who represented books like mine. His email also looked as if a five-year-old had typed it, but I digress…

As I said, next life I will pre-ordain my connections. I just hope my acquired skill comes back to me—the child prodigy writes his first novel at age three, and where did he acquire so much information about enlightened sex practices?

You’ve got to read some of my personality tests sometime. It’s very important for me to believe that what I do for work (and when writing is my work, I’m talking about that) is helpful to society. My joy and my motivation come from feeling that I make a positive contribution. Much of the angst of not having my novel published is the overall feeling that I failed to make a contribution—that maybe I should have used those thousands of hours of self-absorbed writing time to pick up roadside trash along our nation’s highways.

It’s not that my book is unworthy of being published. The aforementioned writing guru who wrote a great book on writing fiction said this: About every ten years, I get some novel that excites me with the author's talent and the story. Joshua's did that for me. He's got that ineffable quality everyone is looking for--original voice. The closest comparison I was able to think of was in the league of a Tom Robbins or Kurt Vonnegut.

Kinda has me scratching my head…

Sunday, March 20, 2005

What Does Terri Schiavo Say?

Here's an interesting headline from the news: Judge's Life Threatened Over Right-to-Die Ruling.

It always intrigues me how people who claim to be pro-life often resort to assassination.

If you'd read my blog before, you know that one of my passions is listening to people talk about their near-death experiences. Some of my friends have died, clinically speaking, and were then revived. So I look at things differently than many people who are not influenced by such inside information as what it's like to pop out of the body and exist in other dimensions.

As the Terri Schiavo case rolls on, and politicians have their field day, I believe it is important to focus attention on the question of what may be going on for Terri herself.

How would you like it if you were standing or floating outside your body while all of this political wrestling was going on?

Thousands of people who died, albeit temporarily, while they were on operating tables talk at length during their NDE accounts about life away from their bodies. They knew instantly that their physical body was not in the wholisitc sense them, that they existed outside their bodies. Many of them reported thinking on variations of "I don't want anything to do with that body anymore."

I find it wildly ironic that many Christian pro-lifers think that by arguing for the feeding tube to be reinserted into Terri, they are somehow doing God's work. Keeping her body artificially alive may, in fact, be preventing Terri from being closer to God. Her spirit may be bound to her body through this exceptionally small cortex of life that still exists in it.

Some sources suggest that spirits have the freedom to ration their energy. That is, when you incarnate, you don't come in at 100% of all that you are. Maybe you come in at 50% (or any other percentage.) If that is so, than the physically comatose Schivao may be mostly out of her body already.

Another irony that I've commented on before is that we as a nation don't seem to feel that it is important to fund research to find out what happens during near-death experiences. We aren't interested in exploring the possibility of soul survival despite a mountain of anecdotal evidence and all the work being done by, among others, the International Association of Near-Death Studies.

Yet you betcha politicans will weigh in on the Schiavo case appealing to the voters at home. They're already jockeying for position for the 2006 elections. Maybe the real issue here is not to save a life as they claim. Maybe it's to save votes.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

All the Lonely People

In my humble opinion, loneliness is among the most powerful, damaging, unacknowledged social crises of our time. I believe that it’s a killer worse than warfare, lethal diseases, automobile fatalities, and mind-numbing cable TV.

I am not talking about loneliness as in not having a date for Saturday night. I am talking about loneliness for the soul, feeling lonely in a crowd, feeling that no one deeply cares about who and what you are.

I call this spiritual loneliness. It’s a hunger for meaning and for meaningful sharing. It’s a hunger for self-expression with someone who “gets you.”

I think of spiritual loneliness as a great killer because it is a pain that when untreated leads to behaviors that kill. I suspect that if we were to probe deeply into people who have ended up in a wide variety of anti-social or self-destructive behaviors, we’d find at the root of it a near-horrific sense of loneliness.

I believe that many chronic diseases and psychological disorders are at their root the result of chronic, often life-long spiritual loneliness. Many people are conditioned in a myriad of ways to believe that they really do not matter. They’re just a cog in the wheels of industry or an objectified spouse/parent (of either gender) or another unwilling player in a global game of dodge ball.

I could list off a bunch of examples of how we’re conditioned to feel shitty and alone, but so could you. Think about it.

Are you honestly happy? Does anybody truly care what you think and feel?

The absolute irony I see about spiritual loneliness is that it is so easily curable. It’s not as if anybody needs to pour millions and millions of dollars into research to find a cure after twenty years, seven months, six days and three hours of grueling work. All you need is love.

Most of the work would come from unlearning the inhibitions and conditioning society imposes on us to keep us isolated, fearful, and miserable.

There’s a great deal of economic incentive to keep us isolated, fearful, and miserable. When you feel deeply loved and appreciated, you lose a whole lot of interest in acquiring material things. Love fills a lot of empty places in your life. You don’t need as much when you’re so fully satisfied. If you don’t need as much, you don’t buy as much, and all those business whose lifeblood depends on your needing to buy stuff don’t prosper as well.

If your love life is super fulfilling, you probably won’t want to anesthetize your sensations with booze or dope or whatever. That has a direct impact on the peddlers of booze and dope. If you take this same philosophy across product lines you can see how crucial it is not to let love get out of hand.

So succinctly put, having a bunch of lonely and frustrated people wandering around the planet is great for the global economy. Healing loneliness would force a lot of career changes. And that’s okay with me.

Millions of people today are suffering. I personally know a few of them. I firmly believe that much of this suffering could be dramatically reduced if people let love flow more freely into their lives.

I can personally think of a few people who are suffering directly from a rather acute and elevated sense of loneliness. They spend a lot of time alone or doing “busy” things to occupy their minds so they won’t think about how lonely they truly feel. I hasten to point out that some of these people are involved in relationships. Some even have regular sex. Others don't, and hunger for it.

Loneliness often comes with a related problem, such as a medical condition, lack of financial freedom, lack of self-esteem, whatever. Loneliness becomes a symptom of that other problem.

In my own case, I am under-employed as a writer. I have very limited cash flow. That in turn limits my freedom of movement because gas costs money and events cost money—and you know the drill.

A man I know has the opposite problem. His career is going great guns. He has a nice house and a great new dream car. It’s just that his needs for cash have increased so dramatically that he works long, hard hours without any time left over for love.

A woman I know has a painful medical condition that has ruined her sex life. She’s in constant pain, and has concluded—to make matters worse—that no man will ever love her “as is.” She’s chosen to endure an unfulfilling relationship only because it offers her a modicum of security.

It seems to me as if it would be an easy fix to inject some positive, loving energy into nearly anyone’s life. For example, I could see myself visiting with people, listening to their stories, perhaps helping them locate the bright side now and then. If mutually desired, these visits could include copious amounts of holding and cuddling, too, which I have found to be an excellent form of energy gifting.

But in this great pursuit of keeping everyone lonely, society has thrown up some effective roadblocks. One of them is our culturally conditioned dread of intimacy.

We’re not supposed to tell our truth if it’s not our “best side.” We’re supposed to put on a good show.

We’re not supposed to hold, cuddle, or pet (even non-sexually pet) people we are not “committed” to in an erotic pair-bonding. We’re supposed to keep our hands (and by extension our energy) to ourselves.

If we’re involved in a committed romantic relationship with one person, we’re not supposed to become more intellectually and emotionally intimate with another person, especially if that person is our desired sexual preference gender. We’re supposed to shut down from becoming too intimate with others.

If someone makes us feel really good, which may include sexual arousal, and we’re single, we’re supposed to scramble and immediately launch Operation Make a Commitment. We’re not supposed to enjoy the moment, enjoy the energy, and do nothing about tying that person down.

To my way of thinking, a whole lot more healing could be done on this planet if we’d just use our noodles, get a little braver, and put our love where our pain is. Why do we have to sit around in our empty houses feeling unloved and untouched when we could so easily make connections?

Often we put loneliness as the symptom of the frontline problem, and we don’t solve loneliness until we solve the first problem, assuming we do. But guess what happens when you bypass the first problem and make a dent in your loneliness?

The first problem isn’t as severe anymore!

In my own world, which may or may not work for you, I put a spiritual spin on all of this. Taking to heart the often-expressed religious concept that God loves everyone equally, as does his son, it makes sense to me that to the best of my ability, I can do that, too. I can give my love, energy, affection, and attention away freely.

We really don’t have to be prisoners of our cultural conditioning. We don’t need to find everlasting love before we can love in the moment. We don’t need to suffer in silence when with a small investment in energy to reach out and touch someone, we can make or connect with good friends.

What do you think?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Ghosts and the Light

Since I have been attending meetings of the International Association for Near-Death Studies in Seattle, Portland, and Salem, Oregon, I have been focused primarily on the composite vision of the big picture that NDE accounts provide.

I like imagining what the tunnel must be like and how it feels to race into the light. In recent weeks, especially after reading Kenneth Ring’s Lessons from the Light, I have burned many creative calories pondering what the life review must be like.

I have also longed to see what spirits see. Did you know that when we are spirits, we see in 360 degrees? Our vision has increased at such a rate that it’s as if we have both microscopes and telescopes for eyes. Our hearing is supposed to amplify exponentially, too.

I look forward to knowing anything I want to know just by asking the question. All those mysteries that have dogged us humans in physical space are walking around in plain telepathic sight in the spirit world.

To me, the near-death experience opens a window to the big picture, the larger-than-this-life reality that is our destiny. It is a liberating vision of a reality much greater than the one proffered by most of our media messengers. Whenever I watch the news now, I have a much clearer vision of all the assumptions being made about life and death—assumptions that near-death experiencers insist are not true!

Long before near-death experiences had become a brand-name phenomenon, there was a time in my life when I looked to psychics for this kind of insight. I was initially intrigued by how psychics on the radio appeared to have unusual insight into people’s lives and great stories to tell about the big picture world of reincarnation and life beyond earth.

However, before too long I found that psychic impressions did not add up to a reliable world view. For example, of all the psychics who gave me readings, not one of them ever mentioned a similar past life. Logic would say that if I had ten readings from ten different psychics, there should be some agreement about past lives. One or two should duplicate or confirm a previous existence, especially the last one, but that never happened.

Meanwhile, predictions from psychics often did not come true. Quite quickly I began hearing that free will can change any prediction. That may well be true. However, that’s also carte blanche for a psychic to say anything s/he wants, and then use the free will argument as a prediction failure defense.

The biggest name psychic in my life so far has been Sylvia Browne. I knew her in the 80s before her best-seller days. She was only charging $300 for a reading then. By contrast, that was about my rent. (The last I heard she charged $700.) I managed to find myself in situations in public places where I could ask her questions; I never got great answers. The best one was when she promised that we would write best sellers together. I’ll write up that story someday.

While psychics did not amaze me with accuracy, near-death experiencers intrigued me with accounts of their out-of-body adventures. When linked up into a commonly shared vision, these puzzle pieces added up to an exciting travel guide to other dimensions—a preview of coming attractions.

In view of all this, I have never been especially intrigued by ghost stories. I never heard one that was inspiring. In the media, ghost stories are almost always cloaked in the clichéd trappings of spooky stuff like the Haunted House ride at Disneyland. Ghost stories are usually about how the big bad ghosts stress out the humans they haunt, with very little attention paid to the fate of the poor ghost.

Occasionally a movie like The Sixth Sense will come along and present a more compassionate view of the plight of earthbound dead people. In that film, we see some people with their fatal injuries still showing as they wander around in a fog of confusion about what happened to them.

I didn’t much consider real-life ghosts until last Sunday when I met a husband and wife pair of psychic investigators, Todd and Martina. I was part of a group of curious individuals who met at a private residence where ghost activity has been a (para)normal part of the owners’ lives. They live in a farmhouse that’s over 100 years old and has as part of its history warfare between white settlers and native Americans, or in this case, native Oregonians.

Before I met Todd and Martina, my jaded attitude was showing through. I could not understand why anybody would be fascinated with ghosts when there is such a richer collection of experiences to study among NDErs. After all, ghosts are earthbound people. Many are tortured souls. Many are people who, if living in this plane, you wouldn’t want to hang out with. I don’t especially like to go through sections of cities where the vibes feel creepy; why would I want to seek out the ghost version of people like that.

Well, I learned differently. Todd and Martina were fascinating people with great big hearts and delicious senses of humor. Todd has been an anthropologist for 18 years. He brings his scientific background to paranormal research. His wife Martina is a psychic sensitive with training in parapsychology. They introduced me to some of the techniques of using technical equipment to bridge the gap between what Martina perceives intuitively and what can be proven scientifically.

I am delighted that I met them and I hope in the future to be able to share more insights. I took back from that meeting that “ghost hunting” is one more way to gather evidence that you don’t need a flesh body to exist. Something exists, and it appears to respond just like we here do. One technique they use is to carry a tape recorder. They ask questions. While you can’t physically hear an answer, when you play back the tape, you sometimes can. (I have not asked why this is so—why a tape recorder or a video recorder can “hear” what we can’t hear and then convert it into something we can hear.) This is called EVP for electronic voice phenomenon.

I was also very impressed by the empathy and concern Todd and Martina showed for the entities they’re attempting to communicate with. I never got the feeling that the “ghost” was a commodity to be used for research. Rather, I got the feeling that they both cared about these fleshless people and hoped to assist them on their journey towards the light. I also got the same feeling from the people whose residence we visited. They care very deeply about the welfare of the invisible inhabitants of their house.

Thinking of it from the point of view of the fleshless entities, it’s still their house! And they’re still living, albeit in a different form. Imagine how you would feel if you died in your house—but to your perception didn’t really die—and then a bunch of strangers barged in and took over as if you didn't exist. Material reality doesn’t account for that situation; if you lose your body you lose everything.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lights Out on Stories of the Light

“So I was in this car crash and I left my body and I went into the light…”

Millions of people across the planet watching the show yawned and fidgeted. Another story about going into the light. Ho-hum.

That’s the impression I got about the state of near-death experience accounts after watching the briefest of interviews with Howard Storm and Anne Rice on NBC’s Today.

It drives me crazy.

It appears as if the media culture believes that there is no more appeal left to stories about going into the light. I can imagine the phone call from a literary agent, “You went into the light. So what? Big fucking deal!”

“Well, it means that there is no death. We move on.”

“Yeah, yeah. Books have been there, done that. There’s no market left.”

“But everyday people are focused, absolutely focused on mortality and morbidity. They’re glued to the news to watch stories of death and destruction. Don’t you think they would like to see some other view? “

“No, absolutely not. Nobody cares about the goddam light.”

In truth I did not stay glued to the television waiting for Howard Storm’s appearance. But I did check in with it enough to be aware of some of the other things featured on today’s broadcast.

Michael Jackson’s trial was a huge concern this morning. We really care about this; it’s a matter of utmost importance to all our lives.

There was lots of talk about colon cancer and all the people who die from it. Gee, all the people who die from it, all the people who die from it, all the people who die from it. I guess if you get it and you know you’re going to die from it, you may suddenly have an interest in what may happen on your deathbed.

Gene Wilder was on discussing his latest book about finding love in relationships and in art. Katie Couric told viewers that Gene had asked not to talk much about his late wife Gilda Radner, but there it was again—death.

In reading from the Today Show website I see that among today’s MSNBC TV Highlights is ”Surviving the Atlanta Killer. When you reach the actual web page there’s even a shift in metaphor to “Surviving the Human Tsunami.”

Yeah, like a little massacre in Georgia really rates up there with a natural disaster that took over 170,000 lives—and in much less time than 26 hours.

”In less than 26 hours there were four dead, including a judge, a court reporter, a deputy sheriff and a federal agent. A second deputy was shot and a third was captured and disarmed. A newspaper reporter and another local resident were pistol-whipped, multiple car-jackings took place and their owners were threatened with death. Tourists were mugged, an armed home invasion evolves into a hostage situation that is ultimately resolved by the suspected killer being arrested by a heavily armed SWAT team.

“No, it's not the plot for some television techno-terrorism drama, but the unbelievably horrific actions of a one-man crime spree that devastated innocent families, terrorized a major urban community, and resulted in the largest manhunt in Georgia State history— all the while capturing the attention of the nation for a day.”

Yeah, but no one is interested in reading about the light. It’s been done, right? People would rather be terrorized. They’d rather juice up on stories of “unbelievably horrific actions.”

It seems that Howard Storm’s book resonated with Today because the author suffered miserably before he found the light. Here’s what it said on the web site (I kept the spelling errors of Howard Storm and Anne Rice as they appeared):

“My Descent Into Death,” a book by Howard Strom with a foreword by novelist Ann Rice, is not your typical “toward the light” encounter. Instead, this compelling tale describes the excruciating darkness and physical pain of coming face-to-face with evil. Strom experienced terror before entering the realm of heaven and reviewing his life in a conversation with God. Sent back to his body with this new knowledge, Storm was definitely a changed man. Strom was invited on the “Today” show to discuss his experience.

We sure hate those typical toward-the-light encounters! They interfere with all the doom and gloom of the scary stories about human tsunami killers.

Al Roker was the interviewer on the Anne Rice-Howard Storm segment, which whizzed by like an express train. Roughly half of it was about how Anne Rice and Howard Storm met; none of it was how Howard Storm and Jesus (and other angels) met. It’s all a matter of priorities.

If you were to score today’s Today broadcast, you’d have to conclude that darkness and fright got a lot more air time than did the light.

And one of tomorrow’s hot topics is an interview with Amber Frey telling us if she thinks Scott Peterson should be legally murdered. I can pretty much guarantee that they won’t be talking about the light or Scott Peterson’s life review, but I won’t be watching to find out, either.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Dark World, Light World, Anne Rice World

I finally viewed Fahrenheit 9/11, followed the next day by Control Room, followed the next day by Shawshank Redemption. I am a big fan of DVD extras. I stuffed my brain not only with the movies, but with all the commentary and interviews.

From Fahrenheit 9/11, I learned all about the art of making propaganda, which is both to say how the Bush administration made propaganda and how Michael Moore made propaganda about the Bush administration propaganda. In any event, a lot of people are getting killed.

From Control Room, I learned that less of the world’s people are buying American journalism. Remember growing up learning about how great our free press is? This arresting documentary cautions us that perhaps the truest press comes from all the world over, not just the hand-picked few in the USA who puppet the PR version of the news.

From The Shawshank Redemption, the ten-year anniversary DVD, I learned that this riveting movie was a mediocre financial performer in its first-run stretch. While it was getting all sorts of raves, the movie was panned by five influential critics, smashing its box office. Nevertheless, it often tops popularity polls. I felt some comfort in this considering how hard it is to find a literary agent savvy enough with woo-woo fiction to even read my novel, let alone represent it. (I know you’re out there!)


On Saturday I attended Seattle IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies) and listened to a few more people talk about the experience of almost dying. A young teenager accompanied by his mother told of his NDE when he was a six-month-old baby. He told of being out of his body, racing toward the light at the end of a tunnel, feeling ageless, and meeting up with a light being with a male voice who told him he had to go back to the physical planet. The boy began telling his mother about this when he was three years-old and could finally talk.

Later that day, an intensive care nurse told of her own visit to the operating room, this time as a patient. While she was “dead” on the table, as in flatlined, she watched the operation from her unlikely seat on a light fixture. She eventually discovered that she could flit around the operating room just by thinking herself there—a very liberating sensation. Then she, too, found a tunnel and a loving being of light at the other end.

As you may sense, the DVDs that I absorbed were much different in tone from the talks I listened to. Wars and politics and life in a penitentiary are happening on one level of life based on one set of rules, the laws of physical nature as we know them and the laws of humankind. Popping out of the body and visiting with light beings in another dimension happen at another level, one science hasn’t proven but that comes up repeatedly in my life as I attend IANDS meetings.

Since I have not experienced my own NDE or OBE, I can only imagine what these experiences must be like. However, I am pretty good at imagining what people go through who are met with incredulity, humiliation, even rage for suggesting that they’d stepped out of their bodies for awhile. I can imagine what it would be like to know that death does not exist and have to dwell in a world where much of society didn’t get it. Both my first and second novels play in this sandbox.

Meanwhile, we also learned at the IANDS meeting that superstar author Anne Rice will be appearing with NDEr Howard Storm on the Today Show on Tuesday, March 15. Anne wrote the foreword to Howard’s book. While the hardback book just came out, it’s been around for a few years as a trade paperback. If Anne Rice climbs aboard the NDE choo-choo, it could be a shot in the arm for woo-woo fiction.

She writes in the foreword to this U.S edition, "This is a book you devour from cover to cover, and pass on to others. This is a book you will quote in your daily conversation. [Howard] Storm was meant to write it and we were meant to read it."

I wonder what would happen if she attended IANDS!