NOT FINDING ANSWERS, BUT STILL ASKING QUESTIONS

I have not found a religion to follow and it isn’t because I haven’t tried. I have flirted with many, gave a solid try to at least three (formal) religions, though arguably Buddhism is the most informal of formal religions.

Christianity is great — if you don’t look at it too carefully. At one point, I figured it must work because so many people follow it. But then I tried to figure out what Christian actually meant and I got lost between sects and more or less gave up. A row of people all attending the same church can’t agree on what it is, so how am I supposed to figure it out? Also, Christianity requires you to accept Christ. If you can’t do that, you are not a Christian.

If I had to pick a single God, I’d pick Ganeesh. He’s the writer’s God and I appreciate that. But to get Ganeesh, you have to buy at least a piece of Hinduism … a religion far too complicated for me.

I might as well stick with Judaism. Judaism is the original legal system and everything in it is weirdly logical. Even the illogical has its own logic. I like all the laws and the rulings. I love the courts and how you can take your case to an actual jury. I am glad “repentance” doesn’t fix everything. I’ve always considered that a cheat. Be a really horrible human, but repent and hey, you’re good? Bugger that.

Judaism has laws you need to follow. You can be as repentant as you want and apologize your heart out, but it won’t get you past the guard at the gate. Judaism is about work.

Note that nothing in Judaism indicates if there is a Heaven or a Hell. Whatever good works you do may get you into heaven. But quite possibly, they won’t. The stuff you do is for your own sake, good or bad. There’s no guarantee of a reward to come. You get to choose the kind of person you want to be. There’s something deeply existential about this.

Judaism is about work. If you really get into it, it is work that never ends. From your first breath in the morning to closing your eyes at night, there’s always something you need to do. I admire it greatly, but I don’t live that way. If I were to pick a religion, that’s the one I’d pick, but I’m not picking.

I’m sure I will never take the leap to faith. It isn’t because I don’t believe there is faith-worthy shit happening. I’m sure there is. I’ve had too many experiences I can’t otherwise explain. The problem is I’m not sure what I’m supposed to believe. Is there a god? Many gods? No gods but a giant thought? Is it magic? Who is in charge? What does prayer have to do with any of this? Why do churches exist? What’s with the whole dogma thing? Do gods exist because we worship or do we worship because there is a god or gods?

I’m never going to have answers, so I’m never going to walk a defined path. It isn’t because I haven’t spent most of my life searching for answers. It turns out that you can search from childhood to old age. And still not get the answers.

GOD, THE WORLD, THE DEVIL, AND LATE NIGHT TV

Colbert had Ricky Gervais on this evening. He’s not a particular favorite of ours, but we like him well enough. Tonight, he and Colbert got into a mini debate on the existence of God. Gervais, an avowed atheist versus Colbert, the avowed Catholic. No, it wasn’t angry or mean. It was interesting, lively, and thought-provoking.

Colbert asked “Why is there anything rather than nothing?”

Gervais said that was a meaningless question.

They went back and forth for a while, but in the end, the answer is, was, and always will be — we are all agnostics on some level because, unless we think God speaks directly to us — or we are in touch with spirits from “the other side.” We believe what we believe because that’s what we believe. We don’t know anything.

Buddha, Tibet, probably 19th century
Buddha, Tibet, probably 19th century

Garry said he enjoyed it. For once, something interesting that wasn’t politics and I had to agree. But I’m an armchair philosophy and religion nerd. I can talk about this stuff for hours. I never get bored.

I’m a skeptic, closer to an atheist than anything else. But, as I have no direct knowledge, all I can say is “I doubt it, but I suppose it’s possible.”

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Garry would more likely say: “I believe in something, but I’m not sure exactly what.” The same, but different.Nonetheless, he has an inherent buoyancy and optimism which lets him believe things will work out even when it looks hopeless. I envy that.

Yet, I am living proof that miracles happen. If anyone should be dead, it’s me. I can’t close that door without acknowledging that I’ve had some amazing close encounters of the providential kind. I think it’s possible that whatever God is, he has spoken to me at least twice and saved me when I was dying. Let’s not debate this. It’s complicated. Very.

So my husband, who has seen some of the most horrific stuff of which the human race is capable is an optimist and I, who have been saved more than once, am always expecting catastrophe. Go figure, right?

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There’s no logic to this kind of thing. We believe what we believe because that’s what we believe. We can all justify our beliefs, but in the end, belief is faith-based. No matter what you call it. A minister I liked asked me what more I needed … a picture ID with God’s face on it? Because if the experiences I’ve had don’t prove to me that something, someone is watching over me … then what will?

I can’t argue the point. I don’t know who  — or what — is the watcher. God? Satan? Ganeesh? The Lady of the Lake? Spirit of my ancestors? Buddha? A nameless Power? I have no clue and am not willing to speculate. I do not know the answer. I’m not even sure I’m asking the right questions.

The only thing of which I am certain is I don’t have an answer and neither do you. If I ever find an answer, I promise to let you know.

STYXX by Sherrilyn Kenyon – Total Immersion Escapism

Styxx Amazon

Series: Dark-Hunter (Book 23)
Hardcover: 848 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition – September 3, 2013
Language: English

Epic in scope and length, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s latest offering has everything. I mean that in the most literal way. Absolutely everything. Eleven thousand years of … well … What would you like? If it’s fantasy, sexual, violent, weird … it’s here. My reality has been a real drag lately, so despite the fact that I had stopped reading Ms. Kenyon’s books a while back, I got this. Actually, to be fair, I forgot that I had pre-ordered it months ago, so when it showed up on my Kindle, I said “Oh, lookie here. Ooh, and it’s a long one. Yummy.”

Thing is, I’d stopped buying her books. They had become so much the same, I figured rather than spend money on a new one, I could reread an earlier one. Save a few dollars. Get the same kicks.

Styxx isn’t one of her cookie cutter, interchangeable books. Like Acheron, this is a big book in every way. I actually listened to it on Audible rather than reading it because my eyes don’t do well on very long books, and now that Audible.com is owned by Amazon, you get a big discount on many audiobooks you already own on Kindle. Then you can follow the bouncing ball in your Kindle while a narrator reads to you. As an audiobook, it’s 31 hours of listening. The narrator is overall good, but I am not sure why some Atlantean Goddesses and Greek gods and demigods have Cockney accents. Just wondering, is all.

Styxx audibleStyxx lets you spend  serious time in those golden olden days of yore. It’s enough to make you glad you don’t really live then and there.

So, what will you find in Styxx?

Sex, for one. A hefty dollop, though oddly, not quite as proportionately much as many of her lesser books. It’s there, but it’s not the most prominent feature of the book. Still, you won’t feel deprived. There’s plenty … but it’s not the only thing.

The most prominent feature of the book is torture and violent rape. Male-on-male rape. Agonizing torture, sex slavery, more torture, whippings, serious chains and bondage, straight up child abuse and cruelty, child rape (I sincerely hope that isn’t your thing). It’s all there, a cornucopia of perversion. Keeps you turning pages. In CinemaScope and surround sound. Name your hottest S & M fantasy. This book has got it. Lots of it, whatever it may be.

Oh, I almost forgot about the drugs. Them too.

Chains. Whips. Brands. Bondage. Rape. Torture. Regular sex too, just for contrast. And love. Karma in action. Reincarnation. Immortality. If you have read any other books in the series — Acheron in particular — you already know the plot. Horrible things happen to the hero. Cruelty, injustice, misery, torture. Not to worry. Love conquers all. Heals all. A fair amount of melodrama transpires along the way. Keep a hankie nearby to dry your tears.

This book also features the ever-popular war. There are some excellent, well-written battle scenes. Some of the best writing in the book is devoted to military maneuvers. She also provides (as usual) a substantial amount of pseudo-history, as well as Sherrilyn Kenyon’s special brand of “she made it up herself, really she did” mythology. She does it so well you think it must be based on something other than her imagination, but it has no basis in fact. Her ability to create things that feel very real is one of her strongest abilities as an author.

She give this book something she has never really given in any of the many books in the series I’ve read. True, there were hints, but this time, she lets it hang out.

Sherrilyn Kenyon is witty and clever. Her humor tends to the dark end of funny, but it’s there. Much of the wit falls into the category “Easter eggs,” hidden jokes for those in the know. She makes literary and movie references that, if you notice them, make you stop and say … “Hey, wait minute … that’s from …”

It was when Styxx, our hero, looks at the heavens and says “The old man was right” that I could no longer ignore it. This a very famous — and favorite — line from “The Magnificent Seven.” My husband uses it as his email signature.

I couldn’t let it pass, so I stopped reading and went to tell my husband, a man who can recite the entire script of “The Magnificent Seven” from memory. He and I discussed if it could be accidental and he said, “Not a chance” because that’s as famous a movie line as any, up there with “We don’t need no stupid bodges …” (NOT in the book). However, after that, I started consciously listening for hidden wit. I found plenty.

Underlying everything, Sherrilyn Kenyon has a wicked sense of humor. I love that in an author. I will forgive anything for cleverness, snappy dialogue and something to make me laugh. She made me laugh. More than once. It told me that she was not taking herself overly seriously, that she knew who her readers are. I was profoundly grateful.

You can miss the wit entirely if you aren’t acquainted with the source of her little surprises. If you don’t recognize where they come from, you won’t get them. The book goes on fine without them but they are a nice bonus for those of us who do catch them as the fly by.

Favorite original quote from Styxx: “A quiet man is a thinking man. A quiet woman is an angry one.”

I’m going to have to find somewhere to use that. Great line.

Plot? Oh,  yes, the plot. If you read Acheron, it’s the same plot, but from the other side of the mirror. This is, as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.” Styxx is Acheron’s twin brother, the one who was supposed to have it easy, a spoiled princeling while Acheron struggled to survive. Not so, not so at all. Styxx’s tortures exceed even Acheron’s and last longer. Acheron is not the hero of the story. For followers of the Dark Hunter series, it may come as a painful shock to discover Acheron isn’t always a good guy. His nasty, mean-spirited, closed-minded side gets a good airing in Styxx.

I started by saying I was really ready to escape from my reality when this book showed up. I might not have bought it if I hadn’t pre-ordered it … but it was fortuitous that it did. I needed a dose of “out of this world.” You need to absolutely suspect your credulity to get into the book. Logic? Oh please. We don’t need no stupid logic. Just let the book sweep you away, accept it for what it is and enjoy it. If you don’t like explicit sex or violence, skip it. It’s not for everyone. If you are homophobic, skip it. If you are a Conservative Christian, skip it. I suspect the audience for this is mainly women, but I’m sure there are men who would like it too.

A lot of the story doesn’t really make much sense if you examine it closely. So my advice? Don’t examine it closely. Also, it is very clear where the story is going next and that should be most interesting. For the record, this is not the book where the danger of Acheron and his mom getting together to end the world as we know it is concluded. Not yet. More to come. Stay tuned!

The hottest, most powerful Dark Hunter — Acheron

Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Cover of "Acheron (Dark-Hunter, Book 12)&...

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s books are usually predictable, easy to read, and sexy. The plots are essentially identical from book to book, pure entertainment and as much (more?) soft porn as fantasy.

This is different. Longer and more complicated, it’s also more ambitious than any other book in the series … and there are a lot of books in the series.

Digression

Although Sherrilyn Kenyon uses various pantheons — Greek, Atlantean, Roman, and so on — as supposed sources for characters, really she just makes them up as she goes along. There was no god or demigod called Acheron. There was a Titan (maybe, in some versions), but mostly, Acheron was a river, one of several that ran together in the underworld.

Acheron as well as his mother Apollymi, father Archon and brother Styxx are supposedly part of the Atlantean pantheon. There is no Atlantean pantheon. If there ever was an Atlantis, it perished, disappeared with all of its knowledge and history. This leaves Ms. Kenyon a lot of room to improvise, mixing standard mythical characters with her own creations. There’s nothing wrong with this, especially since she never claims her characters are based on anything but her own imagination. Just don’t get bent out of shape if you look them up and can’t find them. They aren’t there. Google as much as you like: she made them up.

End digression. We now return you to this book review, already in progress …

Acheron has some depth to his character. He certainly carries a great deal of history and has more than his share of personal demons.

Our hero has been around about 11,000 years. So far. He is immortal, so he’s got some good years left to him. He had a horrendous childhood, including a level of abuse — physical, emotional and sexual — that is almost unimaginable. However, Ms. Kenyon rises to the occasion and chronicles every tormented moment with relish, missing not a single moment of cruelty, torture, kinkiness or pedophilia.

Acheron hasn’t gotten past the nightmare of his childhood. I sympathize. I really do. Nonetheless, Acheron is part of the modern world. He has been actively involved in the world pretty much since the beginning of time. These days he uses a computer. Watches television. Fights evil. Since he has had forever and will have forever, I believe it is more than time for him to work through his childhood issues and move on. Have a chat with Dr. Phil, accept he was a victim and not responsible for what was done to him. After 11,000 years … well … most of us work this out in a single human lifetime. With eternity to deal with it, I would think Acheron has had sufficient time and experience to get past it. Surely he has read a few books about child abuse? Watched Law & Order: SVU? Even allowing for residual feelings of worthlessness etc., that’s a lot of time to be stuck in childhood, no matter how horrific. Let it go, Ash.

If you can get past the illogic of a man who is highly intelligent and savvy, but can’t — in 11,000 years — find a path to resolving his terrible childhood, you’ll enjoy the rest of the read. Acheron may not be good at dealing with his own emotional demons, but he is very good at fighting real, in-the-flesh demons.

Acheron also has a mother problem. Here, I’m with Acheron. No amount of therapy is going to help him deal with this mother. He has the mother of mothers, the uber-mother. I probably ought to mention should Acheron get really upset, the world will probably end. I don’t mean Acheron’s world. I mean the world. Our world. All the worlds. Double that for mom. If Ash and Mom should get together, even for a little mother and son chat? Apocalypse now.

The book is good. It moves along at a nice, snappy pace. It’s never dull. Includes a lot of sex and if there’s one thing Sherrilyn Kenyon writes well … sex is it. So, assuming you like that sort of thing and can suspend your disbelief for a bit … and don’t over-think the story … you’re in for some excellent reading entertainment. If you’re into that sort of thing. Hot immortal guys wearing lots of leather. Who have super powers in bed as well as out. Graphically so.

Read this for fun and a ripping good tale with a great assortment of demons, demigods, gods, vampires … whatever you can think of, this book has got them.

Acheron is a very attractive character. He is all insanely heroic, a hero of heroes. All the heroes of all the fiction you’ve ever read in one incredibly handsome, ripped and leather-wrapped body.

This is the best book of the series to date, maybe the best of her books, though I’m reading Styxx now and it may be as good or better. Tune in. I’ll review Styxx when I finish it.

Acheron is long. Dive in and stay a while. He is the only character who appears in all of the Dark Hunter books, though he isn’t the main character in any of the others.  Unlike most of the other Dark Hunters, you will remember him.

Write About Dogs

My favorite cartoon – by George Booth — was originally published in The New Yorker. It shows a man sitting in front of a typewriter. Dogs are everywhere A woman, presumably his wife, watches from the doorway. The caption reads “Write about dogs.”

My home is full of dogs. Anyone who comes to visit must compete with the dogs for the comfortable chairs and the best spots on the sofa. (Come to think of it, we have to fight them for the best seats too.) That’s the way it is. The dogs are family.

If we have guests who are old, frail or allergic, we do our best to accommodate their needs. We put the most rambunctious, smelly, and hairy dogs out of the way if we can, but that depends on the weather. Basically, if you don’t like dogs, you’ve come to the wrong house. People who don’t like dogs are not frequent visitors.

That’s fine with me. I prefer the company of most dogs to most people. There are lots of reasons to prefer dogs. But the two big ones are love and honesty.

Dogs love you completely, totally, and without reservation. They don’t care about your social status or education, whether you are young or old, ugly or beautiful, rich or poor. They love you completely.

Your dog will never betray or abandon you.

Dogs are terrible liars. Not that they don’t try. Every dog will do his or her best to convince each human to give them treats. Your dog will tell you she needs a biscuit now or will collapse from hunger. This is not particularly convincing when the canine in question is a beefy pooch who has obviously never missed a meal. Eternally optimistic, all dogs figure it’s worth a shot. It’s a dog thing. You never know when a biscuit might fall your way.

When the performance our furry kids put on in hopes of getting a tasteless dry biscuit is especially hilarious, we relax the rules and give them a little something. After all, they don’t have hands and can’t grab one for themselves. Now and again, they need to get lucky because they’re cute and we love them.

Dogs lie, but their lies are simple and transparent. There’s no malice in them. They just want a biscuit. If they don’t get one, they love you anyway.

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When it comes to love, dogs are the best. They “get” love and think you are wonderful. They think you are wonderful every day of their lives. When they are dying, the last thing they will do is look at you with love in their eyes, wag their tail one final time and try to give you a kiss.

I have spent my life lurching between my quest for God and an equally ardent quest for the best dog food at the most reasonable price. When times have been hard and we’ve had to choose between food for us and food for our furry children, the fur kids always win.

Our dogs do not suffer from angst. They don’t worry unless supper runs late or biscuits are forgotten in the bustle of a day’s activities. If such a catastrophe should occur, they know exactly where to present their grievances and apply for redress.

Dogs live close to their deities. They hang out with their gods on the sofa. They get biscuits from them in the morning and evening. If life is circumscribed and a bit confined, it is nonetheless good.

Sometimes one of their gods gets angry and yells at them. That might make them unhappy for a few minutes, but the gods of their world don’t stay angry. Our dogs have kindly and loving gods who are inclined to scratch them behind the ears and talk to them in soft voices.

TinkerizedRemotes

We are gods to our dogs and as such, we set laws for them to live by. Don’t poop or pee in the house.

Do not chew things not given to you for chewing, especially not anything containing batteries. Don’t jump on old people or babies. Don’t growl at delivery people. Don’t stay up late barking. Abide by the law and all will be well.

When rules are clear and understood by all, life runs smoothly.

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The human side of the contract is more complicated. It’s harder being god than dog.

We pledge to care for them all the days of their lives. We keep them healthy. We love and nurture them. We feed them properly, make sure they get exercise – though they don’t get enough of it and neither do we. We keep them warm and dry in winter, cool and dry in summer.

If we force them to go outside to do their business, it is because they are, after all, dogs.

Every evening, for at least a little while, their gods climb down from heaven to play on the floor.

Our dogs don’t fret about the future. They live in a joyful present. When their time comes, we will make sure they pass gently out of this world. We promise to keep them as free from suffering as is within our power.

That is our solemn contract. We live up to that pledge because we really are gods to our fur children and must never let them down. Pets teach you a lot about the divine contract.

Love, Peace and War

The question was: “How come religions that say they are all about peace and love seem to be leading the march to war … and are responsible for so much death and destruction?”

Gods and dolls in the bedroom
Gods and dolls in the bedroom

And so I said:

Proclaiming you are fighting for love and peace is like screwing for virginity.

Have you ever noticed that every nation at war has God on their side? Has anyone ever heard God weigh in on the subject? Or considered that God might favor the other side? Or no side?

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No one goes to war for peace and love, no matter what they say. Wars are begun and fought for money, land and power. Not necessarily in that order.

War is fueled by greed and hate. The rest is rhetoric intended to make us march to the beat of war drums, to stir whatever embers of hate live within us into a fire hot enough to burn through our prohibitions against killing. If a soldiers’ heart is full of love, how could he be sent to kill?

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There are times when fighting is all that remains … but how often is that really true? How often is it more rhetoric intended to make aggression sound like self-defense, a thin excuse for a land grab?

War has always been with us and probably always will be. We seem ever able to find reasons to kill and few reasons to seek mutual respect and peace. If everyone genuinely wanted peace, we would have peace.

I don’t believe my God wants war, but I guess it depends on who you worship.