Tag Archives: contentment

Content

How did you pronounce the title of this blog post? Due to the linguistic heritage of the English language you could have thought CON·tent, as in substance, or con·TENT, to be described as residing in an essentially satisfied state.

Is it an accident the same word, with two different meanings, could have those intricately related? Our needs and wants lead us toward an imagined state of satisfaction. The search for true contentment drives all advertising, ideology, and psychology. Theological premises good, bad, and evil leverage the promise to shape and direct the human soul each to their own ends.

We want to be satisfied. But how?

One eats, and eventually is full if well fed. Problem solved. How does one salve a wounded spirit, or a guilty conscience, or a traumatic memory?

Pharmacy is willing to present its answers. Personally, I have been betrayed by too many people on meds for whom I cared and with whom I merely associated to trust a prescription with the solution to deeper issues. Drugs might calm the mind, but it seems they also mute the conscience. Sometimes, as news stories of another psychotic break too often feature, the results can be horrifying.

“How could someone do that?” people ask. “Meds,” I whisper to myself.

Dissatisfaction is the result of missing something in what we think, feel, or sense. In one way or another, one may call that CON·tent. Cultivating substance in our lives and work leads to earned satisfaction in the same way diligent effort produces the harvest of a garden. But the totality of our existence encompasses more than just the physical.

Neglected, our spirits desiccate like an untended plot of vegetables. If nothing is there, the shell of our empty core collapses in on itself. It shows in what we think, how we live, and in the results we try to impose on a world we don’t really understand. Passion is no substitute for wisdom, as one ridiculous display of futility after another proves throughout the secular world.

Recently, the Editress and I, inveterate rummagers of bargain movie bins that we are, discovered a film featuring an actress we have in the past enjoyed. Neither her name nor the title is important. Art is what it is, and I’m sure the people producing this DVD felt it said just what they wanted.

But oh, did that movie suck.

Exhibiting the current trend to exclude white males from the cast was an early-warning sign. The evident millennial angst permeating the rest of the presentation settled into a uninspiring scenario in which nothing resolved, no challenge was truly overcome, and no premise outside of existential hopelessness emerged. Hollywood today. Meh.

She wanted to donate the CD to a thrift shop. I shredded it instead so no one else would be subjected to viewing that particular copy of the thing.

Like I said, it sucked, and I am sometimes a harsh critic.

Faith is the substance of the spirit. It connects us to the essential motivation of our Creator in setting this universe in motion. Without it, we are adrift like objects in space waiting for the gravitation of some greater mass to pull us in to a destination unknown. Meanwhile, we spin in a gyroscope of dissatisfaction.

I don’t make movies. I write. Regardless that my novels would make excellent films, I doubt the spirit required exists in the Hollywood of today. The same malaise can be evident in writing also, of course. One sees it throughout a novel in which the spiritual composition of the characters is ignored. Try as the author might, lacking that essential CON·tent, the presentation falls flat. There should have been something more, but neither the character nor his author ever came to the realization. It is the vitality of language and imagination versus the flat taste of a previously carbonated beverage translated into the written word … or the dialogue in a bad movie.

Our lives are novels, written in days instead of words. As Benjamin Franklin perceived, we each have our Author and Finisher. We have a part to play in determining whether we are notes in its crescendo or elements to be weeded out of a plot hole that is going nowhere, to be crushed and discarded like a page never again seeing the light of day.

Be Real Before It Gets Real. It’s a hashtag I use on social media. Those who know me well enough have seen in it the acronym REAL: Realize your need, Explore for truth, Accept your Creator’s gift of reconciliation, and afterward Live what you believe.

Welling up inside you will be spiritual substance: CON·tent. It will make for a satisfying story. You have His promise.

Choose to love, -DA

*****

In production news, there is some! The Editress has finished her timeline and fact-checking review of Novel12/Boone6 Ghosts of the Republic, featuring, for reasons that will be evident, a heavy assist from Daniel Sean Ritter.

Moving on to the heavy lifting of production editing began this afternoon. Unlike previous outings, the predictable pace of She Who Must Be Obeyed is skewed by our present situation, and whether this results in an early or later completion and publishing depends on circumstances beyond our control. I hope to get the title out in the fourth quarter. As in all things … we’ll see, won’t we?

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A Single Step

I opened the lead title of Boone’s File, Absinthe and Chocolate, with a tribute to the strong women characters from my own story. The author’s own is inscribed first, of course. Before one writes, one must live, or nothing worthwhile translates to the written word. Eventually, an augmenting Muse arrives, mine bringing with her the magic playing out through the mind of a writer; it’s a spell passing through a keyboard and various means to eventually reside within each soul of his or her audience.

The Muse. I picture mine as sort of a Goth Tinker Bell—one with substance abuse issues—her legs clad in torn black fishnet and seldom far from her Turkish cigarettes and bottle of cheap whiskey. She shows up unannounced from another trip to Amsterdam, and around the flick of a Zippo lighter, announces, “Hey. Let’s write a [censored] story.”

Once she leaves again, thankfully I’m then able to turn our work over to her polar opposite.

I’ve been blessed to be the companion of the Editress for a month shy of thirty-seven years and her husband for a third of a century. She who edits my work and my life makes out of both what always should have been, and fully half of the hours of labor producing a Dale Amidei novel are hers.

I wish I could tell you more of the consummately professional career that was her choice from the earliest days I knew her, but she is specialized enough that to do so would necessarily also tell you who she is. Being your intentions might be less than loving, the possibility your attitude toward my faith and my politics is held as ideologically actionable, and considering that to enable the means of your inadvertent destruction would not constitute a charitable act, I continue to maintain my own privacy and hers. Suffice it to say there are no soft targets here, and you should consider yourself warned if thinking otherwise.

Those who challenge the Editress do not know her. She possesses an ability to suffer fools gladly my own circumstances never allowed to develop. The woman hates spiders with an arachnophobic passion, yet traps them to relocate outside. She looks after the Perimeter felines with the loving-kindness of a mother and the thoroughness of a vet tech, yet I know within her velvet is enough steel to parry and riposte on demand. With skills retained as a diligent conventionalist, she has never been observed to miss a human-sized target in more than three decades of handgun practice.

Seven years ago, I endeavored to cultivate whatever result might come out of a dedicated time to write. The decision followed through on previously sufficient confirmation of a talent I suspected—all through my life—was there. I undertook The Year in the Chair, from which emerged the completion of Jon’s Trilogy, two titles in Sean’s File, and Boone’s first three. Casting about for a reentry point into the Real World (such as it is), I instead found the position that, to date, has been the pinnacle of a thirty-year career path for the woman I love.

We undertook the challenge together. In it, she accomplished her goals better than anyone else could have, and I wrote the remainder of what will be a catalog of fifteen full-length novels … more than Vince Flynn was graced to have completed or Tom Clancy managed as solo efforts. I wrote half again as many as the great Ernest Hemingway, who started me on my own journey as a young man of many years ago. All this, we feel, stands as work intended for us, she and I respectively. It was undertaken at once individually and together.

Our tasks brought us home, and eventually convinced us that now is the time to leave again. For various reasons unseemly displays of bitterness forbid explaining, we won’t be back here. In the interim, though, we have grown rather than diminished.

When she is unhappy, the situation needs to be addressed as my third order of loyalty. We’ve looked at what we have accomplished here, seen that it was good, and recognize it as standing finished. Such allows us the settled decision to leave this place.

Faith, you see, does not walk by sight. Two patron spirits continually contend for our own; one brays from darkness that the search for meaning in meaninglessness is futile, while the other whispers out of light the reminder our perspective is not yet broad enough to fully discern Divine purpose. Everyone you know chooses affiliation with one or the other.

Hope is vital. Life produces it, nourishes its fruit, and thereby uses all power to extend itself through the experience of those who hold it dear. With all wholesome things despised by the spirit of the enemy, hope is a high-value target in the war for souls relentlessly besieged.

Both sides in the battle want our hope, as it is the approach to the keep of our souls. The enemy seeks to destroy while angels whisper their advice to defend, and we ourselves are both the object of contention and the battleground. After more than half a century, I yet find the contest one hell of a thing to watch.

It’s heartening to realize she and I are not yet so old, so settled, so complacent, resigned, or beaten down that the prospect of a new beginning intimidates us into the passive acceptance of unhappiness. We pursue the goal still, out of a sense of duty to the gift of living, and with the intent of making Thomas Jefferson proud of the people to whom he dedicated his famous Declaration.

The author of Ecclesiastes noted the value of contentment, placing it higher than two hands full striving against the wind. Later in that same fourth chapter is the reminder of two being better than one, for one may lift the other up. And again, there follows the verse gracing our wedding long ago: that a cord of three strands is not easily torn apart.

So we’ll head south, to a place people call COMO. There, she promises work on Boone and Ritter’s joint adventure, Ghosts of the Republic, will resume once we establish a new Perimeter. For the first time, the property will be unlet, unmortgaged, and completely ours, as enabled by a third of a century in the mode of living she and I prefer:  well below the means of diligent effort and in mutual support.

More than once during all this time, we suffered the derision of more profligate souls. Those spent freely as money flowed out and in at the same approximate rate. They never realized we were not hoarding, merely delaying gratification. We were saving toward a goal set for us in the realm of the Spirit until, finally, we could afford what we wanted.

We will be using a cultivated reserve to buy something more precious than possessions, investments, or even a place to live. We will, in a week and with God willing, buy our freedom to set out on a new path, just as He did with us when we were first inspired to believe. Whatever follows after, hope says, finally He has taught us to embrace with joy.

Choose to love. Show me. -DA