A New Plan

Architecture plans“And it’s a human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible.” ~ Alan Rickman

“Fairy tales are more than true not because they tell us that dragons exist but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ~ Neil Gaiman

I’ve been thinking for a long time about making some changes to this blog. The subtitle for what I’ve been writing is “The Arts, Spirituality, Life.” I chose those things to focus upon because they gave me a great deal of leeway. I could write about anything that came into my head and whatever I wrote would fit into one of those categories. But I’ve become restless of late. I needed a better focus for what I was writing. Over the next few weeks I’ll be changing the focus and look of this site. I hope you’ll stay with me on this new adventure.

After a lot of thought, I realized that I’ve been in love with stories my entire life. Our family would watch movies and then discuss them. Eventually it was just my dad and me discussing something we’d watched together. Those discussions could go on for days afterward. They were a great way to understand my dad’s philosophy of life, and to connect with him on a deep level.

I didn’t realize this at the time, but I gravitated toward degrees that focus on story telling because those discussions with my dad helped me understand human behavior and interactions better. I loved that I could have experiences, make mistakes, and learn things all from the comfort of my couch. Eventually I also fell in love with books for the same reason.

So, from now on I’m going to share things I learn about being a human from the books I read, the movies, TV shows, and plays I see. Stories will be my way to examine the big questions that baffle me, or insights, or new perspectives I gain from consuming them.

Having written that, I’d like to write about an Amazon series that I’ve written about before. It’s The Man in The High Castle. My sister and I were discussing it because she and her husband have begun watching the first season. Our discussion brought back so many memories and insights I gained from watching.

The series is based on the book of the same name by Philip K. Dick. It’s a dystopian story which takes place in the 1960s in an alternate reality in which the Nazis and Japanese won WW II and divided up most of the world between them. The former United States is ruled by the Japanese in the West and the Nazis in the East with a neutral zone in the Rocky Mountains. A key point of the plot is the existence of news reel type films showing events in the reality we know where the Allies won the war. The Nazis and to a lesser degree, the Japanese want to find “the man in the high castle” and end the distribution of these films. The reason is obvious, they challenge their power. And it’s this idea of the different kinds of power that my sister and I were discussing.

In the book Seat of the Soul, by Gary Zukav, which we have both read, Zukav outlines two kinds of power. External power is based on our perceptions of the five senses. The idea is that, there is not enough to go around, so I need gather as much power as I can to protect myself and my loved ones. The Nazis and most of the Japanese characters are driven by external power. They need to control external circumstances to make themselves safe.

The other kind of power that Gary Zukav says we’re moving toward is authentic power, that is based on the perceptions and values of the spirit. In other words, what is good for all of humanity is good for me too. This power comes from within each of us not as power over anyone, but power to cultivate creativity, compassion, and trust. Though the various resistance groups struggle with trust and how to accomplish their goal of overcoming the superpowers, their main focus is to make sure everyone has the necessities and opportunities they need to create good lives.

The book ends rather abruptly when the main character, Juliana Crain, finds the man who has been distributing the videos. But meeting him doesn’t answer the question of why he’s doing this. It doesn’t seem he has any purpose except to cause chaos. The series, on the other hand, uses the plot device of the videos as a way for various resistance movements to gain momentum in their fight against tyranny. The man is producing and distributing these films attempting to foster an evolution to authentic power. He is spreading hope that love and brotherhood is more powerful than the fear the Nazis and Japanese dish out.

An interesting part of the story for me are the traveling characters who can travel between dimensions or timelines. One of these is the Japanese Trade Minister. He and Juliana have an interesting relationship, sometimes bridging the two timelines. All the characters who travel to the timeline we know, either gain strength from their visits, or are confronted by the bad decisions they made. And those kinds of character studies are always interesting to me because some characters make expedient decisions instead of thinking of the consequences they will face further down the road. When their lives end up badly, it’s like a warning sign to the audience, “Don’t make these mistakes.”

It seems to me that stories can also help us make sense of what we experience in the outer world at the time of their creation. The Man in the High Castle is a piece of art that shows us a version of what we are experiencing right now. There are leaders who want to control their citizens by denying their basic needs. They control by using fear to keep the population down. On the other hand, there are leaders who seem to feel the trials of their fellow human beings and want to do something to relieve their suffering.

Stories give us a chance to explore the consequences of the choices the various characters make without experiencing them personally. Sometimes mental distance can be a good thing.

I hope you will stay with me on this ride. Stories permeate our lives and as the quotes above advocate, we need them. We need them to give us courage, or to weigh possibilities, or to help us get new perspectives, or even to connect emotionally with people (characters) we might never encounter in our real lives. Stories help us develop empathy. And in my estimation, we can use a lot more of that.

So, welcome to my new followers. Thanks so much for reading. Please leave a comment or a like, and if you feel so inclined, share this site with your family and friends. I’m a story nerd and would love to discuss the stories you love too.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2020

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Except that Jenna’s life is shattered and she must put her life back together. When she finds old journals as she’s clearing out her mother’s house, she joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan. She is able to come back to her own life at intervals and apply what she’s learned to heal and forgive.

The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords and for Kindle at Amazon, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news when the audiobook version is published.

Let the Characters Make the Mistakes

Marco Polo Sings A Solo

“People of the future may suffer not from an absence of choice but from a paralyzing surfeit of it. They may turn out to be victims of that peculiarly super-industrial dilemma: overchoice.” ~ Alvin Toffler author of Future Shock

“A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension.” ~ Oliver Wendell Homes

Do you yell at the characters on the TV, or in your books? I do all the time. I want my favorite character to be protected and to make the best moral choices even in the most dire of circumstances. And if they don’t I want to see why they followed a path that I naïvely think I would not choose.

Recently my husband and I binge watched three shows on TV that have good characters faced with moral dilemmas that I hope I never have to deal with. These shows were the last season of The Man in the High Castle, the last season of Poldark, and season two of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Each one, in it’s own way, is suspenseful has plenty of twists and turns, and points when the characters have to make moral decisions. That gives me opportunities to think about how I’d react to the given circumstances in which they find themselves. As you can imagine, I do a lot of cringing and giving them advice.

The Man in the High Castle is the show I want to write about because it’s the one I have been thinking about the most. It’s chock full of moral dilemmas. And as I wrote above, I find myself wondering what I’d do in those circumstances.

The story is based on the dystopian novel of the same name by Phillip K. Dick, a famous pioneer of the the sci-fi genre. It takes place in the mid-60s. The Axis Powers won WW II. Germany has control of the eastern part of what was the United States, as well of all of Europe, and Japan has control of the western part as well as most of Asia. There is a neutral zone in the Rockies where Jews, people of color, and those who want to resist these powers attempt to escape to so they can eek out a living. This is also the headquarters of the resistance movement which grows stronger as the series moves through the four seasons.

The key plot point that moves the story forward is the existence of films distributed by the mysterious “Man in the High Castle.” No one knows who he is or how he got these films that show the history familiar to us where the Allies won the war. As more and more people see the news reels they begin to hope that the oppressive governments can be defeated.

One of the things I love about the series is that the pivotal character is a woman by the name of Juliana Crain. From the moment she sees the first film that happens to feature people she knows in her world, in the other world, she’s on a mission to not only find the man in the high castle, but to bring about the destruction of the Nazi and Japanese empires. Her nemesis is John Smith, an American, who rises to be the leader of the American Reich.

The series forces the watcher to ask themselves how could any Americans throw in the with Nazis, especially military men who were fighting for freedom? They are the more dominant empire on the continent, though we do see how American’s are treated as second class citizens by the Japanese. It’s bad enough for whites, but Jews and people of color are in extreme danger.

One of the brilliant choices the film makers made was to wait to show the moment when John Smith and his wife decide to save themselves and their family by joining the Nazi party. Their decision is portrayed in one of the last episodes of the final season. It’s titled “Mauvaise Foi,” which is a French term originating from existentialist philosophy. It’s the concept that human beings adopt false values and act inauthentically (in bad faith) under pressure from social forces. And as we know, the Nazis were experts at setting up situations where people were forced to make bad faith decisions, or be destroyed.

In the show, after the surrender of the Allied Forces, the Nazis have starved the American people. They then “benevolently” air drop, or ship food and other necessities to all the major cities assuring the populace that they will be taken care of IF they join with the Nazis to ensure a prosperous new future.

I couldn’t help wondering what I would do if I were in that situation. When this happens in the story, we see John and his wife Helen trying to care for their infant son, who’s health is rapidly declining because of lack of food. Would I be able to let my child die for my principles? I might have made the same decision even though in my heart I knew it was wrong.

One thing that great stories do is allow us to see the consequences of character’s choices. For Juliana, her choice to learn all she can from the films, to practice the Japanese form of meditation, and to resist the oppressors, turn out to be transformative for her personally, and for the society. In the case of John and Helen, their decision to become Nazis turns out, dare I say, satisfyingly tragic.

In each of the TV shows I mentioned above, the hero characters have strong ideas about what is right and what is wrong. They sometimes make mistakes, but in the end they choose the moral high ground and win because of it. This does two things for me: One, make me pay attention to my own choices. Am I kind, do I show I care for the planet, do I stand up for what I believe? And two, gives me hope that if more and more of us on this planet choose the moral high ground, we will eventually create a better world. Am I delusional to hope for that do you think?

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. If you like these posts, please share them with your friends.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2020

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Except that Jenna’s life is shattered and she must find a way to put it back together. When she finds old journals, she joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, rather than traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.

The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords and for Kindle at Amazon, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news when the audiobook version is published. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.