Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “pagan”

The Three R’s – Adopt An Author

‘Tis the season of goodwill and I’m thinking we should share the love. 

In Judaism, the teacher Maimonides offered eight levels of giving – the highest being to help a person find a sustainable way to lift themselves out of poverty. I have written numerous times about micro-lending, which I think is an amazing solution, but I want to focus on the world of writers. There are many new authors out there and they need a lift up to be noticed.

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I want to invite you to adopt the three R’s and adopt an author for a few months. Disclaimer – you are about to discover I am dyslexic!

R – Read the work of the author. There is no bigger compliment for someone who has spent years writing a novel than to have others read it. Believe me – when I receive a tweet or email from someone I don’t know and they tell me they are reading my books, I get so excited. 

R – Rite about the person. No put away that athame (Pagan ritual dagger) away, but make your computer your sacred space. (W)rite to friends recommending the author, blog about her/him, or comment on other people’s blogs, take to the twitterverse – it works!

R – Review. Despite the controversy surrounding paid reviews, it is still one of the most powerful tools that helps a person perusing amazon, smashwords, B&N, goodreads, etc.

 

Here are a few other ways to help a struggling author (I couldn’t find an R to begin the sentence!): 

1.     Buy their book, if not for yourself, then as a gift for a friend’s birthday, or instead of a bottle of wine next time you’re invited for dinner. Maybe as a Xmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa present. Did you know that you can buy an e-book as a gift and send it to your friend’s e-Reader?

2.     Know someone who is in a book club? Suggest that they nominate your friend’s book for the group to read.

3.     Donate a copy of their book in a fundraising raffle or silent auction as a prize. It is great exposure.

4.     Hug an author. It won’t propel them into the New York Times Bestseller list, but it means a lot.

This is my final post for the year. I want to thank each and every one of you for taking a few moments each day and sharing our blog posts, agreeing, disagreeing, laughing and sighing. Thank you to Tom Rossi and Roger Ingalls for offering different voices and enriching the discussion.

Wishing everyone a year of peace and meaning.

Alon 

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Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

 

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Halloween in Berkeley

As a newbie in this fair land, there is much I love about America. I say this because so many of the blog posts that I, and my esteemed colleagues at Left Coast Voices, are critical of one thing or another. I love the freedom, liberty and Halloween. 

I know this ancient, spiritual festival is now commercial, sugar and additive prone. I know these are the hazy remnants and perhaps denigration of the customs and culture of a downtrodden religion. But I love how everyone throws on a costume for a few hours, get all excited and friendly, and for a few hours share the sandpit together without squabbling over toys or elections … and I enjoy the kids doing it too.

Perhaps it’s living in Berkeley (I have no experience outside of cold, awkward England), but when whole streets get into the swing together, something very special happens, if only for an evening.

My first novel, A Gardener’s Tale, illustrated the struggle between the Pagan religions and Christianity in rural England. It follows two years in the lives of the villagers and a mysterious stranger who comes into their community. One of the elements felt by the villagers is the breakdown of their community, how they are becoming increasingly estranged from their neighbors.

Through reigniting the Pagan religion that once united them, the protagonist offers an opportunity to reclaim their community. We need this today more than ever. How many of us really know our neighbors and those living across the road? My neighborhood began a community initiative to get to know each other after a woman was attacked by a man who tried to steal her purse. As she screamed for help, there was a spontaneous outpouring of people from their houses. Out of nowhere, that street became a community. But it lasted only a year or so and we returned to our own little connected/unconnected worlds.

We need Halloweens to bind us together rather than crimes. With so much violence and conflict in the world that sees to revolve around religion, perhaps we also need the gentler, older religions. The earth certainly does.

So here’s to candy and spontaneous celebration. Happy Samhain, everyone. And I know that a week before the Presidential elections it is probably a relief to read something that is politic-free, but I couldn’t resist the pumpkin below. After all, this is Halloween in Berkeley.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Exciting Announcment

I shared last month that A Gardener’s Tale, a novel I wrote over 10 years ago, has been picked up by Three Clover Press. It received a professional edit and new cover and is leaner if not meaner, but certainly tighter and lighter (sorry, I enjoyed that).

My publisher also generously commissioned Claudia McKinney, who designed Amanda Hocking’s book covers, to design a new cover. I love it! Befitting the new e-book economics, A Gardener’s Tale is on sale for $2.99.

A Gardener's Tale

Here is the pitch:

The garden has seen it all – the cruel events of a thousand years of the struggle between the Pagan religions and Christianity in rural England. A Gardener’s Tale follows two years in the lives of a village and the stranger who comes into their community. As the villagers fear for the breakdown of their community, they discover an ancient path that brings them together.

A Gardener’s Tale tells of an English aristocratic family now tragically dispersed and of a village community falling apart. Birth, love, death and rebirth remain its never-ending cycle, which includes the magic of nature, the purity of love and the power of true friendship in the hands of a gardener who can harness them all.

Writing a book about the pagan religions was not easy for me. I was in a period of time when I was checking out alternative forms of spirituality, Buddhism, Taoism, Zen, Carlos Castaneda, and New Age. It was an exciting time, and even though my path brought me back to my Judaism, I was able to bring with me parts of the other spiritual practices to enrich my own values and expression.

I am very proud to have received the following critique from Vivianne Crowley, a Pagan High Priestess, who was recognized as one of the leaders of the Wicca movement in Britain. Vivianne actually grew up near the New Forest in England where this story takes place.

“A beautiful and elegiac evocation of a timeless Britain and of a man of the ancient ways of the earth who brings peace and healing where the flames of persecution once burned.”

Thank you to Lloyd Lofthouse at Three Clover Press for his patient support, to Claudia for an amazing book cover, and Zorica Gojkovic for her hard work editing this edition.

Let me know what you think of the cover and the book. I love receiving feedback.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Trick or Oppression?

I have loved Halloween ever since I  came to America seven years ago. Yes, yes, I know it’s commercial, sugar and additives heavy, and, of course, the denigration of the customs and culture of a downtrodden religion.

But I love how everyone can throw on a costume for a few hours, get all excited and friendly … even the kids who usually view everything through 3-D or a small multi-pixeled screen. Perhaps it’s living in Berkeley (I have no experience outside of cold, awkward England), but when whole streets get into the swing together, something very special happens, if only for an evening.

But under the sweets and costumes, there is a beautiful religious celebration from a religion that the three major religions, when they couldn’t stamp it out, embraced and added their own cultural context. Any festival in any of our modern religions that has a harvest or seasonal aspect was probably once a Pagan festival.

My first novel, A Gardener’s Tale, illustrated the struggle between the Pagan religions and Christianity in rural England. It follows two years in the lives of a village and the stranger who comes into their community. As the villagers fear for the breakdown of their community, they discover an ancient path that brings them together.

It is happening today more than ever. How many of us really know our neighbors and those living across the road? My neighborhood began a community initiative to get to know each other after a woman was attacked by a man who tried to steal her handbag. As she screamed for help, there was a spontaneous outpour of people from their houses. Out of nowhere, that street became a community.

We need Halloweens to bind us together rather than crimes. With so much conflict in the world focused around religion, perhaps we also need the gentler, older religions. Mother Earth certainly does.

So here’s to candy and spontaneous celebration. Happy Samhain, everyone.

Note: An e-book of A Gardener’s Tale will be released in November 2011 on Kindle for $2.99

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

The Summer Solstice The Longest Book

The summer solstice is a day of great power in the pagan religions. There was a time when I would gather a few friends and celebrate this festival. I’m not sure if I could really call myself a pagan, definitely not a Wiccan (literally ‘wise one’), but I was fascinated by the religion.

Earth spirituality seemed a natural fusion of my desire for spirituality and a passion for environmentalism. I enjoyed the creative ceremonies that I participated in and the people who gravitated to these circles. They were Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, atheists and more. What we all had in common was a desire to elevate our own spiritual consciousness and energy together with the energy of the earth.

Exploring the Pagan year and life-cycle became a powerful thread in my first novel, A Gardener’s Tale (2000), which covers the festivals over a two-year period. The novel is also a social commentary on the breaking down of the British urban lifestyle and the demise of the British landed classes, as well as a criticism of how we treat people who are not necessarily gifted academically or ‘fit in.”.

A Gardener’s Tale was a wonderful journey for me. While the writing is rough, as reflects a first novel, it is a passionate description of a world that we are rapidly losing. Our world is vastly different today than it was when the book was written a decade ago, but I still believe that we must chart our destiny based upon a value-based spirituality that is inclusive and welcoming.

A Gardener's Tale - Alon Shalev

Shortly before she passed away, Vivianne Crowley, the famous Wicca leader and then High Priestess of Britain, wrote about A Gardener’s Tale.

“A beautiful and elegiac evocation of a timeless Britain and of a man of the ancient ways of the earth who brings peace and healing where the flames of persecution once burned.”

Though I look back nostalgically on the characters of A Gardener’s Tale with great affection, I cannot help feeling that the need to understand and bond with the world we live in, is as important today as it ever was. Perhaps, even more so.

Happy Solstice to everyone.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

A Zoroastrian Revival

Let’s talk truth. When it comes to the environment, Christianity, Judaism and Islam have failed miserably. These monotheistic religions are not overtly hostile toward the environment but they place humanity in an elitist position, thereby relegating all else to servitude.

Prior to the rise of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, mankind worshipped many gods with a significant portion dedicated to mother earth. The so-called pagan religions respected nature and, in turn, help protect the environment. Then along comes the big three monotheistic religions—endorsing man’s entitlement over all things earthly—and the entire ecosystem begins to progressively deteriorate.

Man has forgotten how to work with nature and now pushes against her, consuming a lot of energy in the process. We are so out of control that we use 10 fossil fuel calories to produce one calorie of food. These fossil fuels—in the form of pesticides, fertilizers and desiel—have turned the soil barren and the skies brown. Take a shovel to any industrialized farm and turn over the dirt. You will not find anything living; no worms, no ladybugs and no beneficial bacteria. It’s all dead. Plants will only grow with more fertilizer and more pesticide—death breeds death.

It’s odd that these three faiths would have such little respect for all creatures and earthly elements when one considers their origin. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all derivatives of Zoroastrianism. Yes, that’s right, Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic—one god—religion dating back to 2000 BCE or 4000 years ago.

The three prevailing “one almightly god” religions are fundamentally the same and, for all practical purposes, just copy-cats of Zoroastrianism. However, Zoroastrianism has one major difference. From its inception, it preached ecology and care of the environment with respect and reverence for nature. Zoroastrians must protect the sky, water, earth, plant, animal and fire. At the end of times, when “all things” are harmonious, mankind must give the world back to God in its original perfect form.

The eco-friendly beliefs of Zoroastrians are in stark contrast to the trivial considerations Judaism, Christianity and Islam gives to nature. Imagine what the world would be like today if these three religions also copied the environmental aspects of the original “one god” religion.

Perhaps we need a Zoroastrian revival.

-Roger Ingalls

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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