The Golden Circlet

All the good things in life

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The Artist’s Way and What God’s Got

I have mixed feelings about The Artist’s Way.

On the one hand, I know lots of people who have found it instrumental in developing their own creativity and careers. On the other hand, I don’t believe in anything like the spiritual power of positive thinking. I just don’t believe that God provides gifts, help, or aid to people who are on the right spiritual path, at least not on consistent basis. My belief in God is a tenuous thing on the best of days, but as my rabbi said when I asked him about his own personal faith, “The question is not, ‘Do you believe in God?’ Of course I believe in God. But how much God? Clearly, not enough.”

To look around at a world full of believers, full of people trying hard to do the right thing, full of people with rich faith throwing their entire hearts into the enterprise of making this world a better place, and to know that despite all their efforts and all their creativity, the world is in terrible peril, is to know that there is not enough God to go ’round. What else can we conclude? Humans have wrecked the planet using their God-given free will (and therefore deserve what we get)? God wants us to suffer as part of some grand, mysterious plan? We’re just not praying hard enough, or doing the right things, to make God help us? I don’t believe any of that. I know that good people can try hard to do the right thing their entire lives in this unfair, unequal world, and not get any heavenly help to escape their situations. I know that powerful people motivated by greed may very well wreck my home, and yours too, and God may not show up to stop them. Unlike Jesus, I’m not surprised anymore that God has forsaken me.

So when Julia Cameron claims that all I need to do is say what my creative dreams are, begin to act on them, write about them, treat myself with kindness, and pray for divine assistance in my creative work, God will help me, I don’t entirely believe her. I do believe her a little. I believe in God, a little. And the God I believe in, or want to believe in, is indeed a creator. My God has abundance and blessings to share. My God doesn’t want me to suffer, or to struggle. My God wants all good things for me, and will add fuel to my fire — if I build it — the way sparks burst out of a log: inconsistently but explosively. That’s how God works. That’s all God’s got: everything you need, but only some of the time.

That said, my experience of the Artist’s Way is mostly that it is a helpful experience. Talking about, writing about, acting on, and being kind to yourself about your creative dreams is a good thing. I’ve been through the book twice on my own, and right now I’m working through it again in a group. I have some thoughts about why it might be helpful from a scientific, rather than spiritual, perspective, but I’ll save that for another day.


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Thinking About Ike’s Tax

Paul Krugman’s musing on the Twinkie era has me thinking about 1950s politics.

Let’s just get clear that even though I wasn’t alive in 1952, I am confident that I would not have “liked Ike.” I’m a hardcore lefty, my family campaigned that year for Adlai Stevenson,  I’ve read some of Stevenson’s essays, enough to get a sense of both his personality and his politics, and whatever: I’m pretty sure I’d have been an eggheaded Stevenson voter in 1952.

But even Truman hoped Eisenhower would run as a Democrat, so there must have been something to the guy. He was no Ronald Reagan, that’s for sure, that horror show of a president whose half-remembered, handsome movie-star smile seems to have rendered amnestic half the nation to the fact that he wrecked the farms, destroyed the unions, and impoverished the country for the next generation and beyond.

A quick look at the Wikipedia table with the history of U.S. income tax rates adjusted for inflation  makes clear just what legacy Reagan left us. In 1965, before the Reagan era, the top tax bracket (folks making, in 2011 dollars, $1.42 million a year or more) paid a marginal rate of 70%. By 1988, the end of the Reagan era, the top tax bracket included anyone making, in 2011 dollars, $56,000 a year or more, and everyone from there on up paid a marginal tax rate of 28%. And tax rates have stayed ridiculously low and ridiculously regressive ever since.  That giant sucking sound Ross Perot heard had nothing to do with NAFTA — it was the sound of money being sucked away from the public good and into the dragon hoards of billionaires.

But in Eisenhower’s era, taxes on the rich reached their apex, and Krugman points out that CEOs were feeling the pinch. He links to this fascinating article, which gives the impression that most presidents of corporations circa 1955 lived delightfully small, bourgeois existences, paying their taxes, avoiding politics and culture,  skippering their  Chris-Crafts on fishing expeditions and saving carefully for their children’s educations.

I might consider selling my soul if my government would tax David Koch into such a station in life.

However, until an underdemon comes calling with an offer, I felt compelled to make tea towels. A little playing around with my knockoff-Photoshop-for-dummies transformed this wonderful image from a mid-century clothing catalog into a broadside for tax relief, like so:

Using Zazzle, I put this little poster onto tea towels, which — if they turn out — may make it into my Christmas presents this year. (I think you can use the link to get a taxation tea towel for yourself, but I don’t get any kickback from that if you can. I assume this image may still be under copyright. I consider my playful use of it for political activism to be fair use, and if you do too, feel free to use the image widely for your own personal enjoyment as well, but this image isn’t for anyone’s commercial benefit, including my own.)

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Happiness Blogging Challenge

I’ve noticed that some of my favorite blogs are making me unhappy.

I read the inspiring posts, and see the gorgeous photographs, and feel like crap. When am I going to get the chance to visit Morocco, explore the neighborhood with my kid, make amazing meals, handmake all my presents with exquisite meaning, and fill up my own wonderful, creative blog?

Never, that’s when. (Especially if I keep wasting time reading these pretty blogs!)

So I’m setting myself a challenge. If I have time to undergo death-by-counterfactual every morning, I can make time for a piece of the alternate reality I’m mourning. So each day, before I check facebook, before I read my favorite blogs, I have to complete a blog post. If I don’t have time for creation, I don’t have time for consumption.

Want to join me? (Feel free to link up to your own blog challenge in comments, if you like.)