Faith Vs. Belief in “It’s A Wonderful Life"


The meanings of words often weaken with use over time, as the color dims on your favorite shirt with every wash and wear.  This is how once perfectly expressive words, like  “ultimate,” lose their uniqueness to become interchangeable advertising copy.

Your Last Meal?
Ultimate means “final,” the very last of something. Technically speaking, the “Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich” from Jack in the Box should kill you.  Placing “Ultimate” in front of “Sandwich” should be seen as a threat. As in, “this will be the last fistful of bacon, ham, eggs, cheese, and mayonnaise on a hamburger bun you will ever eat before you die.”

But it’s Christmas, and rather than homicidal sandwiches, I’d like to talk about two other very interesting words, “Faith” and “Belief.”  

Many people consider these words interchangeable.  But they are not.  Actually they are quite different.  In some ways they are almost opposites.

Both words are frequently used for tackling big issues, and answering the big questions that people have asked since the beginning of asking questions.  Everybody knows what those questions are, and everybody has thought about them at some point, either a little or a lot.

“Who are we?” 

“What are doing here?”  

“What is the meaning of life?”

“What really happens to me after I eat my ultimate breakfast?”

These are the questions we can’t quite answer.  Not exactly anyway.  We can approximate.  We can feel our way.  We can guess, suppose, or intricately philosophize some answers.  Yes.  

But we can’t know.  

In order to even talk about this stuff, we need to use words like “faith” and “belief.”  This makes them some of the trickiest, most nebulous words we have.

In keeping with the Christmas spirit, let’s use one of the greatest films of all time, holiday or otherwise, to illustrate.

In Frank Capra’s classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life” we see the difference between faith and belief played out in the titanic struggle for control of Bedford Falls.  For this discussion, “faith” will be championed by George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), and taking up the mantle of “belief” will be Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore).

Now right away you can see that this is stilted, because belief is represented by the villain.  Now granted, there are many very good people in the world who have very strong beliefs.  That’s certainly true.  But it is my contention that anyone can have strong beliefs, heroes and villains alike.  But villains do not have faith.  Case in point, both Mr. Potter and George Bailey have beliefs.  

So we’ll start there, with “belief.” 

What, then, are Mr. Potter’s beliefs about the world?  Like a lot of people, he believes that his fellow man is basically untrustworthy, ignoble and would stab you in the back the first chance he gets.  Fair enough, but is this the case?  Why are these Mr. Potter’s beliefs about the world and his fellow men?  The answer, as any psychiatrist could tell us, is because his opinion of the world is a reflection of himself, his opinion of himself, and his observations of himself.  You’ve heard the phrase “seeing is believing?” Well, it’s true, and Mr. Potter is a perfect illustration.  He is untrustworthy, ignoble, and would stab anybody in the back the moment they turned it.  He knows it, he can see it for himself, and therefore he believes it is the way things are.  

When Uncle Billy accidentally left the $8,000 deposit for the Building & Loan in Potter’s hands… Potter kept it.  The richest man in town stole $8,000 because the opportunity was there.  What in the world would drive a man without need of money, to steal from people who actually do need it?  The answer boils down to one true thing about his character.  Mr. Potter fervently believes that someone else would do the same thing to him if they only had they chance.  After all, he might say, only a fool wouldn’t take such an advantage when another fool presented it.

Now, the flip side.  What are George Bailey’s beliefs?

In the movie, nothing too specific is mentioned.  Though there is a scene when, at the end of his rope, in Martini’s bar he turns to God and says “I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there, please show me the way.”  This says something about his beliefs.  He’s a bit agnostic (maybe there is a God, but who really knows for sure?)  And he doesn’t want handouts, even from God, if he’s there.  He would, however, like to know “the way.”   So maybe he was a Zen Buddhist… it’s hard to say for sure.  

But, like Mr. Potter, George Bailey’s beliefs about the world can be inferred by his actions.  He seems to believe pretty much the opposite of Potter concerning the human race.  He believes that people are essentially good, and if given half a chance, they will prove it in the clutch.  Why does he believe this?  Same reason as Potter.  Because his view of the world is a reflection of himself.  George is essentially good, and as he demonstrates throughout the entire story, given half a chance he always does his best to come through in the clutch.

So what is different about these two men that they would have such opposite beliefs about the world?  

The answer is that George Bailey has faith too.  

When we say that someone has “the faith of child,” we mean a very good thing.  It is a general sense that everything is as it should be, that no matter how bad it may seem in this foxhole, everything will be okay when looked at from a wider point of view.  It’s possible that you might even have to die to see that point of view.  But faith makes that okay too.

But what if we said, “he has the beliefs of an adult?”  Is that necessarily a good thing?

Alan Watts once pointed out that the word “belief” comes from an anglo-saxon root (you’ll need an O.E.D. to find it, but the word is pronounced like “leaf,” and likely spelled “lygfh” or something insanely anglo-saxon like that), which means “to wish” or “to hope.”  So, to fervently believe something is to fervently wish or hope that is so.  

Belief, ironically enough, is what religions call “Faith” with a capital “F.”  As in “Defenders of the Faith.”  Faith with a small “f” does not need to be defended.  While “Faith” (Captial “F”), belief, or Creed (latin Credo: “I believe”) needs to be defended pretty rigorously.  

This need for defense naturally arises because the more you act upon a belief, the more you will hope it is so, simply because of all the work you’ve put into living by it.  At some point it simply becomes too painful to realize you may have been wrong.  This is especially true after you’ve started stealing money from folk poorer than yourself, or in extreme cases, lighting people on fire.  Once that happens… well, you just better be right, that’s all.

Faith (small “f”) is what the martyr demonstrates when she forgives the people who are burning her at the stake over a question of Faith (capital “F”).  Belief is what the Inquisitor has, and it’s the thing that makes him think it is a wonderful idea to light people on fire so they don’t wind up burning in hell for believing something different than he does.  

Ironically, the Inquisitor’s belief that this is a good and necessary practice would leave him the instant the roles were reversed.  Why?  Because he lacks faith.   

Faith (small “f”) is what allows a person to be at peace, even in the worst situations imaginable.   While faith allows you to relax, belief is an agitator.  Belief drives people, sometimes to create great works of beauty and benefit to all.  But belief also allows people to create those same “worst situations imaginable” and inflict them on others for what apparently must have “seemed like a good idea at the time.”  

Joseph Campbell once described this bugaboo of belief as the unenviable situation of climbing a ladder your entire life only to find that it was leaning against the wrong wall.  For many people, life is too short, and too much of theirs has already happened to start worrying about the wall your ladder is propped on.  It’s the right wall.  Damn it.  It has to be.  Well, it better be… well, I hope it is anyway.  

This is an unfortunate attitude, because admitting your ladder is on a different wall than you had thought, or believed, is an invitation to discover faith.  

When the illusion you’ve created falls away, what are you left with?   That may be a frightening question, but the answer, the good news, and the perhaps the true message of Christmas, is… “everything.”  We need only ask Ebeneezer Scrooge about that.

Or the Grinch. To find our own sense of faith, maybe we each need to climb our own personal Mount Crumpet in our own sleigh filled with all those stolen Who-toys for all the Who-girls and boys, sneering at the suckers all the way to the top… until we finally hear that song.  You know the one.  Our hearts may grow three sizes that day too.  

Maybe we can’t get to that big-hearted place of faith unless we first try all the alternatives.  Maybe we need to believe our own bullsh*t so strongly that we steal Christmas from Whoville, steal from the Savings & Loan, and then climb on our ladder all the way to the top of the wrong wall.  


But the nice part about belief is that your level of commitment is really up to you. For surely, as the richest man in town, Mr. Potter believes it is wrong to steal.  And yet, his steadfast belief in self-preservation takes precedent over his beliefs about “right” and “wrong” behavior, and leads him deeper into his own dark side.  Through Mr. Potter, we can see that beliefs can be ranked in order of importance, and when a little notion like “thou shalt not steal” bumps up against, “always screw the other guy before he screws you…” we see that beliefs are really only reliable until the moment they suddenly aren’t.  And when that happens… well, luckily for Mr. Potter he’s still got all that money.  

Faith (small “f”), on the other hand, gives you freedom from the tyranny of belief.  Or perhaps it is your reward for escaping from that tyranny.

Faith allowed young George Baily to dive into the freezing stream where the ice broke to save his brother Harry from drowning.  Belief, and common sense, would tell anyone that diving into a frozen stream is a potentially fatal thing to do.  Faith allows George to act fast and without fear.  This also was an early episode in George’s forming beliefs.  For him, belief started with an act of faith. And his faith was rewarded.  The human chain quickly formed, and both George and Harry were saved.  

A young Mr. Potter could not have saved Harry from drowning.  Without unthinking faith in the other kids, the instinct for self-preservation would have prevented it. 

Throughout the film, we see the battle between belief and faith play out.  And belief almost wins more than once.  Always it is Potter as its voice.  Trying to get his hands on the Building& Loan which George has reluctantly protected and nurtured his entire adult life… Potter offers him a job, a huge salary, and everything one could ever need if you believed the world was a dangerous place where walls were needed to keep it at bay.  The idea of security for his family almost does it.  But George simply does not believe that the world is as it seems to Potter.  He has faith that the world is better than that, even if he can’t always see it.  

At the crucial point of the story, George begins to believe in Potter’s vision.  All seems lost and Potter’s words echo in his head. “You’re worth more dead than alive.”  At that moment, in Martini’s bar, when George asks to be shown “the way” he is on the verge of believing that his family’s future well-being rests in a life insurance policy, and not the uncountable blessings his every action has brought them since his birth.  The belief that all is lost brings George to the verge of losing faith.

Faith vs. Belief.  Which is stronger? 

You all know how the movie ends.


"Mythologies, in other words…" Joseph Campbell e-books getting cheaper...

“Mythologies, in other words, mythologies and religions, are great poems and, when recognized as such, point infallibly through things and events to the ubiquity of a “presence” or “eternity” that is whole and entire in each. In this function all mythologies, all great poetries, and all mystic traditions are in accord; and where any such inspiriting vision remains effective in a civilization, everything and every creature within its range is alive. The first condition, therefore, that any mythology must fulfill if it is to render life to modern lives is that of cleansing the doors of perception to the wonder, at once terrible and fascinating, of ourselves and of the universe of which we are the ears and eyes and the mind.”

Excerpt From: Campbell, Joseph. “Myths to Live By.” Joseph Campbell Foundation, 2011-03-11. 

I just saw that this book is available in Kindle for $5.99.  Plus, they seem to be running a sale on Campbell books in general.  Good opportunity to pick some up.


More King’s X Images

Here are three more images created from Kindle readers' most highlighted passages of King’s X. 

This one strikes me a little differently each time.  The idea is that, no matter what your opinion on religion, it is not piety itself that makes a person good or evil (nor is it your gender, by the way).  Like virtually everything else in King’s X, “good" and “bad" is a matter of your own point of view and your ability to to see beyond it, to the point of view of someone else.

The photograph used here is difficult to even look at.  I’m glad the treatment here kind of obscured it, even if only slightly.  The picture is real and truly horrifying.  The line in the book is spoken by Molly, as she tries to explain the mind of a german soldier during world war 2.  The man she describes had  undergone a forced and very sudden spiritual awakening while diligently going about his daily routine… overloading train cars with people bound for the Treblinka death camp.

Part of the subtext here, of course, is that if fear is strong enough to cloud the human mind to that extent, imagine what it may be doing to you and me who do not face such choices every day.  How closely are we paying attention?

Here, Vincent Broussard explains the hidden nature of things to his less savvy brother Sebastien.  They watch.  They know.  They rule.  Perhaps they always have.

It may be too much for Sebastien to absorb in one lifetime.  But he’s starting to catch on.  One day, he will fully understand what his brother really means by all this.    

For more you can visit the Novel Endeavor site where these come from - www.kingsxsaga.com


Writers just want to be heard.

There is really only one reason why writers write.  It’s to be heard.  

We could be wrong of course, but for some reason we feel that our words are our best contribution to the world, our best way to help.  If no one is hearing them, then they are wasted, our contribution is meaningless.  Just the thought of that is very painful. 

On the other hand, when your words are acknowledged, it makes you feel useful.  To be heard… It’s a very good feeling. 

The ebook revolution has been incredible for that.  These images come from the passages of King’s X most highlighted by Kindle Readers.  The idea that, in my work, people are finding words and thoughts worth underling is pretty much a dream come true.  

You can find more of these on the new Novel Endeavor website KingsXSaga.com which will be home to the ongoing series of King’s X books.  

Here are the first three (with my comments in the captions)…     

Jacob breaks some bad news to Detective Book.
There is no help on the way.

Molly speaking from experience
For many of the characters in King’s X, this is kind of a “good news/bad news” thing.


The Real You

“...what you call the external world is as much you as your own body.  Your skin doesn't separate you from the world.  It’s a bridge, through which the external world flows into you and you flow into it.”
--Alan Watts


Bob Marley Said Awesome Things...

Villain is the New Hero

Lots of people want to know when there will be more Kings X. The answer is Soon.  I can promise you this:  The original was only the beginning of a much, much bigger story.   There will be a proper sequel soon.  Kings X: LEGION in the works.  

But before Wendell Book and Molly return in LEGION, I have something new.  Something I’m really, really excited about.  It’s another piece to the Kings X puzzle.  A new character.    His story is not a sequel, but itdefinitely connected.  Keep scrolling for a short interview and teaser chapter below.  

 The next step in the King’s X saga is a step into the dark... 


is the new

Here’s a brief interview with me on CORSAIR and the future of KING’S X.  

Q:  Is this the sequel to King’s X?

STH:  Sequel?  No.  Not exactly.  The sequel to King’s X is being written now.  Corsair is related, but different.

Q:  People want a sequel to King’s X.

STH:  Trust me, so do I.  It’s coming.  Wendell Book and Molly will be back and their story gets even bigger and better.  The possibilities of King’s X are endless, and the plan has always been to let the story open, and open, and open some more.  The next book is knocking my socks off.   I can’t wait to get it out to the world.  Stay tuned.  All will be revealed, and you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Q:  Okay.  Then what’s Corsair?  What do you mean “related but different?”  

STH:  Part of the fun of a King’s X story is that for any character, love them or hate them, a completely new life awaits at some point.  Villains can become heroes, lovers may become enemies, ‘having it all’ can turn to having nothing… karma can be a bitch or a blessing for us all.  All proper King’s X sequels will feature the dueling storyline structure with modern characters intimately linked to a separate group of characters in another historical era.  But King’s X was so complex an undertaking, not every character from the Crusades story appeared again in the modern arc… including some real favorites.  Corsair fixes that issue.  

Q:  Ah.  So it’s a spin-off?  A King’s X character is getting his own series?

STH:  Yes. 

Q:  Which character?  Who is it? 

STH:  No spoilers.  

Q:  Right.  So, King’s X can follow characters anywhere in history.  When does Corsair take place?

STH:  It all takes place in only one modern timeline.  Current day.  So it is shorter than King’s X, and has a little bit of a lighter tone.

Q:  Lighter tone?

STH:  A little.  It’s really a function of the characters.  Wendell Book and the Broussard brothers are brooding folk.  Corsair is a fast-paced espionage-thriller about an international criminal with a very active social life named Sean Dedalus.  The story has nothing to do with reincarnation (as far as you know) and has nothing to do with Wendell Book or Molly.  It can be read on its own without knowing anything at all about King’s X.  But… fans of King’s X will see many hints in the story about the true identity of Sean Dedalus.  Corsair is just the tip of an iceberg.  He has a much bigger story awaiting him.

Q:  Will the characters overlap eventually?

STH:  Absolutely.  Wendell Book, Molly, the Shepherds, etc… they exist somewhere in the world of Sean Dedalus, they just don’t show up in this book.  They will in the future.  But not yet.

Q: So there is a bigger story planned out?  

STH:    Yes.  Big.  The idea for King’s X has always been that the modern story line will eventually catch up to us.  The first story took place in 1968 because some of the characters who died will be coming back.  So the second will be in the 80’s.  And the third will be closer to real time.  When that happens, Corsair’s place within King’s X will be clear.  Until then… it’s a completely separate story. 

Q: How can people get in touch with you if they want to talk about Corsair or yell at you until you finish the next installment of King’s X?

STH:  Absolutely.  Please feel free to email any questions or comments directly to me at Sharper13x@gmail.com .  Email me and Ill contact you when new releases are available too.  

or find me on Twitter @S_T_Harper 

or you can follow the King’s X page on Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kings-X-Books/21496516683

Special Preview:  
A new novel 
Stephen T. Harper



Belfast, Northern Ireland

Carter jabbed a finger toward the blood stain just beneath the address placard on warehouse number 467.  Jess glanced at the slow crawl of rainwater on either side of the number, the shallow puddles in the street and the shadows around them.
“Gilliam.” Carter whispered.  “He put it there on purpose.  In the light.” 
“And out of the rain.”  She nodded.  “He wanted Dedalus to see it.”
Just to their left, a steel door.  The lock had been punched through by a hand tool.  Not subtle at all.  
Jess nudged the door open with her foot and the agents entered, guns drawn.  
They stood at the edge of an enormous open space.  The only light came from a skylight two stories overhead and the dim glow of the city.  Ahead of them, row after row of steel shelves held wooden crates pulled from the massive ships which streamed in and out of the port.  
Carter found a light-switch near the door.  He clicked it up and down.  Nothing. 
“Lights are cut.” 
Together the agents moved deeper into the gloom, their shoes echoing softly off the cold concrete floor with each careful step.
After thirty yards of slow and deliberate movement into the structure, Jess saw the outline of a chair taking shape in the near-dark.  It sat empty and alone, close to dead center of the warehouse.  
The chair had been left in this spot for a reason.  To be found.  Around its legs they found rope, coiled, then cut, and left in a heap on the floor.  On the chair itself, more blood, still glistening wet on the vinyl and steel.  An envelope rested on the seat.  Jess picked it up and read the only word in the address.  Sean, handwritten in an ugly, masculine script.
“It’s for him.”  She quietly announced.
“Then we got here first.”  Carter nodded toward the message.  “Open it.”
Jess ran a finger beneath the seal to break it.
“I believe that belongs to me, Agent Hall.”  The voice came suddenly from the dark.  A man’s voice.  Polite, but quite serious, and with a noticeable Irish lilt. 
The sound seemed to come from several directions at once within the towering shelves.  Carter and Jess pivoted toward the general vicinity, weapons leveled.
“Sean Finlay,” Agent Carter commanded the blackness.  “Step out with your hands up!”
“Or what?” The voice had moved.  The agents turned slightly toward the new direction. “You’ll shoot wildly in the dark?”
Jess nearly smiled at his tone.  Carter set his feet more firmly.
“I’m armed, too.” The voice had moved again.  “And I can see you. Toss the guns and fight another day.”
Carter shifted his weight again.  His gun held high in front of him.
Jess listened to the tone of his voice and thought through what she knew of Sean Dedalus.
…or Finlay.
…or whoever the hell he was.  Corsair.
“He’s not going to shoot.”  She informed Carter, just loud enough for the hidden man to hear.  “He already risked his life to save mine once.  He won’t shoot.”
“Who’s said I have to shoot you, Agent Hall?”  The voice continued to move. “You sure you want to bet your partner’s life on what I might do next?” 
Jess rethought it.  Her lips tightened over clenched teeth.  She tossed her gun.  It clattered and slid across the concrete until it vanished into the darkness.
“You too, Captain America.  There’s a long queue for people who want me dead.  So it’s up to you.  You can be dumb, and try me right now… or smart, and get in line.”
Carter took a breath to control his anger.  Then slid his gun into the dark.
Slow footsteps echoed across the open space as Sean Dedalus moved out of shadow and into the dim light.  Stopping to leave a little distance between them, he looked Jess in the eyes.  Only Jess, as if Carter wasn’t there.
“This doesn’t concern you.”  He told her.
“Jack Gilliam works for a very dangerous man.”
“No doubt he does.  Wants to rule the world, I suppose?”
“Quite possibly.” 
“Agent Hall,” Dedalus paused as if trying to think of the right way to put it.  “The man whose blood Jack Gilliam spilled all over that chair is my brother.  I’ve come to get him back.  Now give me that note.”    
“Sean,” she took a soft step toward him until Dedalus stopped her with a cautionary finger.  “All they want is the stone you took from them.  Give it to us and let us do what we do.  We can get your brother back better than you can.”
“You don’t know me very well.”  Sean studied her for a moment.  “Besides, I don’t have the diamond.  At least not on me.”
“You don’t seem to have a gun, either.”  Carter pointed out.
Dedalus turned to acknowledge Carter for the first time.
“I try to avoid them when I can.  Agent…?”
“Carter.”  He stared intently into the eyes of Sean Dedalus.  Neither man blinked until Carter finally announced, “You’re under arrest.”
Dedalus smiled.
“Catch me.”
As Carter moved for him, Dedalus stepped backward, calmly retreating into the shadows.
 Carter picked up his pace into the dark.
“Simon, be careful,” Jess called from where she remained standing.  “He’s very…”
Her warning was interrupted by the crack of fist on flesh as Carter reeled back into the light and onto to his ass, struck by a hard right hand.
“…Tricky.”  Dedalus finished her thought for her.
Carter licked the trickle of blood from his mouth.  He climbed to his feet, shrugging off Jess’ helping hand with a determined grin.   
“Right.”  For some reason that he didn’t care to think about, Simon Carter really wanted this.  No guns.  No weapons.  Just a fight with Sean Dedalus.
Carter launched himself at the Irishman, taking him down with violent tackle.   
Jess Hall stood her ground and watched.  Carter was the best martial artist she knew, and would eventually win this fight, but she also sensed that Simon wouldn’t mind dragging it out a little bit.
After a long exchange of offense and defense between the two men, it was apparent that Sean Dedalus had undergone significant training as well.  It was Dedalus who landed the second and third blows, stinging fists that served as much to aggravate Carter as draw blood.  
At last, Carter connected with a stiff kick that sent Dedalus  sliding on his back into the dark again.  
Jess could see that Simon was pressing.  He had become emotional.  Angry.  And Dedalus knew how to use that to his advantage.
“Nice one, Agent Carter.”  Dedalus returned unsteadily to his feet.  “It’s true that I’m more of a lover than fighter…”  
Dedalus played his opponent’s anger.  Even his unsteadiness was a ploy.  She could see it.  Carter could not.  He attacked again, wild.  Dedalus, suddenly steady again, easily sidestepped the rush and landed a three-punch combination, much harder than the earlier stings, that left Carter on the ground.
“But I’m a devastating lover,” Dedalus smiled as he looked down at his opponent, both men pulling hard for air.  “So that’s not really saying much.”
Between Carter’s skill and Dedalus’ guile, the men were more evenly matched than she thought.  So, Jess ended the contest with a slashing kick to the back of the knee.  Dedalus grunted at the surge of pain and contorted into an awkward lean to grab at his wound.  A lightning quick leg-sweep put him hard onto his back.
She stood above him at the top of his head, glaring down into his eyes as he winced through the pain.
“You finished?”  She asked.
From ankle-height, Dedalus looked all the way up Jess Hall’s lean, athletic, and very dangerous body.  He stopped when their eyes met.  And he waited.  Until she wondered why he was staring and what he would say.
“I’ve only got one brother.” 
He saw the flash of compassion in her eyes.  An instant of hesitation and weakness.  And he seized it.  
Dedalus snatched her arm by the wrist and managed a leverage throw.  Jess rolled gracefully through and came up on her feet in an instant, to a defensive stance, ready to fight.
Dedalus was on his feet just as fast.  He held up his hand, showing the envelope he had just plucked from her fingers.  
“So, no.”  He smiled again.  “I’m not finished.”
As Carter rushed from the shadows from behind, Jess saw Dedalus reaching quickly into his coat for a weapon.  
“Simon!  Look out!”
Her warning came too late.
Dedalus jammed the taser into Simon Carter’s chest.  Electricity arced and sizzled on contact.  Dedalus turned a sinister glare at Jess Hall as Carter’s unconscious body fell at his feet.
“This device is special, Agent Hall.  Customized to deliver over-driven, and quite possibly fatal voltage.  He’s in cardiac arrest.  Make your choice.”
Cold as stone, Sean Dedalus turned his back on Jess Hall and walked calmly away, back into the dark.
Jess was instantly at Carter’s side.  He was sweating from the fight, cold from a state of shock, and not breathing.
“Simon!”  She called to him, inches from his face.  
She put an ear to his chest and heard silence.
She began CPR.  She worked his chest hard enough to bruise his ribs.  She put her lips to his and breathed for him.  She listened.  Silence.
“Simon, stay with me.”
She worked his chest harder.  She breathed for him again.  She listened…
Sean Dedalus was halfway to the exit.  The sounds of her frantic efforts played disturbingly in his ears.  
But he kept walking, reading the note Jack Gilliam had left for him. 
When he was finished, he pulled a lighter from his coat and held the flame to the paper as he continued on his way.  He dropped the note on the concrete floor to burn to ash behind him.  
Dedalus passed through the broken door and into the night with the sounds of Agent Hall fighting for her partner’s life somewhere in the darkness he had just left. 

Thief, Rogue, Villain…Hero

Power with which You Can Be Trusted

"If you awaken from this illusion, and you understand that black implies white, self implies other, life implies death — or shall I say, death implies life — you can conceive yourself. Not conceive, but feel yourself, not as a stranger in the world, not as someone here on sufferance, on probation, not as something that has arrived here by fluke, but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental. 

What you are basically, deep, deep down, far, far in, is simply the fabric and structure of existence itself. 

So, say in Hindu mythology, they say that the world is the drama of God. God is not something in Hindu mythology with a white beard that sits on a throne, that has royal prerogatives. God in Indian mythology is the self, Satcitananda Which means sat, that which is, chit, that which is consciousness; that which is ananda is bliss. In other words, what exists, reality itself is gorgeous, it is the fullness of total joy."
-- Alan Watts


One Great Thing - Amazing Guitar from John Gomm

“…scattered through the ordinary world are books and artifacts and perhaps people who are like doorways into impossible realms, of impossible and contradictory truth.”
--Terrence Mckenna

And then the internet happened.  Here’s one of those things the Net seemed made to show off.  Something amazing and beautiful I never knew about until recently.  It seems like something everyone should know exists.  

Are people getting more talented by the generation?  I play the guitar, too, and... um… wtf is going on here?   (BTW - it really gets going at about the 1 minute mark).

Here is Jon Gomm’s Bio from his Website.  

"Jon Gomm, based in Leeds, West Yorkshire in the UK, is an acoustic singer-songwriter with a revolutionary virtuoso guitar style, where he uses one acoustic guitar to create drum sounds, basslines and twisting melodies all at the same time. The emphasis is still on the soulful vocals and songwriting, and his original material is influenced by everything from Robert Johnson to Radiohead.

His live shows combine deeply personal performances and a natural wit, with a onceseen-never-forgotten two-handed guitar style, both physical and complex, producing sounds people can barely believe are coming from a humble acoustic guitar.

Jon first laid his hands on a guitar at the age of two (actually it was a ukulele - his parents couldn’t find a guitar small enough). He wrote his first song at the age of six, and was soon accompanying his father, a music critic, to gigs in his hometown of Blackpool. Touring musicians would often stay at the Gomm household on the understanding Jon would get a guitar lesson, meaning he had one-to-one instruction from such blues legends as BB King and Jack Bruce of Cream.

Nowadays, Jon tours worldwide. In January 2012 the song Passionflower went viral online, with the video passing 3 million hits, resulting in national TV appearances in the UK, Portugal, Holland and Turkey, and plaudits from new celebrity fans, such as:

“Wonderful to watch. Genius.” - Stephen Fry
“I love your work and style so much. You are very special”Jon Anderson (Yes)
“Wonderful playing and singing” - David Crosby (Crosby, Stills and Nash)
“Hands down the most amazing guitarist I have ever seen!” - Tommy Lee (Motley Crue)

Jon is a truly independent artist, with his own label and no mainstream industry support, but using mostly online social networks for promotion, he has defied the odds with a huge, truly supportive fanbase resulting in tour bookings from Australia, Canada and the US to Poland and Estonia. His debut CD Hypertension has sold over 50,000 copies at the time of writing, and his latest CD Don’t Panic sold out within 3 days of appearing on Amazon. His videos are watched tens of thousands of times within hours of appearing on Youtube. He is currently releasing a series of Pay What You Want singles, with a new album planned for 2013.”

For tour dates and other info, check out the rest of his site.



"Her Voice is Full of Money”

“ ‘Her voice is full of money,’ he said suddenly. That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it.”  

I saw Baz Lurmann’s new version over the weekend.  I liked it a lot. Luhrmann’s style is certainly polarizing, but it worked beautifully for the fairy tale quality of Fitzgerald’s work.  

Gatsby, for me has always been all about Fitzgerald’s prose, the way he astonishes with the mundane.  That is difficult to film.  Luhrmann’s solution is to film something akin to a dream. It works.  But if you plan to see this film, definitely go see it in 3D.  If you have always wanted to see something slow moving and beautiful rendered by the awesome power of Hollywood filming, as opposed to action almost too frenetic to follow… this is what you’ve been waiting for. 

Meanwhile, here is a fun piece from The New Yorker

"In honor of the film’s d├ębut, we’ve looked through the magazine’s extensive archives and selected a dozen vintage New Yorker ads that evoke the gin-fuelled “Gatsby” era of “flaming youth” and Prohibition, flapper culture and cabarets…"

“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” (December 4, 1926)

“The Lord of the Rings" and "The Maltese Falcon"

I began with a plan to re-imagine "The Maltese Falcon" - the classic noir detective treasure hunt, where clever characters from the grey space  between heroes and villains clash over a fabled object (the black bird).  I wanted to combine all its greatness with a bigger and better myth.  I found one that crosses over many cultures and many great works, from the 1001 Nights (Tales of Arabian Nights), the histories of Josephus,  the operas of Wagner and the Norse myths he based them on, to the works of Tolkien.  All of these sources spoke of history and legend's ultimate struggle for a common lost treasure.

Imagine that it is not a normal femme fatale who walks into the life of Sam Spade with a strange tale to tell and danger on her heels... imagine that the object she needs his help to find is no mere jeweled falcon, but an honest-to-God ring of power.  Could it be that the legendary magic ring of King Solomon, said to be given to him by an angel, said to bear the mark of God himself, was no gift from heaven after all?  Could it have fallen so far through the mists of time?  Could it reach into our own world, to the hands of our own history's kings and treasure hunters?  Could it have fallen, hand to hand, all the way to a runaway teenager and a hard nosed L.A. cop?  What would this ring be like?  What power might it have over the unsuspecting, the uninitiated, the innocent, should they slip it on their finger?  

That's where the story of King's X really begins.  And you won't get a spoiler from me.  

I love stories that make you feel bigger than you thought you were before hearing them. The kind that stick with you, that you want to experience over and over.  The real myth-making,  Joseph Campbell stuff.  I still get pretty misty when Luke looks out over that double-sunset while the french horn plays his theme.  I'm sure a lot of people do.

I also like complex stories filled with intrigue and characters who are smarter than me.  "The Maltese Falcon" is both a great book and a drop-everything-to-watch movie whenever it shows up on TV.  This may sound strange, but my favorite part of that story is the spectacular chase through history that takes place only in snippets of conversation and never "on camera."

I always wanted to write a book that gives the reader all the suspense, action, and intrigue of "The Maltese Falcon," but also really digs into an epic historical mystery - with faces, characters, romance, and many great and terrible deeds that lead from the distant past right to the door of the modern hero.  If I had known before hand how difficult it would be, I might have picked a different dream.  But once I started, I couldn't stop. 

The story I came up with to make that juxtaposition of past and present really work, turned out to be a deep, rich well of history, philosophy, and intrigue that lead me to a big story filled with heart, complexity, and characters who are smarter than me.  But even more than that, KING'S X feels like relevant myth-making for right now, for the nerve-wracking stew of spiritual seeking, religious doubt, and existential angst we all must soak in.  I'm not sure how, but I may have stumbled into some real Joseph Campbell stuff.  My favorite kind of story.