I just read a fascinating article by Hugh McGuire entitled, "Why can't we read anymore?"
I'll provide the link to it at the bottom of this blog, but first let me tell you (briefly) what intrigues me about McGuire's piece.
McGuire describes how digital distractions have increasingly prevented him from doing one of his favorite activities - reading books. His regular book count - the number of books he typically reads in a certain period - has diminished considerably. He blames this on, among other things, the internet.
If you're like me, your computer is virtually always on. If you're working on a spreadsheet, document, presentation or whatever, a digital distraction is just one click away. Email? Click. Online article? Click. Message? Click. These distractions, and our practice of allowing them to constantly interrupt us, has trained us to get less done. McGuire goes so far as to cite research indicating new information causes a rush of dopamine in the brain. We have actually become addicted to information (and not the best information) on electronic devices. Those of us who try to multitask, get less done.
His solution? Unplug. Remove the distraction on schedule (not completely) so you can focus on something else. Like reading good books (even if they are on an eReader). Books, McGuire says, are different than other arts in that, "We share our minds in that time with the writer's."
So take a break. Turn off the TV. Ignore emails. Let Facebook sit for awhile. And, schedule book time. (If you need a recommentation of a good book to read, I've got a couple to suggest).
I'm going to try it. I challenge you to as well.
Here's the link to McGuire's article:
Caveat: I recently ordered an Apple Watch - that hideous new device designed to keep one even more connected to the digital universe. I'll let you know how this affects my digital-less experiment.
In the '60s and '70s, my father grew a Chevrolet dealership in a small town of about 10,000 people into a thriving and successful business. People travelled around the state to buy a car from Dad, primarily because his service was so good. And they told their friends. One of Dad's mottos summed it up clearly: "Recommended by your friends."
I learned a lot from Dad about service. I have taught customer service skills to employees of Fortune 500 companies, including Universal Studios Florida, Tupperware and Hughes Supply. I even wrote a book on service.
I also make an effort to reward service whenever possible. I tip fairly well. I tell an employee's supervisor if I receive good service. I provide feedback.
As a writer, I love to know my readers enjoy my books. I hunger for feedback. I like to hear that readers have received insight, enjoyment or just a few minutes away from life's stresses, by reading what I write.
When you read a good book, consider giving feedback to the writer. Tell him what you like about his work (and, yes it really is work). Tell others about what you've read. And write a review about the book.
Like a tip to a service professional, a good review helps a writer know you liked his story, tells his superiors (publishers/agents) you enjoyed the book, and gets the word out to his customers (the reading public) that his work is worth consideration. Reviews can be offered on writers' websites, on book selling sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks and Goodreads and on social media sites like Facebook.
Read a good book, lately? Then leave a tip and recommended it to your friends.
Write a review.
Published by Belle Isle Books
Allan Chappel enrolled in seminary to change the world, but people lied and people died, and he turned in his clerical collar for an office cubicle. Now, years later, the ghosts of his past are back to haunt him, and they're uglier and more powerful than before.
When the offices of a new medical think tank called Inc.Ubator are destroyed in a fiery blast, Allan finds himself the prime suspect and the target of an international manhunt. Forced into hiding, he sets out to find the terrorists responsible and clear his name. But his quest for answers only leads to more questions: What were the researchers at Inc.Ubator hiding? And who was willing to spill blood to keep their work a secret? Allan must stay alive long enough to untwist the truth. Unfortunately, the forces opposing him will stop at nothing to prevent the release of the 3rd Option.
"This is the kind of rare thriller that I love--one that grabs you on page one and won't let you go until the satisfying conclusion. The 3rd Option is smart and fresh, combining timely issues with thoughtful insights, relatable characters, and shocking twists. It makes you think while it makes your heart race. Bravo, Ben Sharpton...more please!"
These are such exciting times.
I learned a few days ago that the print review copy of my next novel - a high-concept, international thriller called THE 3rd OPTION, will arrive this week. That means it should hit the shelves very soon.
Many people helped promote 7 SANCTUARIES, my first novel, by posting comments on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBookstore. To show my appreciation, I will send a FREE copy of THE 3rd OPTION to these reviewers as soon as it is released.
Several factors prevented us from releasing this book sooner, including illnesses among the staff of the publishing house, my own illness and an effort to "get it just right". I believe the final product is excellent and I look forward to sharing it with you.
How incredibly timely.
Lately, I’ve been thinking “around” the concepts in this article, which I stumbled upon from Relevant Magazine. Finding this was so serendipitous – like finding a key to a door you’ve been trying to open or the clue to a puzzle you’ve been struggling to solve.
I touched on the subject briefly back in February in the blog, “Whatever It Takes”, pointing out the danger of that simple battle cry. But the author, Tyler Braun, says it so well.
And one of the surprises, for me, is how he ties the question of amiable disagreement with Emotional Intelligence, one of the concepts I’ve studied and taught in major organizations for several years. It fits perfectly.
Check out the article: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/why-dont-christians-play-nice.
Yesterday, I completed my final edit (before the print review) for my 2nd Novel, The 3rd Option (Belle Isle Books). The edits on this one took a little longer than usual, partially because I made a major change toward the end of the process, and those changes rippled through the entire book.
But now, we're getting close to its release. And because we took time to do it right, I think we've got a good product for you. I'm excited to be so close to publication. I'll let you know when it's ready.
(NOTE: I read this FaceBook post from my friend, Jim McWhinnie and felt he was right on target. With his permission, I re-post it here for you.)
WHATEVER BECAME OF CHRISTIAN "CHARITY"
Psalm 34: 17,18
"When people cry for help, the Lord hears them and sets them free from all their troubles. The Lord is close to those whose courage is broken and he saves those whose spirit is crushed." - Psalm 34:17,18
An American news reporter gathering a story about the work of the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta asked one of the sisters where he might find Mother Teresa. The nun smiled for a moment, considering this Westerner's question, then answered, "You will find her with the poor." The reporter, trying to get to a more helpful, definitive response, then asked, "Well, where might I find the poor?" The nun answered, again with a bit of a smile, "Why, they are everywhere. All about you. Can't you see them." Now frustrated, the reporter pressed on, "Yes, yes, I know she works with the poor. But WHERE is Mother Teresa working with the poor?" The nun - possibly with a bit of delight -, then answered, "Wherever the poor might be found this morning!" She paused for a moment then offered her hand to the reporter, "Come, let us both go looking for some poor people."
Charity is the word used in the King James Version of the Bible for Love, specifically the Love that originates in the heart of God. Through the years, charity became more and more a word to describe the act of giving to those in need. How many times have we heard the proud boast of a self-sufficient soul who declares, "I DON"T need charity and I am NOT asking for charity!" I suppose to avoid confusion, present day Bible translators have abandoned that word, Charity, and replaced it with the more generic word, Love. I can see their reasoning, yet I do believe that it may have diminished our understanding of the Divine Love that is humanly expressed - Charity.
Today, we tend to think of Love as a feeling or attitude within us, a matter of the heart. Maybe we might go further and say that Love is also something of the Voice, something needing to be communicated. And Heart and Voice truly are aspects of Divine Love, humanly expressed. But the Biblical understanding is that the Divine Love, humanly expressed, is also a matter of the Hands, something not only conceived and communicated, but something also conveyed. Charity is the conveyance of Divine Love from one soul to another soul. Charity is Divine Love not only known by the giver of the Charity but also by the recipient of the Charity.
An ancient Benedictine teaching on Christian Love is cherished in the phrase, "We are to bring the love of Christ and place it in the lives of others." It is evangelism by means of Divine Love, Humanly Expressed. It is an evangelism through the tangible conveyance of Divine Love through Christ-like action. It is not evangelism by way of intimidation or coercion, rather it is evangelism by showing others the love of Christ that has come upon you and has transformed you. Oh, mind you, Benedictine evangelism is not shy about speaking of what Christ's love is all about, but the explanation of the Love always follows the conveyance of the Love, the Divine Love, Humanly Expressed. It is the way in which the grace of God does its work in our own lives. in the lives of others and even in the life of the community.
"Come, let us both go looking for some poor people," the insightful Sister told the reporter. I believe she might have been teaching that reporter that if you want to know about Mother Teresa, then you might best go about "doing" what Mother Teresa is doing. And in the "doing" comes about the deeper realms of the "knowing". To know Christ in deeper, fuller ways, then maybe we best be looking for people in need.
The Psalmist wrote, "When people cry for help, the Lord hears them and sets them free from all their troubles. The Lord is close to those whose courage is broken and he saves those whose spirit is crushed." May we always remember that the Love of God is always searching for those in need.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
Jim was my brother's roommate in college. One of my first acquaintances with Jim was as a high school senior. I visited Asbury College and he and another guy promptly talked me into joining them for a Clint Eastwood Marathon at a drive-in theater in Lexington. I remember dozing to the wavering whistle sound from one of Eastwood's spaghetti westerns. I attended Asbury the next year as a freshman.
Jim recently retired as a United Methodist Pastor and is now an Oblate Novice with the Greyfriars - Yes, a Benedictine monk (somebody you want in your corner when you talk about things like charity). You can read his poetry at: http://willow-words-poetry.posterous.com. He is also on Facebook at: Jim McWhinnie.
Ten days ago we were getting ready to go out to eat, like we do on most Friday evenings, when I experienced a major migraine headache. I have them from time to time, and have always blamed them on allergies. But this one was worse than usual.
My wife drove to the restaurant and I kicked back, assuming things would get better after a few minutes. But, I couldn’t read the menu. Words looked the same and foreign at the same time. I felt nauseous and dizzy. Finally, my wife talked me into going to the emergency room. That may have saved my life.
After a quick CAT scan, they transferred me to an ICU unit of Emory Hospital in Atlanta where I was diagnosed as having a brain AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation - basically a fairly large clump – about 3cm - of veins and blood vessels in the front-left part of my brain). (See the white area at the top of the photo). I've had it since before birth. In 50% of the cases, AVMs are found when the blood vessels burst. Mine hasn't done that, yet. AVMs are fairly rare – about 1% of the population has them and about half of those go unnoticed throughout the victim’s lifetime. Catching them sooner than later can be very helpful.
I am scheduled to return to Emory on April 1 (yeah, I know, April Fools Day) for an angiogram, during which they will shoot "glue" into the veins to dry them up. On April 3, they plan to perform a craniotomy, in which they will open my skull and remove as much of the AVM as they can.
Yes, it is brain surgery.
There is no way to know what the eventual outcome will be. We hope to prevent something worse, like a stroke, coma or death. And, I have several things going for me:
If you are interested in following my story and encouraging me, please check out my page on CaringBridge.org (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/bensharpton). Know that I appreciate your prayerful support as I work through this thing.
I’ll try to keep you informed as to my progress, but will also try not to bore you with a bunch of boring junk.
I intend to keep writing as much as I can. In fact, I’m working on a short story related to my experience right now.
Let me know if you’ve had any experience with AVMs or if you know anyone who has. Just click on the “Add Comment” link below (or comment on my CaringBridge site).
Remember the 1997 post apocalyptic movie starring Kevin Costner (no, not that one - the other one) about a guy in dystopian America who puts on a dead postman's uniform and starts to deliver the mail? He explained his actions by saying something like, "There used to be a postman on every street in America... Getting a letter made you feel like you were part of something bigger than yourself. I don't think we ever understood what they meant to us until they were gone."
In "The Postman" (based on a novel of the same name by David Brin), the United States Postal Service (and the United States, for that matter) were decimated by some catastrophic global nuclear war and not by competition from the Internet and an Act of Congress requiring the Post Office to pay $5 billion a year for 10 years to cover future health benefits of all of its employees (something no other organization has ever been required to do nor has ever done).
And when did this post apocalypse supposedly take place? 2013.