Friday, March 27, 2009

Atlas Mugged

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute. Ayn Rand

I first heard of Ayn (pronounced Eye-n, thank-you very much) Rand my senior year of High School. There was a Randian Club of young Objectivists (the name of Rand’s philosophy) that would meet in the cafeteria before school and argue with all-comers on such things as the Virtue of Selfishness. While I was clueless as to who Rand was, I always thoroughly enjoyed watching these guys thrash the mindless whining of our future politicians who would blather on and on about how we existed solely for the sake of others.

The following year I had some time to kill during winter break at college, so picked up her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. (1957) I read the entire book in a week … all 1,000+ pages. When my fellow Christians saw what I was reading they went ballistic, which, given my warped personality, only inspired me to go out and purchase all of her books.

“She is an atheist.” I didn’t hear any of you getting all hot and bothered when I was carrying around Thus Spoke Zarathustra, last term.

“She is a proponent of greed!” No. She believes in rational self-interest. Big difference.

These and many other memories like them came flooding back to my mind the last few weeks, as I have run across article after article on the merits and demerits of Rand’s ideas, all within the context of the present day political-economic crisis’. Her book sales are skyrocketing and Angelina Jolie is slated to play Dagny Taggart, Rand’s heroine in Atlas. Somebody pass the popcorn!


The central story is about what happens when “men of the mind” refuse to continue contributing their talents, skills, genius, art, inventions, expertise—their selves—on the sacrificial altar of looters and politicians who have never produced a single thing in their entire lives.

When Dagny calls a press conference to tell the world she will no longer work for the family Railway business, Rand describes the reporters who came to cover the story as young men

[W]ho had been trained to think that their job consisted of concealing from the world the nature of its events. It was their daily duty to serve as audience for some public figure who made utterances about the public good, in phrases carefully chosen to convey no meaning.

Sound familiar?

When politicians come to Dagny’s successor and brother, James Taggart, to complain about the price of a railway ticket:

“Well consider the unions’ side of it … Maybe you can’t afford to give them a raise, but how can they afford to exist when the cost of living has shot sky-high? They’ve got to eat, don’t they? That comes first, railroad or no railroad.” Mr. Weatherby’s tone had a kind of placid righteousness, as if he were reciting a formula required to convey another meaning, clear to all of them.

“And then consider the public. The rates you’re charging were established at a time when everybody was making money. But the way things are now, the cost of transportation has become a burden nobody can afford. People are screaming about it all over the country.”

When Health Care is nationalized, a Shrugging Doctor Hendricks says,

I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago. Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kinds of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun.

When Francisco d’Anconia explains his particular form of Shrugging (he purposefully ran his copper mines into the ground) to a group of looters in his office who were complaining about the lack of copper production, he notes:

I don’t know why you should call my behavior rotten. I thought you would recognize it as an honest effort to practice what the whole world is preaching. Doesn’t everyone believe that it is evil to be selfish? I was totally selfless in regard to the San Sebastian project. Isn’t it evil to pursue a personal interest? I had no personal interest in it whatsoever. Isn’t it evil to work for profit? I did not work for profit—I took a loss. Doesn’t everyone agree that the purpose and justification of an industrial enterprise are not production, but the livelihood of its employees? The San Sebastian Mines were the most eminently successful venture in industrial history: they produced no copper, but they provided a livelihood for thousands of men who could not have achieved, in a lifetime, the equivalent of what they got for one for one day’s work, which they could not do. Isn’t it generally agreed that an owner is a parasite and an exploiter, that it is the employees that who do all the work and make the product possible? I did not exploit anyone. I did not burden the San Sebastian Mines with my useless presence. I left them in the hands of the men who count. I did not pass judgment on the value of that property. I turned it over to a mining specialist. He was not a very good specialist, but he needed the job very badly. Isn’t it generally conceded that when you hire a man to do a job, it his need that counts, not his ability? Doesn’t everyone believe that in order to get the goods, all you have to do is need them? I have carried every moral precept of our age. I expected gratitude and a citation of honor. I do not see why I am being damned.

As an atheist, Rand is not even remotely friendly or respectful of Christianity, or any other religion for that matter. Some of her criticism is due to ignorance, some to the abuses she grew up witnessing in the Orthodox Church, as a child in Russia. For example, when she has Francisco blast the Christian notion that “money is the root of all evil,” she kind’a missed the fact that Paul wrote about the LOVE of money, not money per say. I have no doubt that she would agree that money is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Yes, she really could have used an editor. Yes, John Galt’s speech at the end of the book (took him three hours to give it … took me a full day to wade through it) was the worst kind of soapbox preachiness imaginable. And, o my, yes-squared, many of her followers and disciples are as weird as any cult members I have ever met. However, the prescience of the story is off the charts spot-on, for the times in which we live.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Facts or Truth?

I am finally getting some of my books out of storage and into my apartment. It’s like a reunion with old friends. On the shelves are Tennyson, Carlyle, and Malory, Lewis, Kreeft and Kierkegaard … novels, biographies, economics, philosophy, business, psychology, Letters/Diaries/Journals, art and history.

I have given away well over a thousand books over the last few years, thinning out my library so that the only books that remain are those that have meaning to me and touched me in some way, and a few reference books.

For me, reading is part of my Quest, and the quest has never been solely about facts.

I want to meet people, encountering them in their words.

I am looking for a window to open into a wider world or even another world.

I am looking for truth and Truth: for personal insight and insight into the Eternal.

Sometimes a book has only one sentence that speaks to me with a living voice, but that one sentence is worth more than the cost of the book. Other times, the book opens up a new world of thought, feeling and vision that is so life-altering that from then on, when I see it on the shelf, I am instantly immersed in that world. But sometimes the book is filled to overflowing with facts, details and minutia about God or Life or Relationships or Business or whatever, and, for the life of me, I could not find truth or Truth.

No doubt that, at times anyway, I didn’t find the truth because my heart wasn’t ready or willing to grasp it. However, just as often, all the author had was facts, so that was all he could offer his readers.

George MacDonald (1824-1925) makes this point about facts v truth when he draws a distinction between facts about a flower or a painting and the truth of the flower or painting. (CS Lewis’ George MacDonald: An Anthology.)

The truth of the flower is, not the facts about it, be they correct as ideal science itself, but the shining, glowing, gladdening, patient thing throned on its stalk.

It is easy to confuse having the facts with possessing the truth. A Botanist, for example, may have all the facts about a particular orchid. However, this doesn’t mean she possesses the truth of that orchid. And what is the truth of an orchid? The idea of that orchid in God’s mind.

Botany is the process whereby the orchid becomes the flower that it is. The process is the facts. The flower is the truth. And what do you think the Creator thinks when we allow the beauty of the orchid to be obscured by facts about the orchid?

Think of a favorite painting. Brush strokes, paint and canvas are the facts. The truth of the painting is the idea in the painters mind.

If the facts of a thing are helping you develop a greater appreciation for the truth of a thing, then, by all means, keep after the facts. But if the facts are distracting you from the thing itself, get back to the truth of it, for a while. In other words, if you are dying of thirst while digging into the facts of how oxygen combined with hydrogen creates water, then stop studying and start drinking.

Your Assignment:
How may this distinction between facts and truth apply to your perspective on the people you know, including yourself?

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Asserting Your Right to Exist

I recently worked with a client who had struck a self-made brick wall that was standing in the way of his upward mobility. His 360 Feedback told him that most everyone under, around and over him saw him as being timid. His direct manager, he told me, was constantly telling him that he needed to be more assertive.

As he was a huge John Wayne fan, I reminded him of Duke’s line when playing J.B. Brooks in The Shootist (1976)

I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.

The question I asked him to consider was this: Where did that sentiment come from? What was it that birthed such a Code of Conduct? The following week he called me and, without even saying “Hello,” blurted out, “Self respect.”

J.B. did not withhold from others the respect he demanded for himself.

He did not withhold from himself the respect that he gave everyone else.

The Right to Exist
I know a man who apologizes for everything. He is always saying, “Sorry … I am sorry … Sorry about that.” When I questioned him about this, he said he was sorry. Most of us know people like this: people who behave as if they were invisible, people whose every mood and gesture proclaims, I am Sorry for Being Here, Sorry for Taking up Space and Oxygen. Which gets to the core of the problem, here: Timid and insecure people aren’t quite sure that they have a right to Be There, a right to Be Anywhere, a right to Exist.

Do you remember Bill Cosby’s line about how his angry dad once told him, “I brought you into the world; I can take you out”? Hilarious line. However, how many children came up believing that their “right” to exist was predicated on daddy’s approval or meeting mommy’s every expectation? As they grew older, they gave this same authority over their right to exist to teachers, bosses, spouses, and ministers.

Assertive people believe that they have a right to exist In fact, they believe that their existence comes with certain inalienable rights such as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Subsequently, they choose their own path, follow their own conscience, and pursue happiness as they think best. Believing as they do, they accept the right and responsibility for developing their own beliefs, their own values, and their own ideals.

Read this out loud: “I need no one’s permission to exist. I need no one’s permission to think and believe as I choose. I need no one’s permission to be happy. I am responsible for my life: not him, not her, not them, not it.” What did you experience as you read those words? An affirming “Yes” or was there an underlying doubt? Did you find yourself knowing it was true, hoping it was true or fearing it was true?

By the way, when you see someone asserting him or herself in a belligerent or obnoxious manner, the odds are that their behavior erupted out of fear and insecurity, not out of a desire to honor their beliefs and values.

Self-assertion begins with self-awareness. Outwardly living and honoring your beliefs, values, and ideals require that you actually know what these are. If you don’t know, if you haven’t spent time studying, thinking, reflecting and, then, deciding what your existence is based on, what it stands for, then exactly what is it that you are honoring? I cannot assert myself if I do not know my self.

There are, of course, people who have clearly defined beliefs and such but somehow never publicly honor them or appropriately stand up for them when it counts. (I won’t be insulted.) You have to wonder, in these cases, how much of what they believe is authentic and heart-believed and how much is just so much intellectualizing.

As I honor my beliefs, values, and ideals in my words and actions, my self-respect increases, which, in turn, fuels my assertiveness. Contrarily, if I dishonor what I believe or allow others to do the same, my self-respect diminishes, which, in turn, curtails my ability to assert myself in seeking to honor what I know I have dishonored.

It is a constant struggle to keep your individuality from being snuffed out by the herd. Some people want to own you, and others want to use you by having you think their thoughts through your brain. Then there are those that are oblivious to your existence and, consequently, are utterly ignorant and indifferent toward the fact that they are about to trample on you and all that you hold dear. Whatever the case, drawing boundaries, maintaining your beliefs and values, and asserting your true self are a large part of the foundation for health and success in life.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Knock, Knock

For 15 years, Harris has taken an annual poll with one question: “Who is your favorite movie star?” As a sign that there may be hope for our culture, Sean “Spicoli” Penn doesn’t make the Top Ten. Matt Damon is also absent, as is Tom Cruise. And Vaht Is Dis? No Brad Pitt?

Trivia Question: Who is the only actor to appear in the Top Ten each of the 15 years the poll was taken, ranking in the Top Three 13 of those years? Yup: The Man, The Mountain, The Legend, The Rugged Individualist, The Duke--John Wayne. This year, he is tied for Third Place with Will Smith. By the way, during the 15 years of this poll, he is the only actor to appear posthumously.

This has got to just rip the weenie actors, directors and writers who want nuanced boys and girls to emote like Sophomore Thespians over the plight of anyone and anything that is anti-American, anti-Individual, or anti-Hero. In one of Wayne's movies, there is a scene where he kicks down the door, and says (deadpan) "Knock, Knock." This Poll is Wayne standing just inside their splintered and broken door, saying, "Well, Pilgrim: you were saying ...?" Along with Box Offices receipts around America, this Poll is also saying, "We'll take The Duke, and his kick-bad-guy-ass-or-die -trying movies over your Nancy films, any day."

This Year's Top Ten

Denzel Washington
Clint Eastwood
John Wayne
Will Smith
Harrison Ford
Julia Roberts
Tom Hanks
Johnny Depp
Angelina Jolie
Morgan Freeman

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009


Has the inner eye of the soul lost its power? I have seen her, but it is as if I had seen a heavenly revelation—so completely has her image vanished again for me. In vain do I summon all the powers of my soul in order to conjure up this image. If I ever see her again, I shall be able to recognize her instantly, even though she stands among a hundred others. Now she has fled and the eye of my soul tries in vain to overtake her with its longing. I was walking along Langelinie, seemingly nonchalantly and without paying attention to my surroundings, although my reconnoitering glance left nothing unobserved—and then my eyes fell upon her. My eyes fixed unswervingly upon her. They no longer obeyed their master’s will: it was impossible for me to shift my gaze and thus overlook the object I wanted to see—I did not look, I stared. As a fencer freezes in his lunge, so my eyes were fixed, petrified in the direction initially taken. It was impossible to look down, impossible to withdraw my glance, impossible to see, because I saw far too much. The only thing I have retained is that she had on a green cloak, that is all—one could call it capturing the cloud instead of Juno; she has escaped me … and left only her cloak behind … The girl made an impression on me … (Soren Kierkegaard, writing about Cordeilia)

Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself.

Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,

While loving someone deeply gives you courage.
Lao Tzu

Love is a portion of the soul itself, and it is of the same nature as the celestial breathing of the atmosphere of paradise.

The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
Victor Hugo

Soul meets soul on lovers' lips.
Percy Shelley

Do you love me because I am beautiful,
or am I beautiful because you love me?

You are the most beautiful girl that has ever lived, and it is worth dying to have kissed you.
Dylan Thomas

He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began.
Leo Tolstoy

Love is the joy of the good, the wonder of the wise, the amazement of the gods.

At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.

It isn’t possible to love and to part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.
E. M. Forster, A Room With a View

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stealth Warfare

We have all encountered such behavior:

You walk into her office, as scheduled, prepared to get a critical report you will need for your meeting with upper management. The report is not ready. What happened was that her computer froze. Time before that her car broke down.

He had agreed to come pick you up from work and take you to get your car at the auto repair shop. “I forgot.” Problem is that whenever it comes time to help you, he forgets to ... A LOT.

She calls it wit: everyone else experiences it as sarcastic barbs.

He is most always late.

Usually very emotionally mature, she goes into her Dumb Blond Routine whenever she feels she is about to be confronted.

He repeatedly changes the subject or drops a Confusion Bomb when team meetings are not going his way.

Quite articulate in most settings, she consistently is befuddled when it comes time to explaining why she disagrees/was late/ forgot.

He is the busiest person you know. There is not a speck of dust in his office and material on desk is in alphabetical order. You never see him sitting still. But he gets very little done.

It is never her fault. Never.

Every time there is a confrontation, he gets a headache.

Rather than telling you she will not grant you the loan/help you with the project/ go out with you Friday night, she simply disappears until it is too late for the loan to do any good/ the project due date passes/ it is Monday.

Whenever he wounds your feelings, he says he was only teasing.

Passive aggressive behavior defies expectations by Not. Doing. A. Single. Thing.

Passive aggressive behavior sabotages in ways that cannot clearly be attributed to the saboteur

Passive aggressive behavior is stealth warfare

What is the source of this behavior? I don’t think there is a single cause. Sometimes it is fear of authority, other times it is the behavior of a control freak, and quite often it is evidence of internalized anger. I am ticked off at you, him, them, it or myself but cannot talk about it so shall demonstrate it.

I was coaching a client last year that I noticed was often forgetting things, and would become confused when I asked him to explain to me a specific assignment he had been quite clear on just the day before. Turns out he was terrified of Being Wrong: his passive aggressive behaviors were to protect himself.

How to Deal

Confront I noticed that whenever we begin talking about this issue, you get a headache and we have to postpone the discussion. What is the problem?

Inform Do you realize that by being late to this meeting, you wasted $500 of the company’s money? (Ten team members being paid $50 per hour.)

Hold Accountable You are expected to be on time. If you are late again, no matter how “legitimate” your excuse, you will force me to (depends on context) remove you from this team/ assign you to different department/ fire you/ send you to counselor.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March 17: What a Day

432 St Patrick is carried off to Ireland as a slave

1521 Ferdinand Magellan discovers the Philippines

1755 Transylvania Land Co. buys Kentucky for $50,000 from a Cherokee chief

1756 St. Patrick's Day 1st celebrated in New York City at Crown and Thistle Tavern

1762 1st St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City

1845 Rubber band patented by Stephen Perry of London

1861 Italy declares independence; Kingdom of Italy proclaimed

1868 Postage stamp canceling machine patent issued

1871 National Association of Professional Baseball players organized

1905 Eleanor Roosevelt marries Franklin D. Roosevelt in NY

1932 German police raid Hitler's Nazi-headquarters

1941 National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. opens

1942 General Douglas MacArthur arrives in Australia to become supreme commander

1944 Actor Charlton Heston weds Lydia Clarke

1945 Monte E Wilson, Jr. weds Billie Lynn Webb

1959 Dalai Lama flees Tibet for India

2002 Death of Billie Webb Wilson

Friday, March 13, 2009

Infinitely Expressive

It was his (Merlin’s) voice that fascinated me. Infinitely expressive, it served him in any manner he wished. When he lashed, it could raise welts on a stone. When he soothed, it could have shamed nightingales into silence. And when he commanded, mountains and valleys exchanged places. (Stephen R Lawhead, Arthur, p. 394)

One of the differences between a decent communicator and an individual who is powerfully persuasive is found in the melody produced by their words and the tonality with which those words are spoken.

Your words have a melody. The question is this: Does this melody serve or deter the intent of your communication? Listen to the melody of the words of Merlin’s father, Taliesin, when he was first wooing Princess Charis

...tell me the word that will win you, and I will speak it. I will speak the stars of heaven into a crown for your head; I will speak the flowers of the field into a cloak; I will speak the racing stream into a melody for your ears and the voices of a thousand larks to sing it; I will speak the softness of night for your bed and the warmth of summer for your coverlet; I will speak the brightness of flame to light your way and the luster of gold to shine in your smile; I will speak until the hardness in you melts away and your heart is free... (Stephen R. Lawhead, Taliesin, p. 375)

Taliesin’s choice of words creates pictures, feelings and sounds, surrounding Charis’ senses with his message of love. However, what if his tonality— the musicality of his voice—sounded like a John Philip Sousa military march? The message would have been lost in the incongruities between word and tonality.

Compare this with Merlin’s words to the Knights of the Round Table when they were about to go in search of the stolen Holy Grail

Hear, Men of Britain, Valiant Ones … the Head of Wisdom speaks. Heed and take warning … the battle is joined, and every man who would achieve the quest must face many ordeals. Be not dismayed, neither be afraid, but face the trials to follow with all forbearance, for the Swift Sure Hand upholds you, and the Holy Grail awaits those who endure to the end. (Stephen R Lawhead, Grail p. 330)

Well chosen words: words that elicit courage, strength and valor. Again, however, what if the musicality of the spoken words sounded like something sung by The Carpenters?

Be not dismayed (“They long to be”) or afraid (“close to you…”)

Listen to the conversations taking place around you today. Each person’s words have a peculiar melody and tonality: some are monotone, others utilize a few notes, and others create melodies and harmonies between word and tonality that carry their words into the hearts and minds of their listeners. I can have all the relevant facts at hand and choose fairly precise words to convey these facts, but if the musicality and tonality of my words is discordant to the intent of my message, the intent is drowned out.

Read the following two quotes aloud.

Men speak foolishly of the beauty that slays, though I believe such a thing may exist. But there is also a beauty that heals, that restores and revives all who behold it. (Stephen R Lawhead, Merlin, p. 210)

Morgian, rarest of beauty, frozen and fatal, mistress of the sweet poison, the warm kiss of death. (Merlin, p. 203)

You intuitively knew that there is a specific sentiment behind each passage and changed your tonality accordingly. Now, go back, reread each passage aloud: only this time swap tonalities. You can hear the incongruity between the words and the sentiment behind the words, can you not? You not only hear it, you feel it. So do those with whom we are communicating.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Flannery O'Connor: Living and Writing in the Shadow of Death

Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don’t have it miss one of God’s mercies. Flannery O’Connor

I write her name with honor, for all the truth and all the craft which she shows man’s fall and dishonor. Thomas Merton, printed on book flap of O'Connor's When Everything That Rises Must Converge, published posthumously

When I was a boy, I wasn’t all that interested in reading. For my father, this was a sure sign of some hidden mental illness. He was obsessed with reading history, theology, and some philosophy. His strategy for converting me was to leave small biographies of people he knew I admired: Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, Einstein and Edison, Madam Curie and Florence Nightingale. While I devoured these pocketbook bios, I remained uninterested in what dad considered “serious reading.” This all changed my senior of High School, when I took a class in Honors American Prose and Literature, taught by Mrs. Cogar.

Mrs. Cogar didn’t merely teach American literature, she embodied it, making it come alive for me. To this very day, I can still remember the thrill I experienced when she would recite passages from Hemingway and Steinbeck, Faulkner and O’Connor. When she spoke, it was if she were channeling the minds, hearts and voices of these authors.

O’Connor’s works were particularly intriguing to me. There was a peculiar tone to her books that resonated: dark, terrible, and frightening, her words pierced through the bravado of a young man’s pretended nonchalance and veneer of savoir faire.

Knowing my love for all things Flannery, my friend Joseph Spiccia recently sent me a link to a review of the biography Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, by Brad Gooch. I immediately ordered the book. My habit is to research the life of authors whom I admire. I want to know what made them tick: why did they write as they did, choose the subjects they choose. Up until now, the only book that I found helpful in this regard was A Habit of Mind: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor. (If I had to choose only 5 books to keep in my library, this would be one of them.) Now, there is Gooch’s biography, which is incredibly insightful.

Even when it comes to theology and philosophy, I am as interested in the author’s life experiences as I am their academic assertions. As Frederick Buechner once said, “All theology is biography.” By this he meant that the writers’ theology told us as much about themselves as it did their theology … so I want to know the biography.

Who died and caused you to say this? What lost love moved you to have this notion of life and love? What crime did you commit, or think you committed, that motivated you to have your particular perceptions of Right and Wrong, Good and Evil, Truth and Error, Sin and Forgiveness? Why do you focus on moral failures and not on the human capacity for greatness, or vice versa? Who hurt you so terribly that it left this indelible imprint on your soul? What is it you think the Almighty did (or didn’t do) that led you to your perceptions of “God”? Where does your hope, despair, cynicism, faith, agnosticism come from?

Gooch’s book answers the kind of questions I ask myself, as I read O’Connor’s stories.

When Flannery was 15 years old, her father, Edward, died of lupus: he was 45 years old. Two years later, she wrote of that black day, “The reality of death has come upon us and a consciousness of the power of God has broken our complacency like a bullet in the side.”

Like a bullet in the side That perfectly describes what I experienced when I first read, A Good Man is Hard to Find.

When Flannery was 24-years old, she was diagnosed with lupus. The Doctors gave her 5 years to live. Over the next 15 years, living with her widowed mother in Milledgeville, GA, she wrote her stories in the shadow of her impending and inevitable death.

O’Connor’s novels, short stories and letters grapple with the battle between hard heads, hard hearts and an even “harder” divine grace.

“All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless, and brutal.”

“The stories are hard but they hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism … when I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror.”

Hard, but never morose: severe, but most always accompanied with a wit and humor that can dislocate a rib.

Samuel Johnson said, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” O’Connor knew that she was going to die, and knew her “fortnight” was speeding toward her. She also knew why God had loved her into existence.

When she was doing her graduate work at University of Iowa, a friend asked why she worked so obsessively at her writing, and she replied that she “had to.” (Her friend, Barbara) “She was very serious about her mission in life, and had a sense of destiny.” Only a few years later, lupus honed this single-mindedness into a laser-like focus.

Upon reading a review of one of her books and discovering that the critic had mentioned her lupus, Flannery was livid, noting that her disease had no place in evaluating her work. Fair enough. True enough. However, the presence of the lupus did, with God’s grace, shape the soul of the author. Living and writing while “looking down the barrel of the Misfit’s shotgun,” give her stories a luminosity that very few writers ever attain.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Another wonderful day in the neighborhood. Snow falling outside, a fire burning in my fireplace, a great single malt to sip and cigar to smoke, while watching The Lord of the Rings. Doesn't get much better than this.