The Mystery at Delecour Manor

I have documented below the strange events that transpired at the home of Lady Bertha Delecour, a well-to-do and aristocratic widow residing in an unspecified part of the English countryside during an equally unspecified time in history. This piece was dredged up from the annals of my early high school years, and it is likely the last remnant of a younger, funnier version of myself. Somewhere out in the universe is a video recording of this screenplay come to life, with yours truly acting out the titular role of Lady Delecour. Oh, if only you could have seen my wig. Anyway, let’s begin.

Scene One

Narrator: Night one of The Mystery at Delecour Manor. Lady Bertha Delecour prepares to retire for the evening.

Scene One opens in the bedchamber of Lady Bertha Delecour at Delecour Manor. Ostentatious displays of wealth adorn the walls and furniture. Garbed in nightgown and gilded slippers, the aged Lady prepares for sleep. She proceeds in removing multiple items of jewelry from her person, placing them on a bedside table. A quiet knock can be heard at the door to the chamber. 

Lady Delecour: Come in, come in! A slight lilt accents the Lady’s voice, but it carries well nevertheless.

The door opens and in steps Mrs. Pennykettle, the portly, middle-aged housekeeper of Delecour Manor. She carries a silver tray laden with tea, crumpets, and a folded newspaper. 

Mrs. Pennykettle: Your evening tea, mistress. I also brought this morning’s post. You forgot to read it during brunch. She carefully lays the tray on the bedside table and hands the newspaper into the expectant hands of Lady Delecour. 

Lady Delecour: You have my thanks, Mrs. Pennykettle. You may leave now.

The terse attitude of her mistress fails to deject Mrs. Pennykettle. The matron quietly leaves the room, closing the door behind her. Lady Delecour opens the newspaper, periodically sipping her tea. After a few moments of silence, her eyes widen comically, almost in imitation of a toad. Chest heaving, she spews her tea over the side of the bed. 

Lady Delecour: What tosh is this? UFO sightings in Surrey? The nerve! Blasted press spewing whatever nonsense around they please. I’ll no longer subscribe to this rot.

Lady Delecour tosses the paper on the floor with bluster, giving it one last indignant glance. Dousing the light with a scrabbling hand, she prepares to sleep. With a final mumble about “nonsense aliens,” her eyes begin to close. Almost immediately, from outside the window, lights begin flickering noticeably. They shine into the bedchamber, hopping from walls to furniture. Lady Delecour stirs with a start, notices the lights, and sits up in bed. 

Lady Delecour: Mrs. Pennykettle! Come hither! My sleep has been disturbed.

The light suddenly fades out as someone can be heard politely knocking at the door. Hair in disarray, Lady Delecour leaps from the tangled covers and scrambles to the door. Heaving it open with long, unconventional fingernails, she grasps her housekeeper by the blouse and drags her inside. The door slams shut with a bang. 

Mrs. Pennykettle: You called, Madame? She calmly disentangles herself from the wild woman in front of her and smoothes down her wrinkled apron. 

Lady Delecour: There is a crook loitering outside my window, shining lights in my face, and disturbing the peace! There needs to be some kind of law enforcement here at once!

Mrs. Pennykettle: Walking to the window and peering into the dark, she replies, Are you sure My Lady? I cannot see the faintest light. In all respects, perhaps you are confusing dream with reality. Knowing a reprimand was due, the matron lowers her head and averts her eyes. 

Lady Delecour: Spittle flying from her wrinkled lips, Lady Delecour offers her rebuke. You are in no position to question my sense, Mrs. Pennykettle. Move away from the window, woman, and allow me to look for myself. Absolutely preposterous!

Swiftly moving aside, Mrs. Pennykettle offers no rebuttal to her mistress’s remarks. She is the perfect example of a proper housekeeper. Meanwhile, Lady Delecour peers out into the night, clenching the silk curtains with an iron grasp. With a jerk, she steps back. 

Lady Delecour: Aha! Some ungainly figure wanders about my garden. Call the officers! Bring in that crook! I will not have thieves and trespassers on my estate. She looks again, this time trying to determine any distinguishing features of the figure. In puzzlement, Lady Delecour realizes it is her gardener, Mr. Potts. The hour is late, but nevertheless he carries a rake in his arms, seemingly still at work. Why, it’s Mr. Potts! Whatever could that idiot be up to at this late hour? Loitering outside my bedchamber window and shining lights in my face! He is a spy, I tell you Mrs. Pennykettle! He must be arrested! Call up the station and have him taken in!

Mrs. Pennykettle: Right away, My Lady. She swiftly exits the room, making a phone call to Officer Daniels, the chief of the local law enforcement. 

Mr. Potts is summoned to the parlor without explanation, and he obliges. Meanwhile, Lady Delecour rises from bed and prepares herself for company. She exits her bedchamber and makes for the study where Mr. Potts unknowingly awaits his imminent arrest. Mrs. Pennykettle returns with more tea and crumpets, and the trio settles down in tense anticipation. After a few moments, a knock can be heard at the door. Mrs. Pennykettle steps forward to answer it, revealing a tall, well-built man with chiseled features. 

Officer Daniels: Good evening miss. I received your call and left the station immediately after filing a report. Is the proprietress present?

Lady Delecour: Good evening to you, Officer Daniels. You have my thanks for arriving so hastily. She glances surreptitiously at Mr. Potts, a grimace intensifying her already severe features. I don’t believe the matter could have rested until morning, sir. You see, this man, my gardener, has proven himself to be a crook and a spy! He sneaks around at night, shining lights in my window, looking for God knows what. My privacy has been compromised this night, sir, when I awoke to find this man outside my window in plain sight. He must be arrested!

Officer Daniels: One moment my good Lady, you say this man was shining lights in your window?

Mr. Potts: I en’t done no such thing! I be finishing up the weeding in the petunia bed, like I been planning these last two days. I carried no light, neither! Dressed in filthy, mud-smeared trousers, a stained shirt, and grungy hat, Mr. Potts carries a garden rake in his hands, only enunciating his statement. Nevertheless, in his back pocket rests an electric torch, which he has apparently forgotten about. Lady Delecour notices this and points out the lie with vehemence.

Lady Delecour: And what is that, you buffoon? In your back pocket! Let me guess, you forgot all about that blasted light you were shining so obtrusively in my window! You are out to steal my antique false teeth collection. I know it! Her glare is cold enough to wither flowers.

Officer Daniels, in a hasty assumption, now believes Mr. Potts is the prime suspect. He grabs the disgusting man by the arm and hauls him forward. Mr. Potts squeals but remains submissive. 

Officer Daniels: Please remain silent, you crook! Now, answer my questions very carefully. Do you or do you not confess to spying on the Lady Delecour? Were you loitering outside her window? Think very carefully before you answer, you degenerate hog! If you confess, I will personally ensure your punishment isn’t too severe.

Mr. Potts: I confess to nothin! I have only ever served old Bertha with honesty. Surely she en’t thinking I been spying on her?

Lady Delecour: It’s Delecour, you swine! Lady Delecour! Arrest this man, Officer. I want him banished from my property now! Her face is a curious shade of red and purple as she waves her arms madly in the air. Officer Daniels grabs Mr. Potts by the arm and drags him out the door of the manor, effectively sealing the poor, sniveling idiot’s fate.

Mrs. Pennykettle: I believe the excitement is over My Lady. You may retire for the night, if you wish. She calmly picks up the condemned gardener’s rake on the floor and tosses it out the door . 

Lady Delecour: Mrs. Pennykettle, I believe that is exactly what I shall do. You may dismiss yourself for the evening after cleaning this mess up. Goodnight to you. And with those final words, Lady Delecour departs the stage, eager to finally receive her night of sleep. End of Scene One.

Scene Two

Narrator: Scene Two of The Mystery at Delecour Manor. Twenty-four hours since the rash and hasty arrest of the gardner, Mr. Potts, has passed. The Lady Bertha Delecour prepares to retire for the evening once again.

Scene Two opens again in the bedchamber of Lady Delecour. The fusty, old aristocrat is clambering into bed, still smiling from her triumph the night before. She imagines to herself the torture poor Mr. Potts will be enduring. Her antique false teeth collection is finally safe from spying crooks. 

Lady Delecour: My household has been purged of thieves and buffoons. I may finally rest assured that tonight no fowl villain will disturb my sleep again. She settles down and douses the light. Her eyes began to close as she dozes off. 

After a few moments a steady light begins to shine through the window of the bedchamber. More lights join in, and a blinking, intermittent array is formed. 

Lady Delecour: They have returned, Mrs. Pennykettle! Quick, dial Officer Daniels! Mr. Potts had an accomplice. Practically leaping from bed, Lady Delecour stumbles to the window, peering into the night with growing insanity. The lights immediately cease. Although she can locate no figure wandering the grounds this time, her hope is not lost. I cannot see a bloody thing out there. Where is Mrs. Pennykettel! Mrs Pennykettle!

By this time Lady Delecour has become increasingly suspicious about her housekeeper. Her twisted mind is playing games, and for some unknown cause, she links those flashing lights to Mrs. Pennykettle. Silently she makes a vow to do everything in her power to have her housekeeper arrested.

Lady Delecour: Oh what a fool I am! It was that Pennykettle wretch spying on me. She is very clever, yes, always so calm and reserved. And Mr. Potts was her assistant! I see! I must phone Officer Daniels at once. Lady Delecour exits the room and heads for the parlor, where she phones the station, demanding Officer Daniels to arrive shortly. She hangs up the receiver just as the front door opens and Mrs. Pennykettle steps in.

Mrs. Pennykettle: Oh, Madame! I’m terribly sorry for leaving you. I was outside seeing about the hounds. They were starting up the foulest racket you ever heard and—

Lady Delecour: Keep silent, you dog! I know Mr. Potts wasn’t the ONLY spy on this estate. You are in the same boat, Pennykettle. I have phoned the law enforcement, and they will be arriving hastily. At that moment a loud knock can be heard at the door. Lady Delecour rushes to answer it. Mrs. Pennykettlle panics and rushes at the door in a fright, but at that moment Officer Daniels steps in and grabs her by the arms.

Officer Daniels: Is this the second spy, Lady Delecour?

Mrs. Pennykettle: Oh Madame! How could you believe I would spy on you? I’ve been faithful for well over twenty years! This is ridiculous! Please, Madame!

Lady Delecour: Be quiet woman! You and Mr. Potts have been out to steal my fortune for quite some time, I know it! I called upon you earlier, Pennykettle, and you never showed! And then you walk in through the front door so nonchalantly! What do you have to say for yourself?

Mrs. Pennykettle: Please, I—

Officer Daniels: As the gracious Lady already requested, keep quiet woman! If you confess to your crimes now, you may be spared a few years from prison. What say you? Do you confess? Yes or no?

Mrs. Pennykettle: I have never harmed or held intentions to bring harm upon my mistress! Surely, she must see reason! With a last, pleading glance toward Lady Delecour, Mrs. Pennykettle falls to the ground in a sobbing mess. 

Officer Daniels, shaking his head sadly, leads the poor woman out the door by the arm, officially arresting her. Lady Delecour smiles earnestly, for sure that her troubles have ended. She progresses to her bedchamber once again, completely at peace with her insanity. After dousing the lights, she falls into a deep reverie. End of Scene Two. 

Scene Three

Narrator: Scene Three of The Mystery at Delecour Manor. Lady Delecour is deeply asleep, and her snores pervade the entire bedchamber. Oblivious to her surroundings, the Lady fails to react when the lights begin once again.

Suddenly, in addition to the flickering lights, a loud cacophony of what can only be described as gibberish radiates directly from outside the window. The obtrusive noise awakes the Lady with a start.

Lady Delecour: Eyes opening with a snap, the Lady sits up in bed once again. Her gaze is riveted to the window where the light show continues with increasing intensity. She fights the urge to cover her ears as the uncanny sounds persist. No! Not again! What is this madness! I demand you to leave this estate at once, or the the law enforcement will be summoned! Depart! Be banished! Cease that unearthly racket!

The deranged woman rises from bed, loosing the clip in her hair and hurling it at the window with the might of a lioness long past her prime. Lady Delecour slides from the bed and stumbles to the door, just as the lights and strange gibberish cease. She stares around in bewilderment until a bump is heard in the hall outside. She steps back and her lined face twists into a grimace. 

Lady Delecour: Intruder! Leave my estate! I have phoned the station, and you will be arrested shortly. Vacate the premises at once!

Immediately the door to the bedchamber swings open, knocking the elderly woman aside and onto the floor. A wooden box labeled ‘antique false teeth’ slowly slides across the floor and onto the scene. Lady Delecour rises, staring at the box in shock. 

Lady Delecour: What is this? My false teeth collection! She leaps forward with vigor, bending down to unwisely grab the wooden box. As she nears, it jumps back toward the door by several feet, frightening the old woman. Oh! It moves! And she follows the box as it leads her out of the room and down the hall toward the parlor. 

The front door swings open as the Lady enters the parlor, and the box of antique false teeth exit the manor. Lady Delecour screeches in desperation, and leaps for the door. At that moment a great, thundering boom shakes the entire room. The Lady is flung to the floor with a vengeance as a first, and then a second, flying machine enter Delecour Manor. They skid to a stop in front of the dazed woman with lights flashing and blinking familiarly. 

Lady Delecour: Bloody— She is interrupted as the awful cacophony starts up again. Her hands go to her ears as the wailing intensifies. 

All at once, the two spacecraft settle and the lights cease to flash. Behind the tinted windows, Lady Delecour can easily discern a pair of humanoid figures. The incessant wailing seems to be emanating from these creatures and could very well be a form of communication. Huddling on the floor, the Lady forbids herself to bite her own tongue. Lashing out with harsh words, she is prepared to defend herself and her home at all costs.

Lady Delecour: Get away, you vile extraterrestrials! You may be real after all, but I will rue the day I allow any being to manhandle me. Step back at once and prepare to vacate the premises! Her voice quivers on the last note, and the aliens notice this with glee. The old crone is more frightened than she lets on. The gibberish continues as the pair discuss what to do with their pray.  

Lady Delecour is attached to the spacecraft via a good old fashioned rope and hook. As the aliens finally egress Delecour Manor, the wild wailing of Lady Delecour can be heard across the entire countryside, inspiring many fables and ghost tales. End of Scene Three. 

Narrator: And so the time of the aristocrat, Lady Delecour has come to pass. Nobody ever knew what happened to the poor wretch. Some say she was kidnapped and killed by the families of those she unjustly condemned. Some believe she was abducted by aliens. But aliens aren’t real….. Right?

Story Beginnings: The Concave

I flew high in the night, the wings of my soul perturbing the very aether that kept them aloft. Soaring above an icy expanse, my awareness flirted with oblivion, yet was held fixed by an ethereal river of light that I do not think mortal eyes could behold. Onward this great rush of luminosity propelled me, across vast and barren stretches of land. I was caught in the toroidal currents of the sphere and moving toward destiny with great haste.

The northern curtain greeted my passing with elegant sublimity. Folds and ripples of indiscernible scale graced the night sky. This was where the heavens were reflected upon the Earth. This was where the spiritual danced with the temporal. I was naught but a wisp in the air compared to this grandeur, yet inherently connected to the spirit it bore. Beyond these far reaches I did traverse.

As the firmament depressed and curved inward, my awareness sank into a vortex of light. In that far, northern apex of the world lay a forgotten portal. An entrance to the cradle of life, out of which poured the forebears of mankind. Currents of fire twisted around like a chain, propelling my existence deep into the womb of the Earth. There was no discerning the passage of time, as all humanly measurements were lost in this ascended state.

A line of red appeared where horizons met, quickly filling out into a dim star as I was swept forth. Centered in my sight, this dull, smoky brother of our sun was both the source and destination of the current. Maintaining an inward approach, I then witnessed the inside curvature of the firmament. Far below, across, and all around stretched lands of plenty. I was at the doorstep of destiny — a child of the great smoky god returned home.

Note: As with many of my imaginings, I can provide no backstory here. This was written with the intention of being somewhat obscure, based upon the recent images and ideas welling in my subconscious. Inspiration was derived from the works of Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the adventures of Olaf Jansen, presented as a true account by Willis George Emerson.

Death: A Reality Check

I present a short musing that marks my hopefully triumphant return from the annals of writer’s block and apathy. It’s been too long since I’ve felt proud of a single sentence in anything I’ve written, including this. But how can I better perfect myself without even trying? Anyway, I digress. It’s time to purge this nihilism from my system.

The briefness of life is akin to a single breath of air. An inhale, an exhale, and then it’s over. The effects and memory of our meager existence in the universe are left to disperse and decay. I realize that I will not be upon this earth forever, for in fact my essence is as transitory as weather in the midwest. *chuckle* In this existence, my body is merely a shell that I must maintain in order to continue experiencing the perception of this particular state of reality. But this is a highly metaphysical, somewhat dry perspective.  

The simple, unalterable, absolute truth is that I’m going to die. 

I’m going to be rendered obsolete, wiped clean from the collective body of society, and ultimately eliminated from the engorged pool of humanity. It’s a frightening thought, but one I’m learning to embrace. Because embracing the inevitable is the best reality check. It frames your existence within a new context. It teaches you to see the aspects of life that matter on a true and profound scale. It unveils how many years you’ve wasted on trivial pursuits of material intention. But most importantly, it’s humbling as hell.

To cope with the realization of my looming annihilation, I have searched for a greater purpose. As if in rebellion against the void, I’ve analyzed the patterns of causes and effects underlying every event, looking for some meaning. This has led to a greater awareness of actions and reactions on both a micro (personal) and macro (universal) scale. Perceiving the inherent interconnectedness of everything and everyone, with no exceptions, has not been a forthcoming achievement. I realize that my way of thinking and priorities in life are not in line with convention, which has culminated in a self-centered yearning to be understood that I struggle to overcome. It’s spiritually inhibiting.

Liberation from spiritual death is understanding that the distinction between your individuality and the rest of the universe is not absolute. At best, it’s an illusion crafted by the limited awareness and material grip of this state of reality. The intrinsic and interconnected nature of life proves that we can not exist without sending ripples of effects out into the universe. And we are most certainly not immune to being affected by the ripples around us. It is indeed a metaphysical ocean we live in, and an unstoppable force that binds us all.

I meditate on this realization when the absurdity of existence takes its toll. What lies after death may not be possible to know with certainty. It may not even be within my capabilities, for all the speculating books and Sanskrit translations I’ve slogged through. But it’s my newfound understanding that this knowledge isn’t necessary. Realizing how inherently interwoven I am with the workings of the universe gives me a place and a calling. Spirituality frames the narrow truths of nihilism within a grander, far nobler context of divine purpose.

Death is but one side of the great balancing act of the universe. The story is so much larger than any individual soul. By striving to develop a perception of our interconnectedness, we can be inspired to live in a state of unconditional compassion, liberated understanding, and servitude toward our fellow man.

Story Beginnings: The Beast

There was something not quite right about the way his eyes bored into mine. Like a feral animal, I felt him watching my every move with primal intensity. I wanted to flee back into the woods, to immerse myself in their security and camouflage. But something held me in place. A rigidity took hold of my body. I was paralyzed with some mental fixation with this beast.

With sudden ferocity, the creature leaped in my direction. A monstrous roar ripped out from the depths of his body and I felt his teeth at my throat. I was on the ground, no longer immobile, but thrashing to free myself from this fatal embrace. My mind, my consciousness, remained detached from the events.

As my body endured the ripping, the shredding, and the unfathomable pain, my awareness rose high into the night. I looked down upon the horrific scene of my death, not quite grasping the reality of this moment. My temporal existence was no more. I had been freed from this accursed life, albeit not in the intended way…

Note: This is a new category of writing I am considering on posting periodically. Throughout the week, I often jot down short stories that have sprung to mind or been inspired through a dream. There is no backstory, and these stories will probably forever go unfinished. But I will share them here in hopes that someone can use the inspiration to fuel their own imaginings.

An Update

The date in the corner of my computer reads Thursday, November 10, 2016. Within my own reality, most days seem to blur together. However, today marks an incongruous occasion. I am momentarily obliged to pierce the shroud of obscurity woven over my general livelihood. For those inquiring:

I am fine. Life is good. Things are happening.

These days I have taken to valuing my privacy over any desire to make a social statement or engage in discourse. In part, this has been a beautifully liberating experience. There is much to learn upon turning inwards and engaging with your own conscience and spirit. Introspection is something society could use a little more of, in my opinion. But I digress. This mentality has also been a hindrance to my natural characteristic of creative expression.

Looking forward, my hope is to change this. I must learn to balance the privacy and solitude I hold so dear with healthy and artful expression. Furthermore, I have tentative plans to take up the mantle of book reviewing once again. Muse Manifesto would be my medium for doing so, of course, and it would be lovely to grow the viewership of this site further. This is not a promise I am making, but a simple goal that would be nice to achieve.

So hopefully this will once more become a place my voice can be heard regularly, or at least close to it. But only with the softness of a gentle breeze caressing one’s face. I have no intention to be overtly loud or intrusive with my musings. I just want to talk about the books I love and maybe some inspirational tidbits about their authors. Nevertheless, it would be entirely within my nature to fall back on this promise and engage in dialogue a bit more philosophical. Ahh well… When the soul speaks loudly enough, one must write.

To those once close, but since relegated to the fringes of my life, I am sorry. I still wonder about you all, those beautiful souls who have inspired me so. You continue to be the foundation of who I am.

Thank you.

The Art of Wordsmithery: A Spiritual Experience

Writing for me has always been a bit like singing a song. It requires combining the melody of good syntax and diction with the soul of a purposeful theme. I can feel a profound sense of rhythm when I stumble upon just the right sequence of words. Its both liberating and enlightening to write with that sense of velocity. I could only compare it to the feeling of flying and careening through the skies.

But there is also another aspect to writing; a frustration and helpless abandonment of the creative muses. When I feel as if all the original thought and genius has been stripped from my soul, I know there is no hope for any writing endeavor. When a mental embargo has hindered me from putting pen to paper, I know it is time to slow down and take a breather. This describes my writing mentality perfectly: a continuous fluctuation between supreme literary prowess and the icy, empty and void-like hollowness of writer’s block.

Asking myself “who am I as a writer?” requires facing both aspects of how I feel on the subject. Both the negative and positive are important in their own right. Without this acceptance of duality, any conclusion I could make would come out skewed and biased toward one aspect over another. That is the reason I must face my own inner demons of insecurities and writer’s block. I would not be able to define who I am without total acceptance of the broad perspective of my writing.

In essence, for me, the ability to write is akin to the  ability to meditate. Some days are vastly easier than others and there is always an experience of flexing the creative muscle, just like the spiritual muscle stretched with meditation. When I try to envision the tranquility of writing, I see a vast hay field yawning out before me, wide and free. I see the sky above stretching into oblivion, patterned with shifting cotton clouds. I see the massive expanse of field spreading outward; its golden hills rolling with the richness of harvest. There is peace and pride for my hard work. There is some nameless and swelling emotion transcendent of bliss. It’s powerful and motivating. It’s what I live for as a writer.

Lewis Carol, author of Alice in Wonderland, once said “Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” Introspection has always been a great part of my writing in general. There is always an element of questioning my own perspective and ruminating on how I simply ‘feel’ at the core. I think that any good piece of writing takes its author on a journey of self-discovery and realization. That is certainly the case for me, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I hadn’t been doing this creative craft for a while. Sometimes the goal is the journey itself, and self actualization can only be found when that is accepted. Writing epitomizes this internal struggle.

For me, the image of the Buddha symbolizes peace, solitude, and inner-harmony. It provides a path for me to follow and a spiritual goal to achieve. It gives my soul a moral framework onto which I can build the rest of my life. Attaining these ideals is also the process I use to write my best work. Striving to hone the inner fire of creativity and passion is spiritual at its essence, and there is no better symbol for this act in my  opinion than the Buddha. Literature that embodies the greatest sense of clarity and divinity requires just as much restraint as it does enthusiasm. Embracing solitude and a deeper peace of mind is crucial for developing restraint.

There are moments when I am in the midst of a creative effort that I become aware of a certain emptiness in my center. Its not the void-like disparity of writer’s block, but a very light and buoyant emptiness, filled with satisfaction and confidence. Pardon the contradictory description, but that is exactly how it feels. The Buddha teaches about this emptiness and encourages all to cultivate their awareness of it. Again, this occurs most strongly when I am writing or in the middle of any art. I would hazard a strong guess that many other artists have beheld this experience as well.

At the core of any type of art or craft is a need for the sincerity of the artist. The utter honesty of self is something I strive to incorporate in my own work. There is a quote by Spencer Johnson that reflects the two natures of sincerity needed for authentic writing: “Integrity is telling myself the truth, and honesty is telling the truth to other people.” Whether I am hindered by writer’s block or my creative energies are manifest, I make it a requirement to only complete work that is genuine to my soul. Writing for me is an incredibly honest act that means far more than merely creating entertainment for someone else to enjoy. It’s a spiritual exercise that requires me to be completely and utterly sincere with myself. There is no room for obfuscation and facades; only severe, blinding truth. Like a surgeons scalpel, I use literary expression to cut away all the denial and bottled emotions from my inner integrity.

There is also a strict importance for an outward sense of honesty in my writing as well. This entails expressing my purpose and message concisely and with the desired effect. I do not wish for others to misinterpret my meaning due to faulty word choice. I also do not wish to be dishonest about myself or lead someone on a ersatz path of understanding. Whittled down to the marrow, this is the creed of my writing. That is the rule that I religiously adhere to. Just like the Spencer Johnson quote expressed, true sincerity is doubled-faceted in nature. It requires a personal sense of integrity and a public obligation to honesty. That is the ethical code I instill in all of my writing.

Calling myself a writer means a lot more than using a superficial label or identity. It means that I have taken up the sometimes painful, yet beautiful art of wordsmithery. It means that I have taken the road less travelled and delved inwards to confront my own insecurities, all in order to give my craft the tranquility, introspection, and sincerity it deserves. When I ask myself “Who am I as a writer,” there is no clearcut answer or identity that separates me from the rest of the herd. There is only the willingness to do right by my creative efforts and craft something that is truly representative of how I feel within my heart. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of writing is expressing the chaotic and complex web of intelligence, or our minds, in a way that we can give the readers the purest and most honest sense of understanding. This is ultimately the goal I live for as a writer.

Political Apathy and the Status Quo

Columbia, Missouri — With the recent midterm elections resulting in a voter turnout rate of only 36.4 percent, it’s becoming quite apparent that a plague of political apathy is taking the United States by storm. In fact, according to the New York Times Editorial Board, this has been the worst voter turnout in 72 years. With our leaders’ approval ratings plummeting, the American people may be beginning to feel that now, more than ever, their interests are simply not being represented.

CBS News recently released a report unveiling that the youth vote (ages 18-29) only represented a meager 13 percent of the national electorate this year. Historically speaking, a lower midterm voter turnout is usually expected in between presidential elections, however the lack of activism and interest among America’s youth was especially unprecedented this year. This underscores the growing divide between the few individuals on top of society enforcing major economic decisions and the remainder of the population that deals with the consequences of those decisions.

Some would argue that an increasing plethora of distractions is keeping the younger generations from finding much motivation to partake in the political system. According to Penelope Romero, a typical middle-class midwesterner, “these distractions [are] not allowing them to see the issues of reality.” Upon further inquiry, it was agreed that online media and social networking have become somewhat of an affliction to political awareness. Entertainment masquerading as “news media,” or what some call “infotainment” gives people, especially youth, a false sense of being on top of national issues.

The function of social networks is also heavily debated in the realm of politics. Penelope Romero continues to say that “They are very useful to political activism, and should continue to be used that way. You just can’t negate the fact that they are also major sources of distraction for today’s youth. The youth will not learn to look at what’s really happening in the political world unless the teachers show them. Who are the teachers? Parents, internet, TV, schools, etc?”

This opens up the question of what or who is the purest and most unbiased source of political knowledge available to incoming generations? Many will look to their preferred cable news network (i.e FOX, MSNBC, CNN), yet the increasingly partisan and idealogical lens through which stories are reported is not conducive to a pure political understanding. Some will unquestionably adopt the viewpoints of their parents and peers, yet how can this be any better if those opinions are founded on a basis of misinformation and rigid ideology?

Schools and Universities are little better. Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has discussed the influence of big money in colleges and the slow and steady shift of Universities to corporate business models. This also involves the indoctrination of youth to become ever more passive and apathetic to the unjust economics being thrust upon them. The most prominent method of indoctrination is the heavy burdening of student loan debt that an increasing number of youth are struggling with. This ties them securely into the capitalistic society and money-centered mentality. Chomsky continues to say that “…another technique of indoctrination is to cut back faculty-student contact: large classes, temporary teachers who are overburdened, who can barely survive on an adjunct salary. And since you don’t have any job security, you can’t build up a career, you can’t move on and get more. These are all techniques of discipline, indoctrination, and control.”

Indeed, the issue of procuring pure and unbiased political knowledge is a daunting task in the United States today. There are a few online publications that feature “alternative news” and several illuminated individuals devoted to spreading truth, however most of these sources are being put under the label of “radicalism” by those on top who wish to keep the populace indoctrinated and apathetic. So far, these methods have worked quite effectively in subduing the political activism of Americans, but when they haven’t, there is always voter suppression and gerrymandering to fall back on.

Beyond the superficial partisan squabbles of Democrat vs Republican or Liberal vs Conservative, there is an underlying trend of misinformation and pure, unabashed ignorance within today’s youth. This indoctrination is all that the younger generations have ever known, and so it is unlikely to be questioned or scrutinized in any broad sense. However, there is hope. Every now now then a movement springs up that could be considered truly populist in nature, such the Occupy Wall Street movement fighting for economic equality. Even in a society where critical thinking and individual thought are happily traded for a herd mentality and the bliss of obedience, there is still something moderately functional in our conscience. Something that speaks loudly when an injustice is brought to light. It is up to those who are brave enough to question the status quo to drag those injustices, kicking and screaming, out of the shadows where they can be seen by all for what they truly are.

To quote from Apple: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them. Disagree with them. Glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Special thanks to Penelope Romero for consenting to an interview for the inclusion of quotes in this article. Your input was very much appreciated.

Works Cited:

“The Young Voter Turnout in 2014.” <i>CBSNews</i>. CBS Interactive. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-young-voter-turnout-in-2014/&gt;.

Stableford, Dylan. “Voter Turnout for 2014 Midterms Worst in 72 Years.” <i>Yahoo! News</i>. Yahoo!, 12 Nov. 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;http://news.yahoo.com/voter-turnout-2014-midterms-worst-in-72-years-143406756.html&gt;.

“Political Apathy Threatens Our Nation.” <i>The Nation</i>. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;http://www.thenation.com/blog/176252/political-apathy-threatens-our-nation&gt;.

Edwards, Dennis. “POLITICAL APATHY AND THE YOUTH VOTE: A SURVEY OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS.” <i>POLITICAL APATHY AND THE YOUTH VOTE: A SURVEY OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS</i>. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;https://www.coastal.edu/business/cbj/pdfs/articles/spring2005/edwards.pdf&gt;.

“Jacobin.” <i>Jacobin The Death of American Universities Comments</i>. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/03/the-death-of-american-universities/&gt;.

Duality

I was recently lucky enough to attend a theatrical production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Located at The Talking Horse Theater here in Columbia Missouri, the performance was technically a final dress rehearsal prior to the initial opening. It left me pondering the various themes presented in this classical work, particularly the nature of duality within all humans. The characters Jekyll and Hyde are both respective personifications of the “good” and “evil” found at the heart of every man. Portrayed as polar opposites as if on a spectrum, Jekyll is described as a gentlemanly, higher class member of society. Hyde, on the other, is a primal, self-motivated and ultimately malevolent individual. These dual facets of the same character are repeatedly at odds in terms of passions and motivations.

Only towards the end of the production does one begin to realize the overlapping of both extremes and understand that “good” and “evil” may not be so clear-cut after all. After attempting to suppress his “dark” side, Dr. Jekyll begins to reveal an impurity within his own character, and only strengthens the personification of Mr. Hyde. It soon becomes apparent that Jekyll is in fact a combination of good and evil, while Hyde is purely evil. Despite a desperate attempt, it is impossible to fully separate Jekyll’s pure “goodness.” Thus, the idea of a harsh distinction between “good” and “evil” breaks down.

Talking Horse ProductionsEvery personality is merely a conglomeration or result of one’s past experiences—both the good and the bad. Each trait within an individual is determined based on the overall past conditioning that is unique to them. Personality and ego arise from environmental factors. In terms of who a person truly is, there can never be an absolute determination. Our “self” is multifaceted, and in terms of polarity we embody the entire spectrum, not simply one end or the other. Therefore it is incorrect to use the labels “good” and “evil” to describe an individual entirely or debatably even individual characteristics.

Duality within human nature can be expressed in many ways, but these expressions are merely perspectives, or certain lenses through which society looks to categorize itself. The real nature of who we are cannot be determined by looking through a monochrome lens, or one of absolutes. Humanity is not so simple as to be separated into black and white, because truthfully, the universe paints our souls with a kaleidoscope of colors.

With a broad perspective, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde challenges the preconceptions of duality that are common in society. By portraying both the characters of Hyde and Jekyll in polarity at the beginning of the production and then slowly bringing into light just how greatly their opposing characteristics truly do overlap, the audience begins to understand that both personifications of “good” and “evil” are born in unity within the individual Jekyll himself, and thus within humanity as a whole.

Talking Horse ProductionsDr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeR.L. Stevenson

Fog of Glory

Throughout colonial Boston Massachusetts, until about 1770, Pope’s Day was celebrated to commemorate the discovery and thwarting of a Catholic plot to overthrow King James in 1605. Occurring on the 5th of November, this anti-catholic celebration served as a way to unify the colonists religiously and through their mutual hatred of the Catholic church. The event often included violence, rival mobs, and the burning of effigies to signify disgust in the Devil, Pope and even Tax Collector. It was an unofficial holiday upon which the “have-nots” and poor workers of town would gather, demanding coins from households and brawling in the streets.

In Boston, upon this day of celebratory madness, two rival mobs would generally form: a North End Mob and a South End Mob. Meeting in the middle of town, these two mobs would commence to brawl, the winners partaking in the burning of the effigies. During the time in which the Stamp Act emerged, other mobs developed in opposition to the act, proving to be a vital patriotic aspect of the coming Revolution. The 5th of November, leading up to roughly 1770 in which processions for the Boston Massacre superseded, was defined by protests to the many parliamentary taxes enacted by the British. After the Revolutionary War, Pope’s Day ceased to be celebrated.

This historical event was significant in that it highlights the violent, maddening and overall bloody nature of conflict in the colonies during the 18th century that is often insufficiently mentioned in textbooks. Akin to an outright civil war, the events leading up to the Revolution were hardly peaceful. The mobs, brawls and death at the hands of colonists within their communities paints the decade in a grim light. The transition from British rule to Independence did not arise without sacrifice. Revolutions in general are often glorified to reflect the societal change as beneficial and to prove that the many glaring sacrifices were not made in vain. The families that were torn apart, the children that were killed needlessly and the disruption of economic order are hardly discussed in detail.

Of course, it’s impossible to guess where the United States would be today if the Revolution had never occurred. Most likely, its citizens can thank their freedom and economic opportunity to the very revolution that was carried out in blood and death. What’s important to realize is that the details and possible motives of any major societal change are never completely pretty. November 5th in the original colonies is just one example. Pope’s Day is merely a window into the true passion, desires and animosity of the colonists. However, we can use it as a way to see clearly and factually what the fog of glory has obscured from the mainstream belief.

Remembering the “who” and what” is never enough. Always search for the “why” and “how” and the cause and effect. Only then can the truth of any event be unveiled.

Sources:

“Pope’s Day (1765).” Pope’s Day 1765, a Large Anti-Catholic Celebration Held in Boston Eacy Year during Colonial Days. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.
Deming, Brian. “Pope Day in Boston Before the Revolution.” Suite. 14 July 2009. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

Mizzou — Environmental Leadership Office

The University of Missouri is rich with resources and amenities, offering its students a wide-ranging variety of organizations to become involved on campus. Every interest and concern is addressed through the use of these programs in order to better the lives of each individual student among the collective whole of the university. One such organization is the Environmental Leadership Office which collaborates with MU students to pursue environmental issues on campus and abroad. Providing support and leadership opportunities, ELO connects and empowers students to spread the concept and implementation of a sustainable Mizzou.

ELO Ambassadors are tasked with motivating students in Res Life to pursue a greater interest in environmental efforts. Several well-known student organizations are directly advised and hosted by ELO, including the Bike Resource Center and Mizzou Bike Share programs. On top of this, the organization recruits volunteers for Tigers for Community Agriculture and even spends considerable effort supporting the Campus Farmers’ Markets. While the importance of protecting the environment on campus is increasingly recognized, the Environmental Leadership Office continues to broaden its ranks of openminded and concerned students.

Amy Eultgen is the ELO advisor at Mizzou and holds an undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. Throughout her scholastic years, she worked for the ELO and managed the workings of the Bike Resource Center. Amy believes the greatest achievement of the organization to be:

“…getting students engaged and connecting them with all of the environmentally friendly and sustainable practices on campus, so not only promoting our own programs and our own events, such as the Farmer’s Markets we have, but also connecting them with the Sustainability Office…”

This reflects the deep conviction of the Environmental Leadership Office to connect those Students who truly value and understand the necessity of not only a greener campus, but a greener Earth. There are various components to building a sustainable Mizzou, the greatest of which are the interest and engagement of Campus residents. People comprise the backbone of any successful organization or movement and this knowledge is obviously well-regarded and understood throughout the program. Amy continues to detail the mission of ELO as:

“… just trying to act like a liaison or like a central hub for students who have questions about ways to get involved, and connecting them with Sustain Mizzou.”

The Environmental leadership Office is located on the second floor of the MU student Center in the Center for Student Involvement. Interested students, or those who would like to get involved, are welcome to visit and partake in building a greener campus. Through many different resources, there is a way for everyone to become proactive in creating a safe, beautiful, and more environmentally aware Mizzou.

ELO Website — Meet the ELO Team — Sustainability Office