James JosephWriting can be difficult and it can be fun. Here, I can write about anything that comes to mind, modern or ancient. I hope you'll join in with your comments.

June 9, 2009

Philosophy Behind the Parables

Shadow of the Serpent/A Coyote Moon Story has many parables laced throughout the story. For the first half of the novel, most of these are related to daily living and dealing with conflict between tribes. The parables in the second half of the book relate to spirituality and differing views about our lives and the universe around us that are found in many ancient and modern religions, cultures and civilizations.

One of these parables involves the notion of a “Creator”. Many religions revolve around a single, all-powerful God that created all things  (monotheism).  Other religions are polytheistic, with many Gods, but there was generally one particular god that was most powerful among them and was generally regarded as the source, or creator of all things.

Creation stories differ wildly from one religion or culture to another, although they may be similar if they originated from a common source. The one commonality, a god that created all things, is behind many of the themes in nearly all religions. And that basis is used in Shadow of the Serpent.

Taken to its root level, one must go back to a time prior to this “God’s creation of anything. Nothing existed except “God“. If this is true, then what did “God” create everything from if nothing existed other than “God“? The answer is simple. Everything would have had to be created from God, and therefore is God. Creation is actually a constant, ongoing process. Destruction, in reality, ends up in transformation, which is actually another form of creation. The alpha and the omega, the sacred circle, seasons for all things, cycles… it’s neverending.

Many religions focus on “good” and “evil”. In Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions, Adam and Eve were created “innocent”. Cristians believe in an original “sin” or “evil” that occured when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of a tree in order to become “Godlike”. Jewish worshipers do not believe in original sin because they don’t believe that one person would be punished for another’s sins. 

But, exactly what did it mean to become “Godlike”. Is it immortality? The ability to create? The ability to control the world around them beyond the natural ability of all other creatures? Agriculture and the manipulation of plants? Domesticating animals from nature? Weapons? It seems no coincidence that this story is dated to approximately the time of the first villages and cities. But, is this necessarily evil? Or is it natural evolution?

Humans had changed. They had knowledge. There was no going back. Eden was not just a place. It was a time. It was a transformation. And, this same story was also similar to an even more ancient Babylonian version in the “Epic of Gilgamesh”. The main differences were in name and number of “Gods”.

Ancient Hindus, Buddists, and Native American cultures also had creation stories from a single, god-like source. Hindus believed that the all-powerful “God” could be envisioned through many gods. Buddists believed that God is within each of us. Native Americans had many different religions, however, a great deal of them, across a very wide geographical area mention both “Wakan” which is sometimes interpreted as “the great mystery”, and the sacred circle, which is often interpreted as infinity, or immortality.

If “God” created all things, then all of these things would be true. We are all “God” and everything around us is “God”. This notion is somewhat hidden or openly displayed in nearly all religions. But that would make everything sacred. Good and evil would tend more to be that which is good for people, and that which is bad, or evil. Gravity, space, day and night, and everything on Earth seems to be ruled by certain rules of nature. All of those rules would be the power of “God” because nature is “God”.

And then there’s the search for miracles. Just about every religion involves miracles, or unnatural occurences that are beyond human knowledge, power and comprehension. The real truth is that everything is a miracle. We each live in an infinitely intricate world both internally and externally.

Just the fact that we exist, can think and live in a world so complex that a million lifetimes would not be long enough to understand even a minute portion of the world around us is a miracle. We don’t understand even the tiniest grain in a mountain of potential knowledge, yet, in our religion, we look for miracles. We can walk, talk, think, eat, love, laugh, and enjoy things… when we could have been nonexistent… and we look for miracles.

That is one of the facets behind the parables in Shadow of the Serpent/A Coyote Moon Story. Everything around and within us is a miracle… and we reside within the Creator of all things.


May 7, 2009

The Last Minute Book Title

Filed under: Book Publishing — Tags: , , , — Jim @ 12:59 pm

Shadow of the Serpent/A Coyote Moon Story is far from the original title of this book. Very far. The actual title I planned for this book was The Ancient Parable. I can’t be certain, but I think it would have worked much better. Many people who’ve read this book have told me the title actually put them off, but they read it anyway at the insistence of a family member or friend. They were generally surprised that they really liked the story.

Prior to publishing it, I was told that “The Ancient Parable” seemed a bit pretentious, and perhaps I should choose another title. To me, it’s exactly what the book was about, but who was I to say? What did I know about publishing, or the daunting task of trying to market fiction. The book was praised and rejected by many prominent publishers because it was too long for a first novel, and didn’t fit neatly into a genre. But, as an author, I write what I write, not something that fits neatly into a marketing scheme.

So, The Ancient Parable became “A Coyote Moon Story”, and I revised some of the book to reflect the new title. 3 weeks prior to publication, while it was still in print production, another new book came out with the title “Coyote Moon”, and coincidentally, it was released in Maine, the same state where we’d be releasing “A Coyote Moon Story”. It became apparent that the two books could easily become confused, so I had to change it again.

With some effort, I came up with “Shadow of the Serpent”. In many ways, it was in line with several of the themes laced throughout the story, so it seemed appropriate. However, it also presented as a very dark fantasy, and in some scenes, that was true. But all of the fantasy related elements are actually allegorical. It was perfect for teenagers who relish adventure, and it provided a whole different level for more advanced readers.

I believe most people who saw the book kept away due to the title. And, I think the original title would have been a much wiser choice. If I had it to do over again, I’d go with “The Ancient Parable”. If you’ve read Shadow of the Serpent, I’d like to hear your opinion.



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