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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Running to Reconciliation and Self

I've never been an athlete. Sedentary by nature and choice, I can't recall ever running unless being chased by a bee. My brother, Rob, is different, however.  RenegadeBooks just published his premiere novel, The Pronator, last week.

Until I read his book, I didn't know what a pronator was. It sounded like something out of science fiction, or a role Arnold Schwarzenegger would play. However, I discovered that a pronator is one who pronates; that is, a runner whose foot turns slightly so that that the inner edge of the sole bears the weight. Rob's protagonist, Jay, suffers from pronation, but its literal meaning affects the story only slightly; symbolically, it is the flaw that each of us must overcome to reach our next level.

The action of The Pronator takes place during the running of a marathon. Jay wants only to beat his old time and come in under four hours. During that time, the psycho-physical changes that affect runners during a race such as this--intermittent flashes of memories, dreams, speculations--form the narrative as mile follows mile. Recurring themes of a Catholic childhood, nightmare schools replete with bullies, family dynamics, and the mysteries of spirituality reveal a dreamlike biography.

Being the writer's sister, it's obvious to me that Jay is a thinly disguised version of my brother. Further, I know the parts he left out. I don't know what the popularity of this book will be outside the family, but for me it was a revelation and a rare invitation to a sibling's inner life.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The ricochet of gun violence and the balm of love

I was at school when I saw the news bulletin about the shooter at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. UCC is just about 3 hours south of us, but we are part of the same community college system. Just that morning we had talked about guns on campus in my WR 115 classroom. Meanwhile, the shooter had entered another WR 115 class and interrupted their conversation in a vicious and terrible way.

Shock at a distance is shock nonetheless. As an instructor at a CC, it's hard not to imagine the same thing happening on my campus, even in my classroom. There's one exit and a pair of enormous windows that open on the world. What would I do? How could I protect my students? I know the emergency drill: lock the door turn off the lights, pull the blinds, turn off the projector and get everyone on the floor. But that only works if the shooter is somewhere else.

I've been reading responses to the news, many of which suggest that we need more armed security guards and even armed instructors--unworkable for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the plethora of aging educators who are just as likely to shoot themselves in the foot as protect their charges. Besides, taking out one shooter does just that and no more. Another will rise to take his place.

So, how do we stop this epidemic of gun violence? How do I do something? That's the crux of it, isn't it?  Knowing as we all do that politics and government won't serve, the duty falls to the individual. What can each of us do to keep unhappiness and its frequent companion, mental illness, from deteriorating into an unreasoning rage that takes its revenge on the innocent?

As I look at the parade of killers who've emerged over the past 20 years, I see souls who've been rejected and marginalized, who grow in their anger towards insanity and violence. They are not born this way--or, if they are, they need treatment. I'd like to suggest that each of us has the power, through love and kindness, to salvage lives and turn them towards open-hearted community rather than festering isolation. I can do this in my classroom, on the street, in social media. What about you?