Friday, October 31, 2014

Light Hidden by Darkness AND Suicide, Salvation and Redemption

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As usual, my wife and I attended church last Sunday. The pastor actually had a very interesting homily, not that this is entirely unusual, but let's just say, it is not commonplace. The pastor started out by talking about all of the commandments, rules, regulations, and laws that we have to follow in our day-to-day lives and how God really only wants us to follow three basic rules. Now, don't ask me how that pastor knows that God only wants us to follow three basic rules, but I am sure the pastor has a closer communications link with God than most of us. These three basic rules, according to the pastor, were;

·         Love thy Self.

·         Love thy God.

·         Love thy Neighbor.

The pastor emphasized that with only these three rules to follow, our lives are much less complicated and if we follow these three simple rules, we cannot go wrong in the eyes of God. I liked the simplicity of this approach. The pastor then went on to explain all three of these rules in the context of the lives of the parishioners. I liked this approach as well since many homilies fail to directly connect to the parishioners' everyday lives. When the pastor discussed the rule ‘love thy self’ and how suicide was a mortal sin against God, it resonated with me, especially since I had just written a novel called LIGHT HIDDEN BY DARKNESS that included that very topic. LIGHT HIDDEN BY DARKNESS not only includes an example of suicide but then links it back to salvation and redemption in the eyes of God.

For purposes of my own clarity, let me define what I think salvation and redemption are since I struggle with understanding these complex concepts, or at least they appear complicated to me. Redemption is the price that we must pay to get back what is ours, but has been lost. Salvation refers to the act of God saving us, which includes His forgiving us for our sins. I do not remember where I found these definitions, but these are the definitions I hung my hat on when I wrote LIGHT HIDDEN BY DARKNESS. I remember when I did my research on salvation and redemption. I found literally dozens of internet hits just on the analysis of these two terms, so I cannot be the only person who struggles to grasp the concepts of salvation and redemption. Well, I digress…or maybe not, but let me continue.            

Kurt Cobain, forgivable act or not?
For those of you who have not read LIGHT HIDDEN BY DARKNESS, I am going to need to tread lightly as to not give away or spoil the novel. For those of you who have already read LIGHT HIDDEN BY DARKNESS, you know what I am talking about and understand the dilemma created in the book by suicide, salvation, and redemption. In LIGHT HIDDEN BY DARKNESS, there is a character who sins through the act of suicide. This character requires salvation from God so he can redeem himself from mortal sin. It is one of the more complex scenarios in LIGHT HIDDEN BY DARKNESS and once you read it, you will understand the Catch 22 for this particular character.

 I now return to the topic of ‘love thy self’ and finish connecting suicide to sin. When I did my research for LIGHT HIDDEN BY DARKNESS, I found that most religions believe that free-willed suicide is a sin, but that suicide is forgivable in the eyes of God under certain conditions. I am not sure where a person 'waits' when he or she dies after committing suicide since the only religion I found that believed in a ‘holding area’ for those people who could be redeemed and saved was the Catholic Church. Catholics call this 'holding area', Purgatory. It is a place where sinners await redemption from God, or is it to ‘await salvation from God’? See, I still have trouble with these two concepts. It gets even more confusing since the Catholic Church believes that suicide is a mortal sin, therefore it's their opinion, that suicide is unforgiveable in the eyes of God and therefore Purgatory would not be a destination.

I have gone to Wikipedia for a definition of both mortal and venial sin. I know Wikipedia is not the most reliable place to find definitions for things, but here is what someone writes and please forgive whomever posted this on Wikipedia’s for their poor sentence construction and grammar;

Mortal wrongful acts marked by a serious violation of God's law. These sins are called "mortal" because they sever a person's link to God’s life-giving grace. Mortal sins are commonly contrasted to venial sins only weaken a person's relationship with God. All mortal sins can be forgiven through the sacrament of penance or perfect contrition. In Roman Catholicism, absolution, which is given during the sacrament of penance, is the ordinary way in which mortal and venial sins are pardoned and requires, at least, imperfect contrition. Perfect contrition on the other hand, is an extraordinary way in which a person can also regain access to God's life-giving grace, outside of the sacrament of penance, in certain cases.”     

Now, here is what the Catholic Education Resource Center’s response is to suicide. The link to their website is      

“Therefore, objectively, suicide is a mortal sin. (Moreover, to help someone commit suicide is
Robin Williams, sinner or not? Please rest in peace!

also a mortal sin.) Here though we must remember that for a sin to be mortal and cost someone salvation, the objective action (in this case the taking of one's own life) must be grave or serious matter; the person must have an informed intellect (know that this is wrong); and the person must give full consent of the will (intend to commit this action). In the case of suicide, a person may not have given full consent of the will. Fear, force, ignorance, habit, passion, and psychological problems can impede the exercise of the will so that a person may not be fully responsible or even responsible at all for an action. Here again the Catechism states, "Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide" (#2282). This qualification does not make suicide a right action in any circumstance; however, it does make us realize that the person may not be totally culpable for the action because of various circumstances or personal conditions.”      

The Catholic Church calls suicide a mortal sin, but allows some flexibility for responsibility and forgiveness. Hmm...

My novel LIGHT HIDDEN BY DARKNESS opens up a different type of dialogue and thinking in regards to suicidesalvation, and redemption. Read LIGHT HIDDEN BY DARKNESS and see what I think and then tell me what you think.    
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Monday, October 6, 2014

Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto! LIGHT HIDDEN BY DARKNESS!

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       One of my most asked questions by the readers of my FIFTH novel Light Hidden by Darkness is “Where did this novel take place?” I have always responded to that question with a question of my own, “Where do you think Light Hidden by Darkness takes place?” Most readers have already decided where they think Light Hidden by Darkness takes place, but they still want to hear the 'supposedly right answer' from the author. Little do they know that this author does not have a 'right answer', he only has his answer.

       When I write a novel, I like to leave a certain amount of latitude in the story so that readers can interpret the story in their own way, 'between the details'. Based on the initial feedback from the readers of Light Hidden by Darkness by John Bradford Branney, I did a pretty good job of leaving several critical questions unanswered.      
Most of us have asked this question
once or twice.  
       Based on my personal beliefs, experience, biases, and psyche I know where I want Light Hidden by Darkness to take place, but that does not mean that readers have to agree with me. They could come up with a completely different answer and I hope they do.

       I would love to hear readers' interpretation of not only the story, but the venue in Light Hidden by Darkness. I believe that authors of fictional novels should install a certain amount of flexibility in their books. This makes the novel fun and entertaining for the reader. No one...or let's say very few readers want to read a novel where the author has painted conclusions in absolutely every corner of the book. This not only becomes monotonous, but it also strips away the potential imagination of readers, and after all, reading is all about using your imagination.

       How about you? Do you enjoy a five course novel all cooked by the author or do you prefer a five course novel with you, the reader, preparing two of the courses? 

       Following is an example of open interpretation of venue from Light Hidden by Darkness. In this scene, our protagonist called Mr. Bud is attempting to escape this odd city where he happened to find himself. Since his arrival in the city, he has met some pretty weird inhabitants and he is just about ready to meet another one. Here is how that first meeting went between Mr. Bud and this new stranger.       
Mr. Bud was by himself on a street as empty as a politician’s promise. There were no other people or

vehicles. No one was out walking and even though there were narrow paved streets, no one was driving. Mr. Bud stopped just to see if he could hear the usual sounds of a metropolitan area, but the city was as quiet as a closed coffin. Where are the people? He picked up his pace and walked even faster, more determined than ever to get out of this spooky city. He could not wait to return to a place where people walked up and down the street, cats and dogs played and prowled, and where cars were routinely stuck in traffic jams. After walking further, Mr. Bud was worried that he was lost. He was alone on the street and the city’s emptiness frightened him. He was contemplating turning around and heading back to his building when he saw a lone man standing on the sidewalk in front of him. As Mr. Bud cautiously approached the stranger, he studied the man’s mocha-colored face. The stranger smiled and Mr. Bud stopped just a few feet away from him.

“Hello, friend,” the stranger greeted Mr. Bud. “Are you taking a little stroll?”
Do YOU know the answer to this question? 

“Yes, I am,” Mr. Bud replied, “but, I might be lost.”

“Aren’t we all, sir?”


“Perhaps, I can help you, sir,” the stranger offered.

“Perhaps,” Mr. Bud replied. “I am not sure where I am heading.”

“That is not unusual,” the stranger declared. “Many of us are not sure where we are heading.”

“Are you lost as well?”

“No, but I have been lost many times,” the stranger recalled, “I somehow always find the right path.”

Mr. Bud looked at the tall stranger. If Mr. Bud was any closer, he would have had to crane his neck backwards just to look the stranger in the eyes. The stranger appeared as thin as wallpaper, but it was hard to tell because of the raincoat the stranger wore. He also had a funny little hat on his head. Mr. Bud had seen this style of hat somewhere before, but he could not remember where. The hat was brown-colored wool with small yellow squares in the fabric, giving it a tweed look. It had a yellow hatband for accent and the stranger wore the hat with the brim turned down over his ears.

The stranger noticed Mr. Bud staring at his hat and asked, “It is a nice one, isn’t it?”

“Pardon me?” Mr. Bud replied.

“My hat,” the stranger said, “I saw you admiring it.”

       Based on the above passage, do you understand what is going on? Who the stranger is? If this was a chance encounter or premeditated? Obviously, as the  book progresses, the gaps of understanding are filled, but hopefully not every gap. I have left much to the reader to fill in themselves. That is the only way to write a novel, in my opinion.

       Please enjoy Light Hidden by Darkness and please let me know what you think 
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