If Eckhart Tolle Blogged

For those of you who have read the work of Eckhart Tolle, WordPress might seem an odd medium for his message. But blogging and reading the words of others has not only brought the writer’s work to mind for me recently, it’s brought The Power of Now, the title of Tolle’s bestseller, to my life in a very tangible way.

In The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Tolle writes about the importance of become deeply conscious of this present moment, “the Now.” I’m not sure if Saint Louis writer Linda O’Connell has read Tolle’s work, but she certainly seems to practice what he preaches.

A few Saturday’s ago, I met Linda at my first Saint Louis Writers’ Guild workshop at and she gave me her card. Reading this post on her website prompted me to look up an excerpt about physicist Stephen Hawking from Tolle’s book. I found that passage in an article by Sarah Blaskovich on the website for a business and lifestyle magazine I hadn’t come across before. To make a long story short, I soon successfully pitched an article idea of my own to the magazine. Hopefully, that article will appear in the next few months.

I can honestly say I would have probably never known about this magazine if not for — both literally and figuratively — The Power of Now.

As if those developments weren’t fortuitous enough, I came across a second reference to Tolle’s philosophies in the process of researching another story idea, this time on author, psychotherapist and technology refugee Chellis Glendinning. I interviewed Glendinning several years ago for a column I wrote and was interested in catching up with her again. Although she has since relocated to Bolivia, she graciously agreed to an interview that I have pitched to Tim McKee at The Sun magazine.

In addition to working as managing editor for The Sun, McKee maintains This Very Second, a site that showcases his own writing. Given the title of his site, perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that his most-recent piece mentioned a passage from The Power of Now in which Tolle writes about sitting on a London park bench, watching people pass by while the leaves shimmered in the wind, and becoming suddenly aware of life’s bounties.

Maybe the reference is just a coincidence. Maybe McKee won’t be interested in publishing an interview, or anything else I write for that matter. But, coincidence or not, Tolle’s writing, my modest efforts to live in the moment, and the recent bounties in my own life can’t help but make me want to find a nice park bench to sit on soon.

If a Post is Published in the Forest

As some of you may know, I recently started this blog to share my thoughts on writing, the media industry, teaching and life in general. But I came across some statistics that make me wonder, if a post is published in the forest, and no one is around to read it …

According to the most recent comprehensive study of our reading habits by the National Endowment for the Arts, 43 percent of adults did not read a book for pleasure in 2002. If you look at  U.S. Census data, there were about 215  million adults in the U.S. that year. Doing the math, that means an astounding 92.7 million Americans over 18 did not read a single book for enjoyment in that year — not one. The 2002 statistics marked a 7 percent decline from 1992, the last time the NEA surveyed reading habits. If those trends have persisted over the last decade, that would mean nearly half the adult population will not read a book for enjoyment this year.

Now take into account that the number of print books published in the U.S. rose by 5 percent from 2009 to 2010, an increase of more than 14,000 new titles. Non-traditional publishing more than doubled its number of published titles from 1,033,065 in 2009 to 2,776,260 in 2010, the most-recent year for which numbers are available. “These books, marketed almost exclusively on the web, are largely on-demand titles produced by reprint houses specializing in public domain works and by presses catering to self-publishers and ‘micro-niche’ publications,” according to Bowker, which tracks the publishing industry for publishers, booksellers and libraries.

So, if frighteningly close to half of U.S. adults don’t read for fun these days,  who is reading all these books? Why, other authors, of course.

The blog clearinghouse Technorati.com currently has 1,295,372 blogs in its directory. Of those, 16,846 fall into the site’s BOOKS category. That’s just one indication that the people who do read books are clearly reading, and writing about their hobby, at a pretty furious rate. Add to those the number of blogs about writing and those that, like this one, mention writing, reading or books occasionally. I would venture to say these blogs indicate that a growing number of avid readers are writers as well.

This essay from The New York Times Book Review* touches on some of these topics, but some other reading I have been doing seems to indicate the brief romance between blogging and books might be morphing from a passionate affair into an established marriage or, worse, an incestuous morass that has a growing number of writers competing for the same, shrinking reading public. That thought leads me to the following questions  I would like to put out there for all you readers and writers. Please pass them on to others who might offer some insight:

How many blogs do you read daily?

Do you have a blog?

How many of you bloggers have written, are writing, or are thinking about writing a book?

How does your blogging relate to those book projects?

.Hopefully, this dispatch will make a sound.

* This New York Times essay cites the same NEA study, but uses some interesting new math to highlight its findings.

More Than a Decade of Neo- Luddite Living

Here’s a column I wrote for The Dallas Morning News more than 10 years ago on Feb. 20. Although I have a blog and no husband these days, I can’t say my manifesto has changed that much. After all, I still have that Civic — and the power locks haven’t worked in years.

 

The Dallas Morning News

Low-tech living easier to deal with
Charlene Oldham
Published: February 20, 2001

It doesn’t take much to be a neo-Luddite nowadays. I drive a 1998 Honda Civic with power windows and locks, live in a house with electric lights, central heat and air – even indoor plumbing. I use a telephone, computer, e-mail and the Internet every day at work. Nonetheless, many of my colleagues consider me a neo-Luddite, one of the new breed of people who reject some of the trappings of technology in favor of a simpler life. Why, asked Chellis Glendinning, author of “Notes Toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto”? Because I don’t own a Palm Pilot. (My editor informs me that they don’t actually produce Palm Pilots anymore. She owns a Palm Vx.) “I don’t know what a Palm Pilot is,” said Ms. Glendinning whose “Manifesto,” published in Utne Reader magazine more than a decade ago, is now considered a handbook for the neo-Luddite movement. A far simpler lifestyle Ms. Glendinning lives in an adobe house in one of the tiny villages that dot northern New Mexico. A psychologist and writer, she produces her books and articles with a pencil and heats her home, equipped with a passive solar system that helps regulate temperature, with firewood. “But I have some things. I have a telephone. I have two cars because I am a single woman living in the country,” said Ms. Glendinning, who owns a 1979 Jeep CJ7 and a 1977 Honda Civic that definitely doesn’t have power locks or windows. “I don’t really know what I should have because I don’t know what people have now.” Imagine how hard it was to explain the concept of a personal digital assistant to a woman who last remembered pulling her television out of the closet to watch newscasts about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. We like it that way My nod toward neo-Luddism pales in comparison. Even so, friends, family and acquaintances occasionally react with amazement when I tell them my husband and I don’t have a power mower, UHF channels, cable television or Internet access at home. Our 1930s bungalow isn’t equipped with a garbage disposal or a dishwasher. We own one wireless phone and two office-issue pagers between us. Neither of us carries a personal digital assistant, and we share an aging IBM ThinkPad that, without Internet access, is really nothing more than a glorified word processor. And the most amazing thing – we like it that way. In an average week, we watch about four hours of television, the same amount most American adults consume in a single day. Thanks to the anachronistic antenna on the roof, the VHF-only reception is never any worse than usual. The recent court ruling against the Internet music-swapping service, Napster, didn’t devastate us. And we’ve never had to e-mail a complaint to AOL because we spent two hours trying to sign on. The low-tech lifestyle can pay off professionally and financially, too. A few months ago, an e-mail virus killed the Microsoft Outlook contacts lists of many other reporters in the office. Armed with a Rolodex and a decade-old day planner recently outfitted with fresh Velcro, I was unaffected. Still, I wonder what I’m missing sometimes. So I recently logged on to Compaq Computer Corp.’s web site – at work, of course – to check out the iPAQ H3630. The iPAQ is a color pocket PC so scarce in stores that it’s going for about $600 on eBay, $100 more than its suggested retail price. “Definitely the product has had more demand than we ever expected when we produced it,” said Compaq spokeswoman Nora Hahn. “We doubled our output in the third quarter, doubled it again in the fourth quarter and we will increase it again, by 25 percent, in the first quarter of this year. But we’re still backlogged. We’re able to fill about one of every four orders right now.” To help deal with the demand, Compaq introduced a monochrome model of the iPAQ last month. The black-and-white version is available immediately and retails for just $349. Thanks, I think I’ll pass. I don’t mean to sound smug. Like Ms. Glendinning, I use the technology I need when I need it. Increasingly, though, that’s enough to set us apart in a technology-soaked world where some see gadgetry as an end in itself and others really can’t do without wireless phones or constant e-mail access. In such a world, even Ms. Glendinning and I might find we need cable television or cars equipped with navigation systems and on-board Internet access ports someday. But I think we’ll both stick with our Civics – and our low-tech lives – as long as we can. Charlene Oldham is a Dallas Morning News staff writer.