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Author Archives: Josiah Smollet

“Funny, earnest, and poignant?” That’s what Publishers Weekly says.

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Vitally Important is pleased to announce  the publication of our newest book, which even has the word “Book” in it’s title.  ‘The Book of Extremely Common Prayer” offers  proof that God is all ears, whether it be a matter of life and death or simply a minor traffic violation.  Thus far it’s received stellar notices from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, but we’re most interested in finding out your reaction.  “Extremely Common Prayer” is available in both print and ebook formats from our friends at amazon.  And god bless you for checking it out.

Clear the sinuses: Shunryu Suzuki on Transiency.

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“We should find perfect existence through imperfect existence.”

The basic teaching of Buddhism is the teaching of transiency, or change. That everything changes is the basic truth for each existence. No one can deny this truth, and all the teaching of Buddhism is condensed within it. This is the teaching for all of us. Wherever we go this teaching is true. This teaching is also understood as the teaching of selflessness. Because each existence is in constant change, there is no abiding self. In fact, the self-nature of each existence is nothing but change itself, the self-nature of all existence. There is no special, separate self-nature for each existence. This is also called the teaching of Nirvana. When we realize the everlasting truth of “everything changes” and find our composure in it, we find ourselves in Nirvana.

Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transiency, we suffer. So the cause of suffering is our non-acceptance of this truth. The teaching of the cause of suffering and the teaching that everything changes are thus two sides of one coin. But subjectively, transiency is the cause of our suffering. Objectively this teaching is simply the basic truth that everything changes. Dogen-zenji said, “Teaching which does not sound as if it is forcing something on you is not true teaching.” The teaching itself is true, and in itself does not force anything upon us, but because of our human tendency we receive the teaching as if something was being forced on us. But whether we feel good or bad about it, this truth exists. If nothing exists, this truth does not exist. Buddhism exists because of each particular existence.

We should find perfect existence through imperfect existence. We should find perfection in imperfection. For us, complete perfection is not different from imperfection. The eternal exists because of non-eternal existence. In Buddhism it is a heretical view to expect something outside this world. We do not seek for something besides ourselves. We should find the truth in this world, through our difficulties, through our suffering. This is the basic teaching of Buddhism. Pleasure is not different from difficulty. Good is not different from bad. Bad is good; good is bad. They are two sides of one coin. So enlightenment should be in practice. That is the right understanding of practice, and the right understanding of our life. So to find pleasure in suffering is the only way to accept the truth of transiency. Without realizing how to accept this truth you cannot live in this world. Even though you try to escape from it, your effort will be in vain. If you think there is some other way to accept the eternal truth that everything changes, that is your delusion. This is the basic teaching of how to live in this world. Whatever you may feel about it, you have to accept it. You have to make this kind of effort.

So until we become strong enough to accept difficulty as pleasure, we have to continue this effort. Actually, if you become honest enough, or straightforward enough, it is not so difficult to accept this truth. You can change your way of thinking a little bit. It is difficult, but this difficulty will not always be the same. Sometimes it will be difficult, and sometimes it will not be so difficult. If you are suffering, you will have some pleasure in the teaching that everything changes. When you are in trouble, it is quite easy to accept the teaching. So why not accept it at other times? It is the same thing. Sometimes you may laugh at yourself, discovering how selfish you are. But no matter how you feel about this teaching, it is very important for you to change your way of thinking and accept the truth of transiency.

The Holden Caulfield of modern horror.

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American Ghoul is a horror novel in the tradition of Shelley and Stoker, and yet brings a sense of freshness and humor to the genre, as author Morton tells the story of a high school outsider in the late 1970s. It’s fascinating to read Morton’s account of 17-year-old Howard Pickman, and realize you feel a profound empathy for his protagonist despite the rather gruesome secret he must strive to protect. What’s also fascinating is how Morton recreates the high school experience of the late 1970s, complete with jocks, freaks, and the dark artists who came of age in the heyday of punk rock. This is a book rich in spirit, and transcends the usual exploitation of the horror genre to offer a redemptive tale of Howard and his friends Sebastian, Gerald, and Dwayne, who form a bond, and a band, while trying to stay alive in a world that doesn’t take kindly to strangers, individuals, or ghouls. But maybe it should.


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In art, as in life, a “happy accident” occurs when something unexpectedly good comes from what would otherwise be considered a mistake.


Excerpts from the “Random Numbers” project.

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There are 22 cranial and facial bones that make up the human skull.

In 1812 Beethoven composed  “Drei Equali” requiring 4 trombones.  It was performed at his own funeral procession.

Typically, it’s wise to have at least 8 place settings for dinner parties.

Dogs of similar size and purpose to the modern beagle can be traced back to Greece in the 5th century BC.

 You can hide your phone number on outgoing calls by pressing *31 followed by the number.