What's Religion Got to Do with It?


Some ideas from the Jewish faith have found their way into my novel, 'And All is Always Now.' One is the idea that when a beautiful event, such as a wedding, is scheduled, it should still be celebrated even if there is severe hardship in the case of another family member or loved one. What are your thoughts on this? If the sadness or worry seems insurmountable, would it be better to postpone the wedding? Or should the joy of the wedding be seen as so glorious that it takes precedence?

A second Jewish idea in 'And All is Always Now' is one that relates to the concept of Time, which, of course, is very much the theme of the whole book. In this case, one of the characters in the novel talks about the intrigue of the Creation story as told in the Book of Genesis; she says that we are told that God created the world in six days, but it was not until the fourth day that God created the sun and the moon so as to give a measurement of Time. So the question then becomes, what were the measurements of Time on the first three days before the fourth day? Is there an independent measurement of Time that has always existed and is completely devoid of being paced out by the earth's rotation around the sun? What do you believe?

A third idea borrowed from Judaism is the very optimistic one heard in the sound of the Shofar, which is the ram's horn blown on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The first sound that the Shofar makes is 'Tekiya,' which means 'whole.' Then the Shofar makes a triple sound, implying that the whole was broken into three parts, and this is followed by a series of quick short blasts, signifying a total smash. But, mercifully, the Shofar sound ends once more with a repetition of 'Tekiya,' meaning that wholeness has been restored. This special faith in healing is beautiful, and it certainly was reassuring and empowering to one of my novel's characters who had been very badly disadvantaged. Can we believe in the veracity of this compassionate response? What do you think?

Intimate Strangers: What We Tell, and What We Withhold


A secret, as we know, is the withholding of confidential information. And secrets can be hard to keep. We are perhaps familiar with the feeling that we might explode if we can't reveal a secret, and therefore possibly needing to go down to the lake, or clutching a mirror, and whispering our secret to our reflection. 

Family secrets can happen either within or between families, andAnd All is Always Nowhas some of each. It is not uncommon, for example, for siblings to tell each other information that they do not want their parents to know, so this would be a secret within the family. In other cases, everyone in the family knows a secret - perhaps they were all involved in it together, or alternatively felt the trust to confess to each other - but they do not want anyone else outside the family to have knowledge of this. 

But why do some families have secrets? There are probably a multitude of reasons, but perhaps a powerful one involves having been lured by temptation to do something forbidden or shameful. Yes; seen this way, it gets us right back to the Garden of Eden and the Original Sin.

But is the thing that was forbidden based on value judgments? And are these from within the family, or from the norms of society as a whole? Clearly, at either the familial or societal level, we do not want to inflict harm on another. But things might become murky. For example, if it is from within the family, such as "you must never see this person again," it could be biased and possibly based on a history of inaccuracies. And is society free from bias? No; it sets its cultural norms, but as we know, these change and evolve over time. Witness gay marriage.

The keeping of a secret could be because of fear of the outcome if the secret is confessed. But then this gets us into the entire dilemma of the road not travelled. What will happen if I tell the secret? Do I have a moral obligation to confess all, especially to a loved one? And if I do tell, will everything I hold dear unravel and leave me with nothing? Will I lose what and who I love the most? But what will happen if instead I continue to hold on to the secret? Will it always be an impediment to the full flow of our relationship if I don't tell? 

Often it takes courage to reveal a secret, with no certainty of the interpretation and reaction of the other who hears it for the first time. In And All is Always Now, the protagonist Lance told his family secret to Florence well before she confessed hers to him. Lance did so, despite his obvious pain caused both by the terrible memory of the traumatic event and also because of the fear that he might lose her. But Florence did not have the courage to reciprocate, and instead clung tightly to her secret until a later time, when she felt desperate about their relationship.

Of course another aspect of the keeping of a secret, is that rather than being confessed, it could be found out. This also happens in And All is Always Now, to characters other than Lance and Florence, and if the person who discovers the secret is infuriated or unstable, it could lead to dire consequences.

It might be a secret, but do you have a secret?

Photos and the Moment in Time

Tisha Bender - And All Is Always Now - Photography - Author

Nowadays we are all photographers.  We whip out our phones and take photos of anything that impresses us. But this is a relatively recent change. Before the new millennium, when our phones were not smart and our cameras were not digital,  we would lug around bulky and weighty cameras, which might frankly have been quite cumbersome to take on a trip.

In my novel, And All is Always Now, our protagonist Fleur is about to visit the Lake District, and sensibly decides to buy a camera beforehand. So she purchases a large SLR camera which she spies in the window of a second-hand shop. But, to her astonishment, her camera takes photos of events - some serene and some shockingly disturbing - but which are all radically different from the scene before her. Fleur's camera is almost like a character in the unfolding of events in the novel, revealing secrets of its own. 

We all take for granted that the subject we have photographed will be recorded in a photo. Perhaps we worry that it will not be a good likeness, or that we were not smiling, or even that we blinked when the photo was taken. Or perhaps we can artfully use our cameras to embellish reality; to take a photo perhaps of just one side of an attractive woman's face knowing that there is a blemish on her other cheek; or to touch up colours of the photo to make it more striking. 

But that's just it! We're still bound by the reality of the moment, even if we want to highlight some aspects and hide others. But in the case of Fleur's camera, an entirely different subject matter was revealed in each photo than the one she had viewed and filmed. It might, very possibly, be showing an image of an event in the future that had not yet happened. Alternatively, it might be recording an event from long ago.

What accounted for Fleur's camera acting this way? 

Have you ever experienced enormous surprises in photos you have taken?

Enchanted Environments

Tisha Bender - Enchanted Environments - Woods

As D.H. Lawrence, that writer not only of human passion but also one who showed exquisite eloquence about nature, once said, "Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly, and without law, and must be plucked where it is found, and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration." Perhaps that's why Lawrence wrote so much about nature, as he likened it so much to love between people.

This is a theme I also use in my novel, 'And All is Always Now.' And I write about nature not only because it highlights the deep and growing love between Fleur (see, even her name means 'flower') and Lance, but also as a contrast between the hectic, stimulating hustle and bustle of NYC with its exciting and magnificent skyscrapers and the tiny busy streets of Greenwich Village, and the serenity and beauty of both the Lake District and also the Catskills.

And, in writing this novel, I used often to go for walks along a wooded lakeshore, and found that since I was writing my perception of the natural beauties surrounding me was heightened and then found a way into the novel itself. I observed a flock of geese angling into the clear sky in their usual V pattern of flying, and saw how their white underbellies glowed golden in the reflected sunlight. I noticed how a drop of dew hovered on a petal, and heard the sweetness of bird song and the buzz of a small insect. I saw the patterns that raindrops made as they fell on the surface of the lake, and I marveled one day at the mist coiling up from the lake's surface since the water temperature was warmer than the air above it. I rejoiced in spring blossoms, and ran below the branches and looked up through the canopy of pink and white flowers to the blue sky above. I delighted in the crisp freshness when in spring trees covered themselves with light green leaves, with the air clear and fragrant. And I loved to see fluffy baby geese swimming in an orderly line between their parents. 

Tisha Bender - Enchanted Environments - Views

All these lovely impressions, and more, are sprinkled throughout 'And Always is Always Now,' with great appreciation and love of such beauty. Have you ever gone on a walk in nature, and looked, really looked, at the environment surrounding you? Please do tell us about it here.

Resolutions: What are the Right Things to Do?

Tisha Bender | Scales

Sprinkled throughout And All is Always Now, are scenarios in which, in different formats and with different individuals, there are questions as to whether or not we should always come to the help of someone in need.

Here is the first scenario: 

A man we care very much about is in a highly dangerous situation. Should he try to escape as swiftly as he can, or should he, having noticed a pregnant woman who is rigid with fear, stop his own flight and escort her out of danger? The pregnant woman is a stranger to him, so he has no prior obligation to her. But even so, should he help her not only because this is a case of two lives at stake rather than one, but also because he can tell she is paralyzed and without help to escape, she will surely die? Time is of the essence, as the danger is imminent, immense, horrifying and absolute. He must decide immediately.

Perhaps he should consider that he has no obligation to be a hero. After all, everyone else is ignoring the weak in the general stampede to save his or her own skin. Why should he be different? Furthermore, if he is to think about obligations, couldn't he reason that he indeed has an obligation not only to himself but also to his loved ones? Because, if he stops to help this pregnant woman, she will surely slow his escape and perhaps they might both perish. What would the ethical thing be for him to do? And do we even have time to consider ethics in the general panic of an emergency?

Here is the second scenario: 

A woman, who deeply and completely loves a man, received some information that a future event, to which he will travel, will be exceptionally dangerous, even life-threatening. This, however, is an event that he very much wants to attend, and also her information on the future event might well be unreliable. An added complication is that if she tells him, he might interpret it as her way of trying to prevent him from going, as before receiving this information about the danger, she had already expressed her sadness about them being far apart. Should she tell him of the possible future danger or not?

And here is the third scenario: 

A young woman has defied her mother and secretly run off to see her forbidden lover. A highly ferocious dog rushes towards them, and the lover runs off quickly, leaving the young woman unprotected, and the dog savagely attacks her. By fleeing, had the lover behaved in a completely cowardly fashion, or might there have been viable justifications for his desertion?

Time and Its Odd, Amazing Flow


In And All is Always Now, there's a minor, yet critical character, a Dr. Eriksson, who is a physicist, who cites proof for the conventional wisdom of Time marching steadily forward. But Florence and Lance have a good deal of evidence that this notion of Time might not be accurate. 

Indeed they start to believe that the Past, Present and Future all coexist - thereby giving the novel its name 'And All is Always Now,' (as quoted from a line in a poem by T.S. Eliot) - but if this is true, what implications do you think this might have on "free will"? Wouldn't it mean, perhaps, that everything already exists, implying that our choices would not be instrumental in making things happen?

Furthermore, if instead we choose to believe, as Dr. Erikkson does, that Time marches forward, might we only believe this as it provides us with some sense of order and therefore comfort? Might it prevent us from, as happened to Florence, getting "lost in Time" just as many of us get lost in space?

I believe though, as postulated by Florence's best friend Anna, that there is one very extraordinary indication in a most unlikely place, that Time might not just be marching forward with every tick of the clock. This can be found in the story of Creation in Genesis which speaks of how the world was created in seven days, but that the sun and the moon, which define day from night, were not created until the fourth day. So, if this is the case, how do you think Time was measured before the fourth day?

Please feel free to air your thoughts on Time, this most intriguing topic...