Vaishali Paliwal: Humanity and its choices today

We are a restless generation.

We were born with access to so many worlds. Our options bloomed in every direction. One click on a hand-carrying machine took us to multitude of possibilities; things we could do, places we could go, people, we could meet. Our dreams were served to us instantly. With so many permutations and combinations in our skies, the rulebook dissolved. We could do anything. What an immense spectrum of freedom and innovation continued to be strengthened by our further breakthrough technologies! Our power was also our resources.
We were browsing, researching, and always looking for the next best thing to take up to curb our curiosity for life. We sought to find the answers baffling humanity for generations and to live like we found was the way to live in these digital investigations. And what a beautiful chase it has been. This generation ran past those archaic boundaries.

Our quiet moments are few as we are on-the-go. Moments of raw enlightenment are rare. Moments of human connection amidst these great technologies perhaps even rarer. Our compulsiveness and cravings are abundant. It drives us for these expeditions. Soon, dear readers, we realize we are just running blindly into madness. We are expecting this next summit to bring content to our lives as we thought it would. However, with each peak we traverse, another becomes visible; a tribute to ego gratification. We stop and wonder who did we start climbing for in the first place. There is a thin line between the path of self-search and addictions. We learn this slowly leaving a sour taste in our mouths.

But this is not an essay of fault finding. Perhaps, we are evolving into another species, rich with digital resources and entering a fading realm of what peace and love once brought us; an apathetic species. Perhaps, even our art evolves is the product of connection with our technology, not our souls. Perhaps, love and respect in this new world are rated by the number of likes and follows in social media. Perhaps, humans are machines we so long predicted and are slowly entering the phase of singularity... How we connect with ourselves and world around us has been transforming on a very rapid basis. With our indulgence, we have already stepped into this new life. And who is to say how this will all work out. After all our prehistoric ancestors, could never imagine us and our lives today.

And we are still here.

We will survive. Between further miracles of science and will of humans, we will survive and very likely thrive. But with one crimson sunset over our glass sky, while we get disrupted for a second by an error in our web of wires, we will remember the spark. The same spark that drove our prehistoric ancestors to draw their visions in the caves for the first time. The same spark which sets humanity apart from other species; our creative marvels, our grand success in spectacular inventions, our sense of connectedness to our magnificent universe, all birthed by this human spark. We will remember then that we are humans with a rare gift to dream, with a rare gift to connect with our brains these dreams to deliver artistic expressions unthinkable and irreplaceable. We will remember what peace is: one minuscule moment of peace we so longed in our hearts, where no technology could ever seize from us.

Our potential has barely been touched. We are just starting. Our grasp on science and an inherent restless nature is capable of worlds so extraordinary. Not just for humans, but species across the earth and the entire cosmos. What we need is balance in all aspects of our living. We must watch over our egos, which births greed and animosity. We must cease making enemies when we need friends to build something grand together. Answers to all issues of our world today is taming our minds and channeling our energies to creative endeavors rather than cheap short-lived thrills of satisfying ego. We are the children of this universe, and in there, we will return. In our brief time here, do we want to come and leave with shallow swims or dive in the sweet ocean of all what our universe has to offer? Do we want to be united in goals to create or divisive plights leading to destruction? We need to decide for ourselves whether we want to survive or truly live.

Yes, we are a restless generation with a noble cause.


Vaishali Paliwal is an aspiring writer living in Los Angeles finding solace in attempts to write
about minor earthquakes and grand hurricanes of her life. She lives in distant worlds of past poetry of D. Thomas and such and manages to land at the present times occasionally. She had her poems recently published in Eunoia Review. A manager by profession and engineer by degree yet poetry is where her heart is. She has her poetry blogs and likes to share her words with friends and community for creative sparks to keep lighting their fires. You can find some of her playful writing pieces in Instagram account violet_rhymes and you can reach her at


Lawrence Black: How We Got Here: The Evolution of the Storyteller, from Artist to Entertainer

When poet and Thirty West founder, Josh Dale, invited me to contribute to The Weekly Degree, my immediate thought was to write about art as I see it: how I feel about it, my thoughts, as a writer, about the world that consumes me (and probably many persons reading this). This 'art world' I refer to isn't any special world. It's the same world you live in. Perhaps we consume different art than our neighbors, but we nonetheless all patronize the arts. I don't give a shit if you're watching King of Queens or reading The Holy Bible, these are both considered art. I'm not here to debate what it [art] is. I'm here to talk about what happened between Moses and Kevin James—not because I was an English major or a historian (I'm neither), but I am a writer, which is to say, I am a reader, a sponge, and an ameba. I feed off art. And in my years of reading and feeding, of consuming literature, film, television, and internet, I've come to understand something about how we've come from Moses to Kevin James, which is to say nothing of morality and everything to art. Art may seem to be one vast cultural spawn, but it has changed; society has changed, and, with it, the purpose of art has evolved. 

Using the Bible as a genesis point for modern literature, we naturally must understand that it was a book written during a period when they crucified people. Naturally, the literary establishment consisted of the state, meaning: if what you wrote pissed the wrong people off, they would nail you to a cross. Understandably, it took 500 years until the first book resembling a novel—The Tale of Genji—was written, in early 11th century Japan by Murasaki Shikibu. Still, it would be another five-hundred years—in the early 16th century—before a Spaniard named Miguel Cervantes would write Don Quixote (largely considered the first novel). 
It took a thousand years to get from the Old Testament to Don Quixote. Why so slow? Well, we must understand what art was at that time, yet another five hundred more than five hundred years ago from our present time. To do that, we look to the words of the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare (1564-1616):

Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this
special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature:
for any thing so o'erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose
end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as 'twere the
mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own
image, and the very age and body of the time his form and

—Hamlet advising his Players, in Act III

What Hamlet is telling these actors is that overstepping the boundaries of nature (modesty) in their acting, is contrary to the purpose of playing (acting), "...whose
end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as 'twere the
mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own
image, and the very age and body of the time his form and

Shakespeare is saying the purpose of art, "both at the first and the now," is to hold a mirror to nature, as Hamlet declares in Act 2: "The play's the thing. Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." Perhaps Shakespeare was in the business of catching consciences, (It might be argued the Bible did the ultimate job of that), however, whatever moral duty was felt, Shakespeare lived in a time when art still served the primary function of being a teacher for people, and Shakespeare's work continues to help people understand life to this day. That's the timelessness of Shakespeare: his characters walk among us. Of course, Shakespeare still doesn't bring us all the way to King of Queens; we've still got another 500 years to go. 

But, pausing here briefly, we have established that art and stories originally served a very pedantic, albeit entertaining, purpose: they were meant to teach us things. We must remember that humans, long before we ever wrote, developed oral traditions (storytelling) as a means of passing on knowledge from one generation to the next. However, it was the book that changed the game with permanence. But also, with that permanence, with human curation, came an inevitable evolution; art would change. It wouldn't always be the teacher. 

By the 18th century, European writers had enough freedom to pursue their own individual values in their work, which led to a creativity not yet seen before. Romanticism was born, which emphasized emotion and individuality in art—and then, in the 19th century, Aestheticism; the idea of art for art's sake. Both movements allowed artists to explore life in richer and more textured ways, but we still must keep in mind that the last 200 years were not as liberal, meaning, artists, storytellers—particularly if they wanted to be successful—had nothing like the freedom we do today. Although, by the 20th century, societal standards were loosening, and we would have, in 1955, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (GASP!). In 1961, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer (GASP!). And, in 1969, Phillip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint (GASP!). All very salacious books at the time they were published as all three were subsequently banned and protested (others too, but for sake of argument).

This level of censorship in the West is, of course, an almost impossible idea to imagine in the age of the internet, at a time when A&E is airing a show called Live PD, which has been hailed as "the most disturbing show on television". While I can't call that show "art", as it is live reality TV; it's indicative of the level of cultural acceptance we have given to previously un-broadcast-able material. You can write anything today, and, in almost the first time in history, the gatekeepers of Church, State, and Enterprise no longer remain in control; art is in the hands of the masses. However, it isn't creative freedom or moral freedom that drives art today, it's revenue. Eyeballs aggregate money and those eyeballs have a very big appetite. Art, today, exists —for the first time ever—largely to entertain. There's a reason they call it, "the entertainment business". 

But what of all this seemingly pedantic discussion? What is the impact for the artist? 
Well, I didn't write this so much to focus on the artist as much as I did to talk about the artist's impact on society, and the evolution of the artist's role in impacting society. To paraphrase John Gardner, in his 1978 tour de force, On Moral Fiction, 'Good art should seek to enhance life rather than debase it'. As Gardner writes, "There's not a lack of great, serious fiction because of the ills of society, but, rather, the ills of society are due in part because there is a lack of great, serious fiction." He is saying that art and life are intertwined and that one influences the other. To ignore the idea that art influences and reflects values, is to fail to understand the culture. 

Today, we have a White House that imitates the skullduggery on Netflix's House of Cards: our President is literally a reality TV star, and while you may think this excellent, most artists and writers do not. We are by far, a liberal, humanistic bunch. And maybe all the hacks really do go to Hollywood, but I think it's deeper than that. I think we writers have forgotten that we were once stewards of knowledge, shepherds of culture, and makers of mirrors. Today, we think only of entertaining. But when will we think of meaning again? I don't know, but I know the world could use a good dose of it. 

P.S. I wish I could say that poets, unlike writers and filmmakers, have yet to turn cheap tricks to entertain, but with the rise of the "insta-poet", this is no longer true. 

P.P.S. It is, sadly, growing increasingly difficult to land a book deal without a following, and increasingly easy to land a book deal with one. With that said, perhaps the artists aren't to blame at all. 

So, how did we get to King of Queens?

The people voted.

Give them som better to vote for.

Lawrence Black currently lives in the mountains outside of LA, where he is writing his first novel. He has kept a blog for the past eight years on and he is on Instagram @wolfwaldoblack

Compass North: An Int'l Interview Series: Sarah Spinazzola

J: What interview can’t start without an introduction?

S: Ok, let's start by saying that I speak little English (but I've been studying for 8 years). Now some information about me: I love olives. I'm afraid of insects. I like sunsets. I have never eaten a shrimp. For a time, we had a monkey called Cristina in the house. I once found a silver bracelet in the snow. If you write me a letter and start with "Dear Sara" (without an ‘h’ at the end) I'll misspell your name back (laughs). At breakfast, I drink a banana smoothie using a colored straw. I love colored straws. Lastly, I was in the World Trade Center in the past.

J:  I like your factoids and how you just lay them all out on the line. Also, your English is good…I don’t think you give yourself enough credit! I am curious to know what your surname stems from?

S: My last name is the name of a small country in Southern Italy. In this country called Spinazzola, there is also a castle, and when I was little I thought that one day it would be mine.

J: That is interesting that within Italy, there are separate states. If you so happen to ‘inherit’ this castle, I want a tour! Anyways, when did you start writing and what made you passionate at first? Now?

S: I started writing after reading The Diary of Anne Frank in elementary school. Immediately after completion, my mom gave me a secret diary on which I started to write talking to an imaginary character named Frenk (yes with an ‘e’) that always means Frank, but I wrote it how it is spoken in Italian.

I finished high school and went off to college. After the first year of studies, I departed from my philosophy studies and I started to attend libraries (they are much more interesting places). I started to write within. I was interested in the beginning of what an Ego thought, a narrative voice to the first singular person, who had thoughts and emotions. I was interested in revealing the emotions and thoughts of the protagonist. Now I am interested in writing tales of insects.

J: I’m sure there are plenty of oddities within the mind of an insect (laughs). That’s quite an interesting take, thank you for that. So, tell me more about Marcos Y Marcos. How was the publishing process for you?

S: Marcos y Marcos is an independent publishing house. They published my debut, adult-oriented novel, My gift you are . A quick backstory: In the first version, the book was read by a famous Italian writer named Paolo Nori. It was he who proposed my book to Marcos y Marcos and they later agreed to publish it. In another interview, I told that the work with the editor Claudia Tarolo lasting nine months, and it was almost like giving birth: long and necessary.

J: ‘Like giving birth: long and necessary’…wow! The coincidence of the process must’ve have been so surreal once your ‘baby’ was born. Has it been challenging finding an audience outside of Italy? Does your fan base support you well?

S: You are my first supporter and I think you're doing it right.

J: I’m flattered! I don’t know Italian but I can surely endorse you. What other hobbies do you have? 

S: I like to paint. As a child, I wanted to become a painter. Then after reading the books of an Indian man, Osho, I wanted to get to the lighting. I did not succeed. Now I like reading fairy tales aloud to children, and just since July 8, I and two other people will read fairy tales to children. We will be in the beautiful library park of Legnano.

J: I tried my hand at pencil drawing as a teenager, but found little success. As far as the reading, I want to know how it went! Here’s a metaphysical question for you…If you could name a material that could describe you, what would that be? This can be anything from fabric to wood, stone, leafy/natural, etc.

S: I think the material that can describe me is glass.

J: Hmm. There is the fragility of glass, and the opalescence and pristine craftsmanship that comes with it. Very nice! So, where in Italy is your favorite? I am dying to visit but would like to know all the "hotspots".

S: I have not explored all of Italy, certainly the most important cities, yes. One of my favorite places is a region called Emilia-Romagna. Compared to other places, people are kind and cheerful (there they make also Parmesan cheese. Just to say one thing). Then there is Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples which is worth seeing. You are spoiled for choice.

J: Understandable. It can be difficult to get up and move to another state here, so I can see how it translate to you. Ok, last one! Do you plan on visiting the US? If so, will I have the honor to receive a copy?

S: I have an uncle who lives in America, near Rhode Island, and I've been to see him once. When I come back, I will surely give you a copy of My gift you are. But who knows, maybe someday someone will decide to translate it into English so you can read it from start to finish and tell me what you think? Promise?

J: Promise. Thank you for the chat, Sarah! Below is the link to her publishing profile from Marcos y Marcos which has an English translation on-board!