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Dear Reader,

View this page as a place where you and I can have a conversation on subjects that are meaningful to both of us. On a regular basis I plan to post a topic or question on my mind which I encourage you to respond to (see below).

On this same page you will also find some of the responses that have been sent in by those who have viewed this web site. Please feel free to submit your own questions and thoughts which I might comment on and share with other viewers. I truly look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Archive for September, 2010

WRITER’S PROMPT: The Will to Go On When Everything Is Dark

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

There was an obituary in The New York Times this week (”Eileen Nearne, Wartime Spy, Dies at 89”, September 22, 2010) about the exploits of a British spy who bravely fought against the Nazis during World War II.  She was one of 39 British women who were parachuted into France as secret agents by the British to conduct espionage and sabotage being enemy lines.  After several narrow escapes, she was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to concentration camps. Savagely beaten and tortured by the Gestapo, she never gave up any secrets — she was only 23 years old at the time.   She was forced to do very hard labor, such as road repair for 12 hours a day at the camps, but eventually she escaped.  Asked after the war how she managed to keep up hope, Ms. Nearne replied: ”The will to live.  Willpower.  That’s the most important.  You should not let yourself go.  It seemed that the end would never come, but I always believed in destiny, and I had a hope.”

”If you are a person who is drowning,” she said, ”you put all your efforts into trying to swim.”

I’m not sure I could be as brave as Ms. Nearne was, but her words will  truly inspire me as I  confront the dark times in my own life.  What are the words of comfort you remember as your fight your own battles and try to keep up hope?  Please share with us.

WRITER’S PROMPT: Dealing With Life’s Struggles

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

For Jewish people these recent days are the holiest in the year, a time when they review their lives during the past year. They think about the sins they may have committed and try to atone for them as they await God’s decision on whether they will be given another year of life.  In some ways it is a sweet time because it marks the beginning of a new year,  but in  most other ways it is a very severe, even frightening period when people question themselves and worry about what God has decided for them. Who wouldn’t be afraid, even sad?

I try my best each of my days to lead a useful, helpful life, but I have also experienced much sickness and lost many people whom I loved.   I have learned there are no guarantees about anything in life, about whether our health will be good or bad, about whether we will stay alive or die, about whether good or bad things will come into our lives.  We can only pray for the best and struggle as mightily as we can to accept each day with all its beauty and, yes,  even its pain, and continue to march steadily ahead in life and in the world.

These thoughts come to me as I mull over some recently articles I read that caught my attention.

In one, I  read about a place of worship where Jews and Christians gather each week to pray and sing and to participate in a ritual in which people place rocks representing  their concerns and troubles  a bowl.  The rock seems, to me, to be a good symbol of trouble.

Then I  read about an American psychiatrist who works in Gaza to help Palestinian refugees and those whose families have been hurt by political violence.  He tries to help them find anchor as they live lives of hardship and pain.  At one workshop in his program, children were asked to draw three images: themselves, their biggest worry and what it looks like after their problem is solved. Perhaps in doing so, they will find some hope or safety in their spirit.

In another newspaper I saw a photo of the New York harbor where for the past eight years New York Buddhist Church members and other have gathered at a pier to hear music and prayers and to place lanterns in the Hudson River as a tribute to those lost in the terrorist attacks.  People write the names or messages of peace on the lanterns, a tradition that is observed each hear in Horoshima, Japan, in honor of the victims of the atomic bombing 65 years ago.  I thought this was such a beautiful gesture.

Each of the things I read about, and which are reported above,  are ways for people to deal with the pain in their lives and that of others and to find a way to gather strength as they continue living in the days ahead.  So, the questions that come to me are:

.What rock of concern would I place in a bowl?

.What would I draw to describe my biggest worry and what would it look like if the worry were diminished or went away?

.And, lastly, what message of prayer or hope would I place on a lantern floating in the water?

I will think about this but I want to ask: How will you answer those questions, too?

Share with us if you wish. Happy New Year!  May it bring you peace and joy and good health.

WRITER’S PROMPT: Dealing with Uncertainty — How?

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I wake up this morning with the shakes of spirit, worried, my mind wandering old paths, thinking about new ones and not at all certain about what’s ahead.  The Jewish New Year begins this evening and, from the memories of my childhood, I worry what lies ahead for this new year.   Will there be continued life for my family, the people I love?  Will I have one more year?   Will we have good health or bad?  Will this be a productive, fulfilling year in which good work and deeds are commited, or will the days ahead not be used as well as they should?   I go early in the morning to the local pool to walk and swim in the water, and to find healing; I search for comfort and pray and think about God and think about the people I love,  about the people I still have in my life and the people whom I have lost, and tears spill on mornings like this when I feel there is nothing certain and I lack power and control.   At the pool, I fight as courageously as possible, to fully enter the new day, to put the ghosts and regrets and fears behind, and to move ahead as best I can.   If you feel some mornings the way I do today, then I wish you only good things and comfort  and I send out hope that the day will be better for you, too.  May we all find healing in the days ahead.

What do you do when you have mornings like mine; how do you face your uncertainty?  Please share.

Writer’s Prompt: Creating Art from Pain and Hurt

Monday, September 6th, 2010

People can create art no matter how terrible their lives are.  The Smithsonian Museum, in its mission to tell the American story, now has an exhibit of the art created by some of the 120,000 Japanese who lived in the western United States during World War II and were sent by the government to internment camps — more than two-thirds  were American citizens by birth. According to the Smithsonian, ”Despite the harsh conditions, many internees found the will to make beautiful objects — chairs, dolls, tools — from scrap and indigenous materials…These works,” says the Smithsonian, ”help us understand art’s healing power as they remind us of tragically misguided actions by our government in the heat of war.”  The exhibit is called ”The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946.” The word ”gaman” means to bear the seemingly unbearable with dignity and patience. (See Smithsonian.com/gaman)

Each of us can create something beautiful, something meaningful from the pain and hurt we feel.  Sometimes, it is an entry in our journal, sometimes a poem, sometimes a drawing or sketch.  In writing many of my books, I did so at times of great turmoil and upset as a way to find some comfort and peace and understanding.  One of my books resulted from my sister’s being confied to a hospital and the terrible upset I felt at her plight; another resulted from my brother’s lingering death as I tried to come to terms with losing him.

What about you?  What have you created from your heart’s pain?   Please share with us.

Writer’s Prompt: Saving One’s Life

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

I read the summary of a book –”Hiding in the Spotlight” —  about Jews who were rounded up during World War II to be taken to labor camps where most would die.  Among these people was a 14 year-old piano prodigy.  Her father found an opportunity to bribe a guard and sent her off into the woods with the parting words, ”I don’t care what you do.  Just live.” The book tells the story of the girl’s survival.   I started to put myself in the shoes of that young person and wondered whether I could have survived after being sent on my own into the woods.

I thought about the father whose only hope for his daughter was for her survival and his feeling that no matter how she survived, her staying alive, no matter how harsh the life before her, was more important than the death she would likely face in the labor camp.  I thought of his great love for his daughter, which I am sure was no different than the love I have for my own daughter and how I worry about her all the time. How this father must have felt when he saw his daughter leave after giving her up.   I thought about the fear the young girl must have felt in separating from her  family and facing a life alone.  I thought about the sadness she must have felt in never again seeing her beloved father.   Do you think you could have survived in such a situation? Would you have done what that father did?   Perhaps most important, how could people have done something as cruel as rounding up and persecuting a people and sending them to labor camps where they would likely die?  How could people be so cruel to one another?

I think of these questions and weep quietly in my heart for these people lost to us, I weep for the cruelty of humans to one another.   How could we, God’s creatures, be that way?

WRITER’S PROMPT: Smiling at Fear

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

I recently read about a workshop whose subject was ”Smile at Fear.” It took its name from a book of that title, ”Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery,” written by Chögyam Trungpa.  This was a new thought to me — I have never smiled at fear, fear has often consumed and overwhelmed me.   The subject made me think more about fear and whether one can better deal with fear and tragedy by looking at both in the face, trying to examine what is frightening and what can be mastered, rather than to allow fear to dominate our lives.  As fearful as we are, can we marshall our own inner resources to look fear in the face and defeat it?  I want to think so, I don’t want to go around walking with fear in my heart all the time.  To do so takes all the joy out of our precious life.

I woke up this morning with the thought that one thing fear does is give you energy, and maybe the key is to use this energy in a positive way, to work to overcome the fear rather than allow the fear to overtake you and paralyze you.  Maybe laughing at fear means to do exactly that, to look fear in the face and say to ”it” the words, ”You have lost your power over me.  I shall continue on and survive in the best way I can — despite it all.”  I know this is not easy, but it must be done.

What about you?  Have you been able to overome your fears?  If so, how did you do this?  What is the secret of courage?