Desert Songs | Yahia Lababidi [SSL 233]

Today I’m sharing work from a former Spark My Muse guest, poet, aphorist, and award-winning writer, Yahia Lababidi. 
(feature photo (a detail shown) by Zakaria Wakrim)
Listen to my previous conversation with Yahia here:
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More information about Yahia and his work, including a video related to the book, and some wonderful photos can be found when you support my work. Click the links below:

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EPS 32: Rolf Potts, Celebrated Travel-Writer and Best-selling Author


Rolf Potts is a celebrated travel-writer and best-selling author (over a million books sold!). Besides writing best selling books, teaching writing in Paris each summer, occasionally hosting a television travel show, and inspiring the polymath, phenom Tim Ferriss to embrace the Vagabonding philosophy (as well as give Potts’ book of that same name the coveted spot of “first book in the Tim Ferriss book club”), Rolf Potts lives in rural Kansas and saves for extended world travel. And there’s also the gangsta rap project.

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Wikipedia article on Rolf HERE.

Rolf’s Website HERE.

(Find all his books, audio books, travel photos, essays, and much more there.)

Rolf on Twitter HERE.


Guest, Rolf Potts

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MIN 1:00

On Rolf’s philosophy of life (vagabonding) that makes room for a richer way of experiencing the world and the people in it.


Tim Ferriss made Vagabonding his first book club selection.

A philosophy of life, travel and seeing the world.

Vagabonding and the “time-wealth” value-adjustment from which action naturally follows.

(video by Tim Ferriss)

Time is treated as a commodity but thinking of how we will spend our days and our lives can poorly reflect a life we really want and actualize time well.

Travel is not an expensive indulgence. Freeing up the time to travel can be the greater obstacle (mind-frame) for living well.


Seeing Time as the true wealth of our lives.


The repercussions of “the selfie stick” for the modern traveler.

How technology affects how we travel.


Technology can have you living through a screen instead of traveling or living at a firsthand level.

Tourists of everyday life. Is performance engaged enough?


Counting selfie sticks in Paris.

It can advertise that you are there to harvest photos.
(The least obtrusive selfie stick I could find, in case the temptation for better shot is too much.)

Comic book Wenamun the ancient Egyptian travel story.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 11.55.29 AM

If we get bored, lost, or lonely while traveling you are forced to be more imaginative and be more engage with the people and place where you actually are. These are gifts of travel.


Discipline and the ability to wean off technology and allow life to happen can give us richer experiences. More surprises and more vulnerability can make for a better trip.

Put the smart phone away.


Asking people where to eat who actually live there.


How he has evolved as a world traveler?


Being a Korean ex-pat for a few years and understanding how cultural is a gut-level thing that helps to learn while living there so that the abstractions change into lived experiences.


Rolf on having a provincial perspective and how it has been a benefit to him because he appreciated the smaller towns and places and not judging the place for their perceived lack of sophistication. People have more time for you in small towns. Big cities can have more arrogance toward other more rural places.


His recent travel adventure: Renting a car in France with a 100 page road atlas but no guide book. Seeing the beautiful town and eating Beef Burgundy.


His Paris writing class.

Ladder of abstract in writing. We meditate the world through abstractions. Root myself in the concreteness of travel and use my 5 senses.


The crap shoot of how he choses where to travel.

Visiting friends feels less like travel than it does like reunions.

On traveling alone and winter traveling.


Places with bad reputations can be the best places to travel. Syria, though, has become too dangerous, but had been one of his favorites.

Egyptians are very accommodating except near the pyramids where it’s very tourist-heavy.

China is a giant country with many things to experience.

Russia also has a lot to experience.


Less traveled parts of the world can be more interesting and people can have more time for you.

New projects:

Comic book (Wenamun) inspired by reading about travel in the ancient world. The anti-hero is Wenamun who bumbles through his travels. Proceeds go to help Syrian Refugees, Save the Children Fund.

Buy it HERE: The Misadventures of Wenamun


Another writing project:

Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series
Small books that feature historically significant music albums.
the Geto Boys

Houston and the 5th Ward of Houston

and gangster rap group called the Geto Boys 1990 self-titled album.

the psycho-graphical way to see a city.

Gangster rap was about the crack-era urban decline of certain areas.

Gangster rap in the 1980s and 1990s was the first black music form in the 20th Century that wasn’t appropriated and sold “with a white face”. Authenticity was so important in the art form is was done differently.


First exploring the 5th Ward in 1995 and going on a police patrol ride-along and seeing the crime from that vantage point and coming back in 2015. People ride horses in parts of the 5th Ward. The inner city in often a troupe. In Houston, the ghetto is place-specific and Rolf enjoyed writing about the history of it too.

Investigation of place.


Where to find Rolf, his writings, his books, and travel photos:

May you see world travel in a different way. It is accessible.

Sorry, this is only a partial recording! The LIVE viewers got a great Q & A with Rolf. Don’t it out on the next one. Show up on TUESDAYS at 8pm EST / GMT -4 for the guest of the week.

21 Century- Divine High Places

We’re not so different than the ancients. Here’s why:

See the image below? It is a “high place”.

For the ancients it is, unquestionably, the best place to reach a (pagan) god.
A god of human making.

Not good.

2 Kings17: 7

All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods 8and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced.9The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. 10They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 11At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the Lord had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that aroused the Lord’s anger. 12They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, “You shall not do this.”b

(ancient high place used for worship)

Why a high place?

They built on the highest parts of mountains to tap into unseen power.
They erected “antenna” to communicate with the gods of their own making.
They knew that the high ground was a prime location in their pursuit of more of everything they desired.
They sacrificed their time, energy, blood, sweat, effort, animals and sometimes their children  to get the upper hand the mountain high places could provide.

So do we. Yes?

(A child sacrificed and handed over to the god of our times?)

On our high places we build towers to better our lives that would look like religious shrines to anyone one who stumbled on them millennia later.

And aren’t they, really?


(21st Century high place)

Tech is certainly our Baal.

Instant access and fast communication are two of gods we love.

We love access to the internet, high speed wifi, speedy download times, cable or digital tv, reliable mobile phone service.

And we need our high places for all that.

It seems we don’t have moral superiority on this.

The ancients aren’t more foolish or more gullible than us…not as we may suppose they are.

Couldn’t the ancients accuse us of the same sorts of categorical trappings and devotions?

It is humbling.


Verse for reflection:

John 4:23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” -Jesus

Bounce…Bounce… “OINK” [State of the Blogosphere]


LEOL30 via Compfight


“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”

Matthew 7:6 from Jesus‘s Sermon on the Mount.

Today, the people who haunt the blogs and freely spew their criticisms are known as trolls and I think there is a spot on parallel with that phenomenon and the point of this scriptural adage.

Here’s how the urban dictionary puts it:

One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers. He will spark of such an argument via the use of ad hominem attacks (i.e. ‘you’re nothing but a fanboy’ is a popular phrase) with no substance or relevence to back them up as well as straw man arguments, which he uses to simply avoid addressing the essence of the issue.


Not too many people troll around at this blog and make a mess. But once in a while. It’s not too often that I pontificate on a controversial topic. However, many do. I was at a blog recently where there were a few trolls about and the topic was a disputed sort. Antagonistic little buggers, cloaked (quite conveniently!) in anonymity were pig piling, gorging themselves on accusations and generally being unpleasant and ill-reasoned. (Note that Trolls tote suitcases! They are filled with lots of emotional contents. Baggage. The more baggage there is the more the trollish nature flares up.)


So, it reminded me of the deeper phenomenon, shown in the “pearls and swine” reference.


Rather than readers contemplating or valuing the expertise in any way, I heard the sounds, “Bounce, bounce, “oink!”


So why is that? And why pigs and dogs?
In the Middle East in Jesus’ time, dogs were rarely lovable pets (except maybe to a few the royal class who had time to breed and train them to be lap dogs or sporting dogs that were kept outside and used for hunting). They were not as we tame to be and treat them today. At best they guarded the property, lived on scraps and barked at strangers. Most had bad habits, went scrounging around like tenacious vultures with paws, and would ingest anything, like dead and rotting carrion. Frequently they’d get sick on the stuff and vomit. Then they would eat that too. Yuck.
They were cited in Biblical times as a cautionary tail…er…tale.
Proverbs 26:11
As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.
Pigs fit in the same category. Most people assume that the ancient world couldn’t prepare a delicious and diesease-free pork entrée. Not so. In ancient Summer, pigs were eaten frequently (like me, they adored bacon perhaps). But, in Egypt swine were considered gross and vile. This sentiment seemed to filter into the Levitical laws for the Hebrews who would have been exposed to that cultural norm and largely imitated those dietary preferences. That meant Pigs=yuck. Dogs too.


Even now, dogs and swine both are in the habit of eating most anything and undervaluing certain precious things, jewelry from instance. They will even eat their own excrement, so I’m told. Omnivores indeed! I can vouch for the the fact on dogs, but I have little experience with pigs. Nevertheless, both have undiscriminating tastes, or they have discriminating tastes that are arbitrary and illogical. They also write the worst restaurant reviews.


If a hungry dog or pig, especially if it is untamed, from the wild, and thinks you have food, it will take you out and gobble it up and maybe a few of your fingers too. (I saw Bear Grylls wrestle a Razor Back once.) Best not to bring true valuables to the barnyard or wilderness.


This leaves us with a problem as writers or even as blog comment-writers. Do we bother writing for the public with so many pigs about? With so many unappreciative trollers who are ready to eat us alive, we often end up writing for the folks who won’t value it. I can see why writers close down their comments sections. Pigs and trolls and dogs appear to have a lot of time on their idle hands!


But finding the right audience is hard, even among our friendships.
A friend of mine said something like, “When I write I think about what you’ll think; and if you’ll think it’s good or not. I don’t like the idea of you not liking it.”  I told her, “Well, if I don’t like it, then it wasn’t written for me–it was written for someone else, and that’s fine.”


We aren’t writing for everyone. We are writing for the people who are ready and able to hear us, best.


If pigs or dogs eat your pearls, remember that the jewelry was never for them anyway. They trampled you down because they don’t know any better and they couldn’t comprehend the value you offered. Hold the hope that you will find those who see your pearls for what they are: valuable.


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1st Day of Lent: Ash What-day?

“Oh…Sure, rub it in…”

Did Jesus get ashed on Ash Wednesday? Um. Nope. Duh…

This day in the Christian calendar has marked the beginning of the season of Lent for way over a thousand years. But, yes, it can be “observed” even if we don’t show the signs of charcoal. But, why bother? It’s pagan, right? It’s not in the Bible, right? It’s just kooky works-righteousness thing, right?

Well, here’s the thing. Let’s think about this. If something is not in the Bible does that mean it’s rendered useless and meaningless from Christian devotional practices? I doubt it. From the beginning God used known culture practices to help his people remember things in a physical/visible way that were connected with the the invisible Reality of him. Have you heard of circumcision? Of (Israelite) cleansing before temple participation? How about Baptism? Well, then you see what I mean.

Do you ever celebrate Christmas or Easter? Then, you’ve enacted what I mean.

Pagan Egypt (used for God’s purposes)
Nationally, Egyptian cultic practices were incorporated with the Israelite’s life of worship of the One True God. The Egyptian priestly practices, in particular, were employed. (Israel was a KINGDOM of priests. Quite an upgrade from slave status, right?)

God wasn’t threatened by the use of Egyptian priestly rites and rituals, the Israelites were familiar with, to help them remember and worship the Living God. On the contrary, God encouraged it. God commanded it. Similar sorts of things can help us today as well.

Still, we mustn’t ever forget–It’s not about the intricacies of the ritual itself, it’s about the condition of one’s heart. We can avoid false religion when we ask ourselves, “Does this practice draw me into relationship with the Living God?” If it does, keep it. If not, scrap it. You might want to read that again. It could be life-changing.

Challenge yourself, by asking God to reveal himself to you, to minister to you, and to awaken you in a new way in the days leading to Easter. What might God want you to look at more closely? What might God wish to make more like him in your life?

This could be very personal, and private, but I encourage you to share what findings you’d like to. It will help all of us journey together through this time of Lent, toward the great joy we celebrate on Resurrection Sunday! (a.k.a. Easter)

Thank you for coming here today! Blessing this holiday season.