Beginner's Pen

Jonathan Erdman. Writer. Wayfarer.

Beginner’s Pen

I’ve redesigned my blog, simplified it a good deal. I’ve always been excited about the Internet, and I realized the other day I’ve been blogging and whatnot for something like more than 15 years now. The first time I really plugged myself into the World Wide Web was while I was working my second corporate gig, a job that had a boat load of inspiration for a satirical writer of comedies like Dilbert or The Office. Continue reading “Beginner’s Pen”

Featured post

Being grateful, maybe just for the hell of it

Understanding what it means to be thankful has proved a more difficult task than I would have thought, and I’ve thought a good bit about it over the years. I mean really, I have, I’ve thought about it a good deal more than you might think I might have thought. Being thankful is a pesky problem, actually. Continue reading “Being grateful, maybe just for the hell of it”

A few peculiar thoughts


Slavery was called the South’s “peculiar institution.” If you’re like me, then you hear the word “peculiar” and think “strange,” or “weird,” or “ridiculous” in the very worst way. When I hear that slavery was called a “peculiar institution” that makes sense: it was a very strange, a very creepy and an ominous organization that charted the course of our culture into deep darkness, a darkness that continues to cast a shadow over our society. I’d always imagined that the term “peculiar institution” was coined by the Abolitionists or others who opposed slavery. I learned last night that I was wrong. Though you may find it peculiar in an odd sort of way, let me tell you that it was actually Southern thinkers and politicians who first talked about, yes even praised and exalted their peculiar institution. Continue reading “A few peculiar thoughts”

How to avoid smoking nervous cigarettes


One of my favorite discoveries of 2015 is The Elements of Eloquence, written by a chap named Mark Forsyth. Forsyth is a Brit, hence the reason that I’ve picked up the term “chap.” Don’t let the title of the work fool you, because The Elements of Eloquence is by no means a serious or pretentious work. While it’s true that you can’t appreciate it unless you are a writer or have an inner grammar geek, this is a book that’s a good bit of fun. It’s packed with pithy puns and offhand irreverence, it’s a book I’d imagine Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy) might write had he written a Hitchhiker’s Guide to Grammar or something along that line. I’ve had more laughs with The Elements of Eloquence than with any other book this year.  Continue reading “How to avoid smoking nervous cigarettes”

Leanness into their souls

I’m spending the winter in the Santa Cruz Mountains, south of the big San Francisco Bay area. I hide in the big redwoods. I hide from the city.

I went on a walk in the redwoods just yesterday. It’s easily one of my favorite activities, and good trails aren’t far. The trees are enormous, rising maybe a hundred feet or more, I’d say, towering above, making me feel a similar smallness that I experience when I look up at high rise buildings in the city. I often find myself smiling, the best kind of smile, spontaneous and unconscious, when my neck is craned, straining to take it all in, the spires ascending and forming a wild and sacred cathedral. Continue reading “Leanness into their souls”

In defense of Facebook minutia

I’m not typically the guy with the Facebook updates sharing what I ate for breakfast. I don’t mind seeing what you or others eat for breakfast, and I certainly don’t have anything against breakfast, per se. Breakfast is a wonderful time of the day, so rich with potential, our bodies are on the verge of great creativity and productivity, if only it were given the fuel necessary to energize it. For my part, I had a bagel with cream cheese. That was my breakfast. And I sprinkled some sugar on it and added cinnamon. That’s not my typical breakfast. Usually it’s just fruit. Fruit and perhaps a handful of almonds. Why is this my normal breakfast? Well, if I told you, then this would start to seem like a story. Continue reading “In defense of Facebook minutia”

For the healing of the nations

Last year at about this time, I attended an Earth at Risk conference, a gathering of committed, aka “radical” activists and leftists that met in San Francisco. It was a two day event, and I was only able to attend the second day. That may have been for the better. When I arrived, the mood was very somber, and one of the early speakers acknowledged as much, making reference to the tone of the prior day — from what I gathered, it had been a heavy load of apocalyptic rhetoric, the end is near, with little or no hope. Continue reading “For the healing of the nations”

Gone like the shadow

We all live with fairly intense blindspots. It is, perhaps, one of those facts about human nature that can be funny, frustrating, and even infuriating. And as our stories tend to go, no one quite seems to know our blindspots like friends, families, and most especially partners, spouses, and boy/girl friends. In a perfect world, our blinspots would be pointed out to us, we would say, “Ah, thanks!” then make a few adjustments to our personality, tweak our persectives, and give ourselves a spiritual tune-up, so to speak. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Continue reading “Gone like the shadow”

Faith of sands, seeds, and seas

It was refreshing to see a nice sunset last night, on the beach of the Pacific Ocean, no less. As the sun went down, it seemed to melt into a pool of orange and yellow brilliance, casting soft dusty pink colors on the far side of the beach. These colors all deepen as the sun slowly sets. Continue reading “Faith of sands, seeds, and seas”


People often ask me about the culture shock that I must experience, travelling back and forth between places like remote McCarthy Alaska and Silicon Valley, the mega-bucks techie epicenter of the world. Well, I’m kind of used to it. After a while, it becomes familiar, I suppose the mind eventually realizes that there’s really no reason to freak out, just switch into that other way-of-being and roll with it. A friend of mine who has travelled a lot more than myself says that when she is travelling she will sometimes forget what city she is in. Like, for more than just a few seconds.

Continue reading “Changes”

The sign of the prophet Jonas

I’m on a train, public transportation in the South Bay area, i.e., Silicon Valley. Typically it’s a fairly dull ride with the typical variety of office suites and manicured bushes passing me by. The passengers getting on and off are, by and large, heading to their tech jobs, Macbooks on laps, buds wedged in ears, and phones at the ready.

Continue reading “The sign of the prophet Jonas”

Shall that great city Babylon be thrown down

And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all…for thy merchants were the great men of the earth…And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth. ~ Revelation 18:21 (KJV)

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a novel that never ceases to rattle me, even at the mere mention of the title. Forgive me, as I must use a word wrought with overuse, but there’s no other word I can think of right now, seeing as it’s my writing warm up time and I’ve only had my second sip of coffee, but the novel is haunting, haunting in the sense that a presence hangs over the narrative. There is the most obvious presence, which is the wife of “the man” (these characters have no name, only “the man” or “the boy”). She visits him in dreams and flashbacks and in the questions from “the boy,” who is the man’s son. She is ghostly, a figure loved but whose abandonment of the family makes the misery of their existence seem even more futile than it ordinarily would. The man and the boy go from one desperate situation to another, facing everything from starvation to armed bands of cannibalists. In the hands of a great writer like Cormac McCarthy, we go deeper and deeper into the conflict between despair and love that constantly keeps the characters (and reader) in a state of limbo and uncertainty, torn between instincts to survive and protect loved ones and the reality of a world that has become burned and lifeless.

Continue reading “Shall that great city Babylon be thrown down”

A wind that passeth away

For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again. ~ Psalm 78:39

At the moment, I’ve not got the patience to count all the miles that I traveled on my road trip from McCarthy, Alaska to where I am now, the Bay area in northern California. I had purchased a conversion van, intent on seeing more of Alaska, to see sites I’ve not yet seen and to hopefully gather material for my winter writing, a novel set in Alaska.

Continue reading “A wind that passeth away”

On discovering the same things


This is a Thomas Merton quote from The Intimate Merton, a collection of Merton’s journal entries. ‘Tis certainly true for me that a good deal of my learning and grown is merely deepening my insight into the same experiences and teachings that I’ve known for years. Yet so often I am still delighted to “learn” them, as though it were truly new and novel — and perhaps in a sense, it is!

Something to chew on


“All the suffering there is in this world arises from wishing our self to be happy. All the happiness there is in this world arises from wishing others to be happy.” – Shantideva

Foto note: recent flight seeing tour, about 10 miles or so from McCarthy AK.

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