Ronald Haines, Author

Immerse Yourself in the Adventure and Romance of Historical Fiction

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Relationships with Others without Frustration

While recognizing that relationships with other people are going to essentially produce conflict and frustration, we must also consider how they are nevertheless important to us. Certainly the strongest relationships come about where each participant wholeheartedly throws themselves into the relationship, but while doing it is still important to retain one’s own sense of self.  By allowing each other the freedom to pursue their own goals and interests, relationships can be of tremendous benefit to both parties and can actually add more meaning to our lives.

Unfortunately, people too often use relationships with others as an escape from the world. According to Simone de Beauvoir, the feeling of security may be comforting, but it can become a problem when people make the relationship the only source of meaning in their lives.  Instead, she advised people not to become so dependent on one another that they can’t exist without each other. Relationships are much more interesting, and stronger, if the participants also enjoy the diversity of their own independent goals.  In this way they are free to focus their energies on continuing to develop their authentic selves while also supporting each other’s goals, instead of holding each other down with petty power games.  Relationships can have so much more to them if the participants are both strong-willed individuals and good friends.

Unfortunately, there is a common theme in western culture around the idea of finding what is referred to as a soulmate; that somehow there are people in the world who were “made for each other” and destined to be together. Since individuals are free and must therefore define themselves (that existence precedes essence is key to existential thinking), there can obviously be no such things as soulmates.  Not only is this a useless romantic illusion, it is also dangerous.  de Beauvoir argued that a belief in soulmateship seduces lovers into turning away from their own authentic goals for the sake of the relationship.  Buying into the soulmate delusion is almost a guarantee of future frustration with the relationship.

Successful lovers are first and foremost individuals who take responsibility for creating their own lives and do not become reliant on a relationship with another person to be their meaning in life.  The best kind of relationship, one without frustration, is one where the participants respect each other’s freedom and support each other’s working towards whatever goals they choose, even if it means pursuing goals that may ultimately pull them in different directions.

Anne Bonny and Existential Angst

The last conversation between pirates Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham:

“I’m so sorry to see you here, Jack.” Anne fought back her tears.  “Why did you let them capture us?  Wouldn’t it have been better to fight?  You might have won, and even if you didn’t you could have died like a man instead of like,” she sobbed.  “Like this.”

“Death is death, Anne. It matters little to me how it comes about, but this way you and Mary have a chance.  I doubt that the judge is about to hang women.”

“They said that you stood defiant at your trial and refused to apologize for your pirate ways, and that neither you nor Mary have demonstrated any contrition.”

“We’re pirates,” Jack shrugged.

“What is it with you two?”  Anne screamed at him, her whole body was trembling and she no longer cared that she had lost control over her crying.  “Neither of you are willing to show any regrets or remorse, even though it might end up saving your lives?”

“That’s because it would be lie. We can’t lie, Anne.  Doing so would go against everything we’ve ever stood for.”

“But you’re going to die, Jack.”

“That’s right, Anne. Tomorrow, when the hangman puts that noose around my neck everyone will see that my face is smiling.  I’ve had a life well lived, and I thank you for being a part of that.  In these past weeks I’ve known the passion I’d always dreamed of, and I’m happy to go out with the last part of my life being the best part of my life.”

Anne was speechless. She was terrified of dying and would do or say anything to avoid it, and he was blithely referring to his impending execution as if it were just another part of the ongoing adventure.  She clutched onto the bars for support and slowly shook her head while tears poured down her cheeks.

Jack reached through the bars and stroked her hair. “I’m dying at a time of my own choosing, Anne,” he said calmly. “And there are very few that ever have that opportunity.  You’re going to live and hopefully grow old, but growing old to me would be the worst kind of death.  This way I’m never going to be in a place where my body fails me and I can only live through memories while screaming in futile frustration from the inside.”

 

Excerpt from Love, Lust & Passion:  The Real Story of The Pirate Anne Bonny

A Working Model of Infinity

Do you have a working model of infinity that helps you to wrap your head around it? Humans currently have a pretty good handle about the way things work in our world, but those same truths do not necessarily apply to the rest of the universe.  Our thought process of sequential cause-and-effect scenarios tends to breaks down when we ponder the infinite.

It is important to recognize that we are finite beings living on a finite planet in our finite (measureable) universe, but the universe as a whole is infinite and infinity is something that is conceptually difficult for people to understand. Consider, we know that life appeared on earth about 3.7 billion years ago, the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and our universe came into existence about 13.8 billion years ago.   The question of origin (creation) asks about what existed before our universe came into being and what is outside our known universe.  This thinking leads us to try to figure out the origin of everything; perhaps the hardest question that humanity currently wrestles with.

But by definition there is no origin to infinity, so this type of question doesn’t apply to anything outside our own universe. The big bang theory provides a useful conceptual framework to describe the origins of our particular universe and helps to predict what may happen to it in the future, but in order to develop a working understanding of infinity it is important to think of the big bang simply as a transition of part of it into something finite: measurable space and time. Humans require a conceptual framework, things like space, time, energy, fields, for reason to be able to function, but these things are irrelevant to infinity.

Yet even though the origin/creation question is a product of very human thought processes and therefore applicable only to things within our finite universe, we are still able to satisfy it in one of two ways. One can either avoid thinking by ascribing the answer to an unknowable god, as many people do, or one can develop a working understanding of infinity.  A person does not need to be an astrophysicist for the latter, just examine what it is that they do know.  Here is the working model which I came up with to reconcile infinity for myself:  the truth of infinity is that all is nothing is everything.

We know about matter and antimatter, and that when identical particles of matter and antimatter are brought together they annihilate each other and nothing remains. Far from being a science-fiction concept, we now not only know that antimatter exists but it is being used every day in modern medicine.  PET (positron emission tomography) uses positrons, which are anti-electrons, to produce high-resolution images of the body. Positron-emitting radioactive isotopes are attached to chemicals such as glucose that are used naturally by the body. These are then injected into the bloodstream where they are naturally broken down, and when these positrons meet electrons in the body they annihilate each other.  These annihilations produce gamma rays that are used to construct images.  Scientists are also studying antimatter as a potential way to treat cancer.

While we and our world/universe are made up of matter, we can also infer the existence of other finite universes that are made up of antimatter. If an identical matter and an antimatter universe were to collide there would be nothing left, but if they are not identical then the resultant destruction could be something akin to another big bang.  Depending on whether there was more matter or antimatter in that collision, then the result might be a new, finite, matter or an antimatter universe.  This is not inconsistent with current theory which acknowledges that the only reason our universe exists was that the big bang released more matter than antimatter.

Considering that infinity contains an infinite amount of matter and antimatter in equal quantities, that time only occurs in finite universes and does not exist in infinity, then infinity may exist simultaneously as both everything and nothing. Since this a logically derived theory based on what I know or can infer from what I know, it satisfies the definition of truth and works for me as a model of infinity.  This may not be in agreement with the theories of other people, but my point is to have a working theory which, through continued learning, may be subject to updates or changes.

Truth is A Transient Axiom

Truth about the world around us can quite easily be defined as the best explanation we have for a situation, that when we apply all of the knowledge available to us, cannot be logically refuted. Since new discoveries are adding to that pool of knowledge on a continual basis, we must accept that today’s truth will only hold until a better explanation comes along, and yesterday’s truth should already be considered suspect.

Truth is therefore both objective and transient, and it is through having an open mind and questioning everything that individuals are free to not only better understand the world they live in, but to also add to the collective knowledge of humanity.

Many people will attempt to make the case that truth is something subjective; stating that what is true for one person is not necessarily true for another. What they are referring to here, however, is not truth but belief.  Believing something to be true is, indeed, a subjective position, but it has little to do with what may actually be true.  Belief in something, especially when that belief is supported by a peer group, may be comforting to a person but it requires that person, that human being, to abdicate thinking.  Such behavior is risky because it may eventually atrophy that person’s ability to reason.

This brings us to a curious human dichotomy regarding the search for truth: while we have the innate drive to ask questions in order to seek out what is true, we also hold steadfastly onto what he have already accepted and seem unwilling to let it go, even in the face of overwhelming evidence otherwise.  This is actually a good trait amongst scientists because it ensures that new truths must be well established by repetitive experiment and observation, a process known as scientific proof, before they gain acceptance.  A newly discovered truth is not something that is readily accepted and it must win the argument before rational minds permit it to displace the old thinking.  This process ensures that we don’t randomly flit from one ‘truth’ to another and only advance to the next truth when it has been sufficiently proven.  Certainly, if you examine the fields of mathematics and physics you’ll recognize some truths that have been with us for centuries, but how many more have been replaced in that time?  We have learned that the earth is neither flat nor is it the center of the universe, for example (although if you choose to believe such things that is entirely your choice).

Recognizing that truth necessarily goes through such an arduous process before being accepted by even the most rational minds, who have to override their internal resistance to something new, one can begin to understand why many of the old ‘truths’ not only still remain but are widely accepted in our societies. Within those societies the individual search for truth has been discouraged for millennia by authority figures who train its members from early childhood to repress that innate drive in favor of following the collective creed.

Truth about the world around us is, therefore, not subjective but highly objective, and the scientific method is a tool that provides us with the means to discovering it. In our world, truth is a transient axiom.

 

Freedom and Responsibility: How to Be Authentic

FREEDOM & AUTHENTICITY

Authenticity is the degree to which a person is true to themselves in spite of external pressures.  How to be authentic?  One must accept individual freedom and take authentic actions, choices which come about as the result of personal understanding.  Choices which are made in a manner which is consistent with a person’s true self, rather than merely acting from conformity according to the society in which that person lives.

Yet we are born within our respective societies and raised to accept the associated conventions, relationships, and in many cases the religions that characterize them. As the philosopher Martin Heidegger so aptly stated, “We are thrown into pre-made worlds.”  Our parents and teachers infuse us with what we need to know in order to get by in the societies that we live in and often pressure us into behaving according to this established norm.

But if we just blindly follow those rules and expectations, which in many cases means we would be acting inauthentically, then we may begin to suffer from stress as a result.  Choosing to behave based on who we are, however, results in our eliminating stress by being authentic.  It’s important, therefore, to define who we really are in order to be able to live an authentic life.  To achieve authenticity, an individual must accept their own freedom and create their own purpose.

FREEDOM & PURPOSE

The first step to being authentic is to recognize that as human beings we have no purpose other than what we create for ourselves. A major theme of existentialism is that every human is a free individual as explained by Jean-Paul Sartre:

“What does this mean? If one considers a manufactured object, say a book or a paper-knife, one sees that it has been made to serve a definite purpose. It has an essence, the sum of its purpose and qualities, which precedes its existence. The concept of man in the mind of God is comparable to the concept of paper-knife in the mind of the artisan.  My atheist existentialism is rather more coherent. It declares that God does not exist, yet there is still a being in whom existence precedes essence, a being which exists before being defined by any concept, and this being is man or, as Heidegger puts it, human reality. That means that man first exists, encounters himself and emerges in the world, to be defined afterwards.” Jean-Paul Sartre.

 

Since we arrive in the world having no predetermined purpose, it is up to us to determine what out lives will be all about.  That is freedom.

FREEDOM & RESPONSIBILITY

Human beings not only have the individual freedom to determine what our own lives will be, but we also have the responsibility to do so. Sartre summed it up by stating, “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”  Freedom, then, is not only fundamental to being human, but as Erich Fromm so eloquently stated,  freedom is something that we must either embrace or escape from.  Fromm observed that embracing our freedom was healthy, whereas escaping from freedom was the root cause of psychological conflict.

The societies that we live in, however, tend to encourage escaping from the responsibility of freedom by promising a us feeling of comfort in return, and as a result many people do so.  A common escape from freedom can be obtained through conformity. By changing oneself to fit the perception of society’s preferred type of personality, one can displace the burden of choice from oneself to society.  To do this a person might tie their identity to an image which corresponds to some sort of social norm, such as becoming a dentist or a banker for example.  The person then acts according to the image they have of how a dentist or a banker should act.

Another means of escape is through authoritarianism; relinquishing control of oneself to another person, or in the case of some theist religions to a deity or supernatural being.  By submitting one’s freedom to someone or something else, individual freedom of choice can be removed almost entirely.

Human beings are free, but the responsibility resting on the individual to create ourselves and then be willing to act accordingly can be somewhat daunting.  Consequently, the above comfort mechanisms that society offers do tend to appeal to the majority.  But these people who do escape from freedom are denying their true selves in the process.  They may live exemplary lives, but studies have shown that over a third of them will lie on their deathbeds regretting that they had not followed their dreams or taken more risks with their lives.

Now this does not mean that all acting in accordance with social norms is necessarily inauthentic.  How to be authentic is about the attitude a person takes to their own freedom and responsibility, and the extent to which they act in accordance with that freedom.  It is quite reasonable that a person is able to behave within the norms of society and still remain a free, self-determined individual.

 

 

Eliminating Stress by Being Authentic

Most people close to me know that I’ve always been an existentialist, and the current non-fiction book I am working on deals with eliminating stress by being authentic in one’s life. Here’s an excerpt from chapter nine:

Other people see us in a ways that we have no access to, and vice-versa. We are first and foremost an object to other people, just as they are to us, and according to Jean-Paul Sartre this is the basis for relationships between individuals to be one of conflict. Other people cannot see us as we really are, so our existence is one thing for us and something else for them.  If we allow the judgment of others to influence us we run the risk of not being authentic and will experience stress as a result, so how can one be a part of the world and live authentically at the same time?  We can try to tell people who we really are, but it is only through our actions and the products of our actions that they will judge us.

Consider a man who is living in a shack on the beach. Other people see this person with a scraggly beard and long hair blowing in the breeze walking around every day and they label him as a beach bum.  They are unaware that it is the daily wandering that drives his inspiration and creativity, and even if he told them that he was a genius working on a new project they would most likely look at him askance and still judge him to be a beach bum.  However, once he publishes a book or produces a painting these people will change their judgment, and from that point on they’ll recognize him as an author or an artist.

It is one thing to see ourselves as artists and tell other people at parties how we have great books or paintings inside us, but quite another to actually be that artist.  That requires us to make choices and act on them.  So whether we remain as inwardly frustrated artists who dress in suits and go to work in an office every day versus living an authentic life and producing art comes down to our accepting individual freedom and making the appropriate choices, in spite of the judgment of others.  It is easy to come up with excuses in order to justify not taking action, but Nietzsche would have considered it weakness to deny ourselves:

“What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

You may well be considered a nonconformist bum when you start out, but those same people who deride your choices will be the first ones with their congratulations on your success and will readily accept what they will then consider your eccentricity. More importantly, you will achieve happiness and be free from the stress of inauthenticity.

This historical novel is now available in both e-book and print versions

 

LLP cover first draftLearn about the real life of Anne Bonny, a teenager who runs away from the confining life of colonial Carolina to Nassau in New Providence, Bahamas hoping to enjoy the lust filled, idealized life of freedom as a pirate, but ends up learning about the costs of that freedom. 
While in the Bahamas Anne meets and becomes intimate with Mary Read, whom Anne considers to be the epitome of a woman pirate, and serves with her under the command of Calico Jack Rackham, the last of the golden age pirate captains. Jack Rackham is a man driven to have all of the adventure, love and lust he can. To Anne, Jack is the perfect man, and she happily becomes his mistress. 

Numerous versions of the pirate life of Anne Bonny have been told over the past three centuries, but few of these stories have considered her from a historical perspective. Most of them simply re-visit the sensational and titillating tales of a woman serving aboard an eighteenth century pirate ship and take what is generally accepted about her at face value. 
When one considers the historical chronology, however, many of the stories about Anne Bonny do not make sense. After researching, it is the opinion of this author that much of what has been accepted as fact about Anne Bonny was more likely to have been about another woman pirate, Mary Read. Anne’s actual story, however, not only makes for a great read, but also makes a lot more sense when one considers the fact that her entire time aboard a pirate ship was only two months. 

Researched historical chronology was used as the basis in writing this historical novel, with license taken by the author to determine the motivations of the characters since they were inferred by him from the facts, and the story line was then created to both fit and explain those facts. While interesting from a historical and biography perspective, this book also contains both heterosexual and bisexual situations and is therefore not suitable for minors. 

The pages in this book tell the real story (truth being defined as the most logical interpretation of the facts) of the pirate life of Anne Bonny. 

(click he above image for a link to see both formats)

A Brief History of Rum in Colonial America

RUM

In 1493 the Spanish introduced sugar cane into the West Indies and enslaved the native populations to work their sugar plantations.  Sugar was produced by crushing the cane, boiling the resulting juices, and then leaving the syrup in clay pots to cure.  A viscous liquid, molasses, was then poured off leaving the pure sugar behind and for every two pounds of sugar produced a pound of molasses was also created.  This industrial waste was fed to slaves and livestock but, with no other practical use for it, most of the molasses was dumped into the ocean.  It was probably the slaves who first realized that if molasses was mixed with the liquid skimmed off the cane juice during boiling and fermented, it produced an intoxicating beverage.  Colonists soon realized that this mixture was an excellent starting point for distillation and by 1650 British planters in Barbados and the French in Martinique began creating a drink called rum in pot stills.  Rum rapidly became the alcoholic beverage of choice in England and colonial America and soon many of the sugar growing islands in the Caribbean were also distilling rum.

TAXATION

In 1733 the British parliament, in an attempt to regulate commerce and collect duties by forcing trade through the ports of Kingston and Nassau, passed the molasses act which imposed a high tax on molasses or rum coming from any non-British island and also made it illegal for the colonies to trade alcoholic beverages directly between one another. The molasses act was not enforced initially and by 1742 England was at war with both France and Spain so there was no worry about the colonies trading with other nations.

When the hostilities with Spain and France ended, however, Britain began to look for additional sources of revenue from the colonies to help pay for the war costs.  Although it provoked much anger amongst the American colonists, enforcement of the molasses act began in 1750.

HOW THE FORMER PIRATES HELPED THE COLONISTS

The end of the war had also brought dire economic consequences for the pirates who had become privateers but had been released from government employment. The more entrepreneurial amongst them, the ones who had fast ships capable of outrunning the British revenue cutters, elected to help the American colonists avoid what they felt were unjustified taxes by smuggling for them.

With the help of the former pirates, American goods were then traded with the ever obliging merchants on Harbour Island, Bahamas, or went directly to Martinique where the rum was cheap.

NEXT BOOK IN THE SERIES

In Rum & Wrecks, which I am currently writing, we find the protagonists from Pirates of the Bahamas becoming rum smugglers, after a harrowing experience with the Spanish regarding salvaging a ship makes Jack realize that smuggling might be safer than wrecking.

Wrecking in the Bahamas in the Eighteenth Century

With so many reefs and shallow waters surrounding the passageways through the Bahamas, many merchant ships were lost there as trade became established between Europe, the West Indies and the American Colonies.  Sailors who encountered a shipwreck would salvage the contents in an activity known as wrecking.  From the time that the Bahamas was first settled in 1648 wrecking was an important activity, growing so much that by 1660 when New Providence was settled many captains had dedicated their vessels to it.  Rather than a passive, opportunistic activity, however, these seamen pursued wrecking aggressively, regarding all salvage as their property, and they were rumored to kill people who inconveniently survived the shipwrecks. They drove Spanish sailors away from Spanish wrecks, and even took goods that the Spanish had already salvaged. Understandably, the Spanish considered these Bahamian wreckers to be pirates, and retaliated by attacking the wreckers’ ships.  The Spanish also made repeated attacks on New Providence to retrieve salvaged property and burned the capital, Charles Town, in 1684.  Charles Town was rebuilt and named Nassau in 1695.

After piracy was eliminated from the Bahamas in the early 1720s the Bahamian government established controls over the wreckers, requiring them to carry salvaged goods to Nassau, where they were auctioned. They also required wreckers to have a government license to do so. However, goods which would be useful on a ship or in a wrecker’s home were often diverted with the government officials turning a blind eye to it.  The wreckers usually received 40% to 60% of the value of the salvaged goods, and many former pirates turned to wrecking as a legal, and very profitable, profession.

Wrecking continued to be a mainstay of the Bahamian economy through most of the 19th century until improved navigation and the building of lighthouses saw the number of wrecks diminish.  In its heyday there were 302 ships and 2,679 men (out of a total population of 27,000) licensed as wreckers in the Bahamas.   Salvaged cargo brought into Nassau in 1856 was valued at £96,304, more than half of all imports to the Bahamas, and more than two-thirds of the exports from the Bahamas were salvaged goods.

Wrecking is featured prominently in the novel I am currently working on, Rum & Wrecks, which will be the second book in the Pirates of the Bahamas series now that I am finished writing the prequel, Love, Lust & Passion, and it has been published.

Love, Lust & Passion book trailer and publishing update

Here’s the book trailer for Love, Lust & Passion:  The Real Story of the Pirate Anne Bonny

The e-book version is life on Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01IU85TYU

And the print version will be available in September, 2016.

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