A fairytale like no other, The Stumps of Flattop Hill is a lusciously penned cautionary tale, with mild horror elements, about a little girl Florence, who more strongly believed the children daring her by exploiting a perceived personal flaw, than believing them about any of the real dangers laying in wait in the House on Flattop Hill.
“They dared, declared
that Florence was scared
to enter the house on Flattop Hill.”
And yet young Florence didn’t heed the warning about the house being a place of pure evil, it called out to something deep inside — perhaps loneliness, a need to prove them all wrong, natural curiosity (written in such a way that you can draw your own meaning)… we are invited along on a beautifully grisly, increasingly tense journey all the way to the absolute end. Although the artwork echoes the work of Edward Gorey and Tin Burton, in this work, Kenneth Kit Lamug has created very much his own style.
With so much to love about this fairytale and all the details highlighted with flecks of nuance and shadowed with splashes of dread, there’s scope for discussion. A strong warning arises when Florence passes by the departed spirits making their way home across the river Styx that adds to the ominous tones. Once explained that the River is the causeway between life and death, the foreboding only deepens.
A fun read for seasoned readers; to be read out loud, an absolute must and with as much dramatic expression as you can muster… just be cautious with more sensitive children, if you’re not certain, avoid the first read at bedtime — besides you may need to leave some room for discussion of some very long words and concepts. Written in a rhythmic style, the visual elements scattered throughout draw the art and story neatly together.
In the world of Children’s literature, Kenneth Kit Lamug both illustrator and author, is more than good enough to hold his head high, and stand alongside the rest of the best. I will be on the lookout for more of his work in future. Links to his existing work are in the Author’s biography below. If you would like to support the Author more directly, the links to his work are on his website: The Stumps of Flattop Hill .
Said Kenneth Kit-Lamug;
“This book is meant to be read aloud; that’s when it comes alive. It is my goal to inspire and spark imaginations.
Kids love campfire stories and this is one that will keep them talking.
My four-and seven-year olds love to repeat the rhymes over and over.”
About the Author
Kenneth Kit Lamug is a Filipino-American author/illustrator based in Las Vegas, Nevada. His debut picture book A Box Story has won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, Literary Classics, Pinnacle Awards and the National Indie Excellence Book Awards. He has contributed to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s TinyBooks of Tiny Stories, Underneath the Juniper Tree and various publications. He has also worked in movies, comics and his photography has been showcased internationally.
My personal approach to processing emotions is an intuitive one. I can make sense of emotions intellectually, but that is just a reinterpretation of an extrasensory process, which I’ve discovered over many years, due to my many and varied personal and work-life experiences. Sure, I’ve had training over the years, read more articles than I’ll even be able to recall and undergone extensive inner work to detangle and decode my own emotional processing, and all this contributes to my empathic skills…
But there was one requirement that I personally needed to bring to the table, and that was the willingness to develop my own inner system of understanding. That willingness could only come from interest. And having a keen interest in something, however vast and random, is an important signpost on the road to discovering your purpose.
On the Myers-Briggs measurement system, I am a Counselor (INFJ) and that is a unique profile for anyone to have (2% of the US population to be exact). This effectively gives me some labels people might more easily identify with, I can use the words intuitive and an idealist, and although a realist too – I prefer to focus on ways to bring the best ideals into practice. So I appreciate the feelings and intuition occurs in ways that words cannot do justice to, but I like having frameworks in place to strap ideas to.
Just because I’m intuitive, doesn’t mean I’m socially adept
I find that most people are difficult to connect with in the first instance, even with empathy. I think it’s because the effect I have on people can be powerful if they’re not expecting it. I either find getting to know people incredibly easy (when we connect empathically on a one-to-one basis), or almost impossible (I can’t sustain small-talk over several meet-ups, I get to a point where it needs to get real, or the connection fizzles and sometimes it fizzles after its got real… anyway) Over the years I’ve played with this and I’ve discovered that even if I really want to get to know someone on a superficial level, it just doesn’t sustain itself easily. I need to talk to the person behind the mask and they need to talk to me behind mine, and then mutually we agree to progress toward friendship.
But how do you know if energy transfer is real?
If you want to see evidence of reiki then watch a reiki healer work on animals. Cats are particularly fussy. When they’ve had enough they walk away, and if you try to give them a bit more they tend to get annoyed.
It may not be visible in our spectrum of reality, but that doesn’t mean that our energy (ki, chi, auric field etc.) isn’t having an affect on someone else’s. Energy sharing is personal, inner world stuff. We just haven’t developed and invented the right kind of widely-available instrumentation to practically measure it. It’s in development though, I’m sure we’ll see some interesting developments in the future.
Exchanging energy enables connection to occur on a deeper level though, and it can be facilitated through the use of empathic techniques.
The world has become adept at labelling emotions, with rational methods and handling emotions in people tend to occur from a safe emotional distance. Pre-formed phrases, expressions, specific labels are all created to help signpost the way for future generations to deal with their feelings in constructive ways.
Don’t get me wrong, although a little clinical, “Emotions” are “always allowed” and “completely acceptable”… but it’s an almost mechanistic process of teaching, understanding and coping with them.
This is not at all a negative thing, honestly I think for example in schools it’s useful for the in locus parentis staff to be able to provide a safe space where emotions can be labeled, discussed and understood, without creating unhealthy complications or attachments. Children at general state schools tend come from so many types of backgrounds, it’s sensible to adopt a grounded approach, and in some homes there is very low emotional quotient on offer, having some exposure away from that environment, can’t be entirely bad.
But is it enough?
Have we lost our ability to connect?
Is this singular approach to simplifying emotions a good solution for the whole of society? a search for quotes on empathy on Google suggest that this need for understanding is already all over the globe. This in itself suggests that people want something else, something different… something more compassionate perhaps?
Have we lost our ability to connect with people who aren’t like us? Is this clinical approach popular because it’s easier and far safer to use the tried and tested, step-by-step, help by numbers approach to advice, than just letting someone talk and cry for a few hours, occasionally patting their back, asking a few guiding questions, and giving them a box of tissues to work through? Isn’t it just “showing sensitivity” without the actual fuss of forming an emotional bond, a human connection.
For example, someone has recently undergone a bereavement, society kicks into gear and everyone around the person shows their support, cooks some food, drives some relatives to the funeral home, arranges the pallbearers, pokes around the inheritances, and eventually the event fades from discussions because it becomes too hard to bring up. Over the years perhaps an occasional letter arrives, or a mention occurs over a plate of hors d’oeuvres at another family function… then silence.
Truth is, the person who lost someone dear to them is still mourning long after the phone calls die down, and the deceased partner’s friends and families move on. And their emotional state is far more complex than just “depressed”, “sad” or “anxious”… what about all that resentment from joy being stripped away, irrational betrayal about being left behind, lonely conversations into the dark, constant inner dialogue to clear the ongoing thoughts, the desire for some quiet time, party time, silence. Do you see how complex those little descriptions might be on an energetic level… how they might affect many emotional stirrings?
Isn’t it time we begin to understand the symphonies playing out inside of ourselves, so that we can help first of all ourselves by bringing ourselves to wholeness, and then our loved ones – helping them to deal with their feelings, experiences, senses of selves, rather than out of sheer frustration for not being able to help, berate them for not snapping out of it?
This is why we need poetry.
It’s no wonder people feel lonely.
Loneliness has never been more prevalent than now. We can blame social media, which let’s face it gives us a portal to the infinite – it’s the ultimate in escape, we can blame the economy, religion, the smoking ban, the huge and growing rift between the one-percenters and pretty much everyone else (this includes you minions too)… we can even blame the immigrants or refugees now because there’s such a huge social media platform for it.
But all of these and more are just symptoms of a greater ill.
If people’s connections to one another were more important than tacking the difficult emotions representing challenges and difficulties, then people would find a way. Sure there are meet ups and clubs, and there are people brave enough to try them. Usually older generation and with unusual life experiences. Mother’s groups are also popular for women to meet and connect with friends for their children’s future. All these meet ups always have a specific purpose, and an air of formality as you need to brush up on the acceptable protocols of etiquette before you’ll feel comfortable with all that small talk or shop talk…
But how many real connections do you form this way?
What if instead of hanging onto remnants of what has proven to be unworkable or has proven to be no longer viable (big picture, not small) in order to maintain the status quo, (the banks, corporations, government hegemony) we look at actively changing the environment that makes people so stressed, fed up, detached and some bordering on hateful and move to update and change the whole environment for the better? Lift people up, inspire them and given them something to strive for.
I have often heard wealthy, successful people say, “It’s not my job to care for society, I pay taxes, I give to charity…” and its hard to argue with because it’s true. But is it enough to cover what they have? After all, they get tax back on charitable donations and they can afford tax consultants to work out the best tax deal for their situation.
These are the people that both directly and indirectly make decisions that affect thousands of workers, tens of thousands of families and with long lasting effects. They don’t have sight of the stress that a bottom-line numerical decision has on a community. However it’s just one of those things that begins as a rockfall and turns into an avalanche. As the new business leaders come up and make decisions based on the past, they perpetuate systemic problems without ever being responsible for the outcome. Even leadership is changeable… every few years management moves on and new management comes in and makes their changes based on cost-saving bonuses, stakeholders, personal favours etc.
Mr Big Business Man just doesn’t see how he’s affecting the vibration and frequency of the earth, from his piece of double-garaged land that he and his wife park their Chelsea tractors on? They live among their own kind, and they can drive over anything that gets in their way.
But if many more meritocrats carried on behaving like this, as is happening now, the effects become more visible over time and started as a harmless rockfall, but now threatens an avalanche.
We need something more gentle, but a lot stronger – Compassion
This is why we’re responsible for each other. We should never make decisions that will have a harmful effect on someone else. Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean you are absolved from karmic responsibility. And yes, we can debate karma till the cows come home and never really come to an answer either way, so perhaps I’ll leave that chat for another day.
So is it fair to oversimplify emotions that are in truth so complex and intangible sometimes, intertwined with childhood and life memories, experiences? If children don’t feel a simple feeling because emotions are more complex than single words can ever convey, then do they feel somehow that they’re failing where the perceive everyone to be succeeding? Is this why depression and anxiety is on the rise?
Set aside about the children who grow up with steady doses of harsh reality for a moment… children who are given so much positivity in childhood must feel horribly disillusioned when they enter the big bad world and realise that they were duped into believing a dream (a far more powerful description than the labels “depression” or “self harm” could ever convey).
The ones who are fortunate to have a spark of something, appreciate satire, see the benefit, rise to the challenge and push on through. But without a good stable family to rely on, it becoming increasingly impossible for everyone else. And these disembodied children grow up and become people who don’t just go away, they continue and react, placing undue stresses on the system, producing more children with more problems and never discover their innate purpose.
By all means teach everyone that emotions are okay – but don’t lie to them and tell them that they’re simple and they have some kind of deadline. Because they aren’t and they don’t.
Shouldn’t we be trying to correct more than just behaviour, or trying to guide feelings? Is there no way we can facilitate healing in each home? Make those connections that the loneliness indicator suggests we sorely need. It cannot be solved systematically I don’t think. It’s too complex for our rigid understandings. I don’t think we have even scratched the surface of the extent of the problem, let alone come closer to finding a good solution with enough profit factor to incentive compassion.
If as many of us as possible reached out without humanity and compassion by making new connections with people, really caring and listening to them… trying to understand more than the oversimplified labels we have in our minds… and connect with compassion… to everyone… would that make a difference in the world? Maybe. Its already making one. But it’s very slow and we don’t have the skills. Most people want to connect with people just like them, they’re not ready for the challenge – and this too is understandable.
Wouldn’t harm to try, and keep on doing it if you’re already doing it, but is there more? I think there is and I’m going to explore it in more detail…
I’ll connect with you in the comments below, looking forward to your perspective…