Local author comments on writing, spirituality and tying them together


March 11, 2020

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"Living our regular lives is what gets us in touch with who we are," said Jim Ringel, an author and practicing Buddhist who hopes that his books, and a little self reflection, can help open readers to new ideas.

If you lived in Boston in the 1980s, you probably saw an episode or two of "We Don't Knock," a guerilla television show where the team would show up to various places around the city just to see what was happening there.

"We would go to the IRS unannounced and get thrown out, it was fun," explained collaborator Jim Ringel.

However, even considering as much fun as Ringel had while working in television, part of him always wanted to write stories. As a child, the artform interested him, but upon graduating college, Ringel's television job became his creative outlet. Then, about 12 years ago, he considered writing once more and has since published two books.

His first novel, Wolf, is a "moody noir" novel set in a world without dogs. But more than that, it is a dystopian story that considers alternate realities through a unique lens.

In his recent book 49 Buddhas, which is the first in a six-part series, Ringel again slips into the noir, mystery realm, but one that is heavily influenced by mysticism and spirituality.

"I think my writing style is very sparse and noir-ish in the language I use," said Ringel. "That made me always think about mysteries. It's a mystery for sure, but with a subgenre of Buddhist or spiritual."

Ringel was inspired by his own faith--he is a practicing Buddhist and was interested in exploring and sharing the belief system with others. Rather than discussing Buddhism in an academic sense, Ringel saw fiction, and more specifically a fiction series, as a vehicle to expose his readers to new ways of reading mysteries, but also to a new way of thinking.

"This is the first book in a six-part series, each will take place in the six Buddhist realms, and each one represents a specific lesson," Ringel said. "It's all about your spiritual growth and I thought it would be interesting to explore that by looking at it with an entertaining genre."

In both the book and the interview, Ringel often came back to the idea of questioning ideas and self reflection--two things that appear to be central to the Buddhist practice. He said that he hopes to push readers to consider self-revelation but also to consider the book itself from different points of view. Essentially, Ringel hopes that each reader has a very personal experience while reading the book, that it impacts them on some level and opens up their perspectives.

Ringel described the writing process as very personal. "You're kind of interacting with yourself." So he enjoys when readers come up to him with insights he hasn't yet considered. "With art, there's the book and the person reading it, and the interaction between the two...I'm always intrigued when people come up and have thoughts that are very personal to them. That's when I feel like it's been a success."

It certainly seems as though 49 Buddhas has been a success thus far for Ringel, and much of that success comes from the fact that he is enjoying the process himself. For him, the writing process is always evolving. So, as he creates Rinzen's world, he is able to better understand and expand it. He particularly seems to enjoy the parallels between this book, writing more broadly, and Buddhism.

"It's a mystery because you're really trying to figure out what happened. I think there's a lot of false clues, but that's kind of the way that figuring out our spiritual path unfolds too," Ringel said. "Writing is an exploration of the mind, that's very similar to Buddhism...It's a constant flow, it's a real dynamo, and that's what I really like about writing, it doesn't get dull, it just keeps asking a different question. I'm not using this [book] to proselytize, but we're at our best when we're questioning."

You can keep up to date with Ringel and his work at his website jimringel.com where you can also sign up for his newsletter or even download a meditation. He also has a website called writinglikeabuddha.com that's more focused on helping writers develop their skills.


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