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Interview: Nicholas Oliva, Author of Finding God: To Believe or Not To Believe

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A musician, writer, poet, photographer, audio engineer, and Entertainment and Technical Director for over twenty-five years, Nicholas Oliva is now busy at work promoting his second book, Finding God: To Believe or Not to Believe.  This is a book sure to intrigue, as well as send the mind reeling.  Finding God is a non-fiction book based on Mr. Oliva’s own experiences.  

Nicholas Oliva resides in the quiet mountains of Nevada.  Readers can learn more about Mr. Oliva at any of the following sites:

www.tobelieveornot.com  OnlyMoments  Only Moments by Nick Oliva  Facebook | Finding God: To Believe or Not To Believe or his home page  http://www.facebook.com/noliva.

Please tell us a bit about your book: Finding God: To Believe or Not To Believe – characters, plot, etc.

Finding God: To Believe or Not to Believe is merely one human’s perspective and life experiences I am sure will mirror many other beings on this planet. To answer the question “why?” we must begin to understand who we are and what our limitations are. To be so arrogant as to have all the answers is the beginning of any normal human exclusionary, and possibly violent, action against those who would do harm in order to force others to believe as they do. No sword or bullet will convince any fanatic to change their mind. However, the defining point for a fanatic is a relative term in this world. Those who do nothing to stop this behavior can be just as guilty as the fanatic they allow to perpetuate such violence by tacit approval.

I waited a long time to begin writing this book. The incidents contained within occurred in October 2004, while at a hospital in Nevada. There are a few reasons why I chose to wait this long to tell my story. The first and most influential was the reasoning that by taking a stand on what I experienced and believe, I would have many detractors and people who would attack me in order to perpetuate and bolster their own beliefs and/or lack of beliefs and use me as an example. In order to fully explain what I’ve gone through, I will have to touch upon religion, morality, and ethics. My eschatological theme is actually non-religious and promotes the energy within as Godly, not the looking outward, by seeing with the eyes of the world. I always have been skeptical of near-death experiences or NDE. So it was with much skepticism I examined the empirical evidence of charts confirming the flat-line of my heart while in intensive care.

Much of what I think goes back to a search for meaning I have been drawn to throughout my life, beginning at a very early age. I was an altar boy, studied Latin, and planned to become a priest until the Pastor I adored, and everyone in the parish loved, committed multiple acts of sexual abuse to me and others over a period of four years. Those acts changed my thought process about the sanctity of the Church and the real questioning began in earnest for me. The idea of such a tidy and pious devotion to a religion containing more holes than Swiss cheese, as well as a whole horde of other accepted dogma of Catholicism, brought me to a silent, but pervasive, pensiveness.

All of this being said on such a heady subject, I have tried to write this in a non-scholarly, at times humorous and hopefully interesting, but easily digestible way. I’m sure there will be some indigestion occurring with those who will remain opposed to logical thought, irrational fear, and immovable theology. Bon appétit to those of diverse palates.

Do you have any particular habits that you do while writing? Places you write the best, foods, drinks, etc that help set your “writing mood”?

I need to be away from any stimulus that will distract me. I can take notes anywhere but I need to be in an initial Zen state in order for my imagination to really flow. Then I usually have to write by hand because my hands cannot keep up with my thoughts. I have a sort of shorthand to jot things down quickly so I will not forget phrasing and ideas.

What are you reading right now?

Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond and The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell.

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?

Ken Kesey, Ernest Hemingway, Sun Tzu, Katherine Neville, Henry Miller, Dalton Trumbo, Frederich Nietzsche, Camille Paglia, Kurt Vonnegut

If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Dalton Trumbo, a man who was blacklisted by the “commie scare” of the McCarthy Era, was an incredible writer. His ability to place characters in “damned if you, damned if you don’t” situations mirrored real life dramas. He was the master of the bittersweet. The script for the movie The Sandpiper best represents that. Johnny Got His Gun was written in 1938 about WWI but was picked up during the Vietnam War by college students as the relevancy remained. That is a chilling novel. It is ironic that Trumbo was able to direct the movie in 1971. Kirk Douglas in his courageousness forced the studio to give Mr. Trumbo credit for writing Spartacus that, in my opinion, helped the beginning of an end to a bitter and embarrassing episode in our modern history.

Okay, here are a few “get to know you better” questions:

Please share with us a favorite memory.

That’s a difficult question. I have no favorite memory, I have many great memories… way too many to single-out one particular moment. The best memories are those that bring joy to others, to make others laugh. I love clever double and triple meanings in phrases and sometimes I’m on the crest of a wave able to surf that Ethernet of the mind and come up with things that even I am surprised that pop up without warning. Laughter is the best medicine and makes for the best memories.

Please describe a perfect meal – including menu and those present.

Would that be lunch or dinner? It makes a big difference. For lunch a huge corned-beef sandwich from the Carnegie Deli (sorry vegans, I was once one but this sandwich is way too incredible) with spicy mustard. For dinner, a table at Sutro’s at the Cliff House in San Francisco with many great friends of the present and past. Dinner would consist of Ahi Tuna Tartare with pine nuts and Asian pears, Dungeness Crab Cakes, and Seared Herb Marinated Sea Scallops and then Pumpkin Bread Pudding for dessert. All while over top of the Pacific watching the sun set.

What are some of your favorite ways to relax?

I love to travel to new places and meet people from all walks of life. I am a movie buff and have a huge collection of DVD’s. I love photography and poetry as well. Playing music is the most fun.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

One of two places come to mind; in the redwoods near Santa Cruz or a hacienda on the beaches of the Baja. I love being around young minds and the University of California is in Santa Cruz and the deep forest smells and beauty are so close to the ocean. It is wonderful. The fog cools things down and there is so much to do there and many places to play music. It has a gestalt that appeals to who I am. A Mexican beach is just as lovely but with much more solitude and I like quiet uninterrupted spaces and Mexico is more affordable so it’s a toss-up.

If you could only read books by one author, who would it be? *I know, this is an inconceivable thought, lol.

That is really a question that takes some logic. If I could only read one author and I had a lifetime to read then I would logically read someone who has voluminous output so I wouldn’t get bored. If it was only one book the answer would probably be War and Peace but one author? For the sake of something to read it would have to be Stephen King or Sue Grafton, just on the principle of having something to last without having to re-read something a thousand times.

Share with us a few of your dreams. Also whether they have been fulfilled or are still a work in progress.

As Jean Rostand has said, “A man is not old as long as he is seeking something.” And one of my favorite authors writes, “Dreams are the substance of reality” (Henry Miller). Dreaming is what gets me through to tomorrow. They can take hold with little things and it is the little things that add up to the big things that can happen. I’ve learned long ago that what happens sometimes is beyond one’s control, but how one reacts is the true measure of whether happiness exists after the dream is reached. After all a dream is no longer a dream if it is now reality. One should always watch for what one dreams. They may come true. Keep rowing that boat down the stream, merrily.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

Guilty? As charged your honor. I’m a diabetic but I have a sweet tooth so walking by a Godiva Chocolate Shoppe takes maximum discipline that doesn’t always work.

If you could leave the world with one piece of advice, what would it be?

People should take good wishes from anyone and whatever sources that may be based on illusions of what anyone may think “God” is. Those good wishes are still good deeds and not a road to hell as many atheists want to believe. They do not want to believe it because they do not want to validate anyone’s religion because they think that if they allow any piece of that religion then they are acknowledging all of it. And atheists have a point in that they are highly discriminated against by those of religion. They have a tougher road to hoe than Wiccans. I think they should be called naturalists, not atheists, as it is closer to what they ascribe. They believe in the natural order of things. There are also different levels of what constitutes atheism. I think that many become hostile as a result of the backlash that is given to the negative connotations of the word atheist and what it implies to most people.

I think that good thoughts are good deeds and a prayer is hopefully also a good thought. I seriously doubt most even know what god they’re praying to as members of the same faith have different mindsets of what that deity is in their minds. My point in all this is that love in all aspects trump any and all dogma, non-believing, or any “Word of God” that tell you to hurt anyone else in the name of that religion. As far as I’m concerned in my book (literally) caring for a human being without conditions is a wonderful thing and far supersedes any and all other beliefs or actions. Too bad few do exactly that, but there are people out there trying. Hope should replace faith and perhaps we’d be on the higher road.

I know of many people who will not have an opportunity to enjoy family and close friends because of petty bickering. I know of others whose pride allowed the opportunity to be lost, probably forever, over nothing but misconceived and misdirected anger. Life is not like the movies with the sun-setting, happy ending, and all being well. It is tough and hard to swallow at times, but hope is the only answer there is regardless of what you believe and what god you pray to, if at all. Try to never assume, always give the benefit of the doubt to all, in order to live the life of a real human being. It can be the beginning of a new beginning. Scattering love and happiness is worth the effort, those seeds will grow, I assure you. One must have love for one’s self to be able to spread love unconditionally.

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