personal, personal news

A Novel Feeling: Reflections on the Completion of Soul Surgeon

In the aftermath of the completion of my first novel (working title being Adelbert Vo, Soul Surgeon), I am quite surprised at my array of feelings.

The actual completion of it, the realization that I was at the final chapters and I could see that light at the end of the tunnel, that there were no more nuances to work through, was one of the greatest moments of my life.

But, after I was done, after I had slept fifteen hours, it very much felt like, “Well, back to work”.

I wanted to throw myself into Steam Saint, my steampunk Don Quixote novel, immediately.

Maya Angelou was right when she said there’s no worse pain than an untold story. It was as if a tether pulling me back into the darkness was cut.

But I’m on Cloud Nine most of the time. I’m elated most moments of most days. It’s hard to get much greater than that.

I felt the same way when I discovered that my first short story, Silent Saint, was published in the Rifter #49. I was happy for a few moments, then back to work.

So, what’s the point of creating, then, if I do not feel joy that makes me leap into the sky?

After I finished Soul Surgeon, I felt like a different man.

I felt humbler. I felt kinder. I felt better able to see the dynamics of people and more able to empathize with uncertainty.

That’s because, in a real sense, completing Soul Surgeon got me to the point where I could absorb Adelbert into me. I had worked through that character and why they exist in my heart.

Every one of you that has an unfinished short story, a novel idea, a game idea… Do your best to try to see it come to fruition.

Even if Soul Surgeon is never published, I will be a better practitioner of compassion and care because I finished it. And now, anyone who wants to understand me and why I fight for the things I do has 88,000 words to explain why.

So even if I’m not feeling some new threshold of happiness, I have been improved indelibly because of my art.


Gift Cards and True Presents

As I’m becoming more focused on spreading something real, banal consumerism has begun to really annoy me.

There was a picture at my local IHOP. It said, “Give the only gift that makes everyone feel good inside”, or some such drivel.

The gift?

A goddamn gift card.

Not love. Not a poem. Not a story. Not a painting. Not the kind of gift that someone takes from apartment to apartment, home to home, because of its beauty and the care put into it.

Nope. A gift card for pancakes.

I know this is just the slop that a marketing wiz came up with. I’ve done marketing. It’s somewhere between lying and advocacy. Hopefully, the dude who wrote that at least thinks IHOP makes a decent product.

But it stems from a consumerist set of values, and that’s something far, far more serious.

It demeans and trivializes the real experience of human and spiritual merit that we have that actually brings us together, the experiences that we really need. Those experiences can happen at an IHOP, a Denny’s, or even in a trench on the Western Front.

I wonder how much we forget this daily psychic assault. And remember: Given that corporations spend untold billions on it, that psychic assault is winning.

love, personal

Birthday Retrospective

It’s always frustrating as a writer, to be asked to respond with the deep thoughts to things that are ongoing in a way that is timely. Salient. Topical.

My birthday was on January 25th.
That’s not this previous Sunday, nor the one before that, but the one before that.
I’ve been thinking in the interim about what the previous year was like for me. (I’d love to say what it was like for everyone, but I’m not about to write billions of paragraphs).

It was a tough year. In the final months of 2013, I had been in a pretty serious funk. I was bummed. I carefully do not use the term “depressed” because, as bad as it was sometimes, I could not call it anything like even mild depression. I had too much joy, too much optimism. I never even contemplated suicide. I knew that, if the rest of my life was to be like this, I’d still be doing something good for others, and that was worth it.

And then in January of 2014, I met someone quite special. I rebuilt connections with another friend who was also quite special. And on the 25th, I felt as if I had become enlightened.

It was as if the world was pressing in on me, in a positive way. I felt the gravity of the cosmos. I felt the length and breadth of things for the first time. Colors became more intense, sensations more real. I was in the world, without distraction or diversion. It was a magnificent experience.

To this day, I can rub my three fingers together and replicate the experience.

I was hoping to finish my novel from November. But then January, then February, then March came about.

Work, personal obligations, family obligations, helping others, working on Sol Avenger, responding to political issues… it took me from it.

This year’s National Novel Writing Month, I only wrote 10,000 words.

The year of 2014 was the longest year of my life. I was exhausted for most of it. And it’s likely not going to change yet.
But I have been feeling changes that have been tremendously rewarding, even if in the moments of fatigue they may not always seem to be adequate recompense.

For much of my life, I’ve tried to be kind, nice, helpful, positive. But I always felt myself having a distance from others. It comes from being “gifted” and being told it. I see things differently from others. I have a creativity, an ability to learn and to communicate advanced ideas.

That made me spend a good portion of my life looking at a lot of people like zombies.

Their concerns to me felt petty. Their thoughts felt banal. Their great insights were trivial.

It’s not a nice place to be. It’s very isolating. I like people. I recharge around them. But I was shutting myself out from their energy.

This year, it finally became clear to me:

My greatest weapon isn’t my brain.

It’s my love.

Part of the reason I felt distant from people my whole life was because I felt in tune with a world of experiences, sensations and imaginations. It wasn’t just that my mind was always filled with adventures to entire other universes. It’s that I experienced this world differently. I experienced its joys. I knew that the world could be changed.

My sincere belief is that we create the good of tomorrow today. Goodness is not out there to be found. It’s not an abstract philosophical idea. It’s not in a heaven locked away from us. It’s right there, and we make it more and more real, and more and more advanced, by our deeds today.

It’s exhausting living life by love. It can be vulnerable. It can drain me totally.
People often tell me that I may be mistaken. Other people may not need the help I sometimes think they do. They may have wisdom I don’t. And that may be true.

But I look about this world and see how we kill each other, abuse each other, take each other for granted, and I know that we are nowhere near done leveling the injustices of the past to make a new world.

So perhaps all of 2014 for me was just one lesson:

Love is the greatest sword in the arsenal of any knight.

Let’s hope 2015 lets me use it more productively.

social networking

Social Networking: Not Just Who We Do, But Who We Are

With the advent of social networking, a fact that’s been well-known in sociology, at least since Granovetter’s “The Strength of Weak Ties” was published in 1973, has become more and more commonly understood: Our opportunities in society are dictated by our ability to expand our social networks.

Our friends, family and loved ones are obviously a core source of strength and support. But it’s those “weak ties”, those more distant connections that we have to casual acquaintances and college roommates, that can give us opportunities we wouldn’t get otherwise.

So I try to tell my friends struggling to survive in this economy that one thing they can do that is valuable is do social networking. A good friend of mine has gone so far as to say that those who are unemployed need to leave the house and do something with their day, so they can meet people on the train, the bus, at coffee shops or at the check-out stand.

But there’s a much deeper fact about social networking that I think has been lost in the shuffle.

Social networking changes who we are.

In recent months, I’ve been finding that I’ve had to cut out influences in my life that were toxic. As I’ve been trying to do something positive and make more of a difference on this planet while I still breathe, I just haven’t been able to take the hit to the psyche that comes from being around negative, competitive, grasping people. I say that even as I still love those people and miss some of the good times in the past.

I’ve also been finding that I’ve been meeting new people. People excited about change. People who are gravitating to a new perspective, whether it be out of an initial desire to attack it or out of a sincere attempt to engage and learn. People who have incredibly unique perspectives and life conditions.

I’ve also been reconnecting with individuals from high school, from college, from Internet forums.

Those people are responsible for a massive part of the personal transformation I feel I am undergoing. They inspire blog posts. One person in particular not only helped me through a time of great personal distress but also inspired my soon-to-be-completed debut novel, Adelbert Vo: Soul Surgeon.

When we meet new people, they galvanize us. They bring out the best in us. They remind us who we are.

Just today, I spoke to an old friend who I had been involved in a very unique tabletop roleplaying game with. It was an eclectic mesh of Warhammer, Fallout, Dungeons & Dragons, and Arcanum. He was inspired by the obscure comics, the miniature combat games, and cult video games of the 1990s.

That game inspired me to create my own game with a similar format.

The roleplaying game that I ran with a similar format filled out the world of my primary novel series.

That in turn gave me roleplaying experience to run my most successful campaign, Changing of the Guard.

Every part of my life, from my creative ventures to my political work, has been because of someone I met. A friend in a chemistry class who gave me a Noam Chomsky book, which in turn brought me for years into the anti-authoritarian Left, wherein I met people including Tim Wise and Michael Albert. A girlfriend, followed by many more girlfriends, who clued me into the pains that were lying beneath the surface and reinforced for me that the silent screaming I was seeing was not an illusion.

My mother in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks began to explore Facebook. She’s met an anti-authoritarian and quite religiously radical rabbi, a French anarchist biker, and a host of others. She’s found a community of people with similar interests and beliefs. And she is learning a host of new things to satisfy her impressive curiosity.

The people in our lives are forcefields. They change our focus and interests. They remind us of causes and of problems outside of our direct sphere of influence. They can remind us of passions we had lost.

We’re better people around people.

In the future, I’m going to go more into what we have to do to shield ourselves from negative people and negative influences. It can be a hard thing to learn that our positivity is finite and we can’t always lift our friends out of the mud without falling in ourselves.

But it is still better for us, on average, to engage with others and grow, even if sometimes it is in opposition or disagreement, than to remain in our safety zones.