“Giving me a new idea is like handing a cretin a loaded gun, but I do thank you anyhow, bang, bang.”
- Letter to Patricia Warrick (May 17, 1978), published in Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick, 1977-1979 (1993)
My name is Benjamin David Steele. I’m in my 30s and I work for the local city government (in a rather insignificant role). I live in Iowa City which is the home of the University of Iowa (i.e., the Hawkeyes). It’s also the home of the oldest writers workshop in the world. So, even though this city is surrounded by fields of corn and soy, many famous writers have lived here. Iowa City was even named as the third literary city in the world, not that means much of anything I suppose. The real money in this town comes from the University hospital which I’ve heard is one of the best, but fortunately I haven’t so far had much use for it.
I’ve lived in a number of places around the US and went to highschool in South Carolina, but I like this town more than any other. I grew up here when younger and moved back after highschool. It very much feels like home to me and my life here is going well. I’ve got a good job, a nice apartment, two lovely kitties to keep me company. I also have friends and family living in the area which is especially nice.
I spend most of my time reading and writing. I work as a parking ramp cashier which means, when not dealing with people, I get a lot of reading done. At home, I spend a fair amount of time researching things online and writing in this here blog.
ABOUT MY BLOG
Personal and philosophical writings focused on human nature and experience from psychology to pop culture, from religion to politics. I usually take everything too seriously, but occasionally I get in silly moods and my weird sense of humor shows.
I used to journal constantly for about a decade, but blogging has taken the place of that more private format. My journals these days are mostly just where I keep notes for potential blog posts. Even so, my blogging is far different than my former journalling. I take my blog more seriously and my writing here is slightly more formal. The biggest difference, however, is the possibility of discussion. I became obsessed with the internet through discussion forums and my blogging grew out of that.
I must admit that it sometimes feels kind of lonely here in my blog because I greatly enjoy a good discussion. Too few people take the time to comment and even fewer return to comment a second time. *hint, hint* I welcome almost anyone to comment on my posts here. I even will graciously accept criticisms as long as they’re presented with a minimal amount of politeness. I generally would rather not argue.
I used to have a blog on gaia.com which is a nice place. It attracts a lot of alternative types: new agers, political activists, environmentalists, integral theorists, etc. I originally started blogging there because of the large community of integral types hanging out there, but after a while the place felt too confining. I prefer this blog which is unattached to any particular group.
By the way, my blog title ‘Marmalade’ was the name of my childhood cat and yes my icon is a picture of him. I have very fond memories of Marmalade and so I use him as my online identity.
ABOUT MY INTERESTS
Some of my favorite topics: film noir and neo-noir, integral theory, comparative mythology, astrotheology, symbolism, religion and spirituality in general, Gnosticism and early Christianity in particular, mysticism of any tradition, and most aspects of psychology (I’m a major fan of anything Jungian such as archetypes and MBTI, but I have a particularly wide-ranging curiosity about all of the theories and research on personality); I’m attracted to anything to do with what it means to be human and any system of ideas that has been a part of the historical development of humanity; I have a very serious interest in all aspects of the human phenomena of storytelling from fiction writing (especially genre fiction and flash fiction which I sometimes enjoy writing myself) and narratology to folklore and paranormal claims; I have a minimal interest in such things as history, politics, and science to the extent they relate to the experience of being human. My interests are fairly wide which span from New Age woo (I was raised in New Thought Christianity, the Unity church to be specific) to Horror fiction (mostly of the weird and metaphysical variety). In more of the New Age woo category, I’m interested in alternative medicine (connected to my having gone to massage school) which includes energy healing and the power of the mind (in particular it’s connection to science), and related to this I’m very curious about such things as chakras and other similar spiritual ideas like Qabala. I’ve been quite fascinated with the meaning of the heart across many cultures with a particular interest in the Hindu notion of the secret heart. These favorite topics are grounded in my own personal search for meaning and so incorporates my own personal experiences from meditation to psychedelics.
Some favorite topics that haven’t come up much or at all in my blog (for whatever reason): nature and local history. I’ve always loved nature since a child as I was always getting scratched up and muddy and always saving some injured creature. In my 20s, I developed an interest in nature identification guides and wilderness survival guides. I was attracted to the idea of living in nature which was influenced by the writings of Thoreau and Tom Brown, but this romantic notion first began with the earlier influences of Grizzly Adams, Gentle Ben, Hatchet, and My Side of the Mountain. My interest in nature and local history are intimately connected as both have to do with the place one lives in and one’s sense of being in a particular place. It amazes me to consider all that came before me. The town I live in (Iowa City) has a fairly interesting history that has been fairly well recorded. I’ll have to write about these topics in my blog sometime.
Some nonfiction writers that interest me and/or have influenced me: Carl Jung, Marie Louise von Franz, Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, Thomas Moore, Robert Moss, Arnold Mindell, Lewis Hyde, Marina Warner, Anthony Stevens, Ken Wilber, Acharya S (aka D.M. Murdock), Robert M. Price, Tom Harpur, Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy, Richard Tarnas, Charles Fort, Jacques Vallee, John Keel, George P. Hansen, Patrick Harpur, Victoria Nelson, Eric G. Wilson, John C. Lilly, Robert Anton Wilson, Terrence McKenna, Paul Shepard, Derrick Jensen, Henry David Thoreau, Jiddu Krishnamurti (and U.G. Krishnamurti to a lesser degree).
Some fiction writers I’ve enjoyed: Franz Kafka, Bruno Schultz, Jorge Luis Borges, Herman Hesse, Thomas Hardy, Emily Bronte, Nikos Kazantzakis, William S. Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. LeGuin, Angela Carter, Barry Yourgrau, Thomas Ligotti, Thomas Wiloch, Quentin S. Crisp, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Bach, and Douglas Adams. To put them in a different category, my favorite graphic novelists: Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore.
In particular, a few books had a powerful impact on my tender young psyche during highschool (and the year following when I was making difficult decisions): Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Richard Bach’s Illusions: The Adventures Of A Reluctant Messiah, A Course In Miracles, and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. I won’t argue about the merit of these books and most of them I haven’t read again since then, but I can’t doubt their impact. All of these books deal with the desire for independence and for relationships, and a few of them aren’t exactly happy books (for example, Jude the Obscure has to be most laboriously depressing book I’ve ever read and yet I devoured it at the time). On the other hand, some of these books are extremely idealistic. I read other books during this period (such as Douglass Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), but for whatever reason those other books don’t stand out as clearly in my mind.
As another powerful impact, I should add that from a young age I read many non-fiction and fiction books about the paranormal. After first learning to read, the first books I remember reading were about ghosts. I had a ghost experience as a child, but I’m not sure if my interest in ghosts came before or after this experience. Anyways, my interest in the paranormal started very early. I wish I could remember the specific books I read at the time, but alas memory fails me.
Since I’m making lists, I’ll add some other categories.
Some favorite movies: The Fountain, What Dreams May Come, A Scanner Darkly, The Mothman Prophecies, Naked Lunch, Dark City, MirrorMask, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Star Wars, The Matrix, Harry Potter, X-Men, The Lord of the Rings, 12 Monkeys, The Truman Show, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Thin Red Line, Dogma, Bruce Almighty, Dancer in the Dark, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Moulin Rouge, Grease, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Other Strange Tales, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Blade Runner, Kung Fu Hustle, The Wizard of Oz, Return to Oz, Donnie Darko, The Sixth Sense, A.I., The Adam’s Family, Sin City, Shawshank Redemption, A River Runs Through It, The Fifth Element, Serenity, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Office Space, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Mallrats, Gladiator, Jacob’s Ladder, Vanilla Sky, Waking Life, The Science of Sleep, Spirited Away, Angels in America, Army of Darkness, Shaun of the Dead, Dead Poets Society, Earthsea, Lonesome Dove, Legends of the Fall, Dances with Wolves, Brother Sun Sister Moon, Across the Universe, Airplane!, Altered States, Beautiful Boxer, Being John Malkovich, Coraline, Cemetery Man, Dune, Children of Dune, Dark Kingdom, Elf, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, Stranger Than Fiction, Gabriel, Ghost in the Shell, The Golden Compass, Hellboy, Hook, I Am the Cheese, I Robot, In the Realms of the Unreal, Leaving Las Vegas, Little Shop of Horrors, Love Liza, Minority Report, The Mists of Avalon, Monster, My Own Private Idaho, The Nines, Ordinary People, Pan’s Labrynth, Sling Blade, Renaissance, Southland Tales, Stand By Me, Xanadu, Youth Without Youth, Big Fish, Billy Elliot, A Boy and His Dog, The Education of Little Tree, Bridge to Terabithia, Interview with the Vampire, Lathe of Heaven, Peggy Sue Got Married, Punch-Drunk Love, Repo Man. Songcatcher, Wristcutters: A Love Story, City of Lost Children, Repo! The Genetic Opera, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Little Prince.
Some tv shows I like: The Colbert Report, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Seinfeld, The 4400, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Next Generation, Eerie Indiana, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dark Angel, Carnivale, Dead Like Me, The Dresden Files, The Simpsons, Futurama, Jericho, Jeremiah, Kyle XY, Lost, My So-Called Life, Pushing Daisies, Six Feet Under, Supernatural, Surface, The Tick, True Blood, The X-Files, Eureka, Fullmetal Alchemist, Malcolm in the Middle, The Prisoner, Psych, Red Dwarf, Smallville, Stargate, Taken, Wonderfalls, American Gothic, Medium, Journeyman, The Pretender, Legend of the Seeker, The Office, My Name is Earl, John Doe, Lie To Me, Chuck, King of the Hill, Cover Me, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Life, Dilbert, Dollhouse, South Park, Raines, Kings, Moonlight, Pushing Daisies, The Sarah Silverman Program, Serial Experiments Lain.
Some music I listen to: This is just a placeholder right now, but I’ll get back to it eventually.