Quentin S. Crisp: Fiction Writer and Blogger

Quentin S. Crisp: Fiction Writer and Blogger

Posted on Dec 23rd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
A favorite writer of mine is Quentin S. Crisp.  He is a fiction writer, but I admit I haven’t read much of his fiction.  He is moreso a favorite writer of my friend.  I primarily know him through his blog writings and I will say he is my favorite blogger.  He shares many of my interests and views.  I think he was raised by a psychotherapist or something.  Maybe that is the reason that, despite his occasional cynicism, he has a very accepting and easygoing attitude about life.  He is often designated as a horror writer, but does’t like that designation.  He is more just a weird write with dark streak.

I like how he is usually very reserved and humble about his opinions.  He has written that he doesn’t take his opinions as ultimate truths but simply what makes sense to him in the given moment.  I like what he says here(this is from the comments section of one of his blogs):

Actually, I feel like adding that, although I used the word ‘pessimistic’ at one point, I don’t really think of myself as pessimistic. I know some people do, because they’ve told me. But for me to call myself that would suggest I had some preformed pessimistic bent to which I wished to shape any conclusion. I don’t. I actually have a sense of enormous potential within existence, which seems, rather tiresomely, to be thwarted again and again by human stupidity, my own included. Some people have tried to find the way out of this trap but it tends to turn to the way back in, because as soon as they call themselves ‘right’ and start preaching about it, it all goes wrong. I suppose that’s why I prefer to be wrong from the start, to be a ‘lost cause’ and to write fiction rather than philosophy.

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Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

37 minutes later

Marmalade said

Its funny how similar he is to me. He admires Ligotti and Burroughs, two very dark and cynical writers. But he also reads writers like Tolle.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 2 hours later

Marmalade said

Its true, though, that I’m much less reluctant to philosophize than he is. I don’t find that I ve to assume I’m entirely right before stating my opinions. Even so, I get what he means about the difference between fiction as compared to philosophy, but some writers even let their ideology rule their fiction.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

3 days later

Marmalade said

I have a comment that I’ll put here because it more or less relates. Crisp and Ligotti are of that common variety of great varieties that are mostly unknown. I’m not surewhat that says about ourculture, but it doesn’t seem to be uncommon for great artists to die poor.

Fortunately, Philip K. Dick escaped this fate near the end of his life. Crisp and Ligotti may yet escape this fate also. They’ve both been stuck in the small press world where actually some of the best writers get published and where many writers get their start.

Anyways, I mentioned Ligotti because he is another horror (or weird to be more exact) writer. Crisp admires Ligotti as many writers do. And if any dark weirdwriter could make it out of small press horror and getsomewhere near the mainstream (even if only the genre mainstream),I’d be willing to bet onLigotti.

It seems he may be have gotten a toe in. I was at the bookstore and noticed an anthology which was I believe titled The New Weird edited by Vandermeer. Vandermeer is a major force in the cross-genre field sometimes called Slipstream amongst other things. It makes sense that Ligotti is included. Horror writers have too long been stuck in their very small genre, and too many writers get labelled as horror never to escape. Crisp and Ligotti write stories that go beyond traditional horror even if horror might describe the general mood of many of their stories.

I likea lotof the writers that get into these new anthologies. I prefer stories that don’t easily fit into genre conventions which simply means that the authors are attempting to push the limits of imagination. I’ll have to blog about this later on.

Fiction and Non-fiction, Gnosticism and the Gothic

Fiction and Non-fiction, Gnosticism and the Gothic

Posted on Dec 23rd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
I have an equal interest in fiction and nonfiction.  They often feel in confict and they can have very different effect on me.  I tend to obsess on one or the other.  In recent years, I’ve been more focused on nonfiction, but I’m slowly switching back into a mood for fiction.

I don’t see them as fundamentally in conflict.  My favorite writers are those that combine fiction and nonfiction.  This is my interest in William S. Burroughs and Philip K. Dick, but its also the reason for my more recent interest in “horror” writers such as Thomas Ligotti and Quentin S. Crisp.

There are various aspects in common.  As I said, they all combined fiction and nonfiction, but they also wrote them separately.  Besides all of this, the most obvious similaity is the Gothic.  The Gothic definitely applies to the horror writers, but the Gothic isn’t limited to the horror genre.  The other connection is Gnosticism.  PKD helped to popularize Gnosticism only to maybe a slightly lesser degree than Jung had.  Gnostic themes and references are found throughout the works of WSB, TL and QSP.

What has brought all of this together in my mind are several nonfiction books that have been occupying my mind particularly past year or so.  One book is The Secret Lives of Puppets by Victoria Nelson, and two books by Eric G. Wilson (The Melancholy Android, and Secret Cinema).  Wilson was influenced by Nelson and I always think of these authors together.  Both of these authors write about PKD, and Nelson mentions WSB a couple of times.  Both focus on the the fantastical and horrific in fiction.  Both write about Gnosticism and Wilson goes into great detail about the connection between Gnosticism, the Gothic and the genres.

I won’t go in more detail right now.  I just wanted to set down where my thoughts are at the moment.  This is a very personal nexus of my understanding of life.  Thinking about these authors is my way of contempating my place amidst a world of tremendous suffering.  I plan on blogging more about this soon as I clarify my ideas.

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Flash Fiction & Vignettes

Flash Fiction & Vignettes

Posted on Dec 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
Thomas Wiloch

Dissection

Decide which one you are, I said, motioning to the objects on the table.
He looked them over and pointed to a glass bell.
This one? I asked.
He nodded.
I picked up the glass bell and rang it gently. The ring brought tears to his eyes.
Very good, I told him. Very good, indeed. You made a good choice.
I dropped the bell on the concrete floor where it shattered.
Now, I asked, motioning to the remaining objects on the table, now which one are you?  

Jorge Luis Borges

Dreamtigers

In my childhood I was a fervent worshiper of the tiger-not the jaguar, that spotted “tiger” that inhabits the floating islands of water hyacinths along the Parana and the tangled wilderness of the Amazon, but the true tiger, the striped Asian breed that can be faced only by men of war, in a castle atop an elephant. I would stand for hours on end before one of the cages at the zoo; I would rank vast encyclopedias and natural history books by the splendor of their tigers. (I still remember those pictures, I who cannot recall without error a woman’s brow or smile.) My childhood outgrown, the tigers and my passion for them faded, but they are still in my dreams. In that underground sea or chaos, they still endure. As I sleep I am drawn into some dream or other, and suddenly I realize that it’s a dream. At those moments, I often think: This is a dream, a pure diversion of my will, and since I have unlimited power, I am going to bring forth a tiger.

Oh, incompetence! My dreams never seen to engender the creature I so hunger for. The tiger does appear, but it is all dried up, or it’s flimsy-looking, or it has impure vagaries of shape or an unacceptable size, or it’s altogether too ephemeral, or it looks more like a dog or bird than like a tiger.

Franz Kafka

The Trees

For we are like tree trunks in the snow. In appearance they lie sleekly and a little push should be enough to set them rolling. No, it can’t be done, for they are firmly wedded to the ground. But see, even that is only appearance.

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Milk by Barry Yourgrau

Milk by Barry Yourgrau

Posted on Dec 14th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

Milk
by Barry Yourgrau
On a bet a man climbs inside a cow. Once there he decides to stay. The cow’s interior is warm and soft, although very dark. But the man’s eyes get by with the driblets of light that do manage to seep in. Food is no problem: there’s milk and more milk. ‘Fresher than diary fresh,’ the man wisecracks to himself, chuckling, as he pulls off his socks. No need for clothes, after all, so why bother keeping them on? He bundles them up and stuffs them down the appropriate cavity, thinking slyly of how they’ll end up.
Then he lies back and dozes. The movements of the cow, now that’s she quieted down, are lulling. The man’s friends are still out there, beside themselves: every once in a while they band their hoarse voices into a collective shriek of protest – protest from the world of sanity and reality. But their cries grow hoarser and feebler, and then disappear altogether into the milky stomach mucus with which the man loads up his ears. Slowly, with contented grace of a baby, he falls into a deep sleep.
Outside the sun creeps away and the moon climbs up over the pasture. The cow wanders slowly, still cautious in her gait, chewing cud. Finally she sinks with heavy care onto the grass, well away from the rest of the herd. Her large, sensitive eyes brim with concern as she tries to fathom her new fate and responsibility.

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Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 10 hours later

Nicole said

Well, I just had to look this guy up, what a story. He looks like a real original – have you read many of his books?

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 13 hours later

Marmalade said

I’ve only read one book of his which this story comes from. I’ve had that book for years, and I keep intending to buy more of his books. He is a favorite author of mine and a favorite author of my friend. The stories that I’ve read of his are short, but they work perfectly. They capture the feeling of a dream like no other author I know of. And I love the playful imagination.

I offered up this story because it relates to my thinking about all that I enjoy. So this goes along with all those tragic romance videos. This was probably the first story I read by Yourgrau and its what made me immediately appreciate his writing.

I’d put Yourgrau in a similar category as Kafka. Kafka is darker and more profound. However, despite their sometimes light playfulness, Yourgrau’s stories can have quite the emotional impact.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

I see what you mean about him being like Kafka but much more playful and light… and why you would enjoy him so much 🙂

Horror and Science Fiction

Horror and Science Fiction

Posted on Nov 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade

My friend reads a lot of horror fiction.  I’ve never been all that attracted to horror even though it crosses over with the fantasy genre which is something I read quite a bit.  However, because of my friend, I’ve learned a lot about horror and begun to read some.  He enjoys reading many of the small press horror writers which actually are some of the better horror writers from what I understand.  For instance, my friend says that a number of horror writers consider Ligotti to be one of the best living horror writers and yet Ligotti is practically unknown.

Anyways, my friend and I talk about fiction all of the time.  We share some of the same favorite writers (such as William S. Burroughs and Barry Yourgrau), but usually we’re reading entirely different authors.  In particular, this past year or so, my friend has read hardly nothing else besides horror.  So, even though I’ve read only a smattering of horror, I’ve listened to my friend read quotes from and give synopsis of hundreds of horror stories.

I’ve come to have more respect for the horror genre.  Because it deals with human suffering in such a direct fashion, its heavily influenced by philosophical and religious ideas.  Interestingly, horror has attracted a number of writers of the Catholic persuasion.  Horror writers for sure have been influenced by the ideas of Catholocism: original sin, fallen world, demonology, etc.

I pretty much appreciate any imaginative fiction partly because imaginative fiction tends to be fiction of profound ideas.  Philip K. Dick is one of the writers of profound ideas, but he is somewhat opposite from horror writers.  PKD used Science fiction for his plots even though his stories were often more fundamentally fantasy.  The closest that PKD came to horror would’ve been A Scanner Darkly.  That book could be made into horror with only minor changes.

I was discussing with my friend the differences between the genres.  I was thinking about how its rare for writers to combine horror and science fiction, and when they do its usually through the mediation of fantasy.  Fantasy crosses over easily with both horror and science fiction maybe because fantasy is a more general category.

I’m reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson right now.  I started it quite a while back but became distracted by other books.  I decided to finish it now as its a direct influence on Google Earth and other virtual worlds.  It has some similarities to PKD: the average hero and the interspersing of philosophical discussion.  But its a bit more hard sci-fi than PKD tended towards. 

Hard sci-fi often goes for these massive multiperspective epic narratives.  This is quite different from horror.  Horror is more likely to go for the small scale and single perspective.  Horror writing often creates a sense of isolation and claustrophobia through an extreme subjective narrative voice.  This disallows one to see outside of the character and thus magnifies the emotional impact. 

Ligotti believes you need the subjective perspective of a single human to register the horror.  A horror story can’t be portrayed from the perspective of the monster.  The monster portrayed can never touch upon the imagination in the same way as a monster left as a mystery.  This is why Lovecraft stories too often make terrible movies because monsters in movies can come off as simply ridiculous.  Horror is a profound emotion that isn’t fundamentally about blood and guts.  Slasher movies aren’t the most horrific stories.

Besides the claustrophobia of subjectivity, the other technique is intimacy.  Almost everyone remembers sitting around a campfire or in a tent sharing ghost stories.  This is often recreated in horror stories.  Poe used this technique, for instance, in The Telltale Heart.  The main character in that story is telling the story in what seems to be a confession.  This intimacy creates sympathy all the while throwing one off with questions of the narrator’s reliability.  Part of the horror is how the narrator tries to make sense what happened or else tries to rationalize what he did.

How this is different from science fiction is that with sf there is much more action by and interaction between characters.  SF characters may spend pages explaining some idea but they don’t tend to tell the story.  The narrator’s voice is more likely to be less identified with the subjective perspective or at least not a single subjective perspective.

This is intriguing in what it says about human nature.  Science fiction tends towards the optimistic by taking on the big picture.  Horror tends towards the pessimistic by confining it to the small view.

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tuffy777 : Reality is not real

about 7 hours later

tuffy777 said

Actually, Philip K. Dick’s short story “The Father Thing” is horror.  Hollywood ripped it off for the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  – nice article! 
  ~~~

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

Nice to meet ya tuffy!  I see you just joined.  I’m glad you liked what I wrote and you compliment me by calling it an article. 

You are correct about “The Father Thing”.  That story is very much like a traditional horror story, but it was more of an original idea when he wrote it of course.  Yes, Hollywood has benefited from PKD.

Do you know of any other PKD stories that could be considered horror?

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

about 14 hours later

tuffy777 said

well, there’s my favorite, “Roog”, in which the dog is trying to warn the family that the garbage collectors are monsters
  – and many more, so I’ll name some more stories later
  ~~~

 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 15 hours later

Marmalade said

I’ve read Roog.  I guess I didn’t think of that story as horror, but I guess it could be labelled such in a more general way.  Its true that the dog did see the garbage collectors as monsters.  As I see it, PKD does use elements of horror, but for me his fiction doesn’t usually have the feeling of horror.  However, there is much from PKD I haven’t read and so maybe they’re are more horror-like stories I’m unaware of.

Do you read much horror?  And how do you define horror?  I usually define horror as any fiction that creates a feeling of horror, but that isn’t how everyone defines it.  As I see it, many shows such as Buffy aren’t horror even though they use elements of horror because they don’t cause a feeling of horror.  Then again, horror merges with dark fantasy and so there is a wide variety.  And, besides, what causes horror to one person might not cause horror to another.

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

about 17 hours later

tuffy777 said

My choice of reading material is quite eclectic, ranging from newspapers and scientific journals to humorous poetry, and from classics to comic books.

Most of my “reading” of horror has been movies, but I have read “Frankenstein”, “Dracula” and “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde”. I read Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire”, but I classify that more as a romance than as horror.

I used to teach classes in horror fiction and film, and when I asked my students to define horror, I got many different answers. My own definition is that horror first evokes fear and then purges it, much as the Greek tragedies did. I have a book titled “The Thrill of Fear”, and that title suggests that horror is like a roller coaster ride – first we scream, but then we laugh.

~~~

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 24 hours later

Marmalade said

Same here.  My reading is eclectic too, but I can’t say I read scientific journals too often.  I suppose that most of my “reading” of horror has also been movies.  Plus, I’ve read some interesting nonfiction books about horror the past couple of years.  Two really cool books are The Secret Life of Puppets by Victoria Nelson and The Melancholy Android by Eric G. Wilson. 

I don’t think I’d previously heard of the book you mention.  I did a search on it and I think I might enjoy it.  I like books that give an overview.  I also like books where the subject is analyzed across many media such as film and books.

Your definition of horror is pretty good.  I think that fits a lot of horror.  I was thinking, though, about how Ligotti would likely disagree.  I get the sense that he wants to evoke fear without purging it aferwards, but maybe fear is purged just by the story ending.

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

1 day later

tuffy777 said

Most horror fiction either kills or confines the monster at the end. That is why “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween” were so shocking to audiences of their time.

The author of “The Thrill of Fear” is Walter Kendrick. Perhaps that will help you to find it?

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

1 day later

1Vector3 said

Cool discussion. I like the generalizations you made, Ben.

One of the most horrific stories I ever read I am not sure whether was fantasy or scifi. I have read a ton of the latter and almost none of the former. It was about white spiders, and how their bite would cause one to live in an alternate reality but not know that…. I have no ideas of author or title. But I know it led me to doubt my reality for many days, and of course to get even more phobic about light-colored spiders than I already am about them ALL !!!!!!

Most people might not think that having one’s sense of reality undermined or shaken is “horror” but to me it might be the ultimate of horror…….

Does either of you consider Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as horror? I don’t remember any specifics about it now, except a few generalities, but the protagonist does say, at the end, as he looks back on his life “The horror [of it all that I have done…] and one FEELS that along with him. A kind of almost self-annihilating guilt. That’s pretty horrifying, too !!!!!!

Blessings,
OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

Welcome to the discussion, OM.  I’d have to think much more about it to figure out how much these generalizations make sense.  I haven’t analyzed the horror genre all that thoroughly.  I usually only care about horror to the extent that it relates to sf.

The experience of having your sense of reality undermined could potentially fit into the horror genre.  I’m somewhat familiar with the horror writers Ligotti and Quentin S. Crisp, and they both play around with the sense of reality.  I love any writer of any genre that plays around with my sense of reality. 

PKD plays around with reality perception, but he doesn’t exactly focus on the horrific experience of it.  The reason is that PKD’s characters tend to take on an attitude of problem-solving which lessens the emotional impact of horror.  PKD’s protagonists don’t usually have a victim mindset.  They most often either overcome their problems or at least aren’t overwhelmed by them.

I don’t know about Heart of Darkness.  I did a quick search about it in reference to the horror genre.  I saw an article which stated that it could’ve been categorized as horror when it was first published.  I wouldn’t consider it horror myself, but my memory of it isn’t perfectly clear.  I read it in highschool and don’t remember experiencing it as horrific.  Even though some horror is expressed in it, I don’t think it has an overall feeling of horror.  That is a good example though because I’m not sure what the dividing line is.  My friend likes Conrad and I’ll ask him what he thinks.

Of books I read in highschool, I personally found some other books more horrific.  Lord of the Flies was pretty darn horrific in that it was so believable.  Another novel was Hardy’s Jude the Obscure which has had a longterm existentially horrific influence on my poor psyche.

Its kind of hard to make an objective definition of horror as the experience itself is so subjective.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

1 day later

1Vector3 said

Yeah, I agree about Lord of the Flies. I am glad I’ve never read Jude the Obscure !!

Must we distinguish horror from terror from upset? From being disturbed or shaken? As you say, the experience is so subjective. My question is prompted by a couple of disturbing books I read when much younger: George Orwell’s 1984 tops the list, and Animal Farm was very upsetting to me also, but there are psychological torture things in 1984 which freak/creep me out to this day if I ever think of them.
 
That’s cool, about the attitudes of PKD heroes !! And it’s cool that you love having your sense of reality messed with !! I can appreciate the great flexibility that requires. (I have more now than I did when younger.) Do you think that’s an Intuitive characterstic, flexibility around “realities?”

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

We mustn’t anything at all.  In some ways, genres are arbitrary categories.  A funny thing is how any genre writer that is particularly talented gets put in the mainstream literature section of bookstores and libraries.  If a writer is good, his writings must not be genre because by definition genre is crap.  For instance, I’ve read plenty of genre fiction that is closer to mainstream literature than is Kafka.  I think Kafka is one of the greatest horror writers who ever lived.
I’d be perfectly happy if they simply got rid of genre categories or else made them more relevant.  In particular, horror doesn’t seem like a real genre to me.  I’ve always considered it to be a sub-category of dark fantasy which is further a sub-category of speculative fiction overall.

Do I think flexibility around “realities” is an Intuitive characteristic?  By definition, the Sensation function is the tendency towards concrete reality and a conservative attitude.  Sensation types prefer life to not change and be reliable.  It also comes down to the thin vs thick boundary types which correlates.

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

2 days later

tuffy777 said

Hi, OM, and thanx fur joining the discussion! You have some pawesome ideas!

When we discuss horror, we tend to think of monsters like Godzilla and the Mummy, but the monster story is only a subdivision of the horror genre.

“Heart of Darkness” is an excellent choice because it is the story of a whtie European man coming to the realization that the horror of the “dark” continent of Africa is actually in his own heart, and not in the dark-sknned natives.

I believe that the horror is greater when you become a monster, than when a monster attacks you.

The irreality of one’s external world is also a type of horror. For example, in PKD’s novel “UBIK”, we can’t be sure who really died in the explosion and who survived. Somebody is in cryogenic storage with a futuristic telephone attached to the coffin, while somebody else is on the outside and still living.

Another PKD novel that I consider horror is “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch”, in which a recreational drug turns people into evil cyborgs.

~~~

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

21 days later

Marmalade said

Hey tuffy… in case you notice this new comment…
“I believe that the horror is greater when you become a monster, than when a monster attacks you.”
I lost my first response. Let me try to partially reconstruct my argument.
Yes and no to what you said. Yes, horror is more relevant the closer it is to one’s own experience. No, horror in its most profound form can’t be described in human terms. Horror is only horrific to the degree that it has an element of Otherness. But, as Ligotti theorizes, horror necessitates a human or human-like character to register it. Even in “Heart of Darkness”, the protagonist experiences the horror at some distance as he is an observer entering into the world of horror. That is a common technique.
On a different note, I wanted to return to another idea. I found this following quote which relates to the distinction I made between Science Fiction and Horror.

Aron’s twofold task was to remind us, first, that there is no human nature unsullied by the Fall and, second, to suggest, as does orthodox Christianity, that what prophets of the absolute decry as a disaster was in fact a “fortunate fall,” a condition of our humanity. The utopian is optimistic about man, pessimistic about particular men and women: “I think I know man,” Rousseau sadly wrote, “but as for men, I know them not.” The anti-utopian is pessimistic, or at least disabused, about man; this forgiving pessimism frees him to be optimistic about individuals.

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

22 days later

tuffy777 said

Hi, Marmalade.  You make some good points, but consider this:

When a monster attacks, you can lose your life.
But when you become a monster, you can lose your soul.
Many children of the 1960s learned this tragic lesson when they became addicted to drugs and alcohol.

  ~~~

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

22 days later

Marmalade said

Horror is a rather general term. There are many kinds and degrees of horror. Its an interesting question to consider what is most horrific. Everyone would probably have a different answer. To me, ultimate horror is a complete metaphysical Otherness… the dark wrathful face of God or elsethe silent infinite Void.

What is horrific about how serial killers are portrayed isn’t the fact that they’re human, but that they’re made into the monstrous Other. I notice how the news media resists giving any explanations or insights which leaves every event as an inexplicable phenomena. There are no reasons, just the gritty details of reality, facts that add up to nothing… now, that is what seems horrific to me.

The movie “Monster” made this point. Its the only serial killer movie that fully expressed the human side of the killer and thus made her seem less monstrous. Its psychological realism is what encouraged empathy rather than horror.

As for the horror of addiction, “A Scanner Darkly” is truly awesome. Another good one (in a suicidally depressing kind of way) is “A Requiem for a Dream”.My favorite author that has great insights into addiction is Burroughts. Hiswork can be very dark.

Self-destruction is a very horrific topic. Its the Otherness felt within… something we can’t control. Its horrifying in that its so predictably human and yet so humanly incomprehensible. Addiction is akin to demonic possession. The sense of loss of soul is in how addiction can utterly transform someone. When at rock bottom, everything that one previously loved and cared for becomes unhinged and distant as if from a dream or a previous life.

What is horrific about it is that one’s normal sense of humanity (ie soul) is lost. One becomes the Other, a disconnection from self. What may be worse for the addict is that everyone else might also treat the addict as Other in having fallen from the grace of acceptable society… which leaves no lifeline back to “normal” reality.

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

22 days later

tuffy777 said

Consider Dr. Jekyll, the kindly gentleman who becomes the loathsome Mr. Hyde whenever he drinks the potion.  (They say that R.L. Stevenson based this character on an alcoholic uncle.)  Eventually, he becomes Mr. Hyde without drinking the potion, and he is unable to resume his former identity as the good doctor when he most needs to revert. 

Only in death can he subsume the monstrous side of his psyche and become the respectable gentleman once more.

  ~~~~

Marmalade : Gaia Child

22 days later

Marmalade said

Ah, yes… a good example. I love stories about doubles or alternate personalities. That is a theme that PKD usesextremely wellin “A Scanner Darkly”. Reintegration can come at a great cost.

What if everything you knew was wrong?

What if everything you knew was wrong?

Posted on Sep 17th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
I noticed an interesting thread question in the QaR group.

What if everything you knew was wrong?

I must admit I didn’t resonate with many of the answers.  That is a very profound question, but many of the answers seemed to take it lightly.  I don’t get how people can answer with confident certainty to a question that asks about the possibility of the complete disappearance of the very foundation of all certainty in your life, in your very sense of reality.  Its quite obvious that I have a very different read on that question.

I can only guess that anyone who answers with confidence is someone who has never had the type of experience implied by the question.  I have had experiences that undermined my sense of reality and my sense of self, and my experience is that there is no answer to this question.  Any answer would be a further claim of knowledge which according to the scenario would be wrong.  My sense is that most respondants in that thread weren’t interpeting that questioning in its deepest meaning.  Some even seemed to just take it as a linguistic game rather than as a soul-wrenching inquiry.

I’m not surprised by the responses.  As this is Gaia, it was unsurprising that they largely were typical New Agey viewpoints.  This makes me think of the research on optimism.  From my understanding, an optimist (almost by definition) can’t take such a question seriously.  The question presents a non-optimistic scenario, and so the optimistic response to it is how to reinterpret the question.  The research I’ve looked at concludes that optimists tend to not accurately see reality as it is but instead as it might be.  There is a correlation between optimism and extraversion, and so an optimist generally desires to turn outward.  This question, on the other hand, offers us to turn within to the very ground (or rather groundlessness) of our being.

I’m not saying that the answers in that thread are wrong, but they are quite different than my own view.  The main point of my writing all of this is about how much our experience determines our responses.  Experience comes first and the responses we give based on that experience come after.  In that sense, our verbal explanations always carry an element of rationalization.  We feel such a strong need to explain and justify our experiences to ourselves and to others, but ultimately our experiences are non-rational.  Our experiences can’t really be explained or even communicated.  Our experiences seem to be at best their own justification, but the tricky part of the question is to consider that maybe our experiences aren’t justified.

I have felt frustrated by this recently.  The most deeply genuine experiences I’ve had in my life seem impossible to communicate.  In fact, they bewilder me to the point I hardly understand them.  As implied by the question, they undermine my very sense of being able to know anything at all.  I partly get annoyed at others’ confident certainty because I lack it.  Then again, I’m grateful for my lack of confident certainty because it allows me to more easily see multiple perspectives.

The real frustration comes because I do want to communicate.  I identify as a writer… and, yet, the most important experiences of my whole existence can’t even be touched upon by words.  So, I spend a lot of time talking around in circles never coming to any satisfactory conclusion.  The reason I write so often about ideas is that I can write about ideas.  That is relatively easy.  However, related to the question, that which exists beyond all ideas forever nags at my awareness.

I’ve been feeling a desire to instead turn to fiction.  In some ways, fiction can get at these non-rational experiences better than other modes of verbal expression.  But I don’t know if even fiction can capture or satisfactorily allude to my confused sense of reality.  The challenge as I see it isn’t how to answer the question.  What I want is to find a way to get beyond the question itself.

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Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 5 hours later

Nicole said

did you also read John’s answer near the end of the thread? I thought that he had really got it, as you describe – that really if everything we knew was wrong, we would literally be nowhere.

But I’m more interested in your dilemma. I agree that fiction is probably the better way for you to approach explorations of what is beyond ideas and questions. I’m wondering what some of the fictional approaches you have at the moment in mind might be.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 10 hours later

Marmalade said

I did like some of the answers in that thread. 

John’s answer was pointing out the philosophical difficulties of dualistic language, but all language is dualistic.  I was looking past such problems of language which are mostly surface problems.  I don’t agree with simple dualistic value judgments either. 

However, I was looking past this surface level to the deeper implications of the scenario and the experience that such a scenario would incur.  The term ‘wrong’ may not be the best term, but its adequate for conveying a certain kind of experience.  As I mentioned, I have had experiences where everything I knew felt ‘wrong’ and not in a dualistic sense but rather in an absolute sense.

I’ve been slowly reading A Scanner Darkly in bits and pieces.  I just came across a favorite section which is also conveyed well in the movie.  Its showing the degeneration of his mind really kicking in.  In a single scene, he switches between several cognitive perspectives talking about himself the whole time as if he were someone else.  PKD does it so smoothly which is extremely impressive. 

I can feel confused at times, but this goes to a whole other level.  PKD shows from the inside what it might feel like as your psyche disitegrated.  At the same time, the tone becomes evermore philosophical as the charcter not only tries to figure out what is going on but also what it means.

Subjective experience is difficult to convey in all its complexity.  Most writers stick to more normal characters because the challenge of writing well is already difficult enough.  I want to read more good examples of the type of writing that PKD does in certain of his books.  I’m thinking over the many novels and stories I’ve read over the years, but offhand its hard for me to remember which authors might’ve done this well.  I would definitely point out Kafka for he is good at deeply conveying a subjective mood.  I like Hesse’s writings, but I’m not sure that he exactly fits into what I’m thinking about here.

I’ve been very specifically thinking of fiction this past month.  I even have a story I want to write.  My motivation for the story is to convey this feeling I’ve been having lately and so the whole story hinges on how well I could convey it.  I don’t know that I could convey it, but I’m willing to try.  An aspect of the story is also about the sense of connection that one can feel with others at times and the utter disconnection at other times.  The disconnection part fits in with the difficulties of communication.

The story I’m thinking of has a different type of narrative than a typical PKD story.  I’m thinking of a very short story that happens in a single location with very little action.  The story will be as much about the past as its about the present which is another challenge.

We’ll see what I come up with.  I’ll keep you apprised.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 13 hours later

Marmalade said

There are 3 elements to storytelling that I’m considering:
 – Conveying multiple perspectives within a single character and smoothly transitioning between those perspectives.
 – Creating an atmosphere, a mood, a subjective sense of reality that permeates all aspects of a story.
 – Using imagery and themes that are potent and subtle, that bridge between ephemeral inner experiences and concrete outer descriptions.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

you’re getting me lathered up in a fervour of anticipation! really, i can hardly wait to see what you come up with, Ben. It sounds absolutely fascinating.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

1 day later

1Vector3 said

Boy do I ever resonate with the experiences and challenges. Plus, as spiritual discussions try to get ever more precise about what is “experienced” even the word “experience” drops out of the running, and we are left with elusive stuff like “the suchness of Beingness” or “the ground of Beingness” or “Being.” Blech.

I was in a spiritually-oriented discussion group last night, and oddly enough was talking about one of your points: I have written and blogged about many of my inner illuminations and experiences and insights and transformations but the most profound ones – and even many of the less profound ones! – I have felt a disinclination to even TRY to write about.

So I am very frustrated, in a way, as a teacher-via-writing because the stuff I write is not the really IMPORTANT stuff, which part of me thinks I not only COULD write about but MUST be writing about, yet I cannot bring myself to do it. That’s all related to letting go of lots of my “Should’s” but it also means I end up feeling as if I am simply presenting surface stuff, misleading folks into thinking that’s all that’s going on, or the most important stuff going on. So I am breaking my identity of Rescuer, but not without the good fight, haha.

I once made a stab at trying to describe what it’s like to break through the sound barrier of “knowing” and live at the speed of “the living Truth” but it didn’t seem a particularly effective stab.

I don’t have the ability to write fiction, but I do have some poetry skills, but they don’t seem to have aligned yet with any of the kinds of purposes-of-writing we are talking about here. Perhaps they will.

In face to face life – and actually even via print and computer words – there are ways to transcend worded communication/influence. Sometimes I just give up on words, even though most of the time I live in them, as my personal arena of Divine Expression.

It was sooooooo wonderful to read your thoughts, so wonderfully expressed. Thank you for sharing, and for being in my world, kindred spirit.
Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Child

2 days later

Marmalade said

Hey OM!

Writing is difficult no doubt.  I gave up on words for a period of time some years ago.  I stopped reading and writing not for ideological reasons but because language just didn’t fit my experience at that time.  This is impressive considering how much of my life has revolved around words.  Of course, my love of (or addiction to) language won out.

I don’t see language as the enemy as some spiritual people do.  Like you, I usually see it as my personal arena of Divine Expression or something like that.  I’d like to find a different way of using language.  Fiction is what I know and so I plan on focusing on that, but poetry definitely works for many people.

I’ve decided to focus more on my own writing and less time on pods.  I think I’ll only keep the God Pod and Community Film Picks on notification.  I did finish a very rough draft of the story I’ve been thinking of, but it will probably be a while before I’m satisfied enough with it to share it.  I plan on trying multiple different ways of telling the story before even getting much into the editing process.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

that sounds like an excellent plan. The more I try to keep pods under control the more they proliferate – I’m back up to 31 Lol fortunately not all of them active. Time to trim some of the inactive ones again!

starlight : StarLight Dancing

13 days later

starlight said

Ben, have you just tried to do some honest journaling…not really anything specific to begin with…just honest feelings about experiencing?  this helps, and it also helps to always write what you know…so, if you ‘don’t know’, write about the ways you know you don’t know…this will open up areas that are blocked in your psyche…also, you mentioned feeling connected…then feeling disconnected…write about these experiences honestly…putting these honest feelings down on paper, then looking at them, opens up other areas of awareness…

will look forward to reading you…when we can honestly speak from our hearts…the experience resonates…and touches all that are listening with their heart…

much love and joy…star…

Marmalade : Gaia Child

13 days later

Marmalade said

Yeah, for years I used to do lots of that kind of honest journalling.  I still do it some, but not as much as I used to because it ultimately felt unsatisfying.  It was useful for a period of my life.

Part of my frustration lately is not just that I ‘don’t know’, but also that I ‘don’t know’ what to do with what I ‘do know’.  Specifically, my present frustration relates to being on Gaia because my frustrations are amplified.  There are three overlapping types on Gaia.  There are the rationalists which are mostly represented by the integralists here.  There are the spiritual believers who are heavily weighted towards the new age.  And there are the activists who are extremely politically-oriented specifically liberal and progressive.  I find these three types interesting, but I don’t really fit into any of them. 

All three of these types (and this entire community) is dominated by optimists.  I’m not an optimist… far from it.  I have certain ideals that occasionally inspire me, but I’m not that idealistic.  If anything, my view of life is tragic.

So, in many ways I ‘don’t know’ about my own experience.  More importantly, I feel most people ‘don’t know’ my experience.  I realize this is a common experience of feeling not understood, but I think this feeling is more accurate for some people than for others.  In our society, statistics show that pessimists are an extreme minority.  This probably has always been true because optimism has more of an evolutionary advantage.  My pessimism is out of sync with society (especially in the US) and maybe with the human race in general.  Furthermore, Gaia has an even higher concentration of optimists than probably anywhere else on the web.

The obvious question… so why am I here?  I don’t know. I was raised with the New Age and I’m apparently drawn to it like a moth to a flame.  How tragic.  🙂

When you read my writing on gaia, you are reading a highly censored version of me.  I partly don’t speak about certain experiences because I don’t fully understand them, but I also don’t speak about certain experiences because I doubt most others here would fully understand them.  So, what is the point?!  No one on Gaia has ever seen my darker side and probably no one here cares to see it.  And I don’t care to hear all the optimism I’d get in response to it.

The reason I’m here is similar to an explanation of the universe that I find humorous.  Some people claim that this universe is the best of all possible worlds.  Now that is a depressing thought.  This is the best God could do?  Anyways, it seems ironically funny to me because its usually stated as a way of countering pessimism.  My point being is I’m on Gaia because its the best of all possible blogging communities which can simultaneously be seen as praise for Gaia and criticism of blogging communities in general. 

I’m a dissatisfied person and that is the way it is.  The problem isn’t anything in particular.  The problem is everything.  Our inability to understand and to communicate.  Our inability to do anything actually significant about all of the suffering in the world.  Our inability to see outside of our limited perspectives.  I don’t think we can honestly speak from our hearts or at least I have yet to either personally experience it or observe it in others.  The only ‘honest’ experiences of the heart I’ve had brought on silence and a sense of existential ignorance… which isn’t a bad thing… in fact, I suspect the world might be a better (or more intereting) place if more people had such humbling experiences.

The difficulty I have with a place like Gaia is that too many people here have agendas and are too certain about their agendas.  This isn’t a bad thing per se.  The purpose of Zaadz was to be a place for people who want to change the world.  But I don’t want to change the world and I don’t resonate with people who do.  Its not a judgment of them.  I’m glad some people feel compelled towards change… whatever inspires you or whatever is your nature.  My attitude is just different because my experience is different.  My attitude is how to let the world deeply and profoundly change me.  One of my highest ideals is to let go of all ideals, but that is of course an impossible ideal.  lol

starlight : StarLight Dancing

13 days later

starlight said

Ben…again, i encourage you in honesty…how do you know that other’s will not resonate with your experiences of the darker side until you put it out there?  and, relatively speaking…is that not in and of itself your purpose for being here?  i write about horrible experiences that i have had in reality…smoking crack…prostitution…sexual abuse…and yet, i also write about the real inner peace and joy that i experience…

imho, and b/c of my real life experiencing of my own dark nights of my soul…i was not able to get past them until i saw them for what they were…and got honest with me about it…seems like, you are doing that, but your frustration just might be, your lack of expression…iow, your creative ability to express in words what you have experienced or are experiencing now…and the way to solve that is just to do it…write what you feel…be honest…to hell with the optimist…fuck em…lol…like Adam said…

FEEL TO HEAL AND KEEP IT REAL…

how do you know that other’s don’t ‘feel’ the same ways?  by speaking your truths no matter how dark they may be, you release that frustration, and you give other’s the right to be who and what they are…and feel what they feel…

these are just suggestions, but b/c i deal with the ‘dark side’ of life every day…i no longer deny this in myself, in other’s, or in the world at large…

much love and joy…and if you don’t want me to say that…tell me to ‘fuck off!’  LOL…

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

13 days later

Marmalade said

I hear ya.  I’m sure some would resonate with experiences I could communicate.  I’m not saying I won’t try to write about these more difficult issues.  I’m not sure what my purpose is for being here other than writing.  I do want to try to express something of my viewpoint as far as I feel capable.

My frustrations go beyond difficulties of communication.  I’m just frustrated, but I don’t see my frustration as something to be solved.  I feel the world is inherently dissatisfying.  For me, frustration is the seed of my spiritual experiences.  Suffering and longing go hand in hand.  I can put this into personal terms, but I don’t have the time at the moment.  I’ve spoken about my depression in various places on Gaia.  This might sound strange to some people but part of me doesn’t want my depression to go away.  I don’t want to forget the world’s suffering.  I don’t want to distract myself not even by ideals of love and compassion.  I don’t know what this means, but I do know that suffering is the most real experience I know of.

All of this means little.  Either you’ve had experiences similar to mine and agree with my perspective, or you’ve had different experiences and thus have different perspectives.  Another thing is that I don’t have the belief that you seem to have that expressing something will change it.  I have no expectations that my frustration will ever be released or rather not until I’m released from this mortal coil.

I don’t know what the point of any of it is.  I’m just a writer.  Its what I do and so here I am.

One last thing about this frustration is that I feel immense shame.  I’m far from being successful by most standards of society.  My only level of success is that I hold down a job, pay the bills, and haven’t killed myself.  I pretty much live my life day by day.  I have no excuses for myself or my life.  I’ve had more opportunities than most people ever have.  Most people would see my failure as being completely personal.  My parents worked themselves through college and into professional careers.  Both of them started off fairly poor and are now upper middleclass.  I, on the other hand, have slowly worked myself back down to working class.  My parents are accomplished and have intense work ethics.  I can’t even get the motivation to do the dishes. 

I live my life in fear.  I’m afraid of everything.  Life will only get worse.  My depression will only increase with age.  Pain and suffering will only increase with age.  Loneliness will only become more intense as people I know and love die over the years.  To be completely honest,  I’ll be ‘lucky’ if I don’t either end up killing myself, becoming institutionalized or else homeless.  That is my darker side.

I’m not seeking pity.  And I’m definitely not looking for good advice or optimistic outlooks.  I very well may say ‘fuck off!’ to anyone who does offer any of this.

starlight : StarLight Dancing

13 days later

starlight said

LOL…there ya go!  rotf…least you made me laugh…which is something i love to do…

i spent my life trying to kill myself with drugs and alcohol….today i am thankful for another way to live and enjoy  my life…i am really a very simple person…and i don’t have a belief system anymore, cause i had an experience where all my conceptual beliefs, including the religious ones crumbled…i cannot think conceptually now…i don’t know why i am here…fuck it…don’t care…just going to try and enjoy my life as much as possible…cause that is what i want to do…lol…if you like your depression…happy depressing…lol…i don’t see much point to all the suffering…but i, like you, am not willing to look the other way concerning it,  or pretend that it does not really exist…even if it is just temporary…but, unlike you…i fucking love my life now…i love nature…i love to write…i love to feel joy…i love to cry…i love music…i love to sing…my songs…i love to play guitar…my keyboard…congas…i love to dance…in the rain…play with kids…i love…rainbows…sunsets…stars…i love to fuck…and i love to say the word fuck…i love food…i love the internet…i love movies…books…i love to learn…and sometimes i love just being lazy…well, i love that a lot…mostly…i just stay honest and real with me…cause that makes me happy…

anyways…this has been a very enlightening discussion…for me anyways…always, *

Marmalade : Gaia Child

13 days later

Marmalade said

Your attitude is fine by me. 

My theory is that I am what I am and I experience what I experience… and as far as I can tell this theory applies to everyone.  I’m happy when I’m happy and I enjoy life when I enjoy it.  Conversely, I’m depressed when I’m depressed and I gladly curse God almighty when I’m in a bad mood.

For happy people, I say more power to them.  Overall, I’m not a happy person myself.  But who wouldn’t choose to be a happy person if such things were actually choices.  I’ve tried to be one of those happy people.  It just didn’t work out.  We all have our fates.  Some people just have easier fates than others.  I can hear people responding with the opinion that nothing is fated, and all I can say is that such a person believes this way because
their nature and life experience has led them to do so.

Freewill is a sacred cow for optimists, but it doesn’t mean much to me.  I’ve spent much of my life trying to choose something other than this life I have.  Nevertheless, here I am as I am.  I’ve tried to just love life and enjoy the simple things.  I have found some basic sense of contentment, but depression always returns and my periods of depression last way longer than my brief moments of carefree happiness.

I suspect that everyone tries and enjoy their lives as much as possible, but what is possible is not the same for everyone.  That reminds me of what my Grandmother used to say: “Everyone is doing the best for where they’re at.”  Not much more can be said than that.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

13 days later

1Vector3 said

Your position is coming through loud and clear, Ben, and I believe I’m hearing it. As someone who values you, I had to at first be sure that, re your depression, you had covered all the possible avenues of change that I am aware of, and since you seem to have done that, it does appear that “not much more can be said.” Until and unless something changes……

I don’t identify with any of the three groups here you mentioned. Do you consider me a New Ager and optimist? Both labels would be just about the opposite of the truth of me !!!! I am a heretic on at least 40 points wrt New Age, and as a perfectionist down to my cells and in every second of my consciousness, I am a card-carrying pessimist, always focusing first and foremost and at length on what is wrong and what could go wrong. For example I have had a long hard struggle for decades to even begin to entertain the notion that “Things could turn out the best way I could imagine, not the worst way.”  Give me anything and I will tell you all the downsides of it, past, present, and future. But I also see ways it could be improved, and ways the improvements could be accomplished. That is part of the gifts in the garbage, as one of my friends calls it.

So I am an optimist in believing everything CAN be improved, it’s just a matter of willingness and resources. And I am an optimist in believing that there ARE gifts in every garbage. In fact, that’s why the garbage exists, to call attention to the gifts.

Then again, I am usually hopeless about things actually improving……

Free will ain’t a sacred cow for me. I have a heretical view of that notion, which most people would (sloppily and inaccurately) interpret as no free will. One of my New Age heresies, a very severe one. Very severe, as it impacts how we approach changing the world.
I don’t feel like a happy person, overall either. Too much guilt, too much hopelessness, too much anger at God and blaming of God. But I have my moments not of optimism but of “knowing” [not accurate word]  the Bigger Picture, in which all that fades to less than nothing. Less. Like it never existed.

That somehow feels like a deeper and more authentic Me than the rest. And, fortunately, those moments are expanding in number and length, which I desire, but which I am only cooperating with; it’s a happening, not a doing….

Anyway, what I value most is honesty/authenticity, which is a version of Truth I treasure in self and others, and you reek of that !!!!!

Namaste, OM

Marmalade : Gaia Child

14 days later

Marmalade said

re my depression, maybe it’ll change but I’d be surprised if it did.  I tried to change it… and, since that didn’t work, I tried the opposite tactic.  That is my version of being practical.

I didn’t have you in mind when I was thinking of those three groups.  I was mostly thinking about broad categories.  I’ve heard your views on the New Age and so I know you don’t self-identify as a New Ager.  I don’t know you well enough to say what I think you are to tell you the truth, but for some reason to me you’ve come across as an optimist.  Of course, labels are relative in how we personally interpret them.  You seem more optimistic than myself anyways.  I do sometimes see the gifts in the garbage, but first and foremost I see the garbage.  Actually, I usually don’t see a clear difference between the supposed garbage and the supposed gifts.

I like the distinction you made between CAN be improved vs actually improving.  Sounds like the type of think I’d say.

Freewill… that is a heck of an issue.  I’ve thought about blogging about it.  Maybe I will.  I could write a very long and detailed blog or even series of blogs about that subject.  I’ve been thinking a fair bit about it.  I was reading about freewill online and came across compatibalism which states that freewill and determinism are not in contradiction.  The freewill/determinism debate is like the theism/atheism debate.  According to compatibalism, freewill is relative.  Freewill is meaningless as an abstraction, but in practical terms we must define the specific context.  What specifically do we believe we are free from?  Or what do we want to be free from?

I dig what you say about your “deeper and more authentic Me”.  Good luck on expanding those moments in number and length.  A happening, not a doing… yes, indeedy!

I reek?  ummm… thanks.  🙂

Nicole : wakingdreamer

14 days later

Nicole said

Ben, I am really moved by what you are saying. Thank you for showing up as yourself to this extent though you are clearly very doubtful of getting what you need.

I have seen over and over here people expressing deep negativity, pain, suffering, heart cries – and finding others who resonate – yes! someone else who understands how deeply messed up the world is, thank you! So I believe the same will be of you, if you choose to show the “darker side” of Ben.

One of my closest friends here on the site loves really dark, angry music, has lived a very very difficult past (and blogs often about it) and sometimes shows up with very violent or heavy energy. He teaches me a lot , as you have done and are doing now much more, about how really unhelpful or inappropriate it can be to try to cheer people up or be optimistic at times. Now, when he gets in those kinds of places, I just walk over to him mentally and verbally and sit next to him, and we talk about it, and when he is ready to be alone again he lets me know and I quietly go.

I have no illusions about being able to understand what you live. I hear what you are saying about depression and it brings light for me, reminding me somewhat of times I have been depressed and had something I needed to work through about that, and just quietly turning away from all my friends who were telling me I had to “fix” the depression because they were uncomfortable with me being depressed. It wasn’t about them and I knew they couldn’t understand that.

I am greedy, Ben. I will admit it. I want to know about all of you, not just the parts of you that you think that I can relate to. In return, I promise to do my best to honour you and not impose my thoughts, feelings and beliefs all over that honesty.

14 days later

Centria said

Ben, thank you for writing this and sharing more of who you are and feel and think.  As someone who definitely leans towards optimism, I suddenly felt a rush of shame and guilt…..that so much obvious optimism might somehow not be honoring or respecting or allowing the more pessimistic sides to have their say, as well.  Just reading your words and story helps balance something.  Well, hopefully, anyway.

Last fall and winter I sat with a good friend who was very depressed.  She was thinking of killing herself.  It was tough to witness, tough to stay there with her, tough to honor exactly where she was in her life.  Like you, part of her did not want to be optimistic.  Part of her, as she expressed it, wanted to deeply feel the suffering of all beings.  She didn’t want to hear any change-your-thinking-and-change-your-life mentality.  So I listened.  And she spoke sometimes, and didn’t speak for long months.  And I did eventually recommend that she consider medication, and she eventually decided to seek help for her depression, and now she’s doing pretty well in her life.  But it did seem very important not to “fix” the depression, not to turn immediately towards the light and cheery and bubbly and optimistic. 
The words to express things are SO hard.  Because we don’t know.  But we use words and stories to attempt to explain….something…..but it’s never true and never accurate and is very often frustrating.  I feel frustrated just trying to find any words to comment here.  What could I possibly know of your life?  Nothing, only the glimmering edges.  And maybe not even those.
Yet I am always amazed when words come out of me pretending like they know or mean something.  Because when I look closely at what’s inside there doesn’t seem to be much there.  Emptiness.  Yes, a structure exists, in which one can claim optimism or pessimism.  But other than that….well, I feel there’s not much I can say that can express anything valuable here.  Except I value your presence here on Gaia so much, your honesty, your thoughtfulness, the way you can’t be pinned down into any definitive category.  Thank you Ben for continuing to share your truth…..and hopefully that fiction, as well.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

14 days later

1Vector3 said

Yeah, that was a tongue in cheek compliment, just for the fun of the language play. Glad you got it !!

Well if you do write about free will, Ben, I have a lot of comments ready !! Like determinism is definitely not the only alternative to the common notion of “free will,” not by a long shot. And that free will as commonly defined is not a necessary precondition of personal responsibility or morality.

Something Nicole said has indirectly triggered this thought which I am not sure I have expressed here before: “Depression” is to me a pretty meaningless catchall medical term. I often encounter people who consider themselves depressed, are labelled depressed, are treated as depressed, and to me they are just profoundly SAD, or feeling hopeless. To me, there is biochemically-induced depression, which is real and common, and a painkiller did that to me once, but on the very rare occasions when I have(fortunately for very brief periods)  felt slow, heavy, apathetic, tight, weepy, paralyzed, untalkative, withdrawn / dissociated, it’s because I am sad or hopeless ABOUT SOMETHING. True depression is kinda about everything and nothing in particular, as I understand it.

I feel more optimistic haha about people being able to pull out of sadness or hopelessness (or any of the other particulars mentioned below) than I do biochemical depression, or true depression if that exists. But I don’t feel hopeless about any of it. Anything can change. Miracles do happen.

Oh, and lots and lots of people labelled depressed are of course suffering from anger turned toward self, or guilt or self-blame, that’s the classic psychological mechanism, but most of the ones I encounter are actually in deep grief or mourning, often about the state or condition of the world !!!! They are sensitive souls, and bear the grief and suffering of all, as personal. To label this as a psychological or psychiatric illness or disorder is to kinda miss the point; it’s a soul-level response to an observed situation. It is optional, but only if one realizes exactly what is going on.

So “depression” to me is vague and meaningless, unless further specified. Not that I am saying you need to, just sharing my view on a subject that’s commonly discussed these days.

So the checklist would be:
sad?
hopeless?
biochemical source?
anger at self, self-blame, guilt?
grief, mourning? personal or world?
None of the above?

Blessings, OM Bastet

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

14 days later

1Vector3 said

Centria posted while I was composing. Point made: I do not consider her friend “clinically depressed” or mentally ill in any way shape or form. She is one of those I precisely mentioned; The souls who feel the suffering of everyone, as their own. I hate it when those people are put on medication – except for my OTOH below. I believe there are spiritually-based perspectives that could alleviate the perspective which is causing their “depression.” That “depression” or in truth empathetic sadness  is based on an OPTIONAL way of looking at the world, at people, at suffering.

OTOH I believe that a prolonged time spent in any of the other “causes” I outlined above, ends up causing biochemical depression, in addition to any other cause, as the body adapts, and some holistic approach including body mind and spirit would be needed to really make a difference. At that point, anti-depressants might make the person more functional, but they are walking wounded, and the causative perspective still operates.
 
All this sounds like theory but I hope the passionate desire to alleviate needless suffering which is the engine of my life, comes through in somehow. I do it my way, not always very personal or cuddly, those ways too are marvelous. I resonate with and respect and in fact sometimes do, in personal life, the kinds of “being with” and “grokking” that Nicole and Centria have described.

Hey, Ben, this is becoming Collective Wisdom on a very very common issue. Would you be willing????? Any others object???  Perhaps not really soon, but sometime after the energy has moved on from here??

Blessings, OM 

starlight : StarLight Dancing

14 days later

starlight said

My theory is that I am what I am and I experience what I experience… and as far as I can
tell this theory applies to everyone.  I’m happy when I’m happy and I enjoy life when I
enjoy it.  Conversely, I’m depressed when I’m depressed and I gladly curse God almighty
when I’m in a bad mood.

see, i think this is way cool…that you know and accept where you are…and that you are
not running around trying to pretend otherwise…which is what i did for years…never
facing myself…running from drugs and alcohol back to religion always escaping from the
now i was in…shew…today, b/c of my recovery program, i do not have to live that way…
i could never just be honest with me…until…i was able to be…of course, once i was
finally able to get honest…that enabled me to really use the 12 steps and to open up
that awareness…now, i deal with life on life’s terms…it has been a lot of work…and
much of it has been very painful…but i would not trade my life now for anything…
For happy people, I say more power to them.  Overall, I’m not a happy person myself. 
But who wouldn’t choose to be a happy person if such things were actually choices. 
I’ve tried to be one of those happy people.  It just didn’t work out.  We all have our
fates.  Some people just have easier fates than others.  I can hear people responding
with the opinion that nothing is fated, and all I can say is that such a person believes
this way because their nature and life experience has led them to do so.

i would say, from my experience, that happiness and depression both, are way’s of
experiencing this reality…and i tend to agree that there is no choice…on another forum
many of us went round and round on this…here is my story as it relates to choices…

when situations unfolded several years ago, that have led me along this journey that i
got sober on, i would say that i had no control over them, nor did i have a choice at
that very moment when the officer put handcuffs on me and dragged me off to face my own consequences of my behavior…however; everything i had done up to that point…had led me to that point…and looking back, no one put a gun to my head and made me behave in the ways that i had…so, i had to take responsibility for my actions…

i soon ran out of people, places, and things to blame for my behavior, b/c i had started
looking honestly at me…i am grateful that i had the awareness to do this, for i am
reminded that many near and dear to me, do not…i eventually even ran out of the idea
of a god to blame anything on, or to depend on persay, or to praise and thank for even
the grace of awareness…it just is…and i have accepted that today…and for those that
it is not…well, that just is too…

my own experience however, of taking these steps, which are just a journey within, taught
me that though i did not have a choice once i picked up that first drug or drink, or even a choice as to whether or not i used then…that b/c of the clarity of awareness i have today, i do have a choice whether or not to go down that road of insanity again…tomorrow,
i don’t know about…but today i am aware, and i am emotionally sober, as well as clean from chemical substances…i also learned that using was not my problem…it was my solution…my problem was a lack of power to live life on life’s terms…i have sense found that power within my own awareness…and it is way cool…lol

i learned through this program how to live life on it’s own terms…to stay awake to the
moment of now, and stay out of yesterday…out of tomorrow…and out of my head…i found
too, that every negative or positive feeling was due to conditioned awareness…and the
reason that i believe anything…is also due to that conditioning…so i really resonate
with that last sentence of yours in the paragraph above…

this way of thinking gave me an opening though…if i am responsible for how i feel…
what i think…what i believe…and my behavior…then that meant that i could change it…
first by recognizing it…accepting it…then remaining open to the now of awareness of the
moment…and it’s potential for change…THIS WAS VERY POWERFUL FOR ME…AND IS STILL…
when i am able to remain aware, i tap into that inner power, that inner strength, that we all have within our own awareness…
i might not be able to change or control the fact that a tornado destroys my house and all
my material possessions, but i do have the ability…today…to choose what i think about
that…and by changing my thoughts…i change my feelings…on a very simple level…
instead of reacting by conditioned beliefs and habitual emotions…i am free, in this
moment, to look at it another way…

there is a saying in recovery…

we cannot hear until we hear…we cannot see until we see…

iow…IT TAKES WHAT IT TAKES…


Freewill is a sacred cow for optimists, but it doesn’t mean much to me.  I’ve spent much
of my life trying to choose something other than this life I have.  Nevertheless, here I
am as I am.  I’ve tried to just love life and enjoy the simple things.  I have found some
basic sense of contentment, but depression always returns and my periods of depression last way longer than my brief moments of carefree happiness.

concerning freewill…i tend to think that we are puppets of awareness for the most part…
and yet, as i mentioned, in each moment of pristine awareness, there is the potential for
change…but even that change is not concrete…it just is…and i have learned to
experience my life in that ever-free moment of now…awake…present…even to the feelings
that i may not enjoy…like last night…i had gas…damn…it hurt…LOL

what i have experienced too…is that this very journey of life…is an awakening…if i
but pay attention…and remain present in the moment…

i have come to know depression and happiness as the protective layers of our conditioned awareness…we protect ourselves with both of them…and in my experience…they both have been necessary…to get me to right here right now…underneath all those layers of conditioning…i found my own true nature…and when i can remain there, which i can now most of the time…it is beyond awesome…beyond happy…beyond peace…beyond depression beyond suffering…beyond physical pain…beyond now…like Buddha said…it is bliss…nonconceptual…and free…(i am not a buddhist however)…i have even gone beyond being labeled as anything…(religiously speaking…lol)

i am a human being…and i still own my suffering and pain…my joy and sorrow…in the moment when i experience it…but it does not control my life, the way i think, believe, feel or act today…and i still have conditioning i am working through…mostly opening up further and integrating awareness with life experiencing…which you dear Ben, sharing yourself so honestly, have helped me with…

my sister is very sick with depression…my mother is very mentally ill…and we both were raised with this; it affected us differently, but needless to say we both were very much affected…and it has been so difficult for me (accepting her depression), b/c i have been on the other end of it…but i watched my sister start opening up…she was going to meetings with me, and she was blossoming…but she began shutting down again when she had to get honest…her critical thinking muscles are lazy…she holds on to her beliefs of religion like a little child not letting go of her blankie…and she is addicted to the idea of depression….and i stopped trying to push her here after her last two threats to kill herself…but i do not feed into her depression either…i allow her to be just what she is…and she is a beautiful being…very funny and intelligent…she just really is not aware of that…her mind is so tangled with guilt and shoulda, woulda, coulda’s…and a lot of childhood trauma…she is not at this time capable of facing herself…and with the medicines she is having to take, i don’t expect this to change…but, i do not believe that it cannot change…just like…i may wake up tomorrow
with the beginning of Alzheimers…some things again…we have no control over…but i am
awake and aware at this very moment…and it is within my control at this moment…to allow
my own true nature to just be…our conversations here, will no doubt enable me to be of more service to her…if nothing more than on the level of understanding…i thank you for that…


I suspect that everyone tries and enjoy their lives as much as possible, but what is
possible is not the same for everyone.  That reminds me of what my Grandmother used
to say: “Everyone is doing the best for where they’re at.”  Not much more can be said
than that.

there is another saying similar to that that i love…

“When we know better…we can do better.”

today…i take responsibility for my knowing…and my doing…but i realize today too…that this is a gift of the grace of awareness…

much love Ben…always, star…

Marmalade : Gaia Child

14 days later

Marmalade said

The thing is that I fully realize that when speaking about depression online like this only invites people offering advice and whatever.  Its to be expected even if its not what I want.  I’ve a number of times responded to someone’s sharing of hardships only to discover they didn’t even want any response at all.  I’m not like that because I always appreciate responses, but years of hearing advice has soured me on those kind of responses.  How I see advice is that if something works for you, then that is good… but it may not be useful to anyone else.

To some extent I understand other viewpoints, but I don’t know how to bridge the distance between my viewpoint and those of others.  My personal understanding is complex and contradictory.  Sometimes, I sense a genuine goodness and at othe times I would declare without a doubt that this world is a living hell.  At other times, I feel they may both be simultaneously true.

Hey OM, feel free to start a thread in the Collective Wisdom pod.

starlight : StarLight Dancing

14 days later

starlight said

well, i  cannot speak for anyone else, but i really was trying to just share my experience, strength, and hope…and specifically that…i understand that it might seem that i was trying to give advice…however; i assure you that i am aware that my path is not yours and vice a versa…but i cannot deny, that i would think it way cool, if you got something from it you could use…i would hope that you would be open to that…

the only way to bridge the difference between viewpoints, is to remain open as far as i can see…iow, allow yourself the willingness to see things differently…but again, that is a tool i use…that has worked for me…

always, star…

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

14 days later

Marmalade said

I’m just not in the mood for positive intentions, be it advice or not.  I’m open to what you’ve said, but at this point in my life I feel like I’ve heard it all.

I was raised in New Thought Christianity.  I spent years reading about and practicing positive thinking.  I’ve been to a Landmark Forum which teaches how to take control of your life.  I used to have a regular yoga and meditation practice for years.  I’ve been to many psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and even a shamanic healer.  And I went to a Shiatsu massage school where I learned alternative healing including energy work.  Sounds like a resume.  lol

I understand not wanting to blame God or other external forces, but I neither want to blame myself.  If doing all that I’ve tried isn’t good enough, then just hell with it all.  Its not your fault that I’m feeling irritable, and I’m not saying that I don’t want to hear other people’s perspectives.  I’m almost always willing to see things differently.  I’ve dedicated most of my life trying to see things differently.  But maybe at the moment I’m not in the best of moods for feeling open towards certain perspectives.

I’m sorry if I sounded critical, but afterall I am feeling quite critical.  Please understand that it isn’t you personally or anything specific.  Its just how I feel, but I don’t expect anyone else would want to listen to my griping.  I’m just expressing my criticalness because its worse if I don’t. 

15 days later

Centria said

There’s no other option, Mr. Cat, then to take you exactly as you are in this very moment.  That’s good enough for me.  🙂

Nicole : wakingdreamer

15 days later

Nicole said

You’ve explored so many avenues… I fall silent next to you and simply offer U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

If you do want feedback or if there is anything else I can do, I’m here, Ben. Love you.

starlight : StarLight Dancing

15 days later

starlight said

well, take your irritable ass to a 12 step meeting!  LOL…i don’t see that on your list…and it really sounds like you need one…LMAO…(just a suggestion…lol)

Talent and Inspiration Posted on Sep 1st, 2008 by Marmalade

Talent and Inspiration

Posted on Sep 1st, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
I realized that I don’t work tonight and so I stopped by the coffeehouse.  I thought I’d do a simple blog entry.  I was downtown and the students are back in town.  I noticed a hack circle and I hadn’t hacked all summer.  I normally hackysack quite a bit when the weather is nice, but haven’t felt in the mood this year.

I’m pretty decent at hackysack, and I know some interesting tricks.  I’ve been playing soccer since I was a little kid and picked up hackysack in highschool.  I enjoy it in some ways, but it brings out a side of me that I don’t entirely like.  Hackysack isn’t exactly a competitive sport (although there are competitions).  Even so, it allows for ample showing off.  I can show off because I’m usually better than those I’m hacking with which doesn’t mean much since most people don’t attempt to be very good at it.  Most people just sort of kick back and forth.  I love the challenge of figuring out a trick, but I dislike the feeling of showing off.  I don’t know why that is.

Anyways, it got me thinking about talents.  I have many talents, but I don’t do much with most of them.  If I had taken hackysack more seriously when younger and had met more talented hackysackers to learn from, I could’ve been really great at it… but to what end?  In the past, I’ve spent endless hours simply repeating a trick to get it down just right… but its not a highly valued ability in our society.  🙂

I quit soccer in 11th grade because I didn’t see the point.  I was a very fast runner when a kid, but I was never great at soccer.  I had some natural talent, but never practiced much.  In order to be really good at something, you have to spend enormous amounts of time doing it.  And I’m not that competitive and I can’t say I’ve ever been a driven sort of person.  I was always a team player, but I didn’t really care if my team won.  And maybe that was a good thing as I was always on losing teams.  When a little kid, soccer was the game everyone played and I just enjoyed running around as kids do.  But sports become more serious as you grow older, especially in highschool.

Overall, I’ve never been a motivated person and partly that has to do with my not liking school.  Only once in my life did I have an inspiring teacher that actually brought out the best in me.  He was an art teacher.  I had always taken art classes and enjoyed them, but this teacher was a really great teacher that encouraged innovation.  He was the first person who taught me to think outside of the box.  I took art classes later on in college, but I never did as good of work as I did in that highschool class.  Unfortunately, I never felt inspired when not in the presence of that teacher.  Art was something I was good at, but it just didn’t capture my attention.  Just too much work and for whatever reason I never envisioned myself as an artist.

The talent I ended up focusing on is writing which isn’t something I cared about when younger.  I liked reading fiction somewhat growing up, but I was never obsessed with reading.  There was one thing that foretold my future.  My childhood bestfriend and I would tell collaborative stories.  In highschool, I started journalling very seriously and in later highschool became very interested in reading books with deep themes, both fiction and non-fiction.  But I can’t say I thought of being a writer at that time.  I really had no ambitions other than to understand life… which I’m still working on.

At this time, I had fallen into severe depression but hadn’t yet recognized it as such.  My truly obsessive nature began to show itself at this point.  I just wouldn’t let these questions go.  There had to be some kind of answer somewhere, but apparently older people were as clueless as me.  I found that a bit disheartening.  Back then, I actually still held the belief that with age came wisdom, but I came to realize most adults were even ignorant of the questions.  At least, my dad was always very honest about the limits of his understanding.  I like honesty.

I definitely had become more obsessed with non-fiction than with fiction, but I found few writers who actually inspired me.  Inspiration is a big thing for me.  I’ve always sought inspiration to counteract my apathetic nature.  By looking for inspiration, I was looking for my own inner motivation that tends to get lost with the years of conformity training that one gets in school.  I’m still looking for this inner motivation thingie, and I occasionally hit upon an ephemeral essence that feels true.  Give me another few decades and I think I’ll have it figured out.

Anyways, I’ve slowly realized that non-fiction for the most part isn’t what inspires me.  I’m inspired by imagination which is most often found in fiction.  On the other hand, fiction often lacks the depth of ideas that can be found in non-fiction.  What is a boy to do?  (Read Philip K. Dick is what. lol)

Okay, back to my life story.  I returned to my childhood home after highschool and reconnected with the aforementioned childhood bestfriend.  He also had become interested in writing, and so two aspiring writers were we.  This is when I started to take writing seriously and specifically writing fiction (because my friend was mostly into fiction).

So, after 20 years of my life, I finally found a talent that I cared about.  Unfortunately, it may seem, I found this talent at a time of my deepest depression…. not exactly a time of consistent motivation.

Over the last 10 or so years, I’ve slowly become more focused but its a struggle.  The internet has helped me to gain focus as online communities such as this give me the opportunity to play around with my writing.  I’m presently trying to get my mind back into fiction.  I even have a story I’m working on right now.

There ya go.  I could’ve been many things…
 …but a writer is what I became.

Access_public Access: Public 11 Comments Print Post this!views (166)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 2 hours later

Nicole said

Ben, I learned some important things about you tonight. Thank you. I really look forward to seeing your fiction when you’re ready to start unveiling it. It’s great to see you again! I’d missed you. Big hugs.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

about 8 hours later

1Vector3 said

Hey Ben, thanks for sharing your story. Never thought about the inspiration thingy and all the aspects of it you mentioned. New perspectives for me, goody.

I didn’t become a writer, I always was. It’s not something I do, but what I am. Breathe, write. No-write, like suffocating, or being strait-jacketed. Not to say this is better or worse than becoming a writer. Just noting a different life experience.

However, despite maybe 3 forays into fiction in my whole life, which weren’t totally lousy, I really have NO talent for it. Just can’t think up anything [my forays were school assignments.] So I really admire the heck out of you folks who have that kind of creativity. Really beyond me.More power to ya for contributing fiction to the world !
 
Finding the “inner motivation thingy” is crucial. If I were a praying person, I would pray for you that you find yours. I do “know” it is there, everyone has it. But sometimes it takes awhile in life to emerge, although often it get suppressed or repressed, and is actually visible if one knows where and how to look. Like: what feels like breathing? what did you do naturally as a kid? what would you pay to keep from being prohibited from doing? what gives you a feeling of elation, exhilaration? (even under the depression.)

Gee, idea-fiction, no dearth that I can see. Hesse? Ayn Rand? Colin Wilson (The Philosopher’s Stone, The Mind Parasites, etc.)? Theodore Sturgeon (e.g. Godbody, one of my top fave books.)? Ursula LeGuin? Just for starters. Maybe some don’t qualify for you, for some reason…..

Lots of depression is I think possibly basically biochemical, but I also go with those who say many depressions are really actual sadness about an actual something –a something which is kept outside of awareness –  and I also go with those who say many depressions result from giving up on having or being or experiencing what one most deeply and profoundly wants in life. And of course there is the inward-turned aggression theory. Do you know anything useful about your own depression?

I just don’t believe anyone has an “apathetic nature.” I believe a lot of folks got squashed, I have seen a 6-year old totally bored with life, it broke my heart, and I could see how the parents had done it. OTOH some young children are more exuberant and enthused than others who appear less interested in the world, the external world. And an introvert might get labelled “apathetic” and accept the label, but it wouldn’t be true.

Well, forgive my ramblings, and I don’t mean to pry for info, just offering my perspectives on matters you mentioned. No need to respond.

Keep ’em coming, I like the way you mix the personal and the abstract in your writing. Trying to think of other writers who have that combo. Lewis Thomas? Don’t remember him well enough.

Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 21 hours later

Marmalade said

*Hugs* to Nicole.  I suppose fiction is a different side of me, but you’ve seen some of that side of me with my discussion of PKD.  When it comes to fiction, I lean towards the imaginative which can take two forms: serious imagination or outright weird.

Now, to OM.  You gave me a lot to respond to.  I’ll respond in the order you wrote.

Becoming a writer.  Its an interesting thing.  I wasn’t raised with parents who were writers, but I was raised with parents who were thinkers and talkers.  So, I was raised with language, my mom is a speech pathologist afterall.  I also had a word-retrieval problem as a child and so I learned to compensate by having a large vocabulary.  As I said in the blog, I liked stories even though my parents weren’t all that into reading stories to me.  Reading books was one of my favorite escapes early on.  I was an imaginative kid and my bestfriend was very imaginative.  Still, I only started writing on my own in 8th grade.

There was one teacher who set my direction in life towards writing.  He was a decent teacher and I suppose I enjoyed his class fine, but he didn’t inspire me.  What he did do was challenge me with difficult texts.  He had us read many classics such as Jude the Obscure which is heavy reading for a highschooler.  It was also from the bookcase in his classroom, that I discovered Hesse.

I’ve at times felt envious of people who were raised by parents who read to them and encouraged them (or had teachers who inspired them or otherwise discovered writing early on).  My dad is a professor and so he helped me out with writing non-fiction papers for class assignments.  He taught me to communicate clearly and in an organized manner, but that is a long way off from fiction.  Being raised by parents who have absolutely no sense of fiction has been a challenge for me as an aspiring fiction writer.  My parents taught me how to think and to write clearly, but my imagination apparently was a gift of God or otherwise a genetic mutation.

Writing is something that slowly became more and more my identity.  Basically, writing is secondary to my most basic motivation.  I desire imagination, wonder, and understanding… but I also desire to express those things, to give them form.  I’m not a person who writes just to write.  I always have a purpose for my writing even if its just entertainment value sometimes.  I’m not a poet who just loves language for the sound of it.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 22 hours later

Marmalade said

OM Part 2:

I must admit that I sorta do know what my inner motivation thingie is.  The single running theme of my entire life is curiosity.  I’ve been asking questions and wondering about life longer than I can remember… meaning my mom tells me I was asking deep questions as soon as I could speak.

I realize that idea-fiction in a general sense is not lacking.  I have many similar authors I could mention, but I definitely agree with you on Hesse.  Beyond exaggerating for effect, I was meaning a specific type of idea-fiction.  I have a wide-ranging curiosity which isn’t easily satisfied.  Too many fiction writers are narrowly focused or else there ideas aren’t grounded in a deep sense of subjective experience.  For instance, one can find enormous amounts of ideas in SF and one can find enormous amounts of terrible writing.  It takes a special talent to combine fiction and non-fiction, the personal and the philosophical.

Partly, I’m just a picky person.  I know what I like and I have no desire to spend my time on anything else.  I doubt I’m actually communicating to you what I’m meaning about my perception of a particular kind of lack, but it will have to do for the time being.

Do I know anything useful about my depression?  That is an interesting question.  I know a lot about my depression and depression in general, but I won’t be so presumptuous as to claim any of it useful.  lol

Any number of theories may apply to my depression including the ones you mentioned.   One thing I’m sure is that it isn’t a single factor.

As for the apathetic nature statement, I didn’t intend any grand significance to it.  I mostly see my occasional apathy as a side effect of my depression.  As depression seems to run in both sides of my family, I have a strong suspicion that there is a genetic component.  In that sense, apathy is a side effect of my natural predisposition which doesn’t mean its absolutely determined… just a tendency is all.  Opposite of apathy, some people use depression as a way of driving themselves harder and accomplish much that way.

I don’t worry too much about depression.  Its just what it is.  I feel no need to make a value judgment about it or try to get rid of it.  Personally, I don’t think its a disease nor a personal failing.  Ultimately, its just a label given to a pattern of behaviors.  Its just a word.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 22 hours later

Marmalade said

I had a few more things I wanted to share about my talents. 

The hackysack is an odd example because its not as if one can make a career out of being a professional hackysacker.  However, my talent for physical tricks actually started with learning juggling as a kid.  I dated a girl who was going into juggling as a career and I went to a convention of professional jugglers.  It was very interesting, but I don’t have an interest in being a performer… back to not liking to show off.

Another talent I didn’t think of earlier is massage which is another odd talent.  I always liked giving people massages.  Eventually, I decided to go to massage school.  I liked learning about it, but I quickly realized I had near zero desire to do it as a profession.  Maybe its the same thing about not wanting to perform.

As a strong introvert, writing is more my style.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 22 hours later

Nicole said

dear ben,

i think you have a very healthy approach to your depression. you seem to have a really good way of coping with it from the many conversations we have had around it.

it’s interesting what a rich environment you had at home, though it lacked some elements for which you long. it does help to explain a lot about how you got to where you are now, a very unique person. yes, i know we are all unique, but i think you know what i mean.

serious imagination or outwright weird – well, they both can be good 🙂

i think you have a lot of important qualities which are helpful to you as a writer, for example, your intense ability to focus and do research for a long time; your ability to organise your thoughts and ideas, even when they represent a huge range; your amazing, zany sense of humour; and your astonishing flexibility in points of view.

Of course, that’s only the beginning of your qualities.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

1 day later

1Vector3 said

I so appreciate your elaborating based on my comments !!! I enjoyed all you said. I have nothing particular to say in response right now, nothing has formulated – yet….

Well, perhaps two things I can begin to word:

Ultimately, depression IS just a word, but I guess I would be motivated to do something to make it less. I have noticed certain limitations I have accepted with the passing years, based on things not working out, and I can see that sense of limitations is kinda like a depression, and I am working to get back the sense of open possibilities that younger folks have.

BTW I underline that I too perceive the four qualities Nicole nailed so well just above !!! Your research ability is SO amazing it almost looks so prodigious that it seems to me only the manic folks I know could do something like that. Strange to say !!!!

Asking deep questions, wide-ranging curiosity, “I desire imagination, wonder, and understanding… but I also desire to express those things, to give them form.”

Are those what is partly captured by the labels INFP?

I have a friend who has discovered 35 SOUL archetypes (beyond personality) and I think this fits one of them. I will ask him, and perhaps get a description for you, so you can see whether the other aspects fit you too. Just as an expansion of self-knowledge. Just a label, from one perspective, but it’s nice when things that seem separate somehow cohere, or can be seen to be various manifestations of/from a single source, I think.

Well there, I did manage to say something !! 

Yes, Lord keep us from those who write to be writing, ditto those who talk to be talking. Myself, I think I write to improve things/people/life/the world/systems/institutions/methods, etc etc. To be useful, a resource, for improving things. (Not so great at motivating improvements, but really good at facilitating improvements folks have already decided to make.)

The world needs more picky people. Go for it. LOL !!!!

Blessings, OM Bastet 

 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

Nicole, thanks for the kind words.

I don’t know if I have a good way of coping with my depression.  How I think of it is that its good enough.

OTOH, OM, I understand what you mean by how we can tend to accept limitations as we age.  I don’t know if this is necessarily problematic as aging does bring real limitations.  But, even within any set of limitations, there are always possibilities.  I guess that is where my sense of curiosity and wonder comes in… keeping me from feeling stuck.

Was my self-description related to the INFP type?  I’d say that it fits many INFPs.  The latter part of wanting to express would depend on how well they had developed their auxiliary Extraverted Intuition (and other social factors of course).

Type is a strange thing when considering family.  My parents are very different types than I am.  Research seems to show that some personality traits are genetically passed on.  I’m sure I get my Intuition (N) from  my dad and my Introversion (I) from my mom.  From what I understand of my grandmother’s personality, the genetics for the Feeling (F) and Perceiving (P) maybe came from her and skipped over my dad.  That is strange to consider how we carry genetics that will manifest in later generations even though they don’t manifest in us.  My grandmother died when I was around 6 and lived far away.  She wouldn’t have had much psychological influence on me and so I assume that it must be genetics (excluding any paranormal influences).

I unfairly downplayed the ways in which my imagination has been influenced by my parents. 

My dad’s family has a very strange sense of humor.  My grandfather was and my uncle is the kind of person who is constantly playing around and getting in trouble… a combination of physical and intellectual humor.  So, there is an immense creativity that I get from that side of the family, but they aren’t specifically artistic types and my dad has almost no interest in fiction.  My mom does like stories (ie movies) and she likes thinking about human behavior.  She does have some aesthetic sense when it comes to practical activities such as decorating a house, but definitely not an artistic type.

Another aspect is how my parents’ minds work.  My parents are people who constantly think but in very different ways.  My dad is constantly doing things or planning to do things, constantly reading and learning, constantly questioning.  From my dad, I learned that no question is taboo and curiosity is a very good thing.  My dad is very thorough when researching something, and is a very innovative thinker.  My mom has a mind that is even more active than my dad but not as much in an intellectual way.  Her mind is a wandering mind that runs very fast.  When my mom and I are having a conversation, we can talk very quickly.  Our minds resonate.  Even though our minds wander, we also can ruminate on the same thing for hours.

I think that I’m a product of combining the innovative creativity and silly humor of my dad with the wandering focus and interest in people of my mom.  Somehow that all adds up to an interest in the imagination conveyed in fiction. 

Plus, it seems my grandmother may have been more of an artistic type.  I suspect that she might have been an INFP.   She was a person of creative chaos and was lazy/apathetic in that she wouldn’t do anymore than absolutely had to be done.  She was always looking for meaning and was impractical in her idealism.  If that ain’t an INFP, then I don’t know what type she might’ve been.

BTW, OM, I’d love to hear about the SOUL archetypes.  I’m always curious about different systems, different ways of understanding people.  Because of Nicole, I was looking at the Enneagram recently.  I hadn’t looked at it in a while, but remembered myself to have been a 4w5.  I took a test that Nicole linked to and I came up as a definite 4 with some leanings towards 5.  The 4w5 description fits me as well as INFP.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

Yes, same here, OM, as Ben says, I found the Enneagram very helpful recently in understanding more about myself and my friends, always looking for more grist for the mill.

It’s wonderful, Ben, that you and your mom can connect like that, and to see so clearly the influence of your family on who you are… I am fascinated.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

2 days later

1Vector3 said

I’ll see what I can do about getting info on the soul archetypes to you, Ben. The technological challenge is considerable…..

yeah, the Enneagram is IMO one of the top 3 or 4 typologies of real value in understanding self and others. Knowing my own type has been of major major major help in my own healing/wholing process. I do plan to post sometime my paper on the Enneagram One, The Healing Thereof, but it’s sooooo long, about 15 pages… But, I think, an easy read, at least structually if not in content !

Much as I have tried to study the Enneagram, and taken many workshops from a variety of teachers, and read several books, I can’t seem to retain the info about the points other than mine with a few exceptions like the 8, 3, and 5. Oh well.

And BTW I do not care for the Enneagram as it is commonly presented and taught, as a personality classification system; there it is IMO not much more useful than astrology. It doesn’t hang together. It only hangs together if you study it as a spiritual typology [which it was originally, apparently, in the Sufi origins] much more basic than personality.

Sandra Maitri’s book The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram is the only good book I know of re that approach, but it kinda buries the crucial foundational info. She learned it from A.H. Almaas, and I have a friend who also studied with him and wrote a much more clearly fundamental and lasered paper, which I have ambitions to make available on the Internet, am moving toward that. Almaas himself did write, and I have – I blush to say – yet to read anything he wrote.

I agree, Nicole, I am very impressed, Ben, with the eloquence and clarity you have around your parents’ characteristics and how these have interacted with your own.

Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

Nicole – Yeah, the way I can connect with my mom is odd.  We are very different types, and yet our minds completely resonate.  Its kind of funny because my mom is super practical but also kinda spacey.  I apparently only inherited the spacey part.  lol

OM – I’d appreciate any info you’d like to share about the Enneagram.  I have yet to study it thoroughly.  For some reason, I’ve never really connected to it… and, like you, I can’t seem to retain the info.  OTOH, the MBTI immediately made sense to me and I found it easy to remember, but it took a while to understand the more complex aspects.

Fictional Worlds and Fictional Drugs

Fictional Worlds and Fictional Drugs

Posted on Jun 30th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
I was thinking about the relationship of drugs, emotions, and society.  I was thinking of several different fictional futures that give different takes on this.

The most classic example is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.  The drug of choice in that novel was soma.

“Benighted fool!” shouted the man from The Fordian Science Monitor, “why don’t you take soma?””Get away!” The Savage shook his fist.

The other retreated a few steps then turned round again. “Evil’s an unreality if you take a couple of grammes.”

Kohakwa iyathtokyai!” The tone was menacingly derisive.

“Pain’s a delusion.”

“Oh, is it?” said the Savage and, picking up a thick hazel switch, strode forward.

The man from The Fordian Science Monitor made a dash for his helicopter.”

Later, Huxley experimented with psychedelics and saw their positive potential.  So, he wrote the utopian novel Island.  The people of the island use a mushroom called moksha medicine.

“Is there any connection,” Will asked, “between what you’ve been talking about and what I saw up there in the Shiva temple?”

“Of course there is,” she answered. “The moksha-medicine takes you to the same place as you get to in meditation.”

“So why bother to meditate?”

“You might as well ask, Why bother to eat your
      dinner?”

“But according to you, the moksha-medicine is dinner.”

“It’s a banquet,” she said emphatically. “And that’s precisely why there has to be meditation. You can’t have banquets everyday. They’re too rich and they last too long. Besides, banquets are provided by a caterer; you don’t have any part in the preparation of them. For your everyday diet you have to do your own cooking. The moksha-medicine comes as an occasional treat.”

Philip K. Dick wrote about the mood organ in his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but the mood organ isn’t a physical drug.  It uses a Penfield Wave Transmitter and so can instantly alter one’s brainwaves.  By dialing different numbers one can create the desired state of mind: 
“well-disposed toward the world”

“businesslike, professional attitude”

“self-accusatory depression”

“awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future”

“The desire to watch TV, no matter what is on it”

“ecstatic sexual bliss”

“pleased acknowledgement of husband’s superior wisdom in all matters”

“creative and fresh attitude toward one’s job”

Similarly, in Larry Niven’s Known Space novels, he introduced the Tasp.

The puppeteer addressed himself to Speaker-to-Animals.
“You understand that I will use the tasp every time you force me to.  I will use it if you attempt to use violence too often, or if you startle me too much; you will soon become dependent upon the tasp; if you kill me, you will still be ignobly bound by the tasp itself.”
“Very astute,” said Speaker.  “Brilliantly unorthodox tactics.  I will trouble you no more.”
“The puppeteer is right,” said Speaker.  “I would not risk the tasp again.  Too many jolts of pleasure would leave me his willing slave.  I, a kzin, enslaved to a herbivore!”

In George Lucas’ THX 1138, everyone is forced to take drugs that suppress emotions including sexual desire.

“Take four red capsules, In 10 minutes take two more. Help is on the way.”

The Matrix trilogy is a bit different.  The Matrix is an illusion, the ultimate dystopia.  In this case, the two pills are symbolic of choice, and the red pill is more of an anti-drug as it induces waking to reality.

Morpheus: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

In case you’re interested, there are many other fictional drugs.  I could describe the drugs in William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, but that would be a complicated endeavor and it doesn’t quite fit in with these other fictional drug stories.

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` : `

about 2 hours later

` said

Burroughs did ask the question “what would you do?”
he described Drugs as something which acted as a surrogate, something which replaced a genuine need.
Any need could be partly fulfilled or obscured with some drug.
The question “what would you do if you were faced with absolute need,” puts the reader in a position of trying to have compassion for another .
“absolute Need,” becomes a kind of analog for faith and for biological impulse.
for Burroughs, we are all addicts in one way or another, and the cure is a painful look at what life really is. Burroughs artfully works his own experience of addiction into his fiction through introduction and tricking the reader into believing that the writers own addiction is equivalent to the experience that he writes about in the first person.

The Antidote for W.S.B, was a drug that plunged the patient into absolute hell, forcing him or her to experience all the pain of Absolute Need. once the crisis was over, the patient could easily recognise the shallow fakery of any addiction, and also have a brutal compassion for every desiring, addicted being.
“Naked Lunch” tries to reveal the Horrors of Samsara and Karma, without diving into direct engagement with Buddhist texts or sanscrit terms.

I think that in many ways a drug described in fiction is a fictional drug. One could watch “Reefer Madness,”  and understand the fear of insanity  and decadence while rcognizing that  the movie is not very accurate in describing  the way pot affects people.
It could be said that every character in a novel or story  functions as an agent for a part of the authors own mind or cosciousness. In that way the drugs which effect the characters are also agents of the authors own sense of reallity.
I am curious about the promotion of SSRI drugs and how they seemed to Prromise to remove all the unreal worries and anxieties. In reallity i have heard some success stories, but i’ve also seen at least one person go from writing a lot of poetry to writing in his or her own blood and threatening to “jump.” (after Prozac)
I know enough behavioral Psychologists and MIT Bio-chem majors to understand a little about why this can happen.

Another compelling and culturally signifigant Fiction with Lots of Drug Use is the “Teachings of Don Juan,” by Carlos Castenada. Actually the first four books are relevant. he wrote others, later but Journey to Ixtlan was the one which earned him a PhD. after wards he was did credited and later people came to believe that not only were the books fiction, but so was the author.
My adoptive mother, who was an anthropologist claimed that she had met him several times at conventions in the sixties, and that he was “evasive,”
The Red Pill Blue Pill  in the Matrix most resembles the promise and the reallity of mind bending drugs from the Sixties Seventies Drug culture.
peace.
bill

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 5 hours later

Nicole said

Bill, that’s very interesting… thanks, tremendously insightful.

Ben, do you mind my asking why you’re exploring this today? I’d know better how to respond if I understood your “take” on this.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 7 hours later

Marmalade said

Nicole,

Its been on my mind recently, but I don’t remember what started my contemplations in this direction.  I wanted to blog about something and actually was intending to blog about something else, and yet for some reason this topic was calling out to be written.  The fictional drugs were on my mind because I was thinking about our relationship to reality and emotions.  The fictional drugs are just metaphors.  I wasn’t thinking about real drugs.

I was wondering what do people truly want.  If it were a real choice, would be choose the red or the blue pill?  Would people want reality even if it was harsh?  Would people want truth even if it meant discontentment?  Personally, which pill would I take?  I don’t know.

I was also wondering about the realities we create.  If we idealize happiness above all else, what kind of society is built on that ideal?  If pain, suffering, and discontentment could be entirely eliminated from human experience, would a truly good world result?  Or is there a purpose served by these emotions our culture judges as negative and useless?  If people never struggled, would society lose a depth of insight?  If artists never became imbalanced, would great art no longer be made?  If people didn’t feel discontentment, would people no longer strive to make the world better?  If people felt no dissatisfied longing, would religion lose its inspiration?

I was feeling particularly compelled by the dystopian visions.  There is a connection between how we relate to our emotions and how we relate to people.  It seems to me that a society that encourages or demands emotions to be suppressed and controlled will engender a government that suppresses and controls the populace.  And then there is the world we live in where certain drugs are encouraged or even enforced in some cases and other drugs are harshly banned.  What does our present society’s relationship to drugs say about our relationship to eachother?  What future are we creating?

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 8 hours later

Marmalade said

Bill, thanks for the nice long post!  And especially thanks for describing Burroughs’ take on drugs.  I didn’t emphasize it in this blog, but addiction is definitely an important issue.  Addiction isn’t just about drug use.  It represents an actual need.  How this all relates to faith and compassion is also very important.  The possibility of selflessness when faced with suffering comes to mind.  The Burroughs’ story I’m thinking about is  The Junky’s Christmas.  The main character’s suffering because of addiction allows him to recognize and respond to the true suffering in another.

You mentioned SSRIs.  I was reading something about psychiatric drugs.  I can’t remember which specific class of drugs the author referred to, but the author was mentioning how meds can sometimes interfere with the healing process.  I have some personal experience with psych meds, but this is an issue I don’t feel entirely sure about. 

I don’t know too much about Castenada.  I did read some of his books years ago.  Its writers such as him that helped create idealization around psychedelics.  Psychedelics are an entirely different kind of drug.  They are quite the opposite of many popular drugs in that they aren’t addictive.

Julie : Waterbearer

about 10 hours later

Julie said

Ben,

This topic really cuts me to the core.  It is so relevant, to me and to our society.  I was shocked when I read a couple of months ago that Risperdal (an antipsychotic) ranks 13 on a list of the top 20 most highly prescribed drugs in the United States.  I’m sure antidepressants were in the top five. 

What does this say about our society?  That we find life and living so damned painful that the only way we can cope is through pharmaceuticals? 

There was a time in my life that I needed antidepressant medication desperately, but the side effects were almost as bad as the illness.  I thank God I was able to get off them. 

Of course, for my son and millions like him, antipsychotic medication is the only way he is able to function somewhat normally at all. 

Still, there were times in the past several months when my son displayed psychic knowledge during his psychotic illnesses.  I would really like to find out if anyone else has known of such a thing and if there is any thought in the scientific world of studying whether psychosis is the result of any inability to integrate an actively functioning “Sixth Sense” – would we all go crazy if we could “see dead people”??  I’ve been meaning to post this on the Psychology thread, but so far haven’t had the guts to bring it up.  It’s just too close to home at the moment. 

Blessings,
Julie

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 10 hours later

Marmalade said

I took Risperdal for a while a long time ago.  It was a powerful med.  I was taking it for what the psychiatrist diagnosed as borderline thought disorder.  I’ve since tried to research what borderline thought disorder even is, but haven’t figured out what I was precisely being diagnosed with.

I’m also curious about the possible relationship between ‘abnormal’ experiences and psychiatric illnesses.  I do feel that the purpose of concensus reality is to filter out most data.  I truly doubt most people could function if they saw reality unfiltered.  I can’t even imagine what society would be like if people regularly had paranormal experiences.

You’ve hit upon a central theme in my own thinking.  Do we want reality?  And, more importantly, can we handle reality?  If not, then maybe its wise that we don’t see reality clearly.  I’ve heard the theory that maybe repression is a healthy response to trauma.  Afterall, from societys perspective, the functional person is able to compartmentalize their lives.  I do have a sneaking suspicion that the seeking of happiness and the seeking of reality are somewhat at cross-purpose to eachother.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

excellent point, Ben, you put your finger on part of my uneasiness about the whole pursuit of happiness thing. One of my disciplines is to embrace the now, even aspects that I want to reject. This is hard for me at times and I admit that i still often switch off the news because I find it unbearably harsh. But a work in progress. Which pill would I choose, red or blue? Like you I am not sure. I’d like to think I’d go to Zion but the Matrix is so attractive…

I hear you too about borderline thought disorder. Sounds a little like borderline personality disorder, which seems to translate into “girls being themselves and not conforming to societal expectations” (have you  all seen  the movie Girl Interrupted?).

I don’t think most of us could handle reality unfiltered. We are easily overwhelmed.

Julie, I hear what you are saying. It is a risky business to put something out there on the God Pod when it gets very close to home. Jay used to do that a lot but I think that he had a very rough time with how the problem of evil thread went at some points, so I respect totally your reluctance to explore something so important and tender in this forum. As much as we try to keep things on an even keel, people are people, and are not always sensitive … Thank God for anti-psychotics, but that must be so difficult…

Anti-depressants… it scares me how many people are put on them and how difficult they can be to get off. I can totally understand using them to get you through a rough patch but we are really badly over-medicated as a society. Ritalin is another over-prescribed drug, against “boyness”, which I don’t think is a disease… schools are badly set up for boys, fix that and Ritalin would not be needed.

Ben, what do we truly want? You have heard me quote from Lao Tsu about knowing at the centre of our beings who we are and what we want. But you and I know so many who are cut off from that inner knowing, who live lives of “quiet desperation” and conflictedness.

I have mixed feelings about psychedelics. Some people, like one of my new Montreal Gaia friends, feel they have found so much insight and peace through using them regularly. But there have been quite a number of casualties of “bad trips” and people hoping to get  a short cut to enlightenment who instead come to a dead end. 

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

Drugs are just extreme forms of the human desire to both control experience and free it.  But obviously this isn’t limited to drugs.  Concensus reality is very powerful. 

This is my main interest in psychedelics.  Such drugs have a way of causing one never to look at concensus reality the same again.  There is a good reason that they’ve often been used in traditional religions.  And there is good reason that they were administered by shamans in rituals.  Psychedelics shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Psychedelics are a strange class of drugs.  DMT, for instance, is found throughout nature and exists within every human brain… its been used in traditional cultures probably for longer than any of the major world religions have existed, probably longer than civilization has existed… and, yet, the US government has illegalized it.  Psychedelics are non-addictive.  If you take LSD right after having taken it previously, it has little to no effect.  Some psychedelics potentially are antidotes to addiction.  Lives are destroyed everyday by the legal use of the drug alcohol when there are drugs that could help people be free from alcoholoism but which are illegal.

What is the problem with this situation?  It largely comes down to our inherited monotheistic worldview.  In traditional cultures, psychedelics (along with alcohol and tobacco) had a place within the community.  They were controlled by being used religiously.  The rules surrounding traditional drug use weren’t arbitrary laws but were based on an experential relationship with the plant spirit of that drug.  The shamanistic use of psychedelics isn’t just about freeing our perception from normal reality because its also about supporting an important tradition within the community itself.  As soon as direct contact with the spirits is lost, religion becomes lifeless and so too the community.  Monotheism which says drugs are bad or even evil is also the very institution that desroyed the shamanistic cultures and hence destroyed the shamanistic traditions that taught the safe use of drugs.  Our society has a problem with addiction because we’ve lost contact with the spiritual experience that is the heart of a community.

I’m not trying to be a proponent for drugs here.  What I’m trying to point out is the situation of our experience being controlled.  Does a boy have a right to act like a boy or should he have his maleness controlled with Ritalin because its not socially acceptable?  Do we have a right to spiritual experience or must alternative experiences be controlled and punished?  Who gets to control my emotions, my experience, my perception… me or the government?  Are these dystopian visions where everyone is forced to take specific drugs really that far off or just around the corner?  Will we even see it coming?  We are an addictive society that looks to drugs for the answers to our problems… why would we resist such a future?  And already technology is on the market that can control brain functioning without the clumsy use of actually having to ingest something.  If our reality was being controlled, how would we even know it?  Our brains become entrained to tv every time we watch it which is essentially a form of addiction, but do most people think of themselves as addicted while watching tv… why?

Why is concensus reality so powerful?  Why does it seem where not able to handle reality unfiltered?

I have a theory about this.  Every culture has its consensus reality including traditional cultures.  Even psychedelics can be integrated into a concensus reality and even used to support it.  The drive for concensus reality seems a natural impulse.  Afterall, we are social animals.  Evolutionarily speaking, objective truth has limited value.  In order to survive, a human doesn’t need to know much.  All that a human needs to know is some practical knowledge about his immediate environment and community.  A humans just needs to know two basic things… what their niche is in whatever eco-system they find themselves in… and what is their role in the community they are born into.  Even today, the same basic rules for survival apply.  The average person doesn’t need to know that much.

So, if this is the case, how did humans manage to create such a complex society and amass so much knowledge.  Its not entirely unnatural.  We are omnivores and primates that have a wide diet often also have curious natures.  We are survivors because we are explorers.  Even so, we’ve come a long way and this can’t explain the explosion of civilization that happened thousands of years ago.

I like Paul Shepard’s idea that civilization is contrary to human nature because we’re still “beings of the Paleolithic”.  He sees modern humans as psychologically stunted and I’d guess that this relates also to the lack of initiatory rites in our culture.  Maybe we project parental roles onto our governments because we’re not fully matured adults ourselves.  The desire for concensus reality is natural, but it becomes even more emphasized in a larger society where control of the masses becomes more difficult.

As I wasn’t trying to romanticize about drugs, neither do I want to romanticize about the past.  My basic point is that reality and truth are only of minor significance to humans, and this is no less true now that we’ve seemed to have taken control of our collective destiny through civilization. 

This is a dilemma for me personally.  I idealize truth and reality, and yet nature doesn’t idealize truth and reality.  Why does truth and reality matter?  Why not submit myself without resistance to the consensual reality of my culture?  Why not just pick some ideology and base my life upon it without question?

The thing is I know that, if I did, I’d probably be happier… more contented, more successful, etc.  Why should I resist my own human nature, my own upbringing?  There is only one reason.  And that is if I believe that I’m not limited by my human nature.  So, what is beyond the human desire for consensus reality?  What is reality?  And why are certain rare humans so drawn towards what is beyond that they’re willing to sacrifice everything else?

Julie : Waterbearer

1 day later

Julie said

Ben,

you’re asking so  many important questions, truly I’m in awe.  Gonna take a while to process it though, but wanted to let you know I appreciate what you have said here and will respond eventually once it filters through my seven layered brain … 1) reptile, 2) primate, 3) ego-centered infant, 4) depressed teenager, 5) adult survivor, 6) free thinker 7) seventh layer – hey, where’d it go?  I left it here a few minutes ago, I could’ve sworn I saw it last week …

nikki…..hey are you coming to LA on the 12th or not???  Can’t you wait and come in August for the Beach Party???? Pul-eeeze???

Julie : Waterbearer

1 day later

Julie said

Okay – found the seventh layer of my brain.  Here you go:

 

Drugs are just extreme forms of the human desire to both control experience and free it.  But obviously this isn’t limited to drugs.  I agree.  I was attracted to religious experience for the same reason – control (via aligning myself with the powers that be) and freedom (to be free from the confines of the material world.)  Concensus reality is very powerful. 
What is the problem with this situation?  It largely comes down to our inherited monotheistic worldview.  In traditional cultures, psychedelics (along with alcohol and tobacco) had a place within the community.  They were controlled by being used religiously.  The rules surrounding traditional drug use weren’t arbitrary laws but were based on an experential relationship with the plant spirit of that drug.  The shamanistic use of psychedelics isn’t just about freeing our perception from normal reality because its also about supporting an important tradition within the community itself.  As soon as direct contact with the spirits is lost, religion becomes lifeless and so too the community.  I agree.  Monotheism which says drugs are bad or even evil is also the very institution that desroyed the shamanistic cultures and hence destroyed the shamanistic traditions that taught the safe use of drugs.  I’m not sure what you mean, that monotheism says drugs are bad.  Drugs as we know them today are a relatively new invention, not known at the time of Christ, for instance.  I feel the social need to control people’s experiences relates more to the corporate need to control the work force and maintain us in a state of monotonous predictability.  Workers having epiphanies don’t show up and count beans from 9 to 5 very well.  Our society has a problem with addiction because we’ve lost contact with the spiritual experience that is the heart of a community.  Absolutely. 
I’m not trying to be a proponent for drugs here.  What I’m trying to point out is the situation of our experience being controlled.  Does a boy have a right to act like a boy absolutely! We have been emasculating our boys for years or should he have his maleness controlled with Ritalin because its not socially acceptable?  Although, I believe there are environmental factors causing structural changes in the our children’s brains resulting in autism and ADHD that make it impossible for some children to sit still, be quiet and focus enough to produce written work as is expected by the schools, and for which they are being medicated.  What is needed is to find the cause of this and eliminate it if possible.  Do we have a right to spiritual experience yes definitely or must alternative experiences be controlled and punished?  Who gets to control my emotions, my experience, my perception… me or the government?  You – unless you are a danger to yourself.  I know – there’s a very fine line there.  Civil liberties versus civil protection – seat belts, motorcycle helmets, vaccinations all fall in this category.  Are these dystopian visions where everyone is forced to take specific drugs really that far off or just around the corner?  Speaking from my own experience, we are actually erring on the side of caution at this point.  It is next to impossible to have someone involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness unless they have a gun in their hand.  I have heard of parents lying to police and saying their psychotic child threatened them, just to get them hospitalized on a 72 hour hold.  Otherwise the police can’t take them in.  Will we even see it coming?  We are an addictive society that looks to drugs for the answers to our problems… why would we resist such a future?  And already technology is on the market that can control brain functioning without the clumsy use of actually having to ingest something.  If our reality was being controlled, how would we even know it?  Our brains become entrained to tv every time we watch it which is essentially a form of addiction, but do most people think of themselves as addicted while watching tv… why?  True….I will never forget the line from “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane” in which Jodie Foster says, “television is stultifying.”  I no longer watch tee-vee and I feel much more free and alive for it.  Even some of the gas pumps here have video feeds, it makes me sick.  They’re everywhere – the grocery checkout too – and this week I saw a dentists’ office that had t.v.’s next to the patient’s chairs – I guess to make them feel better?  No thanks. 
Why is concensus reality so powerful?  Why does it seem where not able to handle reality unfiltered? I would have to venture a guess that this is the way God created us, at least at this point in our evolution.  I have always sensed there is much more “behind the curtain” and felt quite frustrated that I couldn’t access it.  More comes through now, though, than in the past, so I’m pretty sure that if and when I’m ready, I will experience more input. 
I have a theory about this.  Every culture has its consensus reality including traditional cultures.  Even psychedelics can be integrated into a concensus reality and even used to support it.  The drive for concensus reality seems a natural impulse.  Afterall, we are social animals.  Evolutionarily speaking, objective truth has limited value.  In order to survive, a human doesn’t need to know much.  All that a human needs to know is some practical knowledge about his immediate environment and community.  A humans just needs to know two basic things… what their niche is in whatever eco-system they find themselves in… and what is their role in the community they are born into.  Even today, the same basic rules for survival apply.  The average person doesn’t need to know that much.  True.    
So, if this is the case, how did humans manage to create such a complex society and amass so much knowledge.  Is that what is known as Complexity theory?   That systems constantly evolve to more complex states as they go along?  I think that is part of our divine nature.  To expand out into more complex forms and then collapse again into primordial parts, then reassemble again….like LEGOS.  Its not entirely unnatural.  We are omnivores and primates that have a wide diet often also have curious natures.  We are survivors because we are explorers.  Even so, we’ve come a long way and this can’t explain the explosion of civilization that happened thousands of years ago.
This is a dilemma for me personally.  I idealize truth and reality, and yet nature doesn’t idealize truth and reality.  Oh, but it does.  Go camping alone in the wilderness and you will be thrust into NOTHING BUT total reality.  Survival.  Snowstorms.  Grizzly bears.  Whispering spirits of the mountain gods.  Woo-hoo!  Seriously, I would argue that the reason for our collective angst is that we are completely out of touch with reality, a la your comment about t.v.  What is less real that American television, American food, and American politics?   Why does truth and reality matter?  Because they are true and real.  Why not submit myself without resistance to the consensual reality of my culture?  Why not just pick some ideology and base my life upon it without question?  Because you are too smart for that, Grasshopper. 
The thing is I know that, if I did, I’d probably be happier… more contented, more successful, etc.  Why should I resist my own human nature, my own upbringing?  There is only one reason.  And that is if I believe that I’m not limited by my human nature.  Your human nature is to grow, create, and become.  It is society that tries to limit you.  So, what is beyond the human desire for consensus reality?  Because we can only process so much data before we blow our circuits.  What is reality?  What you perceive – even the things you think you can almost perceive, but not quite.  Even the things you WANT to perceive and can’t.  All those are real.  And why are certain rare humans so drawn towards what is beyond that they’re willing to sacrifice everything else?  Because, as my son says, we are THPE-THUL.  That’s why we’re in THPE-THUL Ed. 

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

Hey Julie, yes, I need to come to LA from the 11th to the 13th, cause I have IAKF meetings to run in the area and have made promises to everyone in the association that I’d do it . Hope it still works for you – if not, I will make other arrangements . PM me your phone info and we’ll finalise everything directly one way or another ok?

I wish I could come to your beach party in August but besides my trip to Scotland which is already booked, all my trips this year revolve around work, and work gets too busy in Aug-Nov for any more travels…

Ok, now to respond to Ben’s and your responses…

Yes, there are definitely huge problems with the level of addiction in this society, to uppers and downers, Ritalin and prescription drugs of all kinds, cigarettes, alcohol, pornography, sex, TV, the music industry, compulsive consumerism, sports, politics … the list is depressingly long.

all of these take us away from reality and ourselves and God.

we do need to engage with spirit, engage with life, God, our true selves.

the noise is deafening. i too have stopped watching TV many years ago, and commercial radio. i have chosen not to medicate myself when depressed but to deal with it more directly.  (Note – this does not mean I think medication is never a good idea. Sometimes it’s the best way to heal or deal with whatever. Just not for me, so far)

we have lost our way as a culture. as individuals we need to find the way back.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

Julie,

I’m not sure what you mean, that monotheism says drugs are bad.  Drugs as we know them today are a relatively new invention, not known at the time of Christ, for instance.

I was primarily thinking about psychedelics, but Muslims and certain Christians are even against imbibing alcohol.  Many of the religions that Christianity destroyed probably used various plant-based drugs.  The Greek mystery religions that Christianity replaced quite likely used psychoactive plants.  Some have theorized that the Gnostics partook of psychedelic mushrooms.  Anyways, certainly various drugs (recreational and religious) were known of at that time.   As for the shamanistic religions Christianity butted heads with along the way, a plant spirit that acts as a mediary to the otherworld is in direct competition with Christ’s role as a mediary to God.  Some of the ‘witches’ who were killed probably were knowledgable of plant-based drugs, maybe even psychedelics.

I feel the social need to control people’s experiences relates more to the corporate need to control the work force and maintain us in a state of monotonous predictability.  Workers having epiphanies don’t show up and count beans from 9 to 5 very well.

Yes, that too.

Although, I believe there are environmental factors causing structural changes in the our children’s brains resulting in autism and ADHD that make it impossible for some children to sit still, be quiet and focus enough to produce written work as is expected by the schools, and for which they are being medicated.

Have you heard of Dr. Leonard Sax?  He writes about this.

You – unless you are a danger to yourself.  I know – there’s a very fine line there.  Civil liberties versus civil protection – seat belts, motorcycle helmets, vaccinations all fall in this category.  

I agree there is a balance.  I’m neither arguing for or against drugs, nor for or against government involvement.  I’m just looking at the possibilities of where the world might be going.

Speaking from my own experience, we are actually erring on the side of caution at this point.  It is next to impossible to have someone involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness unless they have a gun in their hand.  I have heard of parents lying to police and saying their psychotic child threatened them, just to get them hospitalized on a 72 hour hold.  Otherwise the police can’t take them in.

You may be right.  That is outside of my personal experience.  But I understand where you’re coming from.  My mom just retired from working in the public schools, and she noticed a big difference in how kids are treated now as compared to the past.  Basically, a teacher can do very little to control a child.  Even if a kid who is larger than the teacher is hitting the teacher, the teacher can’t do anything but passive self-defense without possibly getting sued.  But passive self-defense is nearly impossible with a full-grown kid which means the teacher just has to let themselves be beat up until several other people can help to subdue the kid.

True….I will never forget the line from “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane” in which Jodie Foster says, “television is stultifying.”  I no longer watch tee-vee and I feel much more free and alive for it.  Even some of the gas pumps here have video feeds, it makes me sick.  They’re everywhere – the grocery checkout too – and this week I saw a dentists’ office that had t.v.’s next to the patient’s chairs – I guess to make them feel better?  No thanks.

TV can be problematic, but its not without benefits to society.  Modern civilization wouldn’t be possible without it.  I try to keep it in context of all the challenges of our culture.  Despite its potential for addiction, its not our biggest problem and maybe not even inherently problematic.  I was just using it as an example of how pervasive and subtle addictive behavior is in our culture.

Is that what is known as Complexity theory?   That systems constantly evolve to more complex states as they go along?  I think that is part of our divine nature.  To expand out into more complex forms and then collapse again into primordial parts, then reassemble again….like LEGOS.

I don’t really know much of anything about complexity theory.  That complexity is an evolutionary impulse seems like a possiblity.  That is similar to an Integral view of development.  At the moment, I don’t know if this possibility makes sense to me or not.  There does seem to be some truth to it.

Oh, but it does.  Go camping alone in the wilderness and you will be thrust into NOTHING BUT total reality.  Survival.  Snowstorms.  Grizzly bears.  Whispering spirits of the mountain gods.  Woo-hoo! 

By nature, I was meaning our biological natures.  But nature as you’re meaning it is something else.  What I’m wondering about is the relationship between our biological natures and our ‘spiritual’ natures.  I feel there is something other than biological impulses, but I’m not sure exactly what that is. 

Seriously, I would argue that the reason for our collective angst is that we are completely out of touch with reality, a la your comment about t.v.  What is less real that American television, American food, and American politics?

Maybe so.  At this point, I start to wonder even what the word ‘reality’ means.  How is something more or less real?  And when we refer to spiritual reality as real reality, what are we referring to?

Because you are too smart for that, Grasshopper.

Thanks for the vote of confidence.  🙂

Your human nature is to grow, create, and become.  It is society that tries to limit you.

I’m curious as to what human nature means to you.  How do you see human nature as different from society?

Because, as my son says, we are THPE-THUL.  That’s why we’re in THPE-THUL Ed.

Well… that clears everything up.  :):)

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

Thanks, Ben, I’m glad you brought that last up. What do you and your son mean by those enigmatic letters, Julie?

Ben, spiritual reality, and that includes the inner world of things like Love and Longing for beauty, is more real because it is eternal. The things we think of as real in this world are fleeting. Blink your eyes and that image on the screen is gone, turn around and that band that was so popular is villified and scorned, tomorrow the green leaves of the tree will be autumn glory and then they will be dead and blown away… but spirit and the things of spirit go on forever, and shine on beyond space time. Plato had a glimpse of this when he thought of the Real and Forms… you’re probably familiar with his thinking.

I don’t know how Julie differentiate human nature from society, but to me, the aggregate of society is a much lower common denominator than any individual human spirit –  our True  Selves are far beyond what we can imagine while societal “norms” try to shackle us and limit us to far, far less than we can think, do and be.

Yes, there is good in TV. Things are not good or bad in and of themselves, usually. But for many the minuses outweigh the pluses, in terms of not just all the garbage they consume through all the commercials and other kinds of dreck they watch, but the overwhelming passivity and anti-social nature of the thing. For all the important downsides of computer addiction, at least it is a far more interactive and social activity…. 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

Nicole, this…
“Plato had a glimpse of this when he thought of the Real and Forms… you’re probably familiar with his thinking.”
…and this…
“our True  Selves are far beyond what we can imagine while societal “norms” try to shackle us and limit us to far, far less than we can think, do and be.”
…remind me of Jung.

Jung has influenced me to a great degree.  I love his view of archetypes which are often underappreciated and misunderstood.  I tend to think that archetypes are platonically more real than everyday perceived reality and especially more real than collective/consensual reality.  Jung was always wary of groups.  He was wary of his followers creating an institute in his name and he was wary of his typology being systematized for large-scale use.  Jung definitely believed that its best to trust in one’s own direct personal experience.  But I don’t know what Jung thought about tv.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

yes, yes, Ben, archetypes, it’s been so long I’m passionate about them too.  Jung too! He is so cool. I think he was very right to be wary of institutes and systematised thought. We see the problems with Wilber and the II, don’t we? Direct personal experience is in fact the only way we can really engage reality. i wonder what he would have thought about tv, good question…

Julie : Waterbearer

3 days later

Julie said

Ben & Nicole,

Awesome discussion ~ covers so much I can’t wrap my noodle around it yet, but in the meantime, I can at least decipher “THPE-SHUL” – it’s “SPECIAL” with a lisp…. :))

Love ~

Nicole : wakingdreamer

4 days later

Nicole said

LOL Julie! yes of course… I’m thpeshul too :):)

I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on Jung, archetypes etc

Resurgence of Imagination

My response to Matt Cardin’s response to Damien G. Walter’s response about Arthur Machen:

Beyond just horror, all works of imagination have had an upsurge of popularity: movies, graphic novels; and, within fiction, speculative fiction in general. 

In movies, this can partly be explained by increasingly better special effects and graphic novels have been piggybacking on the superhero movie boom.  In general, I think movies have made accessible realms of imagination that were outside of the norm in the past.  I think the popularity of fantasy fiction is directly linked to the changes in movie-making.  Even someone like Machen probably wasn’t all that popular in the past except amongst the literati.

There are a couple of other reasons that imagination has been let loose. 

First, many of the censorship laws applied to the movie and comic book industries stifled creativity for many decades… or at least forced creativity outside of the mainstream and into the black market.  Comic books such as the Watchmen were direct commentary on this dark period of the American imagination.

Second, I think that imaginative and speculative art in all its forms captures the public attention during times of social upheaval and stress.  The American public has been under great stress this past decade, and it seems the fear-mongering has hit a high point recently.  People want to escape reality and also imagine new possibilities

And my response to Matt Cardin’s interview with Stephen Jones:

This shows a contrasting view to that of your blog post about Arthur Machen.

I generally disagree with the negative view here.  If I remember correctly, more books are being published in larger numbers than ever before in history.  I was peruzing Amazon the other day.  There were tons of books on a wide variety of intellectual topics and there was no lack of such books having been printed in recent years. 

With e-book readers, this book boom will only boom even further.  With an e-book, a person can easily carry around all of the volumes of the massive Oxford dictionary (which in physical form take up an entire bookshelf).  I think, in particular, small presses are going to get an increase of sales as e-book readers become more popular.  Books that have been out of print for decades will soon be available to anyone in the world at cheap costs.

Also, the internet helps the average writer.  The internet makes it easier for writers to interact with other writers and interact with their readers.  And the internet makes it easier for a writer just starting out to get their name and work out there by joining forums and starting their own website.  The internet has introduced me to many new writers including those in the genres of horror and weird fiction.

However, it’s possible my view of reality is too rosy.  I live in a liberal college town (Iowa City) which has the oldest writers workshop and supposedly has the highest per capita in the US of the well educated.  I’m surrounded by bookstores and book-lovers.

Fiction Books From My Past Vaguely Remembered

There are some books I’m trying to remember from my past.

 – – –

(1) When I was in 7th grade, I discovered in the school library an author who wrote a series of books. 

The story was about a boy and older man who is a wizard.  I believe it took place in the US somewhere.  The kid was essentially an apprentice, but there was nothing formal about it.  Even the wizard I don’t think dressed oddly.  It wasn’t like Harry Potter.  The wizards and witches were just normal people. 

In one book, the boy finds a small statue of liberty and removes it from a house.  It turns out it was cursed.  In some book (that one or another), the boy and the wizard are driving in a car and being chased by a witch also in a car (or at least I think the chase was enirely in cars, and the boy and wizard cross a bridge where the witch can’t follow because of the running water.  I read several of the books in the series and I wish I could remember who the author was.

 – – –

(2) The next book was after I graduated from high school and so was in the mid 1990s (probably 1996), but I don’t know when the novel was published. 

The story was about two guys who are friends and a girl.  I believe both guys were in love with the girl or else only one of them was in love with her at first.  One friend kills himself by jumping off a dam, and I remember the surviving friend later on visiting the dam and contemplating his friend.  As I remember it, the surviving friend and the girl hook up, but I can’t remember what happened to their relationship.  I believe this was going on in the summertime.  Near the end of the book, the surviving friend goes to a beach where he meets a guy who he looks up to.  The guy is very energetic and it later shown after he crashes that he has manic-depression.  It’s a coming of age story.  I suppose it was depressing, but I remember being very moved by it. 

If I remember correctly, the title was something like Save the Last Dance, Save the Last Dance for Me, Last Dance, or even maybe it was Last Summer… I swear there was a “Last” in the title somewhere, but I could be wrong (I might be mixing the title up with some entirely different book).

 – – –

I’ve done many websearches about these books.  No matter what words I put in the search, I can’t find the books I’m looking for.  I don’t know how to find books when one doesn’t know either titles or authors.  I’m writing this blog post in the hope that someone out there will notice it and give me an answer.

I sometimes really really wish I had a better memory.