During the tedium of 2020 I had the great fortune of befriending a man via the internet who I consider to be akin to the Dale Carnegie of our day. He’s a voice actor for numerous Fortune 100 companies & even The Obama Administration, and a communication skills coach who is equipped to improve seasoned executives and the communication-crippled alike. His name is Richard Di Britannia.
As I got to know Richard better, I came to think of him in Carnegian terms because his commitment to excellent communication seems absolute, for himself and his clients. While many in the communication coaching business of today are akin to Bandaid salesmen in an ICU ward—teaching people shortcuts in order to gloss over foundational issues that have and will continue to hinder their thought, speech, and thus life entire—he takes a holistic approach. He addresses head-on the difficult reality that if one struggles to speak effectively, it is probably because they do not understand their own thoughts and thus themselves well enough to articulate their innermost contents to others. Thus he considers communication coaching equal parts physical (the voice), practical (how and when to speak), and psychological (what and why to speak).
This is a radically contrarian choice in an age with an ever-shrinking attention span. Indeed, there is no question that he has foregone much quick-and-easy profit in the idealistic attempt to provide clients with what they ultimately need in addition to what they immediately want. He is the sort who could not live with the thought of telling a lie, even a partial one, while teaching others to speak well and true.
It is this integrity which made me thrilled at the chance to edit Richard’s second book, an opus upon how intentional self-talk, self-knowledge, and private preparation are the X-factor which renders once-regular humans capable of dazzling others with nothing but their voice. It is a rare look under the hood of some carefully-guarded tricks-of-the-trade across a plethora of industries–including those of friendship, partnership, and love that we all must occasionally ply.
When one does not acknowledge or even entertain the possibility of objective truth (be it decreed by gods, God, the Dao, or even the ability of humanity to occasionally comprehend an objective phenomenon with their subjective minds), morals become as vague and malleable as politics. In other words, they are there to serve a purpose (usually a self-interested purpose), not in-and-of-themselves. They never disappear entirely, of course–it is a rare thief indeed who feels no moral outrage when he himself is robbed–but beyond their immediate utility they have no independent existence.
It is likely Plato’s “world of forms” was born of such; he saw that if Love had no existence independent of the beings that experience it, it could become effectively undefinable and thus unrecoverable if ever lost. Worse yet, one might call Hate “Love” in Orwellian fashion and find no rebuke on the grounds that words are just arbitrary monkey-noises anyway. If Love was not a Form that is discoverable by but independent of the beings that interface with it, then it could be brought just as low as those beings occasionally are.
This is precisely the state of current philosophy, and we would do well to recognize that this philosophy has escaped the universities and is now roaming loose everywhere. It is no longer an abstract and academic but a deeply personal matter. Indeed, it may not be an overstatement to say that the absence of objective truth and the arbitrariness of words has taken on the cultural relevance that religion once had. Where the process of picking a social in-group once involved electing a denomination (a particular way of talking about God), one now elects a particular way of talking, period: an argot concerning one’s favorite social pet project.
The Right, as usual, is mostly reactionary and thus is limited to simple slang such as snowflake, SJW, triggered, degenerate, etc. In other words, they are always talking about their enemies. The Left are always talking about their enemies too, but they do it in terms of contrast; they delineate friend from foe by a complex series of shibboleth‘s. In the LGBTQ-XYZ crowd (something that appears to me to have become rather separate from just being gay etc), the test of purity is a comprehension of endlessly proliferating pronouns. Race/class-Andy’s do much the same with Marxist (usually not from Marx himself) ists and isms.
And while the comparable to religious linguistics seems apt, one can’t help but notice the difference be it from Left or Right. When God is one’s linguistic foundation or implication, one is always subconsciously citing a good that exists. When politics is one’s foundation/implication, one is always subconsciously citing a good that does not yet exist, or a wrong that does. Is it possible that this explains why we appear to be emotional basket-cases compared to stoical ancestors, despite having far easier lives?
To all such politic-ians (as in the word Christ-ians), classical morality takes on at the very least an annoying connotation, if not becoming the very definition of evil.
By annoying, I mean that a morality for-its-own-sake is rigid and thus does not always conveniently conform to one’s self-interest. Indeed, classical morality is inherently an inconvenience: “pick up your cross” and “desire is suffering” are not exactly preludes to having a good time.
But we are far past that; classical morality as the current definition of evil is close to being the rule rather than the exception. By this I mean that when one does not believe in objective truth, the insistence that there is and that one should conform to it will only ever appear tyrannical, judgmental, prejudicial, bigoted, etc. The first and best example is Milton’s Luciferian philosophy, wherein one intentionally elects their own subjective lies because they prefer them to the Objective Truth.
Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.
Lucifer, Milton’s Paradise Lost
Today, the starkest but certainly not the last example is transgenderism. To briefly recap: gender dysphoria is a mental health disorder. The psychologist John Money was the first to entirely rethink gender and consequently enshrine ‘trans’ as something separate from the gender dysphoria condition. If this is the first time you’re hearing of Dr Money, a brief trip to Wikipedia is in order. Within about 30 seconds you will definitively know why you have never heard of him before, even though he single-handedly coined the terms gender identity, gender role, and sexual orientation.
I take transgenderism as my example because its linguistic roots are surprisingly simple to trace. As the whole of Christianity rests upon Christ’s resurrection, so the whole of transgenderism rests upon the semantic nuance “biological sex is not synonymous with gender.”
I’ve just pulled out my Rodale Synonym Finder from 1978, and here is what it says upon the matter: “Sex. n. 1. gender.” Ladies and gentlemen, every thesaurus before a certain recent date now contains “hate speech.” Indeed, it is no longer out of the question that I will one day be imprisoned or worse for even mentioning such. And while I do not find this a particularly appealing hill to die upon, my line in the sand was several hills ago.
To be clear, I see no need to differentiate between the words “sex” (of the biological variety) and “gender.” Their synonymous nature worked perfectly fine for circa 20,000 – 200,000 years, and I see nothing particularly impressive about Dr Money’s intellect or character to make me believe he is an existential Archimedes capable of achieving a Eureka! none ever had before. If ever I do profess a differentiation between the two, it will only be in a Winston “do it to Julia!” context. Though I hope it will sound more like “THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!”
Like any true conservative, I am suspicious of any sudden, much less frantic, change. And when that frantic change is being perpetuated by people who openly declare that they do not acknowledge the existence of objective truths, the glass on my bullshit-meter shatters entirely. To simultaneously say: “Look here, we’ve found the new way, the better way, the only way” AND “There is no foundation upon which to determine the truth”, is the gibbering of gremlins from the abyss. Since they admittedly dwell in a universe wherein language’s only purpose is manipulation, whenever they speak I safely conclude they are attempting to manipulate me.
Such is the nightmare Plato anticipated. And, in pondering how to remain somewhat sane in an approaching social situation reminiscent of I Am Legend (the book, anyway), I am compelled to revisit such basics. We know the necessity of the Forms, but what of the morals themselves? Why should one say “Not my will, but thine be done” rather than giving in to the Luciferian temptation? Spirituality reasons aside (of which I suspect there are plenty), it can perhaps be summarized with one word: imperative. Kant’s categorical imperative is the secular solution (although it is doubtful that a secular solution is at all sufficient).
Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.
Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
Which, of course, is just a fancier way of saying The Golden Rule. With Kant’s imperative, one need not be dragged into the weeds of debating whether an act is wrong in isolation. Instead, actions are simply dealt with in terms of their real-world consequences. “Only harming one’s self” is a fiction. Thus, when one looks back with mystification at the alleged immorality of non-heterosexuality, one need only recollect that non-hetereosexuality as a universal law would end the species.
What is there to be proud of in divorcing sexuality from pair-bonding procreation and thus the family and thus the species itself? Nothing. And lest we only pick on the non-hetereosexual, the same exact thing can be said of pornography and birth control writ large. Homosexuality has historically been persecuted because it historically existed; the other two are so new we still have no idea what we’re doing, like cavemen with a burning branch. We want the warmth but not the forest fire.
However hard one tries to render morality purely secular, purely utilitarian, there is some mysterious quality about it which is upwards-borne, tugging the mundane toward the transcendent. After all, it is quite idealistic and not at all practical to expect sexuality should be a matter of pride or anything more than animal hedonism. Thus Kant is merely an appetizer where God is the main course. That is precisely why I treat these merely as a personal foundation rather than any kind of solution. If anything in the future is certain, it is that the majority of internet-connected humanity will never willingly return to the “yoke” of God’s authority.
No matter how hellish they consequently render the world, it is still better than serving to those whose main (or perhaps even sole) personality trait is that of rebellion. Rebellion against what? Anything less than absolute freedom. Just as political “progress” is a paradoxical continuum (from casting down the censors in the name of free speech to becoming censors in a secular holy war against “hate speech”), so is this freedom-for-its-own sake that is a freedom from rather than a freedom to. Freedom to is constructive; one has some work in mind which their hand is being kept from. Freedom from is often resentful, and all too easily devolves to the emotional level of a temper-tantrum. In extremis, freedom from may even preclude freedom to, for any and all necessities may eventually be conceived of as burdens–even the burden of life itself. Death is the only absolute freedom–and even then, “What dreams may come?”
This idea of being so resentful that one wishes to be freed from life entirely–suicidality, in a word–occurs to me in a related but quite nuanced way. It occurs to me whenever I think in terms of the current buzzword, “elites.” On the one hand I am skeptical of this term, due to being so loaded with conspiratorial connotations. There may well be cabals (most likely thinktanks and NGOs) that think of themselves in terms of Illuminates, perhaps even literal Luciferians, but I very much doubt that one such small group decisively dominates the planet, if only due to having to vie with competition and upstarts. That isn’t to say that such a monopoly is impossible–just unlikely and extremely hard-won.
Nevertheless, there seem to be a few commonalities that all such creepy elites today would generally agree upon. The main one is the idea of overpopulation. This term is often dog-whistled in terms of “global warming,” “environmental concerns,” etc. This is rather amusing when one considers that the persons who most often invoke such terms are the captains and regulators of Industry. If they’re so damn worried about it they could very well shut down a factory or two. No, their real concern is what happens when there are so many plebs on the planet that it becomes difficult for such overlords to continue enjoying themselves. The most frank among them are currently looking to set sail for Mars before this possibility becomes a certainty. But one gets the sense that most of them have no intentions of going anywhere.
So, the thought experiment becomes this. You have generational, dynastic wealth, high-IQ, a psychopathic ego, a sociopathic conscience, and plenty of time on your hands. You believe with fair assurance the world is X number of years away from being overpopulated to the extent that global farmland will falter and fail. You believe the species will not survive such an event. What do you do?
Is it truly “tinfoil conspiracy” to suppose that such persons would resort to a literal Hegelian dialectic, especially of the three stages variety? Problem. Reaction. Solution. Cause the problem, having anticipated the reaction, so-as to provide a predetermined solution. Perhaps the most well-known literary example of this dialectic is the conclusion of Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Therein, consummate elite Ozymandias hoaxes an effectual “alien invasion” (killing most of New York City in the process), knowing this crisis will cause the nuclear disarmament and political reorganization he desires.
Like all things of a conspiratorial flavor, it takes a slight squint to make out. But when I consider the unlikely rapidity of these aforementioned cultural changes despite the stubbornly-unchanging constitution of human nature, and the byproduct they all have in common (a dissolution of family and nationality which would tend to result in less births and less geopolitical competition over time), I have to wonder. One does not necessarily need an Ozymandias in order to fan the flames of mass psychosis. But when the mass psychosis coincidentally checks the To Do list of most every elitist busybody alive today, one must at least marvel at their devilish good luck. And one very much wonders whether they will allow their children to be consumed by the psychoses they so readily encourage in others’.
If I had to contrast myself with the time I’m living in (always a difficult & rather vain thing to do), I would have to settle upon the fact that I more-or-less remember who I was as a child and feel that person is with me still. A less fanciful way of saying this might be to say, I have certainly grown older, but I have not definitively changed.
To some I’m sure this statement smells of immaturity, and perhaps it does. I never underwent the complete break with my past that is usually initiated either by coming to detest the persons and places of one’s childhood, or worse yet having those things blighted by traumatic connotations.
Quite the opposite, to the extent that my sense of nostalgia is not confined to particularly pleasant aspects of my past (beloved movies, games, etc). Rather than being confined such externals, my sense of nostalgia is most potent and profound when I think of who I was then–all the wrongs I had not done, or was not yet aware that anyone had done. In short, I liked myself and the world better, and that is what I am nostalgic for.
This nostalgia seems to be some subconscious bedrock, for I am usually conscious of it only after waking from a deep sleep. Then I can briefly catch glimpses of what this Original Me would think of whatever stimuli Current Me is nocturnally processing. This is not necessarily a new revelation–since my teenage years I have occasionally realized that a secondary voice occasionally commentates my dreams, and that this voice is most certainly Original Me–as unchanged and intact as when I left him.
However, this most recent instance was an emotional record-breaker. In short, I woke to realize that Current Me was processing a popular young p*rnstar. Readers are welcome to giggle until it is understood that she was–at least in this case–being thought of as an actual person, a fellow stranger, rather than a piece of meat. And for perhaps a minute I felt entirely overwhelmed by grief on her behalf, exactly as Original Me would have felt upon the subject.
I’m aware that this is strange in general, much less in the context of the here-and-now. Doubtlessly there is even some wretch out there who is liable to feel angry at me that I would feel unsolicited pity for her, what with her absolute autonomy as a strong, independent, empowered woman etc, ad nauseam. Well, take it up with 1998.
Nonetheless, this strangeness settled me upon a rather relevant word: continuity. However much older I become, however much differentiated from Original Me (almost always for the worst), I cannot shake a sense of continuity with him.
How many feel similarly today about anything? Where is the continuity in the postmodern first world? I must confess, at times it feels as though everyone, be it millennials or even boomers, have been struck by some kind of pre-internet amnesia. It is not that they have no memories, but that they seem to have negligible emotional continuity with those memories. Not only do they barely remember their Original Self–they could not earnestly testify “that is me.” Whatever comprises “me” has become a shifting sand rather than a firm foundation.
Now here is something to settle upon that seems of general relevance rather than personal eccentricity. To have one’s sense of self alterable with any ease–a matter of weeks or months rather than years, much less a matter of personal choice rather than colossal external interference–strikes me as effectively ahistorical. Lives were upset at a greater rate, but their underlying self was far slower to change. Genghis Khan could kill everyone you know, but if he deigned to let you live, your day-to-day activities and internal identity need not alter hardly at all. But now that we have convinced ourselves that we have progressed past such Genghis-like instances (haha), the rule is reversed; in the absence of external problems, we find the internal identity proliferating near-infinite issues, all of them screaming to be resolved, and resolved expediently.
Surely this harmonizes with the sudden resurgence of identity politics in the 1st world after a period circa ’70s through ’00s wherein race and sexual preference became rather boring and shallow criteria compared to what an individual chose to do with their newfound liberation. For any less-than-bright readers, I am not saying that this was a utopian period devoid of its own issues. I am saying the average person was far less likely to think of their or others’ color or orientation as the primary or even relevant aspect of their personhood. To put it another way–there is only one group of people I remember hearing of before the internet who based their entire identity around their race and sex preferences: white supremacists. Now, the abhorrence of this group is louder than ever, yet their tactics appear to have been adopted universally.
Regarding race, there was a time when minorities would have been insulted by the concept of Affirmative Action. “What? The fact that white folks have a head-start means I need a hand-out? Screw that. Watch me succeed anyway,” would have been the gist. Pride, in a word (either in one’s race or just in one’s self). Now, not only is Affirmative Action pervasive, but its equal-opposite has slithered in. Not only do the oppressed minorities need a hand-out to equalize the playing field; we should also be sure to cut the privileged majority down to size whenever possible. One wonders how much longer Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron story will be fictional. (P.S. Isn’t it strange that those who believe in no higher power than evolution are also those most interested in tampering with zero-sum competition? Darwin, Darwin, why hast thou forsaken me?)
Regarding sexuality, one need only consider the late explosion of non-heterosexual identification in nowhere but the first world. In my 2017 essay “Eros Fled” I supposed that this was a natural phenomenon, whereby when nature senses more babies are not needed–or even that more babies are needed but that they would be wasted upon this particular population–it “finds a way.” This is still not a terrible supposition, especially if new data regarding the extinction of human sperm within the century is accurate. However, one suspects nature is not quite as hamfisted as the recent examples of adults long past puberty who decide to “transition.” While I cannot rule out that someone could be “transgender” their entire life and eventually “come out,” I will absolutely call bullshit on the phenomenon as a spur-of-the-moment matter. Either the ability of plastics to tamper with hormones is much more potent than even the most alarmist of researchers is reporting, or this is an internet-inspired phenomenon, wherein people who otherwise would have continued their gendered existence have decided to plumb the depths of their potential identity until they strike upon something trendy. This does not necessarily mean that such identity-revamps are done primarily for the approval of others, for likes and clicks. No, the change itself is sufficient reward. When one feels utterly disconnected from their past and thus unmoored in their present, pioneering radically new futures is the only obvious escapefrom the undertow of nihility. Running from God usually concludes in the belly of a whale.
Perhaps this frantic pursuit of novelty is the seed of a new religion. Whereas antique religions all supposed that the answers to the mysteries of the present lay in our mysterious past, this new religion clearly believes all answers lie within our ineffable future. Such is the constant acceleration that makes possible the mental discordance of today’s 1st world, such as (to take but one grotesque example) effete liberals, proud feminists all, wholeheartedly supporting and importing Islam, perhaps the most conservative and female-oppressing ideology extant today. There is an extent of open-mindedness that causes one’s brain to fall out. (Note: given the choice between an extreme leftwing and average Islam, I would likely take the latter, seeing as Muhammad has produced far more lasting culture and innovation than Marxist tripe ever will; I use the example only to indicate strange bedfellows).
And while such novelty, such progress-for-its-own-sake, certainly renders the world or at least the internet a gibbering abyss of controversy, gossip, and self-satisfaction, one cannot help but notice that it also makes things suspiciously simple on a philosophical level, rather like the “wishful thinking” religion is accused of. The philosophical foundation is simply: old=bad, new=good. Which of course is the same as saying anything conservative is bad and anything progressive is good. This is reiterated infinitely as though it is some great discovery, when in fact it is simply Presentism enshrined. I suspect these acolytes might take to self-harm if they could but see how stupid and ugly their descendants will think them, as they now think of anyone who came before. Such, I suppose, is the new zero-sum competition: the dead are losers, not necessarily on a biological, but certainly on a philosophical level. Ha. Imagine having lived before humanity because so enlightened about X Y Z.
Of course, this completely ignores the “privilege” of being able to stand upon giants’ shoulders–an obvious product of being historically ignorant. But even more abhorrent, it pretends that one would be as progressively enlightened as they are now in less fortuitous circumstances. Similar to how most flavor-of-the-month occultists decide that they were Napoleon in a past life (never Napoleon’s barber or cook), everyone seems to be under the impression that they would have been the Gutenberg or Luther or Wilberforce or Lincoln of their day. The truth of course is that if anyone is relatively mediocre now, they would have been even more mediocre then due to worse diet, healthcare, machinery, etc. That is not even to touch upon the fact that tweeting a correct opinion and risking the gallows are non-overlapping magisteria.
Strangest of all, the morality of the new religion is simply the absence of moral values or value judgements. It is not about what one does, but about what one does not do. It is as though they took Jesus’s proscriptive fragment “judge not lest ye but judged,” and left his overwhelmingly prescriptive whole. This could even relate back to the progressive sycophancy for Islam; their taboo is clearly not “do not oppress women.” Their value is “do not oppress women unless combating the oppression of women would involve critiquing some other minority.” The weak must be protected, but only when it’s politically expedient or energetically easy. A white man must not oppress a woman–unless he coverts to Islam. Then it’s different. Such logical leaps and bounds–precisely the sort that children would never think up–indicates the hollowness at the center of it all. It is the appearance of courage without the necessity of courage, like wearing a mask precisely because it looks different from one’s real face.
Dostoevsky negatively rendered this religion, “all is permitted.” Crowley positively rendered it, “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” In my most recent publication Dinosaur, I rendered it, “all is permitted–except to question that all is permitted.”
The morality of children is the morality of fairy tales. There is right and there is wrong, and if you have difficulty seeing it, that speaks volumes about you more-so than it critiques the story. This grey pall, which races frantically from “issue” to “issue” as though the realization that the world is imperfect were some great Eureka moment, is the province of corrupted adults looking to excuse their corruption. It is a political morality (even the Devil knows scripture). It is the explanation for all of the madness that the next two decades hold, wherein the Hegelian dialectic* (cause the problem so-as to provide the predetermined solution) is set to attain full velocity. I hope only to shepherd the Original Me through whatever awaits us. Perhaps this Current Me was indeed necessary, if only to insulate him.
*Mark Carney, Klaus Schwab, Agustín Carstens–names to keep an eye out for.
I wanted to take a moment to bring you up to speed on my current scribbling endeavors and tentative plans for the future. I’m always pleasantly surprised and grateful when I look at this site’s analytics and see people are still visiting its pages and downloading its literature PDFs despite my frequent absences. As you may know, I prefer only to post when I have something of substance to say, or a project to release. This will be a rare exception.
Reception of my initial release for 2021, Dinosaur: A Dystopian Story, has been encouraging to say the least. If you haven’t already read it you can find it for free right here. A few close friends have told me it’s the best thing I’ve ever done; acquaintances have occasionally responded with mystification; and one long-distance friend may never speak to me again over it. I do like an eclectic reaction.
My most recent editing client’s new book will release next month. I will absolutely be posting about that here.
Musicto has kindly allowed me to create several custom playlists for them, which can be heard here.
As for writing, I am into a novel that is very different from anything I’ve done before, in that it might actually have some commercial (as opposed to purely literary) appeal. A comparison with Gregory Maguire’s Wicked would not be too far off–irreverent reimagining is the name of the game. I can’t wait to tell you the full story of this book, but I won’t, partly because the book itself and the story of its creation are not even close to being over. Suffice it to say I feel I am currently doing my absolute best to make all of you proud and to make the best of this opportunity.
Are you worried, dear, about Doctor Seuss, When there’s a Hunter Biden on the loose? He’s a bagman all across the land From swampy D.C. to old Iran And he belongs in a pillory Right next to Hillary For the unencrypted emails he did type While puffing upon his crack pipe
Are you worried, dear, about Doctor Seuss, When there’s a Joe Biden on the loose? When not sniffing little girls’ hair He can be found, oh, where? Excusing Chinese genocide cuz Things are just different over there
Are you worried, dear, about Doctor Seuss, When those who don’t read or write rule the roost? You’d never trust them to babysit But for sending teens to war they’re fit? Their money-laundering puts the mob to shame But for their trite speeches we give acclaim
Are you burning, dear, the Doctor’s books Because you crave approval, and adoring looks? Then you are the history we repeat For we read it only by flame in the street.
C.S. Lewis once said “I was with book, as woman is with child,” and writing this story has helped me understand his sentiment. While I have certainly experienced an urgency to churn out a final draft before, this project was accompanied by what I can only describe as mortal dread. There was no logical reason to ask such a morbid question, but ask it I did: will I live to finish it–and what if I don’t?! This was also the first time that I was truly able to confess to a confidant, “My characters are saying things I didn’t expect them to say.” I have heard other, better authors describe a similar mid-draft realization that they are no longer in control…Let us hope it portends the same for me.
I hope–and frankly expect–never to experience such literary dread again, because, while I undoubtedly have much room to grow in terms of writing purely entertaining stories, this is likely the most meaningful story that I can muster. On the surface, it is about a near-future, wherein a One-World Leader visits the last person alive who dares to oppose her. But, much like an iceberg, its heaviest mass lies below, in the barbs these mortal enemies trade and the ramifications of their divergent beliefs. I have often thought that fiction writers are merely philosophers who are afraid to be boring, and this piece at least proves it in my case.
I am also pleased to offer two forwards, one by the ambitious sci-fi project VivaEllipsis.com, and the other by my dear friend Professor Hoheisel. I should also add that this work–like most valuable things on Earth–was forged somewhat in tragedy. The person to whom it is dedicated, an esteemed Doctor both of medicine and of philosophy, passed away shortly after reading it. It was he who told me I was capable of, and ought to tackle these subjects, and so I did. Indeed, the last communication I ever had with him was to the effect that he was pleased by the dedication, and looked forward to discussing it in depth. I hope to hold him to that, one day.
Pyramids of cardboard are rising, bubble-wrap roles are unfurling, and contract ink is drying. The ritual of moving has commenced once more, but this time I’m headed back to a familiar place–indeed, the only place I consider truly familiar. I’ve always had a superstition that it is preferable to leave this world in roughly the same vicinity where one entered it, and now that unspoken wish is coming true. I’m headed back to Georgia, and I fully intend never to leave her again.
Moving tests all the pressure points of one’s life, but primarily the one which concerns whether you’re still clinging to too much stuff. In needing to render all my possessions transportable, I’ve found a great incongruity. My ‘personal effects,’ meaning basically everything except my library and PC, are looking desirably lean.
The same cannot be said of my books. Unbelievably, this is what my library look like after many stops at Tyler’s Half Price Books to offload the excess. A final immoderate habit to be brought into balance, perhaps:
And while I cannot confess any general reticence to leave East Texas for my motherland, the most difficult part of the move by far has been saying goodbye to the Jacksonville Library poetry group. I owe them, and particularly the group’s founder Peter, a great debt of gratitude. While I did not and still do not consider myself to be a talented poet, I found just being immersed among similarly bookish souls not only therapeutic, but evolutionary.
When a writer finds other writers, one experiences a great relief to find that they are not necessarily the eternal Stranger in a Strange Land that they had imagined. Particular friendships may then mature into Iron Sharping Iron–the blessed ability to be told not just what is wrong with one’s work but how to fix it. People today are generally scared to help one another, for one never knows just what they are getting into when they write a blank check of kindness without the safeguard of mutual traditions and proprieties. But writers, it seems to me, have maintained their generosity, by virtue of the fact that each and every one of us is bound by an ambition that is not inherently competitive, and a loathing for linguistic mediocrity. If you do not yet feel comfortable helping the person, you may yet be willing to come to the aid of that person’s writings. Such is the loophole we scribblers have discovered to escape the burgeoning social isolationism of modernity.
Thus, any ego that is not too delicate for a little bruising–or any ego that is at least willing to concede it is an ego–can still find mentors to sit at the feet of, or masters to apprentice beside. Similar to the meritocracy of late Japanese bushido, wherein even the masterless (ronin) Musashi could become the national sword-saint due to his self-evident superiority over those of greater rank, the meritocracy of writers remains organic and pure.
Some might find that latter paragraph incongruous with the fact that my Sage of Jacksonville was a retired professor of literature and philosophy. But I would counter that there was nothing more culturally unlikely, than for our generational divide to prove absolutely inconsequential compared to the mutual respect we immediately felt for one another as writers. Old souls are dated outside of time.
Thus, due to what began as the simple trading of self-published booklets at a library event that I debated even attending, I am leaving East Texas a far more defined (and refined) intellect than I entered it. And Peter has two officially published books of poetry to show for our collaboration. Perhaps this is miraculous. But I think Peter might agree with me that this is more a case of ‘normal’ life taking on miraculous aspects when we choose to let it.
I will confess, it would have been quite easy for me to conclude five years ago that East Texas held nothing for me–that I was on my own, excepting relatives. Indeed, I tried and failed to make friends several times, and even quit a job, due to a total cultural disconnect. But had I not–through inner stubbornness or divine intervention–continued to seek a friend, I would have missed out on the most important friendship of my life to date, and perhaps the most important I will ever have. Defeats that do not involve death are always optional. I suspect that realization is a cornerstone of many blessings this life has to offer.
I just received my first manuscript rejection from a New York literary agent.
I’m relieved to have this mandatory hazing ritual out of the way. Strangely, I feel more like “a real writer” now than any minor successes have ever caused. Perhaps I am consoled by a small sense of pride that this didn’t emotionally phase me. The juvenile phase of self-righteous indignation whenever someone calls “my baby” ugly has come and gone, thank God. (If fact, for a rejection it was quite civil).
I know that I’m happy with what I wrote; I know it can make some money for myself and some press; and I know there isn’t an agent or press on Earth who’s going to tell me “it’s perfect as it is; we’ll print it at once!”
There is an eerie peace to be had in knowing that it is now beyond my strength to alter without the aid of a professional editor. In some metaphysical sense, the process is already over. I just have to keep submitting.
A dear friend recently asked me to put together a “curricula” of essential books to read–preferably ones that would kick-start the imagination of a creative writer and inform their craft. To his and my surprise, the list that resulted only contains 60 titles, and could reasonably be read in a couple of years. Nonetheless, I believe this list could replace most Bachelor of Arts programs today (in information imparted, if not credentials).
So, if you would like to glean the equivalent of a liberal education for free from your local library, I hope this list helps narrow down your search.