Book Announcement Stuff!

So, recall when I mentioned the coming Autumnal Equinox, and how there might be a celebration happening?

Yep, it’s happening.

I’m running a sale and holding a contest/ giveaway.

The 2 questions you’re asking are: how much is the sale? & what are you giving away?

(maybe, also, what do I have to do?)

I knew I could count on you to get to the bottom of this mystery.

FIRST: the sale:

Drawn to Flame will be on sale for $2.99 for the week of the coming Equinox.

(Given the overlap of the various retailers, it may be more than a week by a smidge. Might end up being 9/20-9/29.)

That’s how I celebrate. Who knew?

SECOND: the contest/ giveaway:

I’d like your help to spread the word.

To show my thanks I will be giving away (3) $15 Amazon gift cards and (3) signed paperbacks w/ limited edition bookmarks.

(Only local friends got these bookmarks. I’m hoping to make at least three more friends, non-local, during this 6 month anniversary of Drawn to Flame’s release. I will pay for all shipping. Giveaways are giveaways.)

IMPORTANT DETAILS:

The contest/ giveaway will run on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

One winner on each platform will receive both the $15 Amazon gift card and the signed paperback. 1 winner per platform, 2 prizes each.

(Giving away my book is easy to understand. I’m giving away the gift cards because the thought of encouraging people to buy more books, not necessarily mine, makes me happy inside.)

We want to be winners. So, how do we help?

Easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy:

Once per day – leading up to the Equinox – I’m going to post the special on each of the platforms.

Pick which platform you prefer, like the post, share it, and tag 1 friend who digs urban fantasy. (don’t tag them in the picture, just in your post.) When you share, use #DrawntoFlameSale . This is how I will be able to find and log you for the drawing.

You can enter once per day, per platform. On the Equinox itself, I will gather all the posts that participated for each platform, and will essentially draw names out of a hat. Your name will go into the hat 1 time for each time you participated.

For instance: Like, Share, and Tag on one day on one platform, one copy of your name goes into the hat. Do the same thing, once per day for say, 14 days, 14 copies of your name go into the hat. Same thing, on all three platforms for 14 days: 42 copies of your name go into the hat.

I will gather all the names, and do a separate drawing for each platform. I’ll announce the winner on the respective platforms.

(It occurs to me that might make a cool FacebookLive spot, but I’m not sure of the logistics for making that happen. I’m not a Luddite, but I may be Luddite adjacent.)

So, for clarity’s sake the TL:DR rules:

This is only available to residents of the United States.

(I’m fine with other nationalities joining in, I’m just not ready to pay for international shipping yet. Maybe next time?)

The event will run from 9/9/19 through 9/22/19

(The Equinox is 9/23/19)

My close, personal friends and family are excluded from the contest/ giveaway.

(I still want them to help, but I’ll end up buying them drinks and food instead. Yes, locals have more fun.)

Only Tag 1 friend, 2 at the most – I don’t want to spam anybody and I don’t want you spamming anybody on my behalf.

If you want to participate on multiple platforms, feel free to tag a different friend on each. But, seriously, no spamming.

Each platform will have its various legal disclaimers attached, but let me state here that none of the platforms, not Facebook, not Instagram, and not Twitter in any way support, endorse, or are in any way to be held liable for this celebration. This is all me. If it screws up, that’s me too.

That’s my plan.

I’ll likely post the winner’s here as well, because cool people deserve recognition.

This post should go live around noon EDT. The platform posts will come sometime after.

(For those of you reading this on Facebook, this post doesn’t count. Waaaait for it.)

(Same for those reading this on Twitter)

It’s been a stressful, crazy, intense ride.

And I’m enjoying the hell out of it.

I’m glad you decided to come along with me.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in 3rd Eye Detective series, self publishing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If You’re Going to Be Weird…

…Be so god damn good at it that the world can’t deny you.

(I suppose that’ll be my White Lotus Sermon, and like the Buddha, I’ll have to explain to anyone that didn’t immediately get the point, which probably is a good thing, as I don’t always immediately get the point myself.)

Our world, well our species anyway and this country – America – for damn sure, exist in a constant tension between conformity and individuality.

Be you VS. Do what is best for your community, (ie: conformity).

(BTW, I think this is a false dichotomy, but that’s the subject of an entirely different post.)

I was told, from the time I could recall, by parents, TV, books, etc… that all I had to do was, “Just be yourself.”

I’ll bet serious money you’ve heard the same thing enough times to classify it as a noxious cliche.

Two problems with that conditioning:

  1. The system we’re raised in appears engineered to produce standard-issue citizens, reliable as McDonald’s hamburgers – and just as boring.
  2. What if who we are conflicts with “the way things are”?

Because, if you’re at all out of the ordinary, our society tries to grind off your rough edges so you will, in fact, fit into that round hole.

And, at the same time, all the people we hold up as examples, all the people we honor – as a society – have, in no small part, definitively not adhered to the prevailing inculcation of the age.

And so, existing in this weird, double-bind sort of society, we come to know one thing for certain:

There is no comfortable middle.

If you’re weird, you have to be seriously weird. Entertainingly weird. Usefully weird.

Because, if you’re just a little weird, people think you’re off, wrong somehow.

Maybe they avoid you.

They definitely don’t invite you to all the hip parties.

(Hip Parties? People still say that, right?)

If you’re weird, you’ll have a difficult time working in any corporate setting. Or making your way in standardized schools. Or making time with whatever gender you prefer to be romantic with…

Unless you’re real good at hiding it.

Because that’s how the world we’ve created treats anything that deviates from the norm.

A standardized society can not stand someone who doesn’t meet the standard…

…Unless they blow it so far out of the park that the standard-folk can call it something admirable, yet notably unreachable, like genius.

You don’t have to take my word for it.

Spend some time observing the culture you belong to.

It won’t take long.

And then you’ll know.

If you’re weird, you can hide it. Many of us learned to, for too many fucking years.

Some of us still have to.

But what kind of life is that?

It is something terrible to live your life drenched in that low level of fear.

To never feel like you’re ever truly accepted.

So, until the society changes – meaning WE change it – the best way to live your authentic self is to be bombastic about it.

Be loud, proud.

Show them why you love it.

Show them why they should love the weirdness.

Most of all, show them why it’s good for everyone.

…and if you can get paid for it, all the better.

When we’re out loud about our weirdness, it lets other people borrow the sensation. It helps them – especially the ones in hiding – find the love for it in themselves.

And maybe it helps them love their own weirdness enough to start to share it with the rest of us.

And that makes us all better.

So, if like me, you’re a Bona Fide Weirdo, be good at it.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

Posted in Tools for a Better Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And Now, The UPDATES!..

Ok, so maybe it’s not that exciting, but it is a writing update, and that might be interesting to two of you.

So, here goes.

I sent the second book in the 3rd Eye Detective series off to my new editor last Thursday. I’ll get the notes back sometime this month. Like I said, new editor. So, I’m interested to see her take on Caleb and his friends. She a good writer herself, and I hope we gel.

I’m still editing a short story – which will be given away for free when you sign up for my newsletter – later this month.

The six month anniversary of Drawn to Flame is coming up on 9/23 – the Autumnal Equinox. I have a few celebratory things planned, lest you thought I was going to let another seasonal cycle go by without doing anything. Keep an eye out. Could be some kind of sale. Could be some kind of giveaway. Could be anything!

(Ok, that you can get excited about. Perks me up, at any rate.)

What else?

I know there was something…

…Oh Yeah,

I started writing the third book in the series this month.

Ok, ok, technically I wrote the first couple of lines last month, but it was that close.

Yes, Caleb and crew, and maybe a few new, will be back stomping the terra in Knoxville for a third book.

Right now my plan for the series is six books, maybe seven.

Anyways, excerpts from the rough draft will probably appear in the monthly newsletter, ahem, ahem, if you were looking for another reason to sign up, other free stories, giveaways, and specials.

I’m looking to finish this book on or before March of 2020.

Hmmm, that date sounds interesting. I wonder what else happens in March of 2020?

That’s about six months. This will be fast drafting for me. Should be interesting.

As for Drawn to Flame, it’s still selling. And I’m still trying to get the word out.

(I’m also still willing to send a free copy to reviewers if there are any reading.)

I’ll also be looking for ARC reviewers probably around the next solstice.

You can help me get the word out by leaving a review, preferably on Amazon and/ or Goodreads. Or on your blog or Youtube channel.

So, that’s all the writing news that’s fit to print.

Thanks for coming along.

Until next time…

 

Posted in 3rd Eye Detective series, self publishing, The Writing Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coping Strategies…

In a trend that is threatening to become the norm, I can’t muster the concentration to write the post I sat down to write this morning.

Maybe it’s just mornings?

(some days there just isn’t enough coffee.)

Thankfully it’s not the only thing I’ve been pondering lately.

Speaking of lately, recently – say, the last few weeks – I find myself giving more and more advice to people on Twitter, regarding potential coping strategies to use for their anxiety and depression.

Which should tell you something about the state of our modern mental healthcare system. No, no, I won’t say it explicitly – I’d like your head to not explode long enough to finish reading this post.

So, for kicks, I thought I’d make a bit of a list here. At least it will be a place to get started if you’re needing a place to start.

*DISCLAIMER*

I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice.

What it will be is a person who has spent most of his life suffering from anxiety and depression and has been looking for ways to keep going for something like 30 years now, talking about the things I have found useful.

So, to give this set of tactics some kind of structure, I’m going to break it into 2 sections:

Short Term & Long Term measures.

Let’s start with the Short Term.

These are what I do in the moment to help ease my symptoms. Read as: Emergency Measures.

The first and easiest thing to do is to remove myself from the stimulus that is causing the acute reaction. I.E: get the hell away from the thing freaking me out. If it’s too much of an emotional overload, which sometimes it is, then fuck it, get gone.

Sometimes you do have to just get away. No shame, no bullshit.

What if you can’t split?

I knew I could count on you to ask the perceptive questions. I have the best fekkin’ readers.

So, if I’m stuck here are the other methods I employ.

Breath Control.  There are a number of breathing methods that can calm you down. I’ll describe some of them here but definitely do some research to find more, as these may not be completely useful to you.

The most effective I’ve found is the 4x7x8 method. (Credit to Dr. Andrew Weil, who may not have invented this method, but it’s who I stole it from.)

Start by placing the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, just behind your front teeth. Keep it there for the duration of the exercise.

Breathe in through your nose for a 4 count.

Then hold your breath for a 7 count.

Then exhale through your mouth – not moving your tongue – for an 8 count.

Do this circuit at least 5 times. (5 usually works for me. Occasionally I’ve gone as much as 10.)

Important point for this method: Keep your count length the same. Doesn’t matter if you use the one-one-thousand or one-mississippi method, or just watch the clock, but keep the counts consistent.

This has the benefit of working fairly quickly.

It’s a bit like hacking your nervous system.

There are a few methods similar to this. What they all have in common is that you will be exhaling for twice as long as you’re inhaling. That seems to be the action that triggers the mechanistic change in our nervous systems.

Another breathing method I have used successfully is Mindful Breathing.

This is a bit of an advanced technique and only works well if you have some training and practice in mindfulness meditation. And I’m not talking about that guided shit someone in HR thinks will make you more efficient/ productive at work. I mean actual Vipassana meditation. Look that one up. It’s all kinds of interesting.

Another method I use, rather frequently, but which requires practice ahead of time, I call Grounding.

(So, I have a long background in the martial arts. Practice any art for long enough and you begin to work with concepts of internal energy. Give it a name. For the hardcore skeptics reading this, I appreciate your skepticism. I will not talk about anything I can’t teach you to do in this post. I also will not ascribe to this technique any particular mystical significance. For all I know it could just be visualization, but it works for me.)

This technique works best when one is standing. (I find it works a little better for me when I have skin contact with the ground: bare feet on grass or soil, but it still works in sneakers on the pavement.)

Stand still, but do not lock your knees.

That’s important, so I’ll repeat it:

DO. NOT. LOCK. YOUR. KNEES.

Stand straight, allowing your bones to do most of the supporting of your structure. You may have to wiggle and sway a bit to find this balance point, but it’s there, so find it. You’ll notice it becomes a comfortable position fairly quickly.

For this next part, you can close your eyes, at first, to help the visualization, but as you get better with the practice learn to keep your eyes open. This is about a feeling, rather than a mental image.

Stand straight and breathe normally.

Imagine your legs as two hoses, or waterfalls, or pipes – whatever works for you.

Then imagine water rushing from your middle, through your legs, into the ground.

(it can be a rush, a trickle, whatever image you can create in your mind. You can also imagine it as beams of light. That’s worked for me as well.)

Do this until you can feel the movement inside your legs.

You don’t need to do it twice a day for 20 minutes each time or anything so structured. Once you can visualize it, you can practice it randomly throughout your day, 30 seconds here, a minute or two there. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

When you can feel it – feel it, not just imagine it as a picture in your head – then you can use it.

When you feel yourself headed towards the badness, take the time to feel the energy flowing through your torso, down your legs and into the earth. The Earth is big. The Earth can take it. It can accept it without complaint.

And the Earth, the very ground under your feet, is also strong. It’s stronger than anything else you’ll likely experience in your life. And it’s got strength to spare.

So, let that feeling of water rushing, or of light, or of wind, it doesn’t matter, let that feeling flow into the ground, and – at the same time – feel the ground as it holds you up. Let the strength from the ground seep up into your legs, and then the rest of your body. Feel the bones of the earth supporting you just as your bones support your posture.

This is mostly visualization, and therefore a bit of an advanced method, but if you practice it, you can deploy it very quickly, even while walking.

But you have to practice it.

So, 1200 words into this post, and I’m just now switching over to the Long Term methods. Bit of a longer read than my usual. Thanks for sticking around.

The Long Term methods are what I employ, mostly daily, as a regular practice to help keep myself on an even keel. They help broadly and overall but are not meant for moments of intense freakout. I use them regularly to raise my base level.

These are, what I call, the 5 pillars of my mental health:

Diet

Exercise

Medication

Therapy

Meditation.

I’ll go over them each, briefly, because what works for me may not work for you and it’ll be better to stick to basic heuristics rather than getting deep into the weeds.

 

Diet: (relax, this just means your regular nutrition)

I eat in a way that makes me feel good, overall. Not necessarily good in the moment, but overall.

(for me, currently, that’s super low carb. Meat, nuts, green vegetables, butter, and some berries. But I’m also trying to lose about 60 pounds and this works well for me. YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. The other thing is, I don’t eat things that hurt me, like, again for me, anything with gluten in it, even if it’s amazingly delicious. [ok, sometimes I eat them, but not while I’m trying to lose weight. Too much inflammation for me].)

I recommend experimenting to find out what works best for you. Some genotypes do better with higher carbohydrates than others, some do better with higher fats. If you can’t consult a registered dietician, or afford one, which has been the case for most of my life, then read up on different protocols and experiment with them. Do restriction diets to see if you have food intolerances. There’s a ton of information out there, just do your due diligence in checking out their references and source material. Also, consult your physician before doing anything radical. 

 

Exercise: Get Some.

(Really. The odds are good you, like everyone else, aren’t getting enough. The body is made to move, and a lot more than you’d think.)

Beyond that, the research suggests that 30-60 minutes of vigorous exercise, 3-4 times per week has a beneficial effect – ie: it can lessen the intensity of anxiety and depression.

*Note: Exercise is not a cure-all. It most likely will not make your symptoms go away. Don’t count on it to do that. Also, it’s going to take a couple of weeks to feel the broader effects of exercise. It takes the human body about two weeks to begin to adapt to any physical stimulus. Again, again, your mileage may vary.

I like lifting weights. Training for either strength or hypertrophy works well for me.

Maybe you like cardio?

Great! Do that. The important point here is vigorous. The exercise must be intense, and it must be kept up for a certain length of time. (don’t worry, you can build up to it and begin gaining the benefits along the way.)

*If you’re going to employ this route, please check with your doctor to make sure you don’t have any health concerns that will be exacerbated by heavy exercise.*

 

Medication: (just a spoon full of… wait…no…)

Ok, this often the most touchy of all the subjects on my list. It’s one I didn’t deal with for a number of years, much to my loss.

See, I grew up in a time where behavioral health medications tended to make people into zombies. Fat, drooling zombies.

And that kept me vehemently opposed to taking medication for probably 20 years too long.

They have much better formulations and understanding of the subject now. It’s not complete, and not what I would call comprehensive, but it is a workable system, even if it requires experimentation. (There are some practitioners who are better than others, and there is a genetic test – expensive though it may be – which can help rule out certain medications for any individual. I hope that both these things will become more widely available, and soon. We need all the help we can get.)

I currently take the lowest dose of 2 different meds. I do this to minimize the side effects.

But I’ve been on them for a while, and like most medications for mental illness, I believe I am beginning to see diminishing returns. To wit, I will be finding a specialist to take over my med management. So, more experimenting for me. Much exciting! So side effects!

This is definitely something you want to see a doctor about.

 

Therapy: (your friends and family are not your therapists)

I’ll say it again: YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY ARE NOT, AND CAN NOT BE YOUR THERAPIST!

If you suffer from anxiety and depression, you need to have a professional to talk with.

Your friends and family can and should be a support system, but they can not function in the role of therapist. They’re not qualified – even if they’ve got a degree. Too much bias. And, news flash, your friends and family will tend to think more like you, more in the same vein as you, than a stranger.

And you need a qualified, licensed stranger’s perspective.

Find one you work well with and get to your appointments.

If you can not afford a therapist, look into if there are any local programs. Sometimes they are administered through your local health department. Also, there are often local charitable organizations they will help with this.

So, let me repeat: Get a Licensed Therapist. Your friends, family, and/or clergy are not therapists. They can and should be a support system, but don’t count on them for therapy.

 

Meditation: (well, it works for me 😉 )

I meditate almost every day.

If you’re just getting started, it’s best to make it a part of your daily practice for a good while.

There are a plethora of methods of meditation. Find one that works for you. (but try to find one that doesn’t cost you money. Like, $1,400 to learn Transcendental Meditation?! Fuck you very much.)

There’s only one method of meditation I learned which cost me anything, and it was less than $200 over the course of more than 6 months.

You can find legitimate courses of study that are completely free. Start there, but do your research. Seriously, there’s a lot of bullshit out there. Don’t pay for it, and do some looking to see where it comes from and/ or how it works. Everything comes from somewhere, and usually, that’s a discoverable quantity.

I have found 3 types of meditation particularly helpful for my anxiety and depression symptoms:

Mindfulness – actual Vipassana meditation. It takes a couple of forms. Some are easier than others to get started with, but all are a bit too detailed to go into in this post. Easy to look up a how-to though.

Mantra – Mantra meditation is one of a group of meditations that require you to narrow your focus and concentration to a single point/ image/ phrase/ sound. It’s nifty, and you should look it up.

Auto-Hypnosis – This is one is another visualization heavy practice, and you definitely need a quiet, undisturbed place to practice it. There are plenty of books on the subject. You’ll even find some useful videos on the web. This method is good for changing the internal characteristics of your thoughts. It is a way to create new patterns of thinking, especially about yourself. If you have anxiety and depression, odds are you have some not so positive thoughts about yourself.

*Be careful with Auto-Hypnosis. You need either to be guided or to have attained a certain degree of focus before it becomes effective. (No, you won’t be able to make yourself unconsciously cluck like a chicken.)*

 

So, that’s my 5 pillars.

There are a couple of other things I’d like to mention. I thought, originally that they might go without saying, but no. Somethings do need to be made explicit.

First: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. And make sure it’s quality sleep. How do you know if it’s good sleep? You wake up feeling rested, that’s how.

There are few things you can do which will be more beneficial to your mood and mental health than getting enough good sleep.

Second: Take the time in your week or day to do the thing that you love.

(don’t let it go more than a week. Really, don’t let it go more than a day or two. You will notice a difference.)

I’m a writer. I actually enjoy the act of writing.

I also like reading.

Big TV and Movie fan as well.

Also, if you keep up with my social media you’ll have noticed this, I sing karaoke. Usually once a week. It’s a way to blow off steam that works for me.

Find those things that work for you and crowbar them into your schedule.

Really.

If you wait for there to be time, there never will be.

Make time for them, just don’t lose too much sleep to do it.

(I run into this problem as I often read before bed.)

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to restate an underlying principle of everything I’ve listed so far:

These are all actionable steps you can take. They don’t require faith, or belief – only experiment and observation.

(with the exception of the Licensed Therapist, they don’t require you to rely on other people either.)

 

To restate: these are methods that I find useful. Your mileage may vary, and where indicated, definitely consult with your physician before the undertaking.

Often, due to portrayals in the media, or our own lack of knowledge, we tend to think that there is a panacea, a one-stop cure-all for anxiety and depression when the truth is that there really isn’t.

There likely isn’t just a single cause either. It’s probably a constellation of causes, all adding up to The Suck.

If there’s one thing I think would benefit the majority of humanity, at least in this arena, it’s giving up on the idea that there’s a magic key out there.

Often it’s a bunch of little things piling up on us.

The good thing about recognizing that fact is that we can use the same process to feel better; a bunch of little things, over time.

(Any one of which could feel like a huge step in the moment. For me, many of them have. But they’re steps you can take. You have the ability. Take one tiny step and it makes you more capable of taking the next one. And then it’s dominoes.)

I hope this is useful to someone out there.

Try some or all of these suggestions.

Do your research.

Find new methods.

Share them with anyone you think will benefit, or anyone who asks.

If you come up with something that works for you, that, of course, isn’t listed here, please put it in the comments. You never know who it could help.

Well, this post ran long AF, as the kids say.

If you made it this far, thanks again.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Tools for a Better Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

American Virtues…

So, we just had a big holiday celebration, here in The States. It was the 4TH OF MOTHER-FUCKIN’ JULY!

And that’s the sum total of the amount I could get worked up about it – all caps, 5 words – and now I need a nap.

But, I’m fighting the sweet embrace of oblivion to tap out a few words about ‘Merica, because holidays, even the fun ones, are supposed to be a time for reflection. (Not the whole time, of course. We need a bit o’ partyin’ as well. We’re only human.)

And there is a bucketload of things to reflect on in the midst of our drinking and blowin’ shit up.

What does it mean to be an American?

What does patriotism look like?

How can I/ you/ they be good citizens?

Should one use lighter fluid to start a charcoal grill?

You know, that kind of thing.

For me, it hasn’t been any of those things. (No, not even the lighter fluid. Get a goddamn chimney starter for fek’s sake!)

I’ve been thinking about: what are our American Virtues?

(Before you get weird about that word, virtue just means strength.)

So, I suppose one could think of it as: What makes America Strong?

Yes, I get that there will be no end of idiots spouting off about “freedom” or the military or guns, or whatever. But they’re probably drunk, and definitely foolish. So, we’re going to ignore them for now and try to hash this out like concerned adults. Well, mostly…

You see, I’m not sure I know anymore.

In fact, I’m not sure I ever did.

I have some thoughts, but, admittedly, they tend to be naturalistic analogies. That is to say, I am not prepared to present evidence in the case. It’s just observations, and if strict empiricism worked we wouldn’t need the scientific method.

Let’s start with one I’m fairly certain of:

Diversity.

America is, currently at least, just about the most diverse country on the planet. We have more and more varied cultures and ideas per square foot in this nation than anywhere else on the face of the Earth. (If you have counterexamples, please leave them in the comments.)

Why do I think this is one of the things that make America strong?

First, the analogy. Genetic diversity.

We know, from studying the world, that genetic diversity makes a group of organisms stronger. And conversely, we know that genetic homogeneity tends to spell a species’ downfall. Genetic diversity allows an organism to adapt. The most adaptable becomes the most survivable.

Our cultural diversity serves the same function for the body politic.

Greater diversity is synonymous with greater adaptability and survival.

For us, it is a diversity of ideas, of minds, of perspectives that drives our ability to adapt and overcome.

So, an example: Nicola Tesla.

An immigrant. Also a genius. (If you think Tesla is just an expensive electric car, and don’t know about the man, you should go find out. I’ll wait. It’s worth it.)

Tesla worked first with, then in competition against Thomas Eddison.

Eddison’s idea to run power across the country was Direct Current (DC). It’s fairly powerful but can not travel long distances.

Tesla’s idea was Alternating Current (AC). It was marginally less powerful but could travel longer distances.

There was a whole thing about it. An elephant was electrocuted. Not good in general.

But the outcome of this competition was that you now have AC electricity in your house, and pretty much every house connected to the grid.

Why does that matter?

For one, it’s cheaper power to produce.

For two, the fact that AC can travel longer distances means that you don’t have to have a power plant in your neighborhood. (about 55% of them still burn coal to make electricity, so, be grateful you’re not living in that post-industrial hellscape.)

Anyways, Tesla, an immigrant, that’s who we have to thank for that innovation.

And there are plenty of other stories of immigrants helping to make America better, stronger.

Check this list out, but don’t stop there.

As a country, we used to believe that immigrants were the brightest, toughest, most resourceful people, to have gotten here from their home countries. We used to welcome them because we knew that adding the best, brightest, and most resilient would increase our capacity for those things.

If you look at contemporary immigrants, you find the same thing: resourcefulness, tenacity, intelligence, drive.

You’ll see it if you look.

You can’t trust the accounts of others. I’m not even suggesting you trust my accounting of the matter.

But you look, with your own two eyes, and you’ll see.

And if diversity is one of the things that make America strong, maybe we should start electing people who know and accept that fact and make it the driving motivation behind their policies.

They think they’re representing us, or leading us.

Let’s show them where we want to go.

Anyways, this is probably just the beginning of this exploration. Certainly, there exist more than one American Virtue.

It’s just that I need time to ponder it, and also, naps.

Leave a comment if you can think of any others. I do like exploring options.

Even if you can’t come up with something off the top of your head, if you’re an American, please take the time to think about it.

There are few things that could be of greater benefit to you and your country.

I’ll be thinking about it too…

…but first, a nap.

Until next time…

 

 

Posted in Putting the "Civil" Back in Civilization | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Takes on Universal Truths (PT 1)…

Disclaimer: I’m not convinced there are universal truths so much as there are universal facts. Facts aren’t truth, they’re just reality. Facts are what make statements true or not. But since I may be one of the only people who thinks this way, we’re just going to run with the common usage.

Here’s a thing we all deal with:

Impermanence

better known as: THINGS CHANGE.

But, you may be asking, what kind of post is this going to be if it’s something we all know about already?

Look at you, ahead of the curve, again.

And you’re correct, I’m not really here to speak to that thing we all know already, although, I’m not certain absolutely everybody knows it as such.

Anyways, this post is about the “we all deal with” side of impermanence.

Because try to ignore it as you might, we all must face the spinning hands of the clock – even for you digital types out there.

Beyond the question of how long our consciousness continues, or what happens when we die, is the BIG Question: Am I still Me?

Continuity.

If everything is in a constant state of change, that means I/ you are changing. And if that is so, what are we changing into?

Here’s the thing, once you acknowledge impermanence, you begin to see it not just as gateways to pass through, but as a continuous process. And it is. Even now, the words you are reading are causing chemical changes in the state of your brain, leading to changes in consciousness while, at the same time your cells are dying off and replicating – in a constant state of flux, so that – while they may appear the same – they are, in fact, different.

Yeah, take a minute to soak in that weirdness.

Hard to absorb, isn’t it?

And we, as a species, have been trying to reconcile it for likely most of our existence. The first recorded thoughts on the matter come about somewhere around the birth of Taoism, in Ancient China. Taoism may have been the first “religious” practice to embrace impermanence. It’s difficult to pin down exactly. There may be something about it in the Upanishads, but we’ll need a historian who specializes, and I don’t have one of them handy at the moment. So, we’re going with Taoism. That puts us somewhere around the 6th-century B.C.E.

But even the Western Tradition – read as the Ancient Greeks – were coming to a similar conclusion around the 3rd-century B.C.E. So, since Taoism is a bit opaque for a western audience, we’ll start with the Greeks and come forward from there. Don’t worry, we’ll be getting back to the Tao, in a Tolkien-esque fashion.

So, by way of Plutarch, we have accounts of debates – in this case between Aristotle and Heraclitus – on the nature of impermanence and continuity.

Why continuity?

Because if, as has previously been stated, everything is changing, even us, even down to our most minute, atomic parts, are we still us? Do I remain me and you remain you, even in the midst of all this change?

Enter Theseus’ Ship.

It’s a thought experiment. Here’s a place to start looking, but don’t stop there. wikipedia/ Ship of Theseus

Briefly, the experiment goes like this: A ship is brought into the docks to be repaired. The mast is replaced. Is it the same ship? Then the deck is replaced. Is it still the same ship? Eventually, every board and nail is replaced with new materials. Is it still the same ship?

Starting to see the connection to us and our constantly dying and replicating cells yet?

I knew you would. I have the best readers.

Aristotle took this idea and created the “Four Causes” solution to the problem. Feel free to read up on that. It’ll be illuminating for certain modes of our modern thought.

It also has a fundamental flaw: It’s starting from a conclusion and trying to work backward to an argument/ explanation that proves that conclusion.

In less archaic parlance, it’s adding epicycles.

(Ok, I’ll admit that example isn’t really less archaic per se, but it’s fun and you should check it out.)

Basically, Aristotle and his followers were convinced of our essential continuity and tried to create a system by which that continuity was preserved, even in the light of the implications of the thought experiment.

And by way of response, Heraclitus gave one of the most understated hot takes in history, “No man ever steps into the same river twice.”

Just let that one simmer in your brain-pan for a moment.

Heraclitus’ response succinctly states that continuity is an illusion.

Think of when you were a kid, on the Fourth of July. Out in the dark, writing letters on the night with a lit sparkler. Same thing.

(We call that “persistence of vision” but as a phenomenon, it is analogous to how we perceive our own existence.)

Nothing is continuous. Contiguous, maybe. Likely. But not continuous.

By all the available evidence, that does seem to be the case. Every 7 years or so we’ve replaced all of our cells. Every new piece of information we get changes how we interact with the universe, even if in subtle ways. And if you’ve ever listened to the same song more than once you know that no two iterations of any experience are ever the same.

No two meals.

No two kisses.

No two nights, high as the clouds on acid, lying in a field, holding hands with your best girl and staring up at the stars…

…But I digress.

It is a thing we intuitively recognize about the world in which we live. Sure, we dismiss it, take it for granted and as read, but it’s always there, a part of our awareness. But it’s funny how reticent we are to ascribe to ourselves this seemingly obvious and self-evident fact of existence.

Well, not all of us.

There are non-Western cultures that integrate this way of seeing the world and ourselves. You should look into that. It’s cool in the way certain hidden things are.

Taoism is one of them. Buddhism another. Certain Native American traditions. Some Australian Aboriginals, I think. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

But, just before you go, let me give you one Western-style take on the whole affair, by way of J. R. R. Tolkien.

(Admit it, you thought I forgot.)

The Shards of Narsil.

Yes, from the Lord of the rings books. The sword that cut the ring from Sauron’s hand and broke in the process. The one Aragorn used to prove his claim to the throne of Gondor. That sword.

If you’ve read the books, or seen the movies – so really, this can’t be a spoiler – you’ll know that the sword is eventually re-forged. And after it is re-forged, it is given a new name: Anduril.

Same bits of metal, put back together into the same type of form, to make the same type of thing, to serve the same type of purpose, but with a new name.

The new name being an acknowledgment of the inherent change in the thing itself.

But, in the West – whatever that nebulous term means – we don’t give ourselves new names when we begin new stages of life. We feel as if we are the same person from birth until death, even though we recognize that we go through different stages of existence.

So, I wonder, why is it so hard to acknowledge that we’re different people in those varying phases?

Here’s the thing: when you think about it, you won’t feel you’re the same person now as you were when you were an infant, or a teenager, or in your twenties. No one does.

We don’t feel like the same person, well, because we aren’t the same person.

And yet, we want to believe that this thing in our heads, this thought we call “I” has been eternal and unchanging – in some cases since the beginning of everything – in most cases at least for all of our lives.

I’m not suggesting we take on new names with each passing phase of life, althought that would be cool. But I am suggesting that I can see that “kid” me hated broccoli, but “adult” me quite likes it, and that’s because they’re different people. (See how the language trips us up here.) And that means “I’m” different people.

And so are you.

All of you.

Yes, even you.

Something to think about, at least.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Tools for a Better Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Mess…

So, I was trying to write a completely different post this morning. If I’m very lucky, I’ll be able to finish it sometime this week. But that will be entirely predicated on my mind not sparking like a nest of half-stripped livewires.

Which, If I was being too subtle, it currently is.

Depression sometimes comes in waves.

(Kind of like my enjoyment of the music of Pink Floyd, anyways…)

Some days are blue. Some days are hectic, rainbow mixes of emotional states. And some days are pitch black, and you’re lucky if you can fumble your way along the wall until some light appears, somewhere.

I’ve had a few too many of those latter ones lately.

It’s a funny thing, but having and working towards a purpose – one you’re invested in – can almost make you feel like you’re not depressed. It does me, at any rate. But, here’s the thing: when you’re in between times, transition times, fallow times, your depression is always there, waiting in the wings for its next appearance on the stage of your life.

And by you, I mean me.

‘Cause really, I don’t know you. Your mileage may vary.

Right now, I’m at a bit of an inbetween, writing-wise.

I’m waiting for feedback from my beta readers for a short story project. I’m interviewing new beta readers for additional input on the second 3rd Eye novel.

Mostly, I’m waiting. And waiting gives space for my mental illness to poke its head in and ask me if I’ve heard of our lord and savior the ever-widening Abyss.

And here’s another thing you don’t often hear about depression: it makes it damn difficult to concentrate.

Dig it: I’ve never been diagnosed with any of the attention disorders, but my awareness shifts around pretty fast on the usual, and I’m accustomed to that and know how to work with it. I’m also an experienced meditator. Concentration, I got.

Except lately, I don’t got. Not so much anyway.

Imagine, if you will, a giant tornado, just a’tearin’ up the landscape of your mind. Roofs torn off. Trees uprooted. Bathtubs and mobile homes swirling in the gray-brown funnel of your attention. Now, see that note, on the scrap of paper, over there. No there! Nope, over there now. No there!

Well, maybe you’ve picked up what I’m putting down. I hope so, this shit is getting heavy.

So, that’s where I’m at.

And it’s a damned hard thing to explain to people, even people who’ve suffered from depression themselves.

Sometimes you struggle to tell people you’re struggling.

At least I do, at any rate.

Anyways. I thought this might do both: get me writing about something, and let some of the air out of the ravaging twister in my head.

I’ll have to get back to you on that second part.

For now, I’m out of juice.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in The Writing Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment