Last night and during the early morning hours (from about midnight until 0200 local time) I collected and collated all of my major papers and notes (on the subject of psychology) and began outlining the skeletal form of the Four Inherents, which will be my meisterwerk on psychology.
During the week I tend to primarily (not always, but primarily) work upon my novels, short stories, poetry, songs, musical compositions, and business and entrepreneurial projects. I also tend to travel, train (physically and for skill improvement or acquisition), and socialize, and clear land during the week.
But during the weekends I tend to recreate, tend my estate, and work on my inventions, scientific experiments, practice Theurgy, and work on my non-fiction writings.
Lately I have been doing a lot of work on the weekends on what I call my Seminal Works (my primary written life-works, in this case my non-fiction works), such as: the Anassanon (theology), Empiricum Experimentalis (science, technology, innovation, invention), Genius, Muse, and Enthusiasm (literature, music, and art), Apographics, The Great Enterprise (business, investment, capitalism, economics, and entrepreneurism), the Chimerikon (politics and untruth), the Theophilos (a series of instructive and pragmatic works on Christianity and modern man), Cure and Eminence (health, medicine, and physicks – in the ancient sense), the Didactions (self-education and the life-long Renaissance Program), the Holon (philosophy), and of course, the Four Inherents (psychology), which I am discussing here.
I will of course write other books covering the various fields of psychology, such as a book I plan on my own Theory of Personality (going back to my days in college and my work with a Russian psychologist), and Cure and Eminence will deal directly with psychology (in part), while many of my other works (such as the Holon) will indirectly touch upon psychology as warranted.
But The Four Inherents will be my magnum-opus in the field of psychology.
That being said you will find the skeletal contents outline of the book below (as I now envision it), though that will no doubt change over time as I add things to the book and better arrange and organize it. This is just the first draft of the Table of Contents.
Have a good and productive day folks. And enjoy much success.
THE FOUR INHERENTS
THE FOUR INHERENTS: PSYCHE, SOMA, NOUS, AND PNEUMA
The Human Inherencies
Psychopathosis and Human Psychopathogens
Diagnosis and Diagnossos
Personality: The Conditional States and Their Outlooks and Influences on Human Behavior *
The Subnormal Person
The Normal Person
The Abnormal Person
The Supernormal Person
Sthenosos and the Psyche
Sthenousos (The Sthenotic Mind)
The Sthenotic Psyche
Sthepneumos (The Sthenotic Spirit)
Epipsychosos and Psychological Self-Manipulation
The Epipsychic Man
Auto-Didaction as a means of Beneficial Self-Manipulation
Epipsychosos as a means of Self-Advancement and Self-Improvement
Meaning and Action/Activity
The Reality and Weight of Human and Psychological Evil
Ghosts of the gods (Ghosts of Dread Flesh)^
The Archetypal Imperative
Intelligence and the Psyche
Mnemonics and the Mind
Genius and the Polyman
Behavior and Nature
Traits and Influences
Wyrd and Fate
Manhood and Womanhood
Man as a Created Being
Man as a Self-Made Creature
Psychological Self-Discipline and Self-Possession
Biopsychosis: Reliance and Refinement
Theopsychosis: Expectations and Limitations
The Theonic Impulses
The Construct of the Human Being
The Hypopolinic and Hyperpolenic Influences
The Weltanschatten: the World-Shadow Urbanis: The Corruption of the Urbanized Man and his Corrupting Worldview of Life Strenuosos: The Strenuous and Virtuous Life and the Rural Man Ambiversion: The Desirable State of Personality Poliperversion: The polis and politics as perversions of the true Nature and States of Man Sociosis: the Enslavement of the Individual to the Group and to Society Sanscivilis and Vero-Civitos: The Social Impulse as a counter-civilizing motivation, and the Nature of True Civility in the Self-Possessed Individual Chivalry and Charis Malignosis: The juvenile tendency of mankind and of modern men to become enamored of malignant and homicidal and suicidal psychological states, societies, philosophies, and political impulses Auto-absorption versus Self-Realization: the pathetic and bathetic self-absorption of modern men versus the benevolent impulse to Self-Realization
The Ancient Man, the Medieval Man, and the Modern Man as Psychological Types Self-Improvement: assets, liabilities, and the detrimental effects of pop-psychology on the individual and upon society
Psychoptropics and the Serpentine Underbelly of the Psychiatric Chemical and Drug Culture
Methods of Altering and Improving the Psyche
Gamos (marriage of the Psyche to High Endeavours, Objectives, and Virtues) Gamosos (gaming the Psyche) Athletopsychosos (training the Psyche) Mythopsychosos Objectivization (objectivising the Psyche) Active and Passive Psychomanipulation (the active and passive self-manipulation of both beneficial and malignant psychological traits) Histyriopsychosos (the historical and lifelong development of the Individual Psyche) Psikonics
Analytic and Forensic Methodologies
Logical and Mathematical Methodologies
Religious Methodologies Epipsychosos
The Real Superman
The Psychological Equations and Useful Orders of Human Behavior
I know I’ve probably mentioned this before but the older I get and the more I study ancient and pagan myth (and I’ve studied them since I was a teenager, and a lot in college when I majored in religion and philosophy) the more firmly convinced I am that myth was not a religion or religion at all (certainly not as we think of religions) but was actually proto-psychology and in some rare cases, primitive observations on natural phenomenon (proto-natural-science).
All of the pagan “gods and goddesses” were far too human to be anything other than psychological (psuche – soul, as the Greeks would say) observations upon human nature and the human soul. Plus all pagan “gods and pantheons” tended to behave abysmally, at least from time to time and as the mood struck them, with even the chiefs of gods being immoral at a whim, or at the very least amoral. And the more “moral gods” were almost universally relegated to background or secondary positions of no real power (other than that of cunning and craft). Precisely why Socrates could not believe in the gods and preferred his conception of God.
No, the ancient pagan gods were all soul-gods, that is to say “human gods” not spiritual gods at all, as we would think of God.
(That meaning a Real God who supersedes his Creation and who supersedes human behavior by being absolutely moral. Though the Norse gods and goddesses tended to be far more moral than let’s say the Greek or Asiatic ones and I think that to a large degree this was precisely because of the fact that they knew they were doomed and would be called to account at the Ragnarök. They knew they were limited in lifespan, they had no illusions that they were either omniscient or omnipotent, and they knew they would be eventually destroyed and replaced. It was hard-wired into their very prophecies and that kind of thing tends to often act as a governor against immorality – intentional malignance, and against amorality – not caring one way or another.)
When pagan myths were not proto-psychology they were observations on natural phenomenon and on things that could not be explained by a very limited proto-science, such as Chimeras.
No, over time I’ve come to realize that the ancient and pagan gods were real alright, and are still real, just not as really having anything to do with religion or the spiritual or God at all. They were real as proto-psychology, not as religion, and later and even today they have been largely absorbed into modern psychology as archetypes of human behavior and as exemplars of the human soul. But not of the Spirit. They are the Ghosts of Dread Flesh, not the Holy Ghost.
And this is why I think, that relatively speaking, they were later so easily overturned by and replaced by religions (like Judaism and Christianity and even to some extent by Hinduism and Buddhism – though Buddha himself was an atheist, so again, it depends very much upon your definition of “religion”), and that is because, as much as I like and respect the Psyche, it is very small and limited in relation to the Spirit, and to God.
The gods were absorbed into psychology (which still serves a very important function, just not a religious and spiritual one), because in fact, that’s what they were – soul-gods, and replaced by God, the Spirit-Lord, against whom no soul-god can really compete or is really qualified to compete.
Just as no man can compete against God, he can only ally himself with God and seek a beneficial relationship, or reject and rebel against God.
(I’d go ahead and turn this into a decent essay but I’m pressed for time right now with my novel and with my other works. Maybe later. Though I may also turn this idea into a lecture, and/or add the concept as a chapter to be included in my Meisterwerk on Psychology, The Four Inherents.)
HOW MEDIEVAL THEURGY WENT COMPLETELY WRONG AND HOW I INTEND TO CURE THAT
Recently I have been reading The Sacred Magic of Abra Melin the Mage, one of the seminal texts on Theurgy and magic from the Medieval Ages. I have a personal library of many of these texts and this book is one of my favorites.
However it also highlights one (or even some) of the great failings of Medieval Theurgy and related forms of “magic.” And as many of you know I have a very different definition of magic than is the popular conception. Which I won’t detail here as it is described in my other writings on the subject and in the books I intend to publish on the matter.
But to return to the question at hand: The failure(s) inherent in Medieval Magic.
Before I describe that however (or one of the two most glaring ones) I must say what Medieval Theurgy actually got right.
First that all “magic” is really theologically and supernaturally based (and this has been the case and the basic conception of Magic throughout human history, up until very recently, Magic is not the result of a parallel force or inanimate source of “magical” energy running parallel to the natural sciences), secondly that natural sciences used to be a part of magic (until it split away and became its own discipline and concern), and thirdly that Theurgy should concern itself primarily with understanding both the world (as it actually exists) and how God created the world to exist in that way, and why. The Fourth conception, the one I will mainly address, that there are Good Beings and evil beings (other than human beings) that exist in the cosmos (regardless of the fact of whether or how often they interact with men) is a point I shall address in a moment.
That is what Medieval Theurgy got right.
Where it went off course, and in this case badly so, is in a related idea but a wholly different sort of practice.
Medieval Theurgy was big on the invocation and summoning of Angels and benevolent spirits, a development hearkening back to ancient times and one I think that was primarily positive. However it was also big on the summoning and invocation of demons and harmful and malignant spirits.
Here are my basic problems with that suspect concept. The summoning of Good Spirits and Angels (those who remained faithful to God, to God’s morality, or were in direct contact with God) is to me primarily a good thing. Medieval Theurgists summoned angels to converse with, to seek advice from, to have transmitted to them God’s Will, to have prophecy or scripture explained to them, to seek to understand the physical universe and creation, to have various phenomena explained to them, to have dreams and visions interpreted, to receive moral guidance, to be healed of injury and illness, to be protected from evil or disaster, etc. All of the things commonly associated with angelic beings in Scripture.
All of this I applaud and think very positive. I wish more people tried this kind of thing nowadays.
Two important side-notes however: I think Medieval Theurgists erred in thinking that simply by employing certain techniques or rituals that they would be able to automatically invoke, evoke, or summon angels (or any other kind of being) and have them respond almost mechanically to such a summons. That is a very juvenile and even idiotic assumption in my opinion. First of angels, like any other creature or being, has a free will. This is obvious and self-evident or none of them would have ever rebelled against God. And secondly if a Theurgist sought advice or action contrary to the Will of God (which I think is very flexible by the way) or malignant in some way then no angel is required to respond in any way.
The second side-note I would make is that God, being the Prime Source of All Things, including Being itself (not to mention angels and creatures), well, God should always be your first point of contact. That just seems self-evident to me – always first seek the Prime Source, not any secondary or tertiary force. And if you can communicate with and/or more importantly understand the Prime Source (which will not always be the case) then stick with that, and if not, then seek other assistance.
And to a Christian the Holy Spirit should always be your first “Being of Consultation, Explanation, and Guidance.” Angels are almost superfluous as a result of this condition and this Being, except as Allies, if direct communication with God and direct Guidance by the Holy Spirit is possible. However I am also well aware of the fact that there are times when it is very difficult to properly discern the will or intent of God, and it seems as if the Guidance of the Holy Spirit in uncertain or confused (if only in our own personal reception or interpretations of what is trying to be communicated to us). So one should always seek Theurgic Communication first with God, and then only if confused, lost, or uncertain, with Godly allies or assistants. Though I also think angels make extremely good allies and will do their very best to truthfully explain and expound upon God’s Will and Nature as they understand it, though no-one fully understands the full Will of God but God Himself.
But all of that being said, and with the caveats explained above, I am in no way hostile to communication with and alliance with angelic and good spirits. Just don’t expect them to be automatons or servile in any fashion or just waiting around to serve you like a paid employee or worse, like a slave. They have an existence independent of you just as your human friends and allies do. They are obligated to you and in service to you in the same way your human friends and allies are, meaning, of course, it is a two-way street of mutual respect and benefit.
But where the Medieval Theurgist really went off track is with the practice of invoking, evoking, and summoning of demons and malignant spirits.
Let me explain the basic idea and concept involved in this odd practice. The ancients (in the West anyway) had an idea of spirits that revolved around the Greek term daemon, which basically meant “spirit.” Now a dameon could be either good or bad, and often was both. Though some tended to be mostly benign and some tended to be mostly malignant. But all were capable of both aspects of behavior, just as one might think of a human being or human companion. In other words a daemon was just like a pagan god (only less powerful for the most part) and open to capriciousness and emotionalism (it was not driven by a Universal or Inherent system of logic and morality, as our concept of God, but only by temporal circumstance or relativistic morality) just as the ancient pagan gods were.
By the Middle Ages, especially with the advent and ascendancy of Christianity and Judaism (and the Triumph of a Monotheistic God who is bound by his own sense of Morality and Virtue) that notion had become split into the idea of angel (being Good Spirits) and demons (being bad or evil or malignant spirits) and of a whole race of beings directly tied to Virtue and another whole race of beings decidedly and intentionally tied to vice. There were also other and more complicated notions involved such as Spirits that were a specific aspect of God’s Nature or of specific Godly Virtues but let’s leave that aside, as it is not germane to the current discussion.
(As a personal sidenote I should also say that I am of the opinion that there are sprits that are open to both good and ill, as are human beings, and that there are specific classes or races of Beings who are definitely and definitively good, such as Angels – a parallel case among men being Saints – and races and classes of beings dedicated to evil for their own reasons, such as is the case with some men – serial killers, habitual violent criminals, tyrants, warlords, terrorists, and so forth.)
In any case the general Medieval idea was that it was acceptable to invoke, evoke, and summon demons or malignant spirits as long as they were carefully controlled, and that the techniques used to control these beings or entities were the same techniques employed by angels and God to control them. That’s a very nice sounding theory, in theory.
My problem with that theory though is threefold. First of all demons and malignant spirits are obviously possessed of their own free will. Or they would not have and could not have revolted or rebelled against God. Secondly even if they could be controlled by some technique or in some fashion then there is no reason to not suspect that at the very least such a spirit would surely attempt sabotage of the aims of the summoner, or would most certainly attempt deception and misdirection in the execution of any “orders or commands” given it by such a summoner. Third I do not believe it is any more possible to gain summoning (or actionable) control over a demon than it would be to gain summoning control over an angel. Each kind of being has an existence beyond us and is not in any way open to manipulation or control unless they voluntarily decide to grant such a thing to another. It seems far more likely and far more logical to conclude that a demon would seek to gain control over another (forced or pact-ful or agreed upon possession) than to voluntarily grant control to another over itself. It is simply illogical to conclude that malignancy exists to allow itself to be enslaved for the purposes of third-party control.
(By the way one of the true differences between the Medieval Magician, Wizard, or Theurgist, and the Medieval Sorcerer or Warlock – and to a certain degree the Medieval Witch – was on this very point. The Theurgist or Magician believed that demons were bad but could be controlled and forced to “do good” through the agency and techniques of the summoner. The magician or Theurgist made “no pact or agreement” – other than demands and commands – with the demon but rather sought control or enslavement of the same.
The Sorcerer or Warlock, on the other hand, did seek to make pacts with such beings in exchange for personal power, wealth, or desire fulfilment. The Medieval Magician believed in alliance with angels but control of demons, the sorcerer or warlock in alliance or pacts with demons– for personal gain – and often in order to harm enemies or to exercise his own personal malignancies or evils, and in opposition to the commandments of God. It is a real and distinct difference, of course, but in all practicality it seems an extremely subtle, and pragmatically speaking, a superficial one. Yes, personally I also would like to be able to control evil and force it to do good. Merely because I so will it. But is that, in itself, not also a form of evil and enslavement, and far more to the point, could I really trust in the results or validity of such an enslavement? Even if I could “successfully” enslave evil, if it were truly evil, could I ever then entrust it? I am extremely doubtful I could. I suspect that this may be one reason God does not seek to enslave evil either. It’s just speculation on my part, but it seems reasonable to me. God could never trust enslaved evil. And neither can I. Though I would see it destroyed.)
Which brings me to my last point in this matter. Whereas I do believe that God can control anything if he so wishes, and that no demon is really a match (on a one to one basis) for most angels or for a Saint or even most truly determined good men (that is to say demons are limited in their power and scope and do not possess the ability to control angels or even men unless this is done willingly or in fear or ignorance on the part of the man) this is not to say that demons are powerless or helpless or under the subjugated control of others. That is to say that God confines the abilities possessed by a demon but he does not enslave demons (force them under his control, rather they fear him if he is provoked and can exercise no natural power over him) or he would have enslaved them already and long ago. If God was in the enslavement business (and he is certainly not, even if that seems illogical towards evil) then he would have reduced demons to mere robotic automata long ago and resolved evil in that way. He could, if he so desired, simply enslave or destroy evil and evil beings and creatures, but he does not, he merely confines them in some ways.
That being the case it makes no sense at all to me to have any truck with any being (or creature) that one knows to be habitually and intentionally evil. At the very best you could only exercise an untrustworthy, suspicious, and limited form of semi-confinement against their natural impulse to do wrong, with the likely sabotage of your true objectives to closely follow, and at the worst you would become the unwitting or willful subject of the manipulations and deceptions of such a malignant being.
Why then attempt such a reckless course as communication and truck with demons?
Well, I think for two reasons. First of all many Jewish Theurgical texts, whereas warning about such dangers, had an idea of demons that lay somewhere between the ancient pagan one of daemons (spirits being both good and bad) and the Christian conception of a demon that is wholly malignant. That is the Jewish Theurgists and magicians and Qabalists and even rabbis understood that demons are malignant (and warned of this fact often) but still felt they could be controlled with the proper techniques or knowledge. And perhaps they are, to a very few, but I have no interest or desire to test this presupposition for myself. I am too naturally suspicious and repelled by the aims of evil. So whereas I do not fear demons or malignant spirits I also have no interest in them and would rather avoid them or if necessary simply cast them away, banish, or exorcise them.
Many Christian Theurgists though, many, but not all, (some were influenced by the Jewish Theurgists and others – and by the way not all Jewish Theurgists thought it wise to consort with demonic forces or beings either) said simply that you should avoid them, abjure them, or eschew and cast them away as a source of power or trustworthy information.
(Or, as Isaac Asimov once wrote in a science fiction story I read as a kid – when the Devil came to his story character to bargain for his soul in exchange for power and long life and what the man most desired, that character replied,
“Why should I bargain with you for long life and success and power and my desires? I shall have all of those things anyway due to my own efforts and with the assistance of God. It will take long but I will owe you nothing in exchange and there will be no real cost to me other than that of patience.”
Indeed. My thoughts exactly. I am paraphrasing the reply of course; I don’t have that old story in front of me. But that was the gist of the response.)
In any case these types of theurgists (those who thought you could control demons or malignant spirits) wanted to control such beings as essentially “forced or enslaved labor.” To do Work. To execute commands and to grant favors. To accumulate wealth or power for the Theurgist. Now even if you wish to do this and your motives and aims are entirely good and beneficial you still face the very daunting and real problems I outlined above.
But even the Medieval Theurgists knew that you could not force an Angel to “do your bidding,” no matter how beneficial your bidding might be. At best you could only request the assistance of an angel (which is fine by me, I cannot force another human being to assist me either, and I cannot force God to act on my behalf, only request such assistance, but that is fully acceptable to me as a fact of life) but you could not “enforce servitude.” But many Medieval Theurgists did believe you could force or enslave a malignant spirit to do as you wished.
Or put more simply, angels and other such allies were for Information (guidance, discernment, and Wisdom), but malignant spirits could be employed for Action (forced or enslaved labor against which they would be powerless to resist).
I think that is a mistake in both cases. You cannot really force demons to “do your bidding” (be it for good or ill – without facing the difficulties described above)) and it is a mistake to think of angels as “Intel only” and not as agents of Action, though the assistance would be voluntarily granted, not given by command.
Nevertheless there were Medieval Theurgists who thought you could control demons and that it was the actions of these enslaved spirits who accounted for the Actions or achievements (or “workings”) of Theurgy.
I think those two propositions and ideas to be entirely in error and wholly wrong in conceptualization.
I think rather that the true motive force or the actions of Theurgy are not achieved by enslaved spirits, but rather by the manipulations of beneficial probability forces (the best possible outcome being caused by the best possible set of operational principles functioning at optimal capacities in each circumstance) within the field of all quantum possibilities. I also think that God and angels willingly assist in these efforts no matter how they are undertaken (by mechanical work, by science, by prayer, by theurgy, by thaumaturgy, etc.), but that these efforts are never willingly undertaken by demons or malignant beings or creatures because evil and malignant beings desire the very opposite outcomes. Not the best possible outcome, but the worst, or the most disastrous or destructive, or at the very least a decided corruption of the best possibilities.
Therefore my personal practice of Theurgy will involve and has involved seeking the best possible outcome in every circumstance (as an operational principle of Theurgy) and will involve benevolent alliances and contact with beneficial allies and forces and beings and creatures. That is to say that I do believe that there is a parallel force to the Natural (or put another way – the Mechanical) Sciences (of which I am a very big proponent) but not that it is demonically or supernaturally based (though I do have great faith in the supernatural, depending on how you define the term) but rather that it is based upon the operational field of Quantum Mechanics – with the underlying intent being, “the best possible and most beneficial and benevolent outcome in every possible circumstance or set of circumstances”).
On the other hand I will eschew and discourage any contact or involvement with malignant beings or forces as I think of them (with good and logical evidence) as sources of curses, not Blessings, and of failure and harm and malignant probabilities, not Success and Benefit and Benevolent Probabilities.
Being a practicing Christian Theurgist I had intended to write this essay some time ago, but delayed doing so as I wanted to go back and re-read some of the Medieval texts I had read long ago.
Now that I have done so, and now that I have written this essay I think that I may very well adapt it and use it as an introduction to my book The Christian Wizard (or Theurgist or Genius).
Anyway I hope you enjoyed this essay and found it useful.
I have now either written, created, or started writing all of the books that shall be included in my Paths of the Great Man series of non-fiction books.
There will of course be the three main and general books: The Christian Hero (or Knight), the Christian Wizard (or Magi), and the Christian Saint.
Then there will be the specific texts and works addressing specific ideas, ideals, virtues, and capabilities.
These texts will include:
The Psychinosis – On the Operations of the Soul-Image The Psychokon – Psikonic (Soul Image) or Psychodynamic Powers THEOPHOTOS – God Light or Light Work (On the Fundamental Principles of Theurgy and Thaumaturgy) THE THEURGICON – on Theurgical Theosis THAUMAPHIA – The Wisdom of Miracles
I have made amazing progress on some of these books, good progress on others, and have barely begun a couple.
I have also started work on a very, very basic primer on the subject matters and principles discussed in these series of books and what they mean and what I mean by employing terms like Magic, Psuchos, Theurgy (God Work), Thaumaturgy (Wonder or Miracle or Marvel), etc. (Generally I mean these terms by their ancient or early Christian meanings and denotations not their later Medieval and modern connotations (such as witchcraft and sorcery). Almost all magic in the ancient and early Christian world was in actuality Divine or religious magic, not as the Medievals and moderns saw/see it as a “force or power – a la the Force in Star Wars” in and of itself. Though that is kind of unfair to the Medievals who did not believe in natural forces of Nature as separate from God as only the moderns see these things.
Plus I suspect I have a very different definition of things like Magic and Psyche (based on early Christian and ancient writings and ideas) than do most people today.
Anyway that is the progress I have made so far.
In any case my intention is to create a set of practical works whereby the Christian layman can parallel the training and work of priests and pastors in their own lives and in the lives of those around them.
But more to the point to better replicate the works (mundane, theurgical, and thaumaturgical) of the early Apostles and Disciples.
In my early twenties I read The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. (I actually first read it because I was studying to be a priest at the time and wanted information on early missionary efforts in China, India, and Japan. Though I discovered the book wholly by accident in a rare book store.) Which I then added to my personal library.
Thereafter I began to research and collect other Medieval and Ancient methods of memory, including many of the works describing them. Eventually I built my own Memory Palace, and then several, allowing me to memorize all kinds of things even if only briefly exposed to them and for all kinds of purposes – evidence examination, study (this helped me in college immensely), scientific experiments, memorizing books I had read, memorizing conversations, learning new languages and terms, mastering advanced mathematics, etc.
In my opinion, good mnemonic techniques combined with good self-education techniques will increase your own natural IQ by 10 to 15 points (in the average person). Because, put realistically and pragmatically, neither intelligence nor Wisdom can exist without true memory.
Later on, within the past 20 years or so I greatly expanded my Memory Buildings eventually connecting them all together and building my own internal “Memory City” or as I later called it, the Polis Memoria, or the Mind City. Then I added things similar to the mental studio/laboratory of Archimedes. Among other things.
It is populated with many things, all of the things one might find in a real city, such as businesses, markets, stores, forums, laboratories, temples and churches, parks, residences (I have several in and around the city), hospitals, studios, theaters, concert and performance halls, work stations, cemeteries, etc, etc.
If I wish to write a sermon I go to one of the churches. If I want to conduct an internal scientific or thought experiment I go to one of my labs. If I want to practice a speech or sing a song I go to a performance hall. If I am sick or injured I go to a hospital or house of healing to make an internal diagnosis and to treat myself. If I want to physically train I go to one of the athletic fields to mentally master new techniques, to box, climb, etc. If I want to compose music, write poetry, work on my novels, visit a library containing a book I have already read and memorized then I go to the appropriate place in Agapolis. If I want to talk to or commune with God, even in the midst of a crowd I will often go there. This is also how I can invent and compose, write, etc. in my head while working (I prefer to work in my head while doing something physical outside) and then memorize it or write it on a wall in my head) and then go inside later to reconstruct it verbatim from memory. Even if many minutes, hours, or even days go by (in some cases). I am even writing a book about my memory city,and have been for years, adding to it as I expand it. Many of the Agapolis Techniques are inventions of my own. Below are some of the things in it and some of those techniques. It is one of the bets and most useful things I’ve ever written or created.
But it all goes back to my original Memory Palace which I can credit to the priest Matteo Ricci and to the ancients. I owe them a great debt.
I highly recommend the Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by the way. It is literally one of the very best books I’ve ever read, even though it only gives clues to how to construct a memory palace. (HOWEVER THAT’S NOT REALLY THE PRIMARY SUBJECT MATTER.)
A good, well-constructed Memory Palace will help your studies and your lifelong education program immensely. Also, watch the included video. It is a good primer on the subject. It is, however, not my work.
SPECIFIC MEMORY SYSTEMS:
A Note on Memory Systems: All memory systems can involve persons, places, or objects that are real (associated with real locations and persons and things), or persons, places, and objects which are imagined (associated with fictional or invented locations, persons, and things).
THE MEMORY CITY OF AGAPOLIS (Polis Aeternus, or Polis Memoria)
THE MEMORY HOUSE (Memoria Domestes), THE MEMORY PALACE (Memoria Palatia), THE MEMORY TEMPLE (Templum Aeternus)
THE MEMORY THEATRE
THE MEMORY OBSERVATORY
THE MEMORY CLOCK or THE MEMORY WATERWHEEL
THE MEMORY ENCYCLOPEDIA
THE MEMORY LIBRARY
THE MEMORY MUSEUM or THE MEMORY WORKSHOP (Memory Studio)
THE MEMORY LABORATORY
THE MEMORY CAMERA or THE MEMORY MACHINE
THE MEMORY CHIMERA or THE FANTASTIC MEMORY MONSTER
THE MEMORY SERMON
THE MEMORY EPIC (Poetic, with scene images)
THE MEMORY PERIPLUS or THE MEMORY MAP (Chart)
THE MEMORY PLAY OR FILM
EPIGENETIC MEMORY ENHANCEMENT
THE INTERACTIVE VIRTUAL MEMORY OR PARALLEL REALITY GAME
Last night my wife, youngest daughter and I went by my parent’s house. My old man wasn’t there as he was at his Masonic lodge meeting but my mother had recently had my parent’s genetic ancestry typed (both my father and my mother’s genetic backgrounds) and wanted to tell me and my daughter what our ancestral backgrounds were.
(I had been thinking of doing the same for me and my wife but with all of the other work I’ve had to do recently have not yet proceeded on the project.)
Anyway the results of my parent’s typing were quite fascinating to me.
If Jung’s basic postulate that people “inherit” ancestral, ethnic, or racial memories (though the last two ideas are really somewhat a stretch of his theory) is true then my ancestral background certainly seems to have had some interesting and even dramatic effects upon the manner in which my life had developed thus far.
Now to be honest I am not at all sure of the idea of “ancestral memory” as Jung conjectured, it seems far more likely to me that ancestral effects would have been carried through to descendants via epigenetic and genetic mechanisms, rather than as actual inherited “memories” (though lacking genetic and epigenetic information current to our time he might have meant basically the same thing just lacked a mechanism for describing the likely cause). I am not wholly discounting more mystical effects and affects via “inherited memory” upon a person through their ancestral background; indeed I have a few somewhat metaphysical formulations and speculations of my own when it comes to genetics. I am however not really a big believer in what might be more commonly and popularly termed “Fate” and more a proponent of Wyrd. That is to say I think Wyrd more in line (as a working and workable metaphysical formulation) corresponding to epigenetics as a viable and valid mechanism for the future influence of genetic changes upon a descendant population than I am comfortable with the idea of some type of mystical and unavoidable fate as a metaphysical conception of ancestral influences or “memories.” Though I do not wholly discount the possibility of some type of ancestral “memory” being written into a person’s genetic code either through recombinant experiences or through epigenetic influences. It’s just that the scientist in me thinks there is a far better method implied in epigenetic processes and that rather than memories being passed along from our ancestors that instead both weak (recessive and passive) and even strong (pronounced and active) tendencies and traits may be written into future genetic expressions via genetic recombination or through epigenetic processes. Or through the actions of both.
That all being said, however, and with that viewpoint in mind, I found the following typing results to be of especial interest to me.
I knew I had a great deal of Anglo-Saxon and British (Celtic) ancestry through my father’s side of the family. That proved out true and I’ve often wondered if that is why I learned Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and for my long standing (since I was a young boy) interest in all things Anglo-Saxon and Celtic. Including the language, the myths, the lifestyle, the history, warfare practices, and the conditions of that period of history.
I also have a great deal of Irish in my background (which I’ll return to later) and Western European in my blood, probably Germanic and Bohemian. I was also aware of Eastern European lineage, though that turned out to be much less than I had anticipated with one exception which rather fascinated me. That being Northern Russian and Finnish.
Now, much like Tolkien, I have had a near lifelong interest in three things from that area of the world and that basic timeframe/era of history: the stories involving Baba Yaga, the Eastern Vikings (the Rus, and their river explorations of Russia and Eastern Europe), and the Kalavala (I first read the Kalavala as a kid). But it never occurred to me that I would have either Russian or (especially not) Finnish ancestry. As a matter of fact despite my interest in all of these things I would have bet before these results that I had no Russian or Finnish ancestors at all. But I do.
I also knew that I had Greek ancestors and again I have had a lifelong interest in Greek and Latin (Greek being the first foreign language I ever studied in college, because of my pursuit at that time of the priesthood, and German being the second), and that proved out true as well. I do have Greek ancestors. But to my amazement and shock I also discovered I have Italian ancestors. Which again, I’ll return to in a moment. Which could account for my long time interest in Roman military matters and Latin. (Both Latin and Greek seem “familiar and comfortable languages” to me. Natural to me. The ideas and terms used in both languages seem so natural and familiar that when reading them it often seems to me more like a process of “rediscovery” than the study of foreign concepts or terminologies.)
Finally, and to my greatest shock and surprise my Scandinavian ancestry is quite high. Somewhere between 15 and 21%. Again, as with the Russian and Finnish, which is a much lower percentage, I would have never guessed I had any Scandinavian heritage or ancestors at all. (Though, logically, this only makes real sense, since anyone with high concentrations of British and English ancestors is bound to have at least some Scandinavian ancestors due to the invasions of England by the Vikings.) But again, it was unexpected to me and I was particularly shocked by the high concentrations of Scandinavian heritage in my blood. But again that might go a very long way to explaining my interest in the Vikings and my intense lifelong interest in Vadding and exploration and my keen concern with the Navy, sailing, and in nautical matters in general. But now that I know both about the Scandinavian ancestry and the Russian and Finnish links it is entirely possible that I had both Western and Eastern Vikings in my ancestral background.
All of these things were entirely fascinating to me, to say the least, but now we enter fields of an almost bizarre and uncanny nature, some of which I had previously suspected, some which were entirely new to me, and some of which might prove that Jung was even right in his assumptions and theories, at least to some degree.
For I also discovered three very odd facts regarding my ancestors. For of all that at least some of my Irish ancestors were Black Irish (as I had long suspected from my family’s jet back hair and dark eyes) though I had assumed that was possibly Spanish Black Irish. That may or may not be true but through my mother’s side of the family, at least, it appears that they were Italian Black Irish. Through family and genealogical research it was discovered that the Irish family name was actually a modified Italian place name. It turns out that a distant Italian ancestor once fought a duel and killed a man. Fearing being hunted down and killed as a result he fled Italy and eventually made his way (perhaps through Iberia – more on that momentarily) to Ireland where he dropped the Da (denoting place) and modified his (last name or place name apparently) to adopt the eventual Irish family name of Adair. (Originally his last name was probably Da Dare.) Black Irish, no doubt but from a totally unexpected source to me, from Italy. Though I have no idea as to the particulars of the duel, what it involved, or whom, it occurs to me now that this might be at least one source for my hot (and at times in my life violent) temper that I have had to work so long to master. For again, though I know not the details I can become almost instantly furious and even dangerously angry when I see injustice and evil perpetrate upon another. So although I do not know the details of this duel, or if my ancestor was in the right or in the wrong, I do now know I apparently have at least one hot-blooded, violent ancestor who was willing to kill a man in a one on one stand up man-fight. On my mother’s side of the family. As for how many of my ancestors also killed men on my father’s side of the family given their likely martial and military history, well, I imagine it was certainly enough.
Which brings me to the second ancestral odd point (from my point of view and given the course of my own life) of correlation. The Iberian Peninsula. My father’s side of the family has ancestors from Iberia but so did my mother, possibly from the Italian fleeing the duel. I have often suspected, with no real evidence at all, that at least one of my ancestors was a Sephardic Jew. Due to my intense interest in Judaism and the Kabbalah and the Sephardim in particular. Going back to when I was a teenager and later in college when I read all of the Sephardic literature and works (such as the writings of Moses ben Maimon – Maimonides) that I could lay my hands on. Which eventually became quite a lot. Now that I know that both sides of my family had ancestors from the Iberian Peninsula, and that the percentages are rather high relatively speaking – from 5 to 7% – it seems indeed logical that I might very well have at least one Sephardic Jew in my ancestry. If not more. This has been, at least, a long and very strong suspicion of mine, and indeed I have often wondered if it were not at least one genesis point for my investigative and research and scientific prowess.
And this brings me to the last truly curious and peculiar possible connection between my ancestors and myself. My father has North African ancestors. At about the same level (percentage wise) as my Russian and Finnish ancestors.
Now anyone of my family or friends who knows me well knows that going back to my early childhood (and this became prominent in my teenage years) I used to have recurring dreams about being a priest somewhere in North Africa (perhaps a Coptic priest, perhaps Byzantine, likely in the vicinity of Egypt but maybe also in Libya) in ancient times (late antiquity or early Medieval ages) and that in these recurring dreams I was almost always abandoning a young women with whom I was involved. Dark skinned, dark eyes, long hair, possibly Egyptian. I was almost always riding away on a horse because I was either already a priest and felt our involvement somehow interfered with my duties to God, or because I felt that my obligations to God and to her would somehow interfere with each other. Indeed I would often recount and talk about these dreams to various friends of mine. Sometimes also to my mother.
When in college the first time I was indeed once again contemplating being a priest and again I wrestled in my own mind and soul long and hard could I be a priest and serve God and God alone, or would I be a priest who could also be married, or would I seek only marriage and not the priesthood? It was a personal struggle of priorities for about ten years for me. Eventually I abandoned my studies for the priesthood but have maintained lifelong friendships with priests and nuns and monks and I still intend to become a Greek Orthodox priest late in life, before I die. If my wife pre-deceases me, and I actually hope and sometimes pray I die before her, I will retire to a monastery or possibly a hermitage.
Now I have long suspected that I had North African heritage and at least one ancestor who was a priest but I could not account for this suspicion nor could I find prove of it in my family history or genealogy. And I would have never suspected that if indeed I had North African ancestors it would be on my father’s side of the family. Rather I suspected if any such ancestor existed it would have been on my mother’s side of the family. But there it was, North African heritage and from my father’s side of the family.
Coincidentally, if you believe in that kind of thing, I have always preferred dark skinned women with long dark hair and dark to black eyes. Spanish, Egyptian, Italian, Greek, Indian (India Indian) – those types of females. As far as physical appearance goes. And I dated Greek and Italian and Spanish and Egyptian women when younger. Eventually though I married an American black woman. And I am happily married.
However, and perhaps due to these experiences and impressions I even named my daughters after famous Italian and Greek women.
But I have often wondered if these dreams I had so often as a kid and if my preferences for a certain type of physical appearance might have not have indeed stemmed from some ancestral experience that became deeply lodged in my genetic code through some epigenetic event that was profound to my ancestor. (After one such dream as a teenager I wrote a thirty page long poem about the dream and everything I could recall connected with it. I still have that poem.) This idea seems likely to me because even though I have much higher percentages of Scandinavian lineage in my background yet I have only very rarely ever been attracted to fair haired or blue eyed women. Though I do find such women physically attractive on occasion, I am more instinctively drawn to darker women, and prefer them.
So, given the genetic percentages in my background it seems very likely to me that if my ancestors did influence my choices in women and their physical appearance then it must have been due to the intensity or profundity of the experience rather than to the percentages of the women available. Something about the interplay between the Priesthood and the “Dark Woman.”
Oddly enough, or perhaps not, these dreams completely ceased after I got married, and have thereafter never recurred. Not that I could ever recall anyhow.
In any event, having gathered this information from my parents regarding their background, and my own, certain things about my life now seem to make much more sense to me and many things I have often suspected now seem likely confirmed.
I have often had two separate natures. One very active in the world, physical, sensual, outgoing, entrepreneurial, logical, concrete, scientific, militaristic, risk-oriented, and even violent in nature (which I call the Detective and the Scientist and the Adventurer side of me), and the other part of me which is very much mystical and metaphysical and philosophical and peace-loving, withdraw from the world, otherworldly, Godly, and of an introverted nature (which I call the Priestly or Monkish side of me). And in truth I’m about 50% introvert and 50% extrovert. So often these two very different natures have sort of waged war against each other in my inner soul or inner man. I’m not gonna say for dominance, for that would be untrue and an exaggeration, more like for accommodation and peace with each other.
But now that I know more of my genealogy and more of my ancestral genetic background many of my lifelong interests and quests – my desires to explore and to Vad, my detective and investigative occupations, my inventive concerns, my historical pursuits, my artistic inclinations, the subject matters upon which I write, my poetic and songwriting abilities and capabilities, my linguistic fascinations, my scientific experimentation, my entrepreneurial occupations, my metaphysical, religious, and spiritual curiosities and pursuits, even such things as my avocational and personal interests and habits – all of these things now seem more and more logical to me in nature and scope. And many of my prior suspicions about myself and my ancestral background seem either confirmed or likely confirmed, though I am the first to admit in an often unanticipated and unlikely manner.
If, as is often said, “the child is the father of the man” then it is equally true that, “carpent tua poma nepotes.”
Now I need to have my wife and children so tested and typed to see what can be learned of them and for their future benefit.
I started these two things, the first the beginning of a poem, the second part of a set of song lyrics, over the weekend. Don’t know what I’m gonna do with either in the end but since it is Monday this is my post for First Verse.
I FORGOT TO REMEMBER
I forgot to remember when nothing was right
How all that we tendered was twisted and trite
I begot a dismembered, ephemeral sight
When divided in terror, Theatron of Rites
The devices, the chorus, the Odeion of Scene
A tyrant all bloodied his thralldom most keen
Our vices within us a kingdom of dreams
Grown pregnant and studied, still starving and lean
A Opera of Staging, performed and preformed
Dispelled in the aging distempered and worn
Our union engaging our spectacle torn
Redundant, abundant, of meaning all shorn…
JUST A MAN
Gonna ditch my damned phone, then ditch my car
I’m gonna hitch my wagon to the brightest star
I’m gonna find the person that I’m looking for
Just gonna keep on walking til I reach the shore
Of somewhere I’ve never been before,
To see what lies beyond this land
To see what happens when a man
Is just a man…
If You Leave – I’m going to try again and link to the daily post. I have no idea if it will actually work.
Lately I have been doing a lot of what I call Cross-Over Work.
In this case I mean by saying that I have been doing a lot of work that cross-fertilizes itself in other works I am simultaneously creating. For instance I might be writing one novel and a particular scene or bit of dialogue I create will inspire another scene or piece of dialogue in another book or novel I am working on.
Though such things are not necessarily related to or limited to my various fiction writings. I might be drawing a map or making a sketch, designing something, working on a start-up project, developing an invention, writing a poem or song lyrics, or writing a novel or a non-fiction book and all of these things, or others, might give me an idea for another work I’m currently pursuing.
So today, and below (and in allusion to my previous post on actors), I am posting some of my latest Cross-Over Work. Little vignettes, or to be more accurate, often just little snippets (bits of dialogue, sections of scenes, sketch notes, etc.) of various Works I am creating and pursuing at this time.
Does your Work cross over in this way, from one work to another?
If so then feel free to comment below.
NOT A FAIR FIGHT
“Again I don’t get it. Take one shot at your actual target and three at yourself… don’t seem like much of a fair fight to me.”
From my Western The Lettered Men
“Not every possibility is true, that’s certainly true, but every possibility is always a clue – to something other than itself. If you keep forgetting that then it’s very possible the Truth will entirely escape you. And if it does then what other possibilities really matter?”
From The Detective Steinthal
“True darkness obscures. Few things can thrive in perpetual shade but those things that can definitely always wish to remain hidden. That is, until they are ready to be discovered. For reasons of their own.”
From The Detective Steinthal
“It is always best to hunt in silence.”
The Detective Steinthal
YOUR TRAINING IS OVER
“What are you training for kid? To train forever? Now who wants that kinda shit anyway? Only officers and politicians, that’s who. No, you get your ass in the fight. You’ve trained long enough. Time to be somebody.”
From Snyder’s Spiders
“And how now is your wound?”
“It itches fiercely, it hurts mightily, it swells darkly, but it bleeds freely and cleanly. It is good that it bleeds so and thus I will not complain of the other things. But if you have any more of that strange brew you drink then I will not complain of a skin full of that either.”
“I have not a skin, but I can manage a cup.”
“Then so can I…”
Suegenius describing to Fhe Fhissegrim the condition of his wound
From my fantasy The Kithariune (The Basilegate)
A RARE AND WONDROUS FEAT
“If you cannot stand up to your own old man then you will never stand up to anyone. If you can stand up to your own old man then you can stand up to anyone else, and everyone else.
If your old man ever forces you to rebel against him then do not hate him for it, respect him for it. He has done more for you in that regard, as regards the development of your actual manhood, than any other thing anyone else could ever do for you in the world. That man who forces his son into rebellion has bred a man. You owe such a father an enormous and generous debt.
That father who always insists his son obey him, right or wrong, has bred a mere and helpless and fearful slave. You owe that father your utter disdain and yourself nothing but shame for your own endless submission.
Drink to your father Edomios. Drink long and deep. He has bred a man in you. A man who can stand upright and unafraid. A rare and wondrous feat in our age.
Maybe in any age.”
Marsippius Nicea the Byzantine Commander of the Basilegate explaining to Edomios the Spanish Paladin why he owes his father a debt of manhood
From The Kithariune
THAT WAY YOU SPEAK
When Michael first lands in Thaumaturgis he is met by Harmonius Hippostatic who makes fun of the way he speaks and tries to explain to Michael where he is, and what life is like in the Lands. Michael does not at first speak in verse, but speaks in prose, but as he stays longer and longer in the land of Thaumaturgis he also comes to speak in metered, rhyming verse.
Harmonius: That way you speak, it’s quite a feat
But it will never do,
No meter, rhyme or rhythm,
It’s really quite obtuse.
Michael: Where am I?
Harmonius: Why this is Thaumaturgis,
Don’t you know your lands?
It’s one of the three countries,
Not earth, not stone, not sand.
No one’s ever figured
How it got this way
Tomorrow is the same as now
It’s always been that way.
If want you life miraculous
It’s really quite so marvelous
And never, ever dull.
But one thing in this country
You really must avoid
Speaking words in plain old prose
Is what will most annoy,
So put on your best rhyming
Your metered rhythm too
Don’t dally up a worthwhile speech
Without so much ado,
Be mannered in your speaking
Poetic when you talk
Or everyone will soon declare Your words taste just like chalk
This morning, right after waking, I began this poem.
I wrote the first two stanzas in bed, in my bedside notebook, went downstairs, fed the animals, made breakfast for the wife and kids, and then sat down at my desk and hammered out the third stanza. It wasn’t hard. It flowed as if I had taken no break in between.
I started in on the fourth stanza which to me was absolutely brilliant (the best part of the entire work) and right as I got to the third line of the fourth stanza the power went out at the house, and for some reason my backup power fluctuated as well so that my computer shut down. By the time I rebooted I had lost the entire fourth stanza.
I tried reconstructing the stanza from memory but I was so pissed off and taken off guard by the unexpected power failure (why should that happen at the start of summer with not a cloud in the sky I ask you?) and by the delay in reboot time that I ended up producing a mere shadow of my original effort.
I’m still satisfied by the stanza, and the poem overall so far, and it is far from finished, but just to be honest the fourth stanza isn’t nearly what I produced the first time around. So I apologize for that. This is yet another valuable lesson in why I should never compose at my computer, but only in my notebooks.
Nevertheless I am pleased with the poem and when it is finally finished I suspect I will name it, Things Long Unseen.
That is, at least, the place-holder name I am giving it for now. Enjoy and have an excellent and productive and profitable week my friends.
THINGS LONG UNSEEN
I shall exceed all things, and having so excelled all things
Shall bow to me, not as brutish, mindless slaves but as one man
Instinctively declines his head to yet another in whom he recognizes
The loss of me is not the less of me, and the lending of me
To another is no lack of either thing made true in itself,
For pushed on by High Labour where can I go but where
I am, and where I Am dwells a still fairer land than I may truly
Ever know, though God knows, how much I wish for such
Things long unseen
I shall excel all things, and having thus exceeded nothing
Shall bow to me, nor find an alien compass with which to navigate
That Long Frontier that I so long ago remembered in myself
The less of me is what is left of me, for the debt of me
To another is both the loss and gain in ourselves untrue,
Subsumed in Reckless Profits, destined where I know not that
We are, or when, or how, or why it is that we know these things
Improper in themselves, though we all know how much we wish for
Things Long unforeseen…
Steven Pressfield is giving away a free download of his new book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit.
You should download a copy before the free offer expires. I really like and admire Pressfield’s work, both his historical fiction and his non-fiction.
The War of Art was superb. I added it to my personal library. Everyone should read it.
This will likely be another excellent tool for writers.
I can’t wait to read my download of this new book. I’ll start it this weekend. Afterwards I anticipate that I’ll add it to my personal library as well.
A lot of my buddies have military and law enforcement backgrounds.
Because of that one of my friends brought this article to my attention and a few of us discussed it since it is of more than passing interest to many of us.
It gave me an idea for a new science fiction short story about the same subject matter which I’m going to call Jihadology. (For the Jihad of Technology.)
I going to completely avoid the whole Terminator and tech gone rogue approach though of modern sci-fi and rather take a particular variation on the Keith Laumer BOLO theme, though there will be nothing about BOLOs or other such machines in the story. Those stories though were as under-rated and prophetic as was Laumer himself.
Anyway I want to avoid the whole world ending, unrealistic bullcrap kind of story (both from the scientific and military standpoints) and focus more on a very tight interpretation of what might actually happen if technologies such as those listed or projected in the article below were employed against an alien species in the future.
What would be both the operational and eventual ramifications, good and bad, of such technologies,and how could such technologies get out of hand or evolve beyond specified tasks and design parameters to become something completely new in function and focus?
I’ve already got the first few paragraphs to a page written which is based loosely upon this observation I made about what the article implied:
“I’m not saying there are any easy answers, there aren’t when it comes to technology, but technology can at least potentially do two related and diametrically opposed things at once: make a task so easy and efficient and risk-free for the operator that he is never truly in danger for himself, and secondly make a task so easy and efficient and risk-free for the operator that he is never truly in danger of understanding the danger others are in.
And if you can just remove the operator altogether, and just set the tech free to do as it is programmed, well then, there ya go…”
If the stories work well then I’ll add them to my overall science fiction universe of The Curae and The Frontiersmen.
By the way, as a sort of pop-culture primer on the very early stages of these developments (though they are at least a decade old now as far as wide-scale operations go) I recommend the film, Good Kill.
Anyway here is the very interesting and good article that spurred all of this. Any ideas of your own about these subjects? Feel free to comment. If your ideas and observations are good and interesting I might even adapt them in some way and incorporate them into the short story series.
Czech writer Karel Čapek’s1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which famously introduced the word robot to the world, begins with synthetic humans—the robots from the title—toiling in factories to produce low-cost goods. It ends with those same robots killing off the human race. Thus was born an enduring plot line in science fiction: robots spiraling out of control and turning into unstoppable killing machines. Twentieth-century literature and film would go on to bring us many more examples of robots wreaking havoc on the world, with Hollywood notably turning the theme into blockbuster franchises like The Matrix, Transformers, and The Terminator.
Lately, fears of fiction turning to fact have been stoked by a confluence of developments, including important advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, along with the widespread use of combat drones and ground robotsin Iraq and Afghanistan. The world’s most powerful militaries are now developing ever more intelligent weapons, with varying degrees of autonomy and lethality. The vast majority will, in the near term, be remotely controlled by human operators, who will be “in the loop” to pull the trigger. But it’s likely, and some say inevitable, that future AI-powered weapons will eventually be able to operate with complete autonomy, leading to a watershed moment in the history of warfare: For the first time, a collection of microchips and software will decide whether a human being lives or dies.
Not surprisingly, the threat of “killer robots,” as they’ve been dubbed, has triggered an impassioned debate. The poles of the debate are represented by those who fear that robotic weapons could start a world war and destroy civilization and others who argue that these weapons are essentially a new class of precision-guided munitions that will reduce, not increase, casualties. In December, more than a hundred countries are expected to discuss the issue as part of a United Nations disarmament meeting in Geneva.
Last year, the debate made news after a group of leading researchers in artificial intelligence called for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.” In an open letter presented at a major AI conference, the group argued that these weapons would lead to a “global AI arms race” and be used for “assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.”
The three added that “autonomous weapons are potentially weapons of mass destruction. While some nations might not choose to use them for such purposes, other nations and certainly terrorists might find them irresistible.”
It’s hard to argue that a new arms race culminating in the creation of intelligent, autonomous, and highly mobile killing machines would well serve humanity’s best interests. And yet, regardless of the argument, the AI arms race is already under way.
Autonomous weapons have existed for decades, though the relatively few that are out there have been used almost exclusively for defensive purposes. One example is the Phalanx, a computer-controlled, radar-guided gun system installed on many U.S. Navy ships that can automatically detect, track, evaluate, and fire at incoming missiles and aircraft that it judges to be a threat. When it’s in fully autonomous mode, no human intervention is necessary.
More recently, military suppliers have developed what may be considered the first offensive autonomous weapons.Israel Aerospace Industries’ Harpy andHarop drones are designed to home in on the radio emissions of enemy air-defense systems and destroy them by crashing into them. The companysays the drones “have been sold extensively worldwide.”
In South Korea, DoDAAM Systems, a defense contractor, has developed a sentry robot called theSuper aEgis II. Equipped with a machine gun, it uses computer vision to autonomously detect and fire at human targets out to a range of 3 kilometers. South Korea’s military has reportedly conducted tests with these armed robots in the demilitarized zone along its border with North Korea. DoDAAM says it has sold more than 30 units to other governments, including several in the Middle East.
Today, such highly autonomous systems are vastly outnumbered by robotic weapons such as drones, which are under the control of human operators almost all of the time, especially when firing at targets. But some analysts believe that as warfare evolves in coming years, weapons will have higher and higher degrees of autonomy.
“War will be very different, and automation will play a role where speed is key,” says Peter W. Singer, a robotic warfare expert at New America, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C. He predicts that in future combat scenarios—like a dogfight between drones or an encounter between a robotic boat and an enemy submarine—weapons that offer a split-second advantage will make all the difference. “It might be a high-intensity straight-on conflict when there’s no time for humans to be in the loop, because it’s going to play out in a matter of seconds.”
The U.S. military has detailed some of its plans for this new kind of war in aroad map [pdf] for unmanned systems, but its intentions on weaponizing such systems are vague. During a Washington Post forum this past March, U.S. deputy secretary of defense Robert Work, whose job is in part making sure that the Pentagon is keeping up with the latest technologies, stressed the need to invest in AI and robotics. The increasing presence of autonomous systems on the battlefield “is inexorable,” he declared.
Asked about autonomous weapons, Work insisted that the U.S. military “will not delegate lethal authority to a machine to make a decision.” But when pressed on the issue, he added that if confronted by a “competitor that is more willing to delegate authority to machines than we are…we’ll have to make decisions on how we can best compete. It’s not something that we’ve fully figured out, but we spend a lot of time thinking about it.”
Russia and China are following a similar strategyof developing unmanned combat systems for land, sea, and air that are weaponized but, at least for now, rely on human operators. Russia’sPlatform-M is a small remote-controlled robot equipped with a Kalashnikov rifle and grenade launchers, a type of system similar to the United States’ Talon SWORDS, a ground robot that can carry an M16 and other weapons (it was tested by the U.S. Army in Iraq). Russia has also built a larger unmanned vehicle, the Uran-9, armed with a 30-millimeter cannon and antitank guided missiles. And last year, the Russians demonstrated a humanoid military robot to a seemingly nonplussed Vladimir Putin. (In video released after the demonstration, the robot is shown riding an ATV at a speed only slightly faster than a child on a tricycle.)
China’s growing robotic arsenal includes numerous attack and reconnaissance drones. The CH-4 is a long-endurance unmanned aircraft that resembles the Predator used by the U.S. military. The Divine Eagle is a high-altitude drone designed to hunt stealth bombers. China has also publicly displayed a few machine-gun-equipped robots, similar to Platform-M and Talon SWORDS, at military trade shows.
The three countries’ approaches to robotic weapons, introducing increasing automation while emphasizing a continuing role for humans, suggest a major challenge to the banning of fully autonomous weapons: A ban on fully autonomous weapons would not necessarily apply to weapons that are nearly autonomous. So militaries could conceivably develop robotic weapons that have a human in the loop, with the option of enabling full autonomy at a moment’s notice in software. “It’s going to be hard to put an arms-control agreement in place for robotics,” concludes Wendell Wallach, an expert on ethics and technology at Yale University. “The difference between an autonomous weapons system and nonautonomous may be just a difference of a line of code,” he said at a recent conference.
In motion pictures, robots often gain extraordinary levels of autonomy, even sentience, seemingly out of nowhere, and humans are caught by surprise. Here in the real world, though, and despite the recent excitement about advances in machine learning, progress in robot autonomy has been gradual. Autonomous weapons would be expected to evolve in a similar way.
“A lot of times when people hear ‘autonomous weapons,’ they envision the Terminator and they are, like, ‘What have we done?,’ ” says Paul Scharre, who directs a future-of-warfare program at the Center for a New American Security, a policy research group in Washington, D.C. “But that seems like probably the last way that militaries want to employ autonomous weapons.” Much more likely, he adds, will be robotic weapons that target not people but military objects like radars, tanks, ships, submarines, or aircraft.
The challenge of target identification—determining whether or not what you’re looking at is a hostile enemy target—is one of the most critical for AI weapons. Moving targets like aircraft and missiles have a trajectory that can be tracked and used to help decide whether to shoot them down. That’s how the Phalanx autonomous gun on board U.S. Navy ships operates, and also how Israel’s “Iron Dome” antirocket interceptor system works. But when you’re targeting people, the indicators are much more subtle. Even under ideal conditions, object- and scene-recognition tasks that are routine for people can be extremely difficult for robots.
A computer can identify a human figure without much trouble, even if that human is moving furtively. But it’s very hard for an algorithm to understand what people are doing, and what their body language and facial expressions suggest about their intent. Is that person lifting a rifle or a rake? Is that person carrying a bomb or an infant?
Scharre argues that robotic weapons attempting to do their own targeting would wither in the face of too many challenges. He says that devising war-fighting tactics and technologies in which humans and robots collaborate [pdf] will remain the best approach for safety, legal, and ethical reasons. “Militaries could invest in very advanced robotics and automation and still keep a person in the loop for targeting decisions, as a fail-safe,” he says. “Because humans are better at being flexible and adaptable to new situations that maybe we didn’t program for, especially in war when there’s an adversary trying to defeat your systems and trick them and hack them.”
It’s not surprising, then, that DoDAAM, the South Korean maker of sentry robots, imposed restrictions on their lethal autonomy. As currently configured, the robots will not fire until a human confirms the target and commands the turret to shoot. “Our original version had an auto-firing system,” a DoDAAM engineer told the BBC last year. “But all of our customers asked for safeguards to be implemented…. They were concerned the gun might make a mistake.”
For other experts, the only way to ensure that autonomous weapons won’t make deadly mistakes, especially involving civilians, is to deliberately program these weapons accordingly. “If we are foolish enough to continue to kill each other in the battlefield, and if more and more authority is going to be turned over to these machines, can we at least ensure that they are doing it ethically?” says Ronald C. Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech.
Arkin argues that autonomous weapons, just like human soldiers, should have to follow the rules of engagement as well as the laws of war, includinginternational humanitarian laws that seek to protect civilians and limit the amount of force and types of weapons that are allowed. That means we should program them with some kind of moral reasoning to help them navigate different situations and fundamentally distinguish right from wrong. They will need to have, embodied deep in their software, some sort of ethical compass.
For the past decade, Arkin has been working on such a compass. Using mathematical and logic tools from the field of machine ethics, he began translating the highly conceptual laws of war and rules of engagement into variables and operations that computers can understand. For example, one variable specified how confident the ethical controller was that a target was an enemy. Another was a Boolean variable that was either true or false: lethal force was either permitted or prohibited. Eventually, Arkin arrived at a set of algorithms, and using computer simulations and very simplified combat scenarios—an unmanned aircraft engaging a group of people in an open field, for example—he was able to test his methodology.
Arkin acknowledges that the project, which was funded by the U.S. military, was a proof of concept, not an actual control-system implementation. Nevertheless, he believes the results showed that combat robots not only could follow the same rules that humans have to follow but also that they could do better. For example, the robots could use lethal force with more restraint than could human fighters, returning fire only when shot at first. Or, if civilians are nearby, they could completely hold their fire, even if that means being destroyed. Robots also don’t suffer from stress, frustration, anger, or fear, all of which can lead to impaired judgment in humans. So in theory, at least, robot soldiers could outperform human ones, who often and sometimes unavoidably make mistakes in the heat of battle.
“And the net effect of that could be a saving of human lives, especially the innocent that are trapped in the battle space,” Arkin says. “And if these robots can do that, to me there’s a driving moral imperative to use them.”
The U.N. has been holdingdiscussions on lethal autonomous robots for close to five years, but its member countries have been unable to draw up an agreement. In 2013,Christof Heyns, a U.N. special rapporteur for human rights, wrote an influential report noting that the world’s nations had a rare opportunity to discuss the risks of autonomous weapons before such weapons were already fully developed. Today, after participating in several U.N. meetings, Heyns says that “if I look back, to some extent I’m encouraged, but if I look forward, then I think we’re going to have a problem unless we start acting much faster.”
This coming December, the U.N.’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons will hold a five-year review conference, and the topic of lethal autonomous robots will be on the agenda. However, it’s unlikely that a ban will be approved at that meeting. Such a decision would require the consensus of all participating countries, and these still have fundamental disagreements on how to deal with the broad spectrum of autonomous weapons expected to emerge in the future.
In the end, the “killer robots” debate seems to be more about us humans than about robots. Autonomous weapons will be like any technology, at least at first: They could be deployed carefully and judiciously, or chaotically and disastrously. Human beings will have to take the credit or the blame. So the question, “Are autonomous combat robots a good idea?” probably isn’t the best one. A better one is, “Do we trust ourselves enough to trust robots with our lives?”
This article appears in the June 2016 print issue as “When Robots Decide to Kill.”
She is a wonder of claw, fang, and hiss
Be careful if ever she growls
If she purrs first then mister
Something you missed or allowed,
But stroke her and feed her
And give her a kiss and tell her
That all will be well,
Rub her soft fur and play
With her tail
Until she is mended
For my friend I must tell
That the end of this tale
Is ever and always the same
So if she complains
Come sun or come rain
Then just know
That her Nature excels, but
Other than that just what
Can you do?
For her nature
Is flighty as hell!
Oh, and also cats get that way
From time to time too…
SOME OF WHAT I WROTE YESTERDAY (based either on memory of conversations or events of years past or new experience)
I slapped him on the shoulder in a friendly manner and smiled, but I was deadly serious.
“For God’s sake,” I said, “don’t do that. Don’t be a modern man. Be an actual man. Yeah, it’s always hard, and it don’t pay much most of the time. But at least you’ll be alive. Really alive. And in the end what in the hell else matters?”
from my novel The Modern Man
It was as quiet and peaceful and warm and sunny a day as I had ever seen in my entire life. And that was fine by me. I had sure seen enough of all the other kinds of days.
from The Modern Man
He topped the small hills that ringed the border to the north and the west and looked out before him. The blue and the green covered the land so thick that he couldn’t see the ground. Not anywhere.
It was an ocean of grass that stretched out forever, with no shore to be seen.
from my novel The Basilegate (Larmageon describing in his own mind wandering the “Blue-Green Sea” just beyond the borders of Kitharia – inspired by my hike in the forests and across the fields today; everything is in bloom and as thick as blood, especially the grass)
“My son, as the Lord taught us, you cannot save the world alone. But if you at least set out to try then neither shall you ever fail it…”
from the Basilegate (The Abbot of Studios writing to the Viking Christian convert Drakgarm of Gotar)
Nothing Works if you won’t.
from theBusiness, Career, and Work of Man
There is no sin in seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The sin lies in either avoiding pain merely to seek pleasure, or in seeking pleasure by inflicting pain.
Since I began recuperating from the operation on my wrist in July until today (Sunday, 1/31/2016) I have now conducted three experiments on how valuable the internet is to me compared to how much time I make use of it. (For researching, as a networking vehicle, source of discovery, blogging and communications platform, marketing venue, commenting base, etc.). This includes all aspects of the internet from email, blogging, networking, facebooking, pinterest, exposure of my work, marketing, etc.
I have averaged the three experiments together and have found that I should safely be able to dispense with somewhere between 75% and 90% of my total internet time (depending upon what it is being used for), time that I can far more productively devote to my inventions, writings, songwriting, and businesses. Not to mention the time I can devote to other things like my artwork, my scientific experiments, and even my recreations. These are the results of my experiments and analyses.
What I found the internet to be almost entirely useless for:
1. indirect and inbound marketing – almost entirely unprofitable hype
2. Truth discovery
3. discovering subjects of real interest that could not be accessed elsewhere
4. politics and influencing others
What I found the internet to be only moderately useful for:
1. staying in contact with family and friends
2. growing a network through indirect contacts or comments
3. Direct Marketing (email, sometimes blogging)
4. gaming, hobbies, recreations
5, selling and buying
What I found the internet to be useful for or even occasionally profitable for:
1. research and concept and idea and article discovery
2. idea generation, invention generation, story generation, etc.
3. education through lectures, eBooks, etc.
Nevertheless if you average all time spent on the internet versus the return on time invested it is blatantly obvious to me that most of the internet (the vast majority actually) is over-rated hype and highly unproductive and a distraction from Real Work and achievement. Just as much as is say television and the desire to be constantly entertained or drugged or drunk, etc.
Therefore, that being said I have am giving up about 75 to 90% of what I do on the internet and of the remainder of my internet time I will redirect my efforts into other and more productive and valuable venues.
Otherwise, as regards the internet, I will do exactly as I did with television and video games. I will give them up completely or only indulge those things on the weekends or holidays.
Therefore as of Monday, 2/1/2016 the bulk of my time saved by dispensing with the internet will go to far more productive and useful activities and outlets. And into time spent with family and friends.
I’ve had a series of serious personal problems to deal with lately (floods and storms in SC that damaged my house, my daughter was struck by a – probably drunk – hit and run driver who totaled her car, etc.) which I’ll explain in detail later on. Everyone is okay but the house is damaged and my daughter’s car was destroyed. Anyway that has prevented me working properly (I’ve been putting out fires and settling insurance claims) and has delayed me blogging.
Night before last however, for the first time in weeks I was able to work uninterrupted and I started three songs and wrote a piece of flash fiction. So here is part of a song I started two nights ago called Don’t Die. It is unfinished but I got pretty far along on it.
Don’t die in the leaving son
Don’t die at the dawn
Don’t die in the coming home
Don’t die while you’re gone
There’s a long, long way between here and there
There’s a short step between the night and grave
I wish I could tell you differently son
But that’s just the way the world is made
I went out when I was young, so deep into the dark
I saw things there I didn’t want, things so sharp and hard
I wish I could tell ya differently son
But believe me when I tell you now, I got the scars
Careful where you go now son
Careful when you’re coming back
Go there when there’s no one else
Go there when you can’t be tracked
Oh, the things I’d show you if you’d see
How far away from everything
How very close to me
Don’t die in the leaving son
Don’t die in the dusk
Don’t die in your wand’ring round
Just do what you must
With modern men it’s Either/Or with everything they do
You must “kill your darlings” see or they will butcher you
You must “this” or you must “that” but never both at once
There’s no room for compromise, conform, or thus you’re done
In life you cannot do it all, in art you cannot be
(so they say)
You either choose to play it small, or choose you must agree
You’re told this way is for the best by popular decree
For if you vary from that plan then there’s no guarantee
Of course there never was a risk that came with sure success
It’s Either/Or you see my friends, surely you’ll confess
That every piece of sure advice was once just enterprise
If you do not know that word it surely still applies
Now Either/Or is half of chance, I’ll grant you that is true
And both together, certain not, do not success ensue
But if you think that Either/Or by either issues Fate
Then you will soon discover kid that both will come too late
See some things they are right and just and some things they are wrong
And some things they are short, or fat, and some are tall, or long
Now of those things most modern men they treat them all the same
Evil is the twin of Good because they have no shame
Yet many things in life are not so ease-ly misconstrued
Not confused by sorcery they need some close review, and
Of those things all Either/Ors are theories in the air
Either this or never that is just a fool’s affair
The Keepers of those Mighty Gates that tell us all what is
Rarely ever venture forth in battle to enlist, and
If they do they found one way, but many paths are still
Untrodden in the hidden wastes, and through the untamed fields
So Either/Or I say to you, yes, either may be best
But you will never know that friends until them both you test…
Posted: 09/13/2015 1:22 am EDT Updated: 09/15/2015 11:59 am EDT
No matter what experts tell you, no matter what trends, conventional wisdom, social media chatter or your friends in the Facebook writers group insist upon, do NOT write four books a year. I mean it. Don’t.
Unless they’re four gorgeously written, painstakingly molded, amazingly rendered and undeniably memorable books. If you can pull off four of those a year, more power to you. But most can’t. I’d go so far as to say no one can, the qualifier being good books.
Beyond the fact that the marketplace is glutted with an overwhelming number of books already (many of dubious quality), writing good books simply takes time, lots of it. There’s no getting around that time. It involves learned skills, unhurried imagination, fastidious drafting, diligent editing, even the time to step away, then step back, to go over it all again. And, unless you’re a hack (and we know there are plenty of those out there), isn’t the whole point of this exercise to write good books?
Our most highly esteemed, widely applauded, prodigiously awarded, read and revered authors know this to be true. Donna Tartt, last year’ s Pulitzer Prize winner forThe Goldfinch, took eleven years to deliver that masterpiece. This year’s winner, Anthony Doerr, had written only four books in his entire career before penning All The Light We Cannot See, wisely taking years to craft his stunning tale. The cultishly-beloved Harper Lee had only To Kill A Mockingbird in her catalogue before this year’s controversial release of Go Set A Watchman (which some are convinced was not of her doing). Even others amongst our best, who do put out work on a more regular basis, do so with focus appropriately attuned to the quality of the book, not the depth of their catalogue or the flash-speed with which they crank out product.
But, you say, I’m not interested in writing Pulitzer Prize winners; I don’t need to be on The New York Times bestseller list; I just wanna see my name up at Amazon and sell a few books to family and friends, and, hey, if I go viral, all the better! They say write to the market, so I gotta write to the market. I mean, look at E.L. James…she’s hardly Chaucer and look what’s happened to her!!
Point taken. Which actually brings us to the point: what is your point?
What’s your point as a creative, an artist; an author? A purveyor of the written word? Why are you here, what is your purpose, your goal as a writer? What do you hope to achieve? Is it fame and fortune at any cost, quality be damned? Or is it about finely crafted work? It’s important to know, to decide, because those principles will guide and mandate every decision you make from there on out.
I bring all this up because I experienced a snap the other day, one triggered by an article from Self Published Author by Bowker titled, Discovery: Another Buzzword We’re Wrestling to Understand. In it, the writer lists many of the familiar instructions toward procuring success as an indie writer — social media, book reviews, networking, etc. — but her very first suggestion to self-published authors looking to get “discovered” was this:
Publish. A Lot: For those of you who have spent 10 years writing your last book I have news for you. You have ten days to write your next one. Okay, I’m sort of kidding with the ten days but, candidly, the most successful authors are pushing out tons of content: meaning books, not blog posts.
In most categories, readers are hungry for new reads, new books, and willing to discover new authors. You’ll have a better time getting found if you continually push new books out there. How many should you do? At a recent writers conference some authors said they publish four books a year. Yes, that’s right, four. [Emphasis mine.]
So, her first piece of advice to self-publishing authors wasn’t to put more focus on fine-tuning one’s craft, it wasn’t about taking time to mull and ponder what stories, what narratives, most inspire you to put “pen to paper”; it wasn’t even a suggestion to be relentless about working with professional content/copy editors and cover designers to create the best possible version of your work. No, it was the insanely insane advice to pump out at least four books a year.
And people wonder why there are stigmas attached to self-publishing.
First of all, in looking at her point of reference, I suppose it depends on what you define as a “successful author.” I have a distinct feeling this may be where the disparities lie. Perhaps my own definition is a different one.
When I self-published my first book, After The Sucker Punch, in April of 2014, I had, by then, put years into it, doing all those many things I itemized above. Because I not only wanted to publish a novel, I wanted that novel to be a work of art, a book of depth and merit, one that would not only tell a compelling story but would meet standards of publishing that authors of the highest regard are held to. I wanted it to be a book that would favorably compare with anything put out by a traditional publisher. My choice to self-publish was a result of not having engaged a publisher by the time my book was done and I was ready to market it. It was not based on the notion of joining the “second tier club” where one is unbound from the stricter, more demanding standards of traditional publishing.
“Second tier club”? Yes. As insulting as that sounds, particularly in relation to self-publishing, there is no question that there are two tiers operating in the culture of the book industry. Take a moment to think about it: based on what advice is given to self-published writers, some of which I shared above; based on the”free/bargain” pricing paradigms of most book sellers hawking those writers; based on the corner (quality)-cutting measures required to pump out endless product to meet the purportedly endless demand of those sites and their bargain-hunting readers, “second tier club” is no misnomer.
Where the best of traditional publishers set their sights not only on commercial viability but award-quality work, nurturing authors with enduring skills and profound stories to tell, in a climate that is selective (perhaps too selective) and based on the notion that that level of quality and commercial appeal is a rare and valued commodity, self-published authors are advised to, “Crank out loads of books. if you have to write little teeny short ones to get your catalogue pumped up, do that! Don’t worry about covers; your readers don’t give a hoot about artwork. It’s all about genre, easy reads, and low, low prices! And speaking of low prices, don’t even think about selling your books for more than a dollar or two, because readers who do bother with self-published books are too accustomed to bargain-basement prices to spend any more than that. This is the 99¢ Bargain Circus Book Store, where we push quantity over quality every day of the week!! CRANK OUT THAT PRODUCT!!”
I’ll bet good money Donna Tartt, Anthony Doerr, and other quality writers aren’t getting that same message from their publishers. First tier, baby.
Look, if your point and purpose as a writer is largely related to the numbers — of books sold, of Amazon ranking, of reviews garnered, of Twitter followers and Facebook “likes” — then, certainly; follow the advice of the article quoted about. I know many self-published writers who are, and though I have no idea how well that’s working for them, it’s certainly the prevailing trend.
But if your point and purpose as a writer is to take someone’s breath away, capture a riveting story, translate an idea — whether fantasy, love story, science fiction, human interaction, tragedy, thriller, family saga, memoir, non-fiction — in a way that raises hairs or gets someone shouting “YES!”; if you’re compelled to tell that story so beautifully, so irreverently, with such power and prose as to make a reader stop to read a line over just to have the opportunity to roll those words around one more time, then don’t listen to that advice.
Instead, do the opposite: take your time, work your craft; look for the best possible ways to tell your story and allow yourself time to change your mind, sometimes often, until you know it’s right. Allow your editors time to help you mold your narrative into peak condition. Give your formatters and copy editors time to comb through your manuscript, again and again, to make sure everything is perfect. Work carefully with your cover artist to create the most gorgeous, most professional book cover you can. TAKE YOUR TIME.
Then take lots more to research marketing options; ask questions, weigh contradicting information, and come up with the best possible strategy for your book. Do what you choose with professionalism and without the misguided push to the “top of the list,” that pervasive attitude so rife with desperation and panic. You’re not in a race, with anyone. You are a professional author working your book your way. Be an artist, don’t be a carnival barker. Be a wordsmith, not a bean-counter. Be patient, not hysterical. Transact wisely, but don’t lose your soul in the process.
I know I’m bucking the trend, and certainly there are quality issues and dubious motivations floating around both tiers. It’s also certain that, if you follow my lead, you will not be able to write four books a year, at least not four full-length books. You will write, perhaps, one. But if you do it right, taking time and taking care, you will have written one excellent book. One you’ll be proud of years from now. One your friends and family will keep on their book shelves. One readers across the globe will talk about on social media. One that tells the world, I am a writer and this book is my legacy. Then you’ll go write another of those…and so on.
The rest of it — sales, rankings, reviews, viralness, likes, tweets, awards, kudos, peer admiration… all that? If you do it right, if/when any of those things come, they will be warranted and well-deserved. You can celebrate them authentically, because you did not sell your creative soul to get them. You actually made the far, far better deal.
CLARIFICATION- Because the last thing I want is to insult a fellow author, let me clarify, because it seems to be needed: This is NOT a screed against authors who CHOOSE to publish multiple titles annually (according to many, I’m faulty in assessing that that’s difficult to do well!), nor is it a suggestion that there is only “one way” to do things. In fact, it’s the opposite. The whole point is choice rather than mandate. When the mandate to publish in volume becomes the most prescribed way to reach success, it leaves many authors feeling pressured to publish more quickly and more often than they’d prefer, with some left feeling as though taking the time to craft a book is devalued. Neither should be true. I’m simply championing choice, the personal decisions every author makes about how they’ll reach success. For those who enjoy publishing in volume, who do it well and find it successful, that formula works. But for those who don’t, I’m suggesting forging your own way unshackled from the mandate. That is all. Best with your writing!
THE SAME IS THE SAME (A Simple Ode to Not Getting It)
I once knew an old man who said this to me
“The same is the same til it isn’t you see.”
“What does that mean?” I asked of the man
“It means that the isn’t is part of the plan.”
So I queried again to see if I tracked
But he waved off my efforts, and asked what I lacked
“What I lack is your meaning, if you see what I mean!”
“Why I do,” said the old man, “and I highly esteem
That you haven’t yet got it, so let me help out
Though you’ll fare none the better I seriously doubt
If my statements seem lacking in substance and style
For my purpose is patent though soaked through with guile.”
”What mean you by saying, ‘your purpose is plain?’
When it’s riddled and wrapped in these vestments arcane?”
“Oh,” said the old man, “you’re confused by degrees,
‘See the same is the same til it isn’t you see!’”
“What’s with the riddles, the rhythm, and rhyme?
I haven’t the patience, the motive, or time,
Just tell me quite simply exact what you mean
There’s only one prophet, the profit foreseen,
So tell me quite clearly how true to do that
There must be an answer to fit in your hat
For all things are even unless they are odd
Just show me the method and on I will plod!”
”Exactly!” he told me, “You know it by now
A fox is quite crafty unless he’s a cow
The prophet who profits will see past the words
Everyone else will just think him absurd,
For the Wise Man his profit is built by the mind
Who sees into others to find what he finds
But the men who are stuck in the clay of the words
Cannot the future when once it’s occurred
That he can by convention control what’s to come
Or by formula master all things to succumb
So the same is the same til it isn’t you see
But to come to that meaning you must come quite free.”
So I left in a quand’ry, I left in some doubt
That he knew of his subject, or what he did tout
Yet since then I’ve measured the world and its men
Found them uneven, thrice even again
Not a king who could not be a pauper at heart
Not a peasant who might not some genius impart
Not a tyrant so strong I would bend once to them
Not a haughty pretender not given to whims
Not an expert or maven perfect in wares
Not a Wise Man among them whose Wisdom he shared
Without first giving counsel – as I counsel thee,
“The same is the same til it isn’t you see…”
I’ve been having to spend a lot of time on the internet this past weekend, yesterday, and today (time I would have rather spent doing other things, but this was necessary) rearranging the work on my literary blog so as to make it easier for agents, publishers, business partners, investors, etc. to locate my work in a single locale.
I did have my stuff scattered about on various “categories” on my blog(s) but that was apparently making it hard for agents and others to review my stuff. So on each blog I created a new category entitled: MY WRITINGS AND WORK
Now anyone can find anything I have created, written, or posted on my blogsites with a single click. This should be much, much more efficient and useful.
But it has been hard work to go back through all of my old posts, locate my work, and collate it into a single on-line collection.
So it has taken days (literally) of search, edit, and reorganize. But I’m halfway done with Wyrdwend, my literary blog, and as of now my new category/collection contains 88 pieces of my work. Including such things as my short stories, poetry, children’s stories, children’s books, songs, invention sketches, business articles, criticisms, scripts, graphic novels, essays, novel extracts, game designs, etc.
Whatever I have so far put up.
I figure when I finally finish with my archives by the end of the week the category/collection/link will contain about 160 or so pieces of original work.
Once that is done I’ll do the same for all of my other blogs, including Launch Port, Tome and Tomb, and the Missal.
This happens to be my favorite section of monologue from a play by Shakespeare (any play by Shakespeare), and there are many brilliant ones. This is from the Henry Cycle. (Henry discusses his past nature as scoundrel and the companion of scoundrels and his coming nature as king.)
Since I was a kid, a teenager actually, I have taken what I consider to be great sections of poetry, prose, plays, songs, etc. and rewritten them to see if I could improve upon them in some way (linguistically, poetically, phonetically, in meaning or emphasis, etc.). As an exercise in the improvement of my own poetic capabilities. Or towards the improvement of whatever other capabilities I happened to be attempting to exercise.
To me this is the very paragon of verse from Shakespeare’s plays, for any number of reasons, not least the undercurrents of shaded meaning, the psychologically acute self-analysis, and the prophetic pronouncements of the future. I have rewritten this section many times and in many different ways but did it again late last week as an exercise to keep myself from becoming rusty and out of practice at this type of verse and monologue.
The first section is the Work of Shakespeare. The second section is partially Shakespeare’s, the part in italics (in order to set the theme of the monologue), and the last part is my rewriting of the same. It is not only a rewriting, I’ve also altered the emphasis, slightly and subtly, but it also contains allusions to other subject matter and characters I have written about in my own poetry, such as Orpheus and the Tears of Iron.
I hope you enjoy it. I also hope you try such exercises for yourself to improve your own capabilities.
I KNOW YOU ALL – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
I know you all, and will awhile uphold The unyoked humor of your idleness. Yet herein will I imitate the sun, Who doth permit the base contagious clouds To smother up his beauty from the world, That, when he please again to be himself, Being wanted, he may be more wondered at By breaking through the foul and ugly mist Of vapors that did seem to strangle him. If all the year were playing holidays, To sport would be as tedious as to work, But when they seldom come, they wished for come, And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents. So when this loose behavior I throw off And pay the debt I never promisèd, By how much better than my word I am, By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes; And, like bright metal on a sullen ground, My reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault, Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes Than that which hath no foil to set it off. I’ll so offend to make offense a skill, Redeeming time when men think least I will.
I KNOW YOU ALL – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND JOHN GUNTER
I know you all, and will awhile uphold The unyoked humor of your idleness. Yet herein will I imitate the sun, Who doth permit the base contagious clouds To smother up his beauty from the world, That, when he please again to be himself, Being wanted, he may be more wondered at By breaking through the foul and ugly mist Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.
Of temperance there is none found in me When overwhelming Wyrd o’ermasters All the conduct of my prior faculties Yet when I am come, and baring as I come The former foil that gilds me dull, yet sharp In indiscretions manifold who will vouchsafe all my claims and titles Young with new maturity, if not I? In reform well sprang like Orpheus From the chair of Pluto and his iron tears My coming crown unworn, my sins unshorn Shall outline the very shadowed limits That I so like the scorching sun of noon Shall burn away when the Dawn of Me Does unexpected rise from deep within And clotted clay, the seeming sepulchre That frontiers all I have ever been Will be seen to walk beneath the heavens As if a new king bestrode the mortal world In glory more like ancient gods than man…
For the past few years I’ve been developing Tools to assist me in my career as a fiction writer, songwriter, and poet. In preparation for pursuing those careers.
I have decades worth of Tools regarding my business-careers as a business, copy, and non-fiction writer, and inventor (and as a poet, I’ve been a poet since I was about age 8 or so), many of which I have been posting to my Business Blog, Launch Port.
But here in Wyrdwend I’m going to start making it a habit to post some of my more useful Writing Tools in the form of Templates. I’ll arrange them all into a sellable book, or e-book, or workbook, something like that, maybe in a year or so. I’m too busy right now.
I’m giving you permission to use these tools, or to use them as idea-generators to make your own. Tools, as opposed to actual Works, I consider more public property than proprietary or personal intellectual property. Yeah, in book form I’d consider them mine, but in this form, if you find them useful, then use away.
Each week, barring some unforeseen exigency, I’ll be posting a different Tool, or a different kind of tool (writing, songwriting, poetry, etc.) that you can make use of in developing your own works. Some of these tools I modified from tools suggested to me by others, some contain partial information or design components from other sources, many are entirely my own creations.
To start I give you a very, very simple and easy to use tool. Nevertheless it should (if properly employed) contain vital and succinct information about your Work (Book or other Major Work) that you can use as an elevator pitch, to formulate a written pitch, or to simply keep the fundamental and primary elements of your work clear, distinct, and easily marketable.
I used to breed Great Dane pups. Well, half Great Dane, and half Saint Bernard. I call them American Superiors.
So that I could keep one descendent from every generation and so that (going back four generations now) others who wished them could have one. Best dogs I’ve ever had. Best dogs I’ve ever seen.
But dogs are dogs. Their methods of breeding, reproduction, and birth are hardly easy, civilized, or elevated. Sometimes they’re just brutal. Which reminded me a lot at the time of things I’ve seen with and out of people too.
So I wrote this short story about em both: dogs, and people. Because when they are both high and elevated, they are both noble indeed. And when brutal and beastly I get good and damned tired of watching them kill (intentionally or otherwise) and of burying em…
So for Tuesday’s Tale I’m telling ya, sometimes I Get Sick.
I GET SICK
My bitch killed two of her own. There were only four to begin with, so it was a real blow. To all of us. As much as I love my bitch, and think she’s much smarter than average, it was totally unnecessary. Had I not been already exhausted with overwork I could have seen it coming. Could have prevented it. Should have prevented it, but truth was, I was just plain too late. I get sick of being too late. It always ends like hell, and the payoff is lousy.
With her breed of dog you have to watch the pups carefully. It’s not that she’s a bad bitch in any way, or an uncaring mother. She isn’t. Actually it’s quite the opposite. She cares a lot. Which is why she killed them. Too much of love is deadly in her kind.
We’d been through this before. It wasn’t our first rodeo, for either one of us. I knew how she’d litter, and what the follow on would be. She birthed for two days straight, but slowly. Very slowly. Again, normal for her kind.
Six pups in all, one blue, one brindle, one gold, three black. All of the coat combinations possible given her jet-black coat and the complex coat of her sire. But two were stillborn, a black female my kids named Zoë and a huge pup, twice as big as any of the other two combined, we named Goliath. It was bad he never drew breath. From his size at birth alone it was likely he would have been a prodigious monster. Maybe the biggest my bitch had ever bred.
But four lived. A black female we named Jade, a golden male named Leo, a brindle called Peter, and a beautiful blue (always the rarest in appearance) I named Seanna, meaning “blue gray wave.” They all thrived for five days. My bitch had more than enough milk to nourish them all. Leo grew the largest, Peter next, Seanna was the smallest, but fed the most, and yet Jade too did well. Her fat belly often swelled with what she ate.
On the fifth night I gave up watching the pups anymore. Just let their mother do all the tending. She was doing a superb job, and although I knew that being a Great Dane, and about two hundred pounds, she would be a danger to them until they were three or four weeks old, they all seemed well. I could go back to bed at night, let my bitch care for the pups alone and without my interference. I was already almost sick with overwork and lack of sleep. All night den-father to the litter seemed overkill.
The next morning I got up late, having overslept from previous lack. I went downstairs and looked at the thick blanket on my den floor where my bitch and pups should have been. But they weren’t there. She had moved them all up onto the couch. I ran over, afraid of what it meant, but it was too late.
She had two wrapped in front of her, her legs bent at an angle almost as if she were a human mother hugging them to her. She was licking and grooming them. I snatched them away immediately and placed them back on the floor. Then I looked for the other two.
Sometime after she had placed them on the couch they had slipped behind her. They were caught between the large seat cushions, dead and suffocated. One dead perhaps ten or twenty minutes, one dead probably not two or three minutes earlier. Both were still warm. Leo lay above Jade, a familial yet senseless fellowship of death.
I tried what I could with a syringe to resuscitate them both. But rigor set in quick with Jade. Leo stayed warm and pliant for nearly an hour. I thought at first he might have been comatose, instead of dead. But I could find no sign of breath or heartbeat, even a suppressed one. Eventually he too stiffened.
As best as I could reconstruct from what I saw their mother had probably went to get on the couch during the night to take a break from feeding them all. To take a little rest, maybe get some sleep. She’s used to laying on our couch or lounger as part of her normal routine. Then she heard one or more of them whine, demanding more milk, or her for her warmth. She had retrieved them all to be with her, carried them in her mouth to where she was, because after all she wanted them near and it was far more comfortable on the couch.
But they were too young still, and she far too large. Greta Danes bitches will often crush their young if left unwatched, and never even notice. An accident of nature they don’t think about until after death has claimed his prize.
She felt terrible afterwards, as did I. It took her awhile to figure out, but once she did she moaned and groaned. It was really my fault though. She’s a dog. But I’m a man. I knew what could have happened, and I had let myself become over-confident. That after a couple of litters she already knew all there was to know, and that with such a small litter to tend no real harm could befall form her loving but clumsy efforts at tending her pups. At two hundred pounds they were no match for her mass, and because of her breed, her unchecked affections were lethal and sure.
And, of course, I could have put up all of the cushions before I went to bed that night. That way she could not have placed them on the couch, where they could suffocate beneath her, caught between cushions many times their size, and crushed under a mother many times their weight. I could have also risen earlier. I had missed saving Leo by less than five minutes, and missed saving Jade by half an hour or less. But in all of these things I had been over-confident and stupid, had let exhaustion and lack of sleep and preparation blind me to risk. If anyone was at fault, it was certainly me. If anyone is to blame, the blame is all mine. And just as with any reckless, unnecessary accident or tragedy, there is always someone to blame. If you’re ever really willing to be honest about it.
That didn’t comfort their mother though, any more than it comforted me. Knowing how a sorry thing happened is very different from having prevented it. But at first she didn’t understand either. So she walked in rapid, worried circles around the small bodies, tried her furious best to lick them back to life, and when after an hour she finally realized they were absolutely dead, she demanded to go outside and tried to dig a hole to bury them in. I went outside and spoke to her softly, knowing she couldn’t understand me, but finally she looked up and left off her task. She didn’t need to understand me; she knew they wouldn’t be moving again. And so I guess she was sick of digging her holes.
Why is it that I’m the one that does all of the burying? I often ask myself that at times like these. I’m always the one putting the bodies down. I’m always the one digging the holes, or making the arrangements, or watching the corpses get planted.
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
I know my time will come. It’s inevitable. One day someone will plant my mortal remains, and that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s just a body, and well hell, I like it and all, but it seems a poor ride into eternity. It seems very fitting to me to shed it in time. I’ll have other places to be by then anyways.
But until then, on days like today, I have to wonder, what makes me so damned special? How come I get spared, how come I’m the one always left behind? As many times as Death has vested me, smiled, shook my hand, spoke to me like an old friend and wished me well, he’s never once asked me to follow him anywhere else than someone else’s grave. Just recover from whatever hit me so that I can be the one to execute his rites. His silly, tiring, pointless rites and rituals.
Friends, family, victims known and unknown, even my dogs and animals. I’ve inhumed them all. Planted them all. Entombed their last remains so often that all that remains to me is but a shadow of what I used to know. Used to feel. About them. About myself. I get sick of being the one to do all of the burying. I really get sick of it. A disease without end. A task without profit.
And so one day, one day God help me, just send me a cure.
I had an excellent idea today for a new fictional short story while on my morning walk through the woods with my Great Dane Sam. (We got soaked, by the way, in a rainstorm, nevertheless the rain was mostly warm and it was quite fun.)
Since I am writing a non-fiction book about Christian Wizardry that I call, cleverly enough, The Christian Wizard, the idea occurred to me this morning to write a fictional story about a young boy at an archaeological dig (at a cave on a Greek island) who accidentally discovers the tomb of long dead man, the tomb being filled with the artifacts and paraphernalia of the dead man’s life and craft.
For a reason the boy cannot immediately explain he decides to keep his discovery a secret and plunders the tomb for all he can recover: scrolls, books, artifacts, relics, tools, and devices, etc.
Upon close inspection of the find and the remains he discovers that the buried man was a Christian Wizard (not at all like a fictional wizard) who lived in the 8th century AD. The story proceeds from that point and will be called The Secret Wizard, and it will contain in background many of the ideas expressed in the Christian Wizard, only in fictional form, and disguised as metaphors and similes and symbols.
Well Marx he went to market
With theories great and grand
He sold them to the ignorant
In every foreign land,
At discount did they prosper
To fools they multiplied
In Truth they found no purchase
Yet with mobs they did abide,
Revolutions soon arose
With fires burning bright, and
Still the theories sold by Marx
Could not a dime incite,
Still what is that to theorists
Or professors in the clouds?
They packaged for their profit
Though no profit was allowed,
Well Marx he went to market
Just to find his market share, and
So he did ‘mong idiots
No Intelligensia to spare,
They took his empty theories
To spin out governments, and
That is what they’ve truly done
With dark and dim intent,
They convinced the public masses
They convinced the public schools
They tamed the dupes and gullible
Conscripted all the fools, yes
They sold Marx in their markets
In place of goods instead
Now markets teem with people
But no one has their bread…
The Wound that heals to help secure
Our Lives Eternal to endure
Was writ in Blood and sweat and toil
Then buried in the fruitful soil
That God had plowed in hearts of men
The day he died to live again
His Tomb a Rock, a mountain-top
A different world from which to spot
A brilliant Kingdom, richly cast
Full of souls and fit to last
Beyond the dark of night and death
Into the morn of what is blest
About the God who would be Man, and
Men made new by God’s Great Plan
To heal them true and make them fast
With his own Wounds, so deep, so vast;
A nail, a scourge, a crown of thorns
A cross, a spear, and sin engorged
Upon the Wound that heals us all
Upon the Man who stands and calls
To us upon this Easter Morn,
“Come my Friends, and Be Reborn!
For my Wounds were made for Thee I give them all, I give them free And if you’ll touch them to your Heart Then you and God shall n’er depart –
For the constant Blood my Wounds ensue Shall Live in God, and God in you…”
I had been thinking lately about the Myth of the Wound that can only be healed by the Weapon that made the wound. These thoughts made me realize, just a few days ago, that Jesus had rewritten that Myth, that the Wounds of Christ, the wounds Christs suffered via the acts of men are the only ones that can truly heal man of what most wounds him.
In other words the Wounds of Christ inflicted by man are the very Wounds that Heal man, and remake him into the Kind of Man he was always meant to truly be.
I guess that had lain on me for the past few days for this morning I woke with this poem running through my head. So I sketched it out on the notepad beside my bed and then came downstairs and wrote it out in full on my office computer and now I post it here.
So this is my poem for this Easter and in Honor of the Wound that Heals.
As part of my reading today I came across this passage in a work of ER Eddison:
“My pleasure is my power to please my mistress:
My power is my pleasure in that power.”
Which, compared to the surrounding work, struck me as dull and listless and uninspired. I didn’t like it and thought it could have been much better, comparatively speaking. (If it is indeed a quote cited from another work I have not as yet found the original source.)
So I decided to rework the couplet (and thereafter expand it) to see if I could render a better and more apt and more fit version (given the surrounding context). As an experiment, such as the kind of experiments I did on rewriting verse as a young kid.
This is what I developed:
“My pleasure is my power to please my mistress:
Her power in that pleasure is to my pleasing
Such powers, pleasing to us both
Yield pleasures sweet and e’er unending
In memory and reminiscence all alike To the very powers of those pleasing acts.”
And now for something completely different for First Verse. A political poem.
THE ENEMY WHO LEADS YOU
The enemy who leads you
Stained black with your blood
From poniard to vanguard
His plotting is thrust,
In counsel he’s clever
In Truth he’s foresworn
In trust he is shrewder
In craft than forborne,
His word is his measure
Though never a gauge
His promises guilt-bound
A thrice-gilded cage,
His skill brightly scheming
True allies shall languish
The one who commands you
Is not as you are
His mettle was tempered
A curved scimitar,
The suffering of others
The tyrant’s cold hand
Is given in fealty
To foreign demands,
If seals are thus issued
If agreements are made
The foe who now spends you
Will proffer no aid;
Command is elected
When Free Men take count
But no Virtue is granted
When deception does mount,
A man’s what a man is
Come first in his heart
If contrivance is motive
Then guile is his art –
Be wary of such men
Be warned of their aims
Wrapped in your losses
He’ll yet court his gains,
If you submit to his orders
If complicit in course
Then the Enemy who leads you
Will rule you by force.
Recently I have been involved in a number of different projects that have left me little time for blogging. I have been writing the lyrics for my second album, Locus Eater, I have been writing and plotting my novel The Basilegate, I have been putting together a crowdfunding project for one of my inventions and one of my games, I have been helping with and compiling material for my wife’s new career as a public speaker, and helping my oldest daughter prepare to enter college. In addition I have been speaking with and seeking a new agent. I have even been preparing a new paper on some of the work of Archimedes and what I have gleaned from it. Finally I have been preparing my Spring Offensive, which is now completed.
All of which have kept me extremely busy.
However I have not been entirely ignoring my blogging either. In background I have been preparing a much improved Publication Schedule for all five of my blogs, my business blog Launch Port, my design and gaming blog Tome and Tomb, my personal blog The Missal, my amalgamated blog Omneus, and this blog, Wyrdwend.
Now that most of these other pressing matters are well underway and on an even keel this allows me more time to return to blogging.
So below you will find my new Publication Schedule which I’ll also keep posted as one of the header pages on my blogs.
So, starting on Monday, March the 15th, 2015, and unless something unforeseen interferes this will be the Publication Schedule for this blog every week, including the Topic Titles and the general list of Subject Matters for that given day. That way my readers can know what to expect of any given day and what I intend to publish for that day. I will also occasionally make off-topic post as interesting material presents itself.
Wyrdwend – 11:00 – 12:00 AM
Monday: First Verse – Poem, Song, Music Tuesday: Tuesday’s Tale – Short Story, Children’s Story, etc. Wednesday: Highmoot – Reader Discussions and Commenting, Reblogs Thursday: Hammer, Tongs, and Tools – Tools, Linked In, Essay, Non-Fiction, etc. Friday: Bookends – Serialized Novel, Graphic Novel, Script Saturday: The Rewrite – Reblog best Personal Posts, Review Sunday – Sabbath
I searched for the Guild of the Golden Door
Across the Fields of Filidhic Lore
To the House of the Wights who shielded the Scop
Neath the blouse of the night through the tales that crop
When grown under moon, and groaned under woe
Sprout slew from the Earth, as above, so below
Then the Master’s Apprentice to servitude bent
Broke under sentence, in fervor all spent
Guild of the Golden Door
Gild yourself in guilt
All the wrongs adorned
All the harm you’ve built
Guild of the Golden Door
Gate of the ruined hoard
Facade of the secret morn
That dawns on the desperate horde
Golden Door, Golden Door
Hide and then reveal
Guilded Door, Gilded Door
Open wide, conceal
I sought for the Guild of the Golden Door
In the high merchant hills and the long shipping shores
I went to the banks that circled the world
Found all was lank loss, not a swine for a pearl
All the gain hidden, and all the made-men
Chains long forbidden, the same once again
Golden Door, Golden Door
Open, hide, conceal
Guilty Door, Giltied Door
Despised in your appeal
I watched for the Guild of the Golden Door
In the streets of the cities, in the eyes of the poor
It would not appear, was disguised far too well
The shrewd financiers were as crafty as hell
Guild of the Golden Door
Gate of the wasted hoard
Arch of what comes before
The birth of the desolate horde
I tried for the Guild of the Golden Door
Heard they governed the Halls of the Temple Floor
Found them buying and selling dressed in their rags
Pretending to credit; deceit, theft, and swag
All the pain ridden, your principles thrown
You claim to be bidden, you’ve purchased your thrones
Disguised by your voices, a’swim in your vice
Covet your choices, then play them like dice
Guild of the Golden Door
What is it that you’ve built?
All the wrongs so long adorned
All the blood you’ve spilt
Guild of the Golden Door
Won’t you share your guilt?
Yes drink of the cup of your own reward
For all the blood you’ve spilt
You should drink of the cup of your own reward
By the door of the world you’ve built
THE CORRUPTION OF THE GUILD OF THE GOLDEN DOOR
This is my next song for FAWM.
I worked on this until about 3:00 one morning. Then went to bed and got up around 9:00 or so and worked it again. Finished it that day.
I’m pleased with the final product, though I may change it around a little more before I eventually post it to my blog and use it on my new album, Locus Eater. It came out to be a lot longer and far more complicated song than I had anticipated. (I had expected it to be a small song and the short tie in to the Myrddin’s Tower poem.)
Originally it was a song about government claims to be assisting the poor and they are really just disguised profiteers seeking to use government as their “Golden Door” for personal advancement. Using government tyranny to line their own pockets by deceiving the ignorant and the naive.
But eventually the song became about financial and monetary corruption in general (such as crony or socialistic-capitalism), and in all fields, but especially by those who openly pretend to be working on behalf of the poor but are actually using them (and everyone else around them, including their partners) for their own grasping, covetousness, and greed. Hence the corrupting aspect of the Golden Door , and the corruption of the song itself from my original intent.
I didn’t plan on the song going that way, it just did. It became much bigger than I had expected.
I still, at this point, plan to use it as the sister-song for Myrddin’s Tower but it may have grown far too big for that. It may have to stand entirely alone.
We’re total suckers for self improvement: The self-help industry brings in billions of dollars each year from countless books. All that encouraging advice can feel empowering and commonsensical, offering a simple path to a better life.
But there’s a problem with this approach. “Reading a self-help book is like buying a lottery ticket,” writes social psychologist Timothy Wilson in his newest book Redirect. “For a small investment, we get hope in return; the dream that all our problems will soon be solved without any real expectation that they will be.”
While the power of positive thinking—the seeming bread and butter of self-help as we know it—is a nice thought, according to Wilson, there’s no evidence that simply thinking positively actually works. We can’t just will ourselves to be happier a-la The Secret. “Our minds aren’t that stupid,” says Wilson. “It’s not like you can just tell you mind, ‘Think positively.’ You’ve got to nudge it a little more along.”
In Redirect, Wilson offers an alternative he calls “story editing,” based on the research of social scientists over the years. This approach operates off the premise that we each have a core narrative or story that we tell ourselves about who we are and what the world around us is like. It’s a story that influences our choices and way of experiencing the world. But it’s also one we play a major role in shaping for ourselves.
Using specific writing exercises, according to Wilson, we can begin to shift that story and redirect our way of thinking. “Writing is an act of creation. You are creating as you go,” he says. “That’s what can make this personally so helpful.”
Write through a challenging problem
We can never simply write painful or difficult events out of our lives, but we can make them far more graspable and change our relationship to them, according to research by psychologist James Pennebaker. Over the years, Pennebaker has developed an approach he calls “Writing To Heal,” that uses writing exercises as a way to help people deal with difficult events their lives.
To try the Pennebaker writing exercise, think of an event or worry that’s been most on your mind recently. Set aside 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the day to write about that specific problem. Do this for four days in a row, setting aside at least 15 minutes at the end of each day to record your thoughts. As you write, don’t pause or second-guess yourself—just write without stopping.
Through his research over the years, Pennebaker found that this simple four-day exercise helped improve people’s health, and well-being in various studies. “It’s how we deal with setbacks that’s so important,” says Wilson, who has worked with Pennebaker over the years. While the writing exercise can be difficult at first, people tend to gain clarity as they continue doing it. “Often what they first write is jumbled and unorganized,” says Wilson. But eventually “they view what happened to them in a way that makes more sense.”
Distance yourself from negative experiences
Research has also shown that having some distance from a difficult event allows us to step back and better understand it. There’s a writing exercise Wilson calls the “step-back-and-ask-why” approach that allows us to create this distance and understanding in order to reframe negative events.
To do this exercise, close your eyes and bring yourself back to a specific moment or event that was upsetting to you. Then, in your mind, try to take a few steps back from yourself in the moment so that you can see the story unfolding as if it was happening to a distant version of yourself. Write about what that distant version of yourself is thinking and feeling. One way to do this effectively, suggests Wilson, is to write in the third person, rather than the first person, which automatically builds some seperation between you and the moment you’re writing about.
Don’t simply rehash a play-by-play of what happened; instead, try to explain why it happened. “Don’t recount the event,” Wilson writes. “Take a step back and reconstrue and explain it.”
Determine what your best possible self looks like
There’s a reason Saturday Night Live‘s “Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley” was such a hit in the ’90s. That focus on self-affirming mantras is practically begging to be made fun of, yet even today, you’ll find that same advice given in total earnest.
But as Wilson points out in his book, rather than telling yourself you’re doing the best you can and are the best you can be—a pretty text-book self-help mantra—try actually imagining what the best version of yourself might look like in the future and what you need to do to achieve those goals.
He calls this writing prompt the “Best Possible Selves Exercise.” Like the Pennebaker prompt, take 15 to 20 minutes a night for four nights in a row to do this exercise. Imagine your life in the future as if you’ve achieved all your life goals. Write not just what those life goals are, but also how you will be able to achieve them. “Focus on the process of achieving an outcome rather than the outcome itself,” says Wilson.
Imagine all the things that could have gone wrong
Gratitude journals are another self-help go-to, but research has shown they can actually have the reverse effect of making you feel less happy. There’s a pleasure to uncertainty—not being able to pin down the specific details of an event were was pleasing.
While reducing our uncertainty about negative events can help us bounce back from them more quickly, reducing uncertainty about positive events can take some of the pleasure out of them. Wilson calls this a pleasure paradox: “People want to understand the good things in life so that they can experience them again, but by doing so they reduce the pleasure they get from those events,” he writes.
For example, research has shown that asking people in a relationship to tell the story of how they met their partner doesn’t make them particularly happier. But ask those same people to write about the many ways in which they might not have met their partner or their relationship might not have worked out and they get much more pleasure out of the exercise. “People don’t like to do that, but when they do, it makes the relationship look special again, at least for a little while,” he says.
This translates well into a writing exercise Wilson calls the “George Bailey Technique” named after the protagonist in It’s A Wonderful Life. For this exercise, think of one of the most important or special events, relationships or accomplishments in your life. Then imagine all the ways in which it might not have happened. Doing this can introduce mystery and excitement back into the experience again.
Maintain a sense of purpose
These last two exercises aren’t so much writing prompts, as they are calls to action. In their studies of what make people feel happiest and most fulfilled, social scientists have found that having a clear sense of purpose is critical. This means reminding yourself of what your most important goals in life are and finding ways to move forward on those goals, says Wilson.
He identifies three ingredients to well-being: hope, meaning, and purpose. Writing exercises that help reframe the way you feel about negative events in the past can help create a sense of hope and meaning, but it’s also important to maintain goals that provide a sense of purpose in your life. “We all have some choice over what we want to pursue and those of us who are really lucky can get paid to do it, but plenty of people find other ways,” says Wilson.
Do some good in the world
Research has shown that it’s not simply having a sense of purpose that contributes to our well-being, but that those who help others are actually happier than those who don’t. These people have a greater likelihood of forming bonds with others and having a positive image of themselves.
“If you want to have a positive outlook and feel like a good person, go out and be a good person,” says Wilson. “The mind is a very good observer of ourselves.”
I’ve been working today on the “Four Types of Work“, loosely based in basic design on CS Lewis’ The Four Loves.
Already have basic definitions formulated and the main chapters arranged and outlined. Unlike Lewis’ book though it will be based far less on thought experiments and spiritual and theological intellectualizations than on pragmatic application.
Starting last Tuesday and continuing today and next week I will be exploring the issue of author platforms and how to get one. At the conclusion of this series of blog posts, The Steve Laube Agency will offer a downloadable document that will include the three posts plus additional information and resources.
Last week, I talked a little about the need to develop a “message platform”, which must be in place before you get a website, Facebook page or start any social media effort.
Today I am still not going to talk at all about how to use Twitter or Instagram or any specific social media. Media is the vehicle to communicate. Maybe at one time “the media is the message”, but in the 21st century, with ubiquitous media, “the message is the message” and that is where it belongs.
Today we will continue to explore how to determine what your message platform is and what you need to begin implementing it.
Most people have heard the term “branding” or “brand management” as it relates to consumer products like breakfast cereal and cars. Simply defined (so even I can understand it), effective branding limits creative expression within certain boundaries. If you are a label designer for Campbell’s Soup, there is a template you use to maintain the Campbell’s brand so anyone can recognize a product at a glance. An artist who desires to express herself creatively would view that job as a start, but probably not last long in that highly controlled environment.
Authors are brands as well. When anyone, from an agent to a reader looks at an author some immediate thoughts will come to mind, whether positive, negative, clear or confusing. Of course, you desire to project a positive and clear image, but often times, the way we operate is contrary to that.
I am not talking hypocrisy or sinful behaviors or walking the talk. I am referring to having a consistent message, delivered creatively, one that attracts readers and followers and meets the expectations they have for you.
Toe-stepping alert#1: Many less-than-interesting messages from authors have been posted in various media because “I need to post something today, but I can’t think of anything right now.” Until you become truly a rock star and people really want to know what kind of shampoo you use, don’t lose focus and talk about things that lack connection to your message. (Unless your message platform is about hair care, then shampoo is fine)
Whether you recognize it or not, you have a theme to what you write.
A novelist might have an approach that shows how characters can learn from mistakes.
A non-fiction author might use extensive research to undergird whatever they write and is known for attention to detail.
Another novelist shows how people go about their lives unaware of the spiritual world in the background.
A writer of Bible reference works desires to make the Bible understandable to everyone.
A writer of children’s books might want parents and children to interact about important things.
None of the above are necessarily the topic of a book…they are an author’s approach to their writing. That is their message platform, which is the first step for developing the author platform we hear so much about.
Toe-stepping alert #2: Most authors have no idea what their message platform is until someone else tells them. If you try to figure it out yourself, you are engaging in a form of self-deception. We never see ourselves as others see us. Ask someone who will be honest. Don’t ask close friends or family. They will be nice and usually agree with whatever you say. “Of course, you are smartest person in the world”. Thanks mom.
Bloggers, columnists, talk-show hosts, comedians, teachers, pastors and others who are responsible to deliver regular presentations make it a habit to always be on the lookout for illustrations and content. In many cases, they carry a small notebook with them everywhere they go, ready to capture a thought. Of course, these days, a number of people use a notes app or voice memo function on a smart phone. Use whatever you want, but do it.
Eyes and ears open, antennae up.
Look for stories to support your message platform everywhere. Let’s say your message platform is to highlight the good things people do for one another every day. That’s an easy one. You look for people doing things for one another.
Toe-stepping alert #3: If you don’t write or record the idea immediately, you will forget it. I don’t care how smart you are or how much you can memorize, the first time your phone rings you’ll forget what you were thinking about and the thought will be gone like a coin dropped on the couch.
Suppose your core message is harder to define. This is where asking multiple people is extremely important. Tell people to be straight with you. Anything else will not be helpful or at best, will send you off on a rabbit trail.
Finally, the framework for all message platforms is a commonly used item. A calendar. There are dates that mean something, like MLK Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, your grandmother’s 100th birthday, the anniversary of the day you got your driver’s license, etc.
By mapping out your message framework with a calendar, you will have a much easier time acquiring a specific message than if you try to figure out something without it. An idea from this afternoon might be great for next Spring or two years from now.
Toe-stepping alert#4: If you do not consistently plan your platform messages, then you will have regular moments of brain-freeze and you will shelve your carefully crafted platform for something less-than-important. The more you waste the time of your devoted followers who expect something from your core message platform, the less devoted they will become. (Unless you are super-famous, then we want to know what flavor of hummus you like best)
Next week, I’ll close this series of blog posts with a specific approach you can view the way you conduct your author marketing.
But if I forget what to write, anyone want to know how I feel about buying food from vending machines at rest stops along interstate highways?
Edit: I have changed the name of the album from Lotus Eater to Locus Eater.
Baba Yaga (The Dead Witch)
Barden and the Serpent (The Viking Ship)
Cave of the Unknown Prophet
Cumhaill’s Causeway (Clochán an Aifir)
Fall of Sisyphus
Hephaestus and Prometheus (The Tyrant’s Overthrow)
Isle of the Invisible Darkness
Myrddin’s Castle – longest song
Myrddin’s Tower – spoken poem with musical background
The Four Rivers of Paradise
The Rape of Medusa
The Spider and the Bones – short instrumental
The Storm of Tiamat – long multi-instrument instrumental
White Stag – medium length guitar instrumental
I’ve bene thinking about doing this for awhile and last week, while out and driving around I began sketching out the titles and notes for a new album of songs I’m going to write.
Last year I finished writing my first album of songs, a country album I call “Going South.”
This year I’ve decided to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time but never got around to. Writing an album of rock, art rock, and hard rocks songs in the style of music from the 1970’s (if you ask me the most productive and artistic era of American music in history).
This will be my homage and tribute album to the best rock music of the 70s (and 60’s – Tales of the Brave Ulysses, etc.) although there will also be ballads and instrumental pieces and some experimental and even some Prog Rock pieces (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer).
It will be called “Locus Eater.”
I have listed the songs in alphabetical order as I haven’t yet decided on any kind of arrangement. These are the songs I have decided to include at the moment. It may change as I develop the album. It will be a double album of course, and loosely, even a concept album.
Many of the songs will be in written in these general types of styles, though the lyrics will be considerably different:
Last week I had intended to reconstruct all of my blogs. To finally finish them and put them into the final format and technical shape I had originally intended for them.
Unfortunately every single day something came up to consume most of my days (my cat was attacked by another animal – probably a coyote – and had to be taken to the vet, my central air unit failed and required repairs, other people asked me to do things for them, etc, etc.) and so I never really got to my blogs. By the weekend I was pretty much exhausted and didn’t lift a finger.
So, that being the case I’ve decided to reconstruct one blog per week in February and spend the whole week on that blog. And I’m going back in the meanwhile to posting other content as well.
It’ll be a slower process but probably a more thorough one as well. And in this way I might even learn a few things I wouldn’t have last week.
I just hope and pray all of this crazy crap and distractions are finally over.
For the rest of this week I will not be posting any original content to this blog or any of my blogs. Recently, due to my work schedule and other obligations, I have had very little time to work on the overall construction and the technical aspects of my blog(s). I had planned to complete those aspects of my blogs long ago but other things kept interfering.
So this week I have decided to spend the entire week finishing my originally planned construction-plans of my blogs to make it easier for agents, editors, publishers, and other songwriters and writers to find me and to communicate and work with me.
To that end I will spend the rest of the week finishing my original plans and retooling this site.
As I said, as it stands now I plan to add no more original content this week so as to finally finish my original designs without interruption or any more delays.
However you can still find a great deal of useful content in the various Categories already present on this blog, and on the Categories of all of my other blogs. Just pick the categories that interest you and browse at will. Uncategorized will allow you to find everything.
I will also be sharing useful articles, content, and posts I find on other sites as I run across them and time allows. But most of my time this week will be spent on blog development.
Thank you for being a Reader and Follower of my blogs, I appreciate your patronage and hope you find my blogs enjoyable, entertaining, and most especially, useful.