The day after …

My first self-published novel was released as a paperback yesterday … I emailed several friends to let them know. One responded, “OK. It takes an old guy like me to know what you meant by ‘Paperback Writer’.” (That had been my email subject line for him.) Most did not respond at all. I’d emailed last week to let them know that the ebook was out. At first, this morning, I felt a bit crushed. Then I realized – oh yeah, everybody has their own life. Hello.

I’m not sure what I expected. But this morning I felt … dismayed, worried, let down, and a bit jangly. It isn’t going to sell! I have to hire a promoter, apparently. The book will not sell itself. There are many massive tons of books out there. I have to do something about it. But I don’t know what to do.

Then I found a solution to all these uncomfortable feelings.

I went into Facebook. A friend’s son just had his first open mic session – I watched it. It was charming … I could see his resemblance to his mother and it reminded me a bit of my own son. Kids. Doing wonderful charming things. I saw another friend’s stunning photograph of his new dog, meeting another dog nose-to-nose at the beach. Beautiful. Then I came in here and read some things by other authors. I learned a few things about the platform on which I published my ebook … bit o’ yikes. I opened up to other authors a bit, checking out their thoughts, feeling respect for them.

Now I feel so much better, I can actually go and work on my third novel. It’s almost half done. It’s about a family who falls on hard financial times and loses their home. I’m having writer’s block because it taps into some of my own fears. But I still want to do it, because I’ve come to like the characters by now.

The point of this little story here is that I’ve been focusing on mySELF too much, and it was beginning to paralyze me. I may have annoyed some of my friends by emailing them one too many times about my new novel. That is NOT proper promo. And just look at the first word of this blog post: “My”. Me. I. I have to stop it.

Life is one big massive collaboration, after all. We’re all in this together. So whenever I start feeling all jangly and worried again (and I know it’ll happen again), I will open up to what other authors are doing, enjoy their thought and ideas, and remind myself how many artists there are. I am one tiny little speck in the author/artist universe. Reminding myself of this creates the right energy, for being able to immerse myself in the parallel universe of the current novel I’m writing.

There’s plenty of time for promo of the first novel. It’s only been one week. *breathe* ***Write***

A Frank Discussion (in ancient Greece)

A:  I’m the man.  I’ve been hired by your rulers, to convince all of you why you should be ruled.  They give me room and board, good food, and all the boys I want.  It’s great.  Now, listen up.

W:  Wait a minute – if they’re paying you, isn’t it obvious that you’re obliged to come up with reasons for why they are “better” than we are?  Why else would they be paying you?  You aren’t doing any hard work and come to think of it, neither are they.

(Crowd begins booing and hissing at W, who is a woman, shouting things like “Go back to your kitchen!  You aren’t allowed here!  Where is your veil?  See how ugly she is!  Shameful!  I heard that she has relations with horses – it’s true!  She’s crazy!”)

A: (with a generous sweep of his hand) No wait – let her speak!  She has no husband to defend her or feed her.  So the least we can do is hear her out.  And keep your hands off of her.

W:  Thank you, sir.  I have been listening to you.  It’s true that I have no husband, however I work hard to support myself, doing the best I can.  I am beholden to nobody.  I sew clothes for a living, working from sunrise to sunset. (She holds up bloody, scarred, bruised hands.)

The crowd goes silent, except for a few younger men who are shushed up by the others.

A:  You were saying, woman?  What is your name?

W:  I am Naomi.  I have been listening to you through my window over there (she gestures to a nearby hovel).  I have heard your words and your wisdom.  I have a few things to add – may I?

A:  (smiling)  Of course you may.  I am nothing if not generous when it comes to matters of the mind.  The more I hear, the more I think.  And “I think” is my personal motto.  I am paid to think by the King.  He thinks that I think real well.  Now go ahead, sewer.  (this is pronounced “sow-er” rather than “sue-er”, denoting that she sews clothing)

W:  You have said that all humans are inherently selfish, and that if the aristocrats and their progeny did not rule over us, then we would all destroy one another through fighting.  But I have seen quite the opposite.  With my own eyes and ears, I have seen that this is not true.

(A begins to frown, crossing his arms … a few men begin shouting again, but he gestures them abruptly to be quiet.)  A:  I said to let her speak.  It is not often that we hear a woman speaking – I find it fascinating to hear.  True, all women are inherently stupid, childish, and emotional, which is why we have them locked away in our homes and out of public view, and which is also why we do not allow them to vote.  However, this one seems to be an exception.  Maybe she is a man in disguise.  (At this, men begin chattering excitedly to one another.)  I said be quiet!  Maybe she is an oracle.  I have heard of such things – a blind, stupid woman can sometimes access the dream world, and bring back wisdom.  If she is such an oracle, and we refuse to listen to her, this might be at our own peril.

(A does not look happy – he has painted himself into a corner, without realizing it … this woman must be a sorceress!  And now he has no choice but to let her speak.  He does not like where this is headed, but there’s nothing he can do.)

W:  I see many people, both men and women, throughout my days as a seamstress.  They all have several things in common:  they all, without exception, take pride in their work and their contribution.  They all strive towards co-operation, and most of them abhor conflict.  They all care deeply for their families, except for those with mental problems – and those people have been traumatized, explaining their aberrance.  We should not occupy ourselves with aberrant people, but instead focus on the majority, when formulating theories about the nature of humans.  Will you allow this point?

A:  Of course.  We should not focus ourselves on aberrations, when discussing the nature of humans.  On this I agree.

W:  Well then – the only people I ever encounter who seem to be selfish by nature, are the aristocrats themselves.  It seems that the more they have, the more selfish they become.  They tend to cause conflict wherever they go, unlike the common folk.  And they tend not to look after their own families, instead enlisting other people to do this for them.  In fact – all of the good qualities that I have seen in each and every common person with whom I have dealt, are completely absent in the aristocrats.

A:  What is your point, woman?  We have things to do here.  (Many of the surrounding men begin to walk away.  The crowd thins out.  People have stopped listening.  They have been made uncomfortable by her truths, and they worry about being caught listening to her.  They worry that they will be punished for listening.  So, they disperse.)

W:  My point is that you, in asserting that people are inherently selfish by nature, are simply doing what you’ve been hired to do – rationalize the aristocracy.  In fact, it is not possible to prove that all people are inherently selfish.  That is an unproveable fact, which you have however stated as fact.  Then you rationalize your arguments, coming to the conclusion that since all people are selfish, therefore the aristocrats are necessary to keep order and prevent people from fighting.  Your argument simply goes around in a big circle, and really goes nowhere.  And the entire rationalization is based on one single, unproven, unproveable fact:  that humans have a bad nature, and therefore must be told what to do.  I find your arguments are not only unpersuasive, they are in fact ridiculous.

A:  GUARDS!  Take her away!  Put her in that tower, lock her up, and throw away the key.  She has no husband anyway, so there’s nobody to miss her.  (He backhands her across the face, hard, breaking her nose and causing her to lose two teeth.)  Nobody will ever hear from you again.  You’ll be lucky in you don’t die of starvation.  You have now officially disappeared.

And so ends the discussion.

Social towers parable

There’s an old legend about what happened in the land of towers, and how all the people overcame what seemed like an unsolveable puzzle.  We might be able to seize some wisdom from this legend.  Here’s how it goes:

There was a land of towers, in which some people were chosen – by birth – to live above all of the other people in beautiful, luxurious towers.  They were able to look down on everybody else, literally, keeping an eye on the space below.  They were always on the lookout for anything or anybody which could topple their tower, of course, since they were so comfortable up there.

Sometimes if they were curious, a tower-dweller would come down in disguise and mix among the “lower” people to learn about them better.  They had guards who lived down below who were charged with keeping the order.  Being a guard was said to be a very honourable position and they enjoyed many benefits.  The tower-dwellers of course wanted the guards to feel privileged and pampered, so that they would never betray their employers.  Everything was very stable for a long time.

And then, things began to change.  The people down below started to resent all of their troubles, and they learned how to peer up into the towers to watch the tower-dwellers go about their daily business.  They learned that the tower-dwellers were not “better” or superior in any way; in fact, much to the shock of the people down below (who were getting smarter and smarter), in some ways the tower-dwellers were stunted mentally and intellectually from having been isolated up there for so many generations.

The more that the lower people learned and grew, the more unstable the land became underneath the old towers.  This was due to movement – movement of people, trading, creating, studying.  All of this new movement, which was inevitable after all, made the land underneath the towers shake and bounce.  The towers began to feel more unstable.  And so the tower-dwellers deployed more people to go down below, and try to stick people in their places – make them still.  Make them stop moving around so much – try to stabilize the situation.

The tower-dwellers failed, and so they began to speak openly about the situation, while capturing and locking down the most clever and creative of the lower people.  “Listen, people,” they cried.  “If you don’t stop quaking and shaking and bouncing, these towers are all going to fall down on top of you.  People will die.  Everything that we’ve built for you will be lost.  You don’t want that.  You don’t want to have to start all over again, do you?”

Many of the lower people said, “Yes, we do want to start again.  You built those towers long ago, on the backs of our ancestors.  We resent it.  It’s time for you to fall.  We will just take whatever damage is caused – it’s worth it, to see you all fall.  Time to say your prayers.”

So the tower-dwellers began to lock more and more people up.  They recruited and bribed many lower people to be on their team, providing them with privileges and luxuries like the guards they employed.  People began to betray one another.  Loyalties were destroyed.  Families were destroyed.

But the ground only began to quake and shake even harder.  The tower-dwellers were in a dilemma – the more they tried to create stability, the more unstable the land became.  All of the rifts and problems they made by recruiting and bribing so many lower people, were starting to widen and it started to look like these cracks and rifts were going to just swallow the towers whole, disappearing the tower-dwellers forever.

The tower-dwellers made many campaigns to try and stabilize the land.  They threw down drugs and substances to make the people more quiet.  They tempted them with scenes and stories that stimulated their lower brains, and they implanted hypnotic ideas which dampened the mental faculties and made people stupid.  But it didn’t work.  The instability only got even worse.

Finally, a moment of reckoning came.  The council of leaders of the tower-dwellers had a meeting.  Among them was a secret agent, a member of one of the tower families who had lived down below for a time with the people, and who had come to love them, respect them, and revere them.  This secret agent waited for the precisely correct moment to speak up.  The dilemma was discussed among the council members.  They were not able to agree on how best to stabilize the land underneath their towers.  They feared it would all come tumbling down at any moment; for the first time ever, they were genuinely afraid.

“We have a choice to make,” said the oldest leader.  “Either we allow the towers to fall, protecting ourselves the best we can, or else we do something to freeze the people in place once and for all.  Suggestions?”

All who were present assumed that the choice was either “A” or “B” – stay up in the towers, or else give up and just let them fall down, destroying everything that was below and forcing any people who survived to just start all over again.

The secret agent finally spoke. “No,” he said.  “You are wrong.  There is a middle way.  There is an option ‘C’ and this is the best option of all.  This situation was inevitable since people do grow, learn, progress, and evolve.  That is human nature.  You forgot to take that into account because you have no respect for people.  You assumed that they would always stay the same, and that was your biggest mistake.  Your lack of respect for others is what has led you to this moment of reckoning.  You created this dilemma for yourselves by ignoring the evidence.  People do change.  And people are good.  You have always assumed the worst, and you have failed to change your views along with the progression that’s been happening below.  As a result, you are like dinosaurs – your lifestyles are already extinct, you just didn’t know it.  Yes, this situation will not last.  You can foster widespread destruction in your resentment and resistance to change – people are ready to tear this down.  But you might ask yourselves – why hasn’t it happened yet?  Why are these towers still standing today?  Why are the people below so patient?”

The council sat quietly listening, knowing that they were at the end of their rope but also seeing a glimmer of hope in the words of the secret agent.  There’s nothing like hope to catch somebody’s attention.  So they listened.

“Your towers are still standing because most people see value in the structures themselves.  They can be useful.  But you’ve been hogging them.  That’s over.  Another reason why these towers are still standing, is that people realize that to pull them down means to destroy themselves and all that they’ve worked for.  These towers can’t be destroyed without everything else being damaged beyond repair.  You thought that this meant you could enjoy your view forever.  But now you see that you were wrong … the people can’t hold it forever.  More and more of them want to tear it down, every day there are more … and you yourselves have been sowing the seeds of destruction, while ensuring your own protection.  Your characters have become poisoned.  Your attitudes need adjustment.  There is a middle way and now I’ll tell you what that is.”

You could hear a pin drop in the room.  The secret agent went on.

“You must leave your towers, leave them standing, and go down to live with the people below.  They won’t eat you.  They are better than you think.  They want this problem solved.  They want to give hope to those who feel that destruction is inevitable.  They want to know you as equals.  It’s time to leave.  But leave the towers standing, because you may NOT damage the people below. They have been very patient, and they don’t deserve the damage.  And now you will have to share possession of these towers.  And you are going to find the most important lesson of all, once you leave your positions of isolation.  Do you know what that is?”

They all shook their heads.  Some of them had their heads hung in shame, others had tears in their eyes.

“You are going to learn that you are essentially the same as everybody else, and that you were never superior.  You never deserved your lofty positions – they were just handed to you.  You never earned them.  People are all essentially the same, and this you will come to know.  And you will be happier for it.  The towers will stand, as monuments to how this place used to be – as reminders of how humans used to classify themselves.  They are souvenirs, and they are also useful once they are shared equally.

“And this land will finally become a place where hard work gets logical results, where people reap the benefits of what they sow, where fairness and logic and compassion reign supreme.  And where nobody lives separate and apart from everybody else, in a high tower.  And the land will become very stable, and fears will begin to fade.  And there will be more and more progress, towards a wonderful future that cannot even be imagined.

“It’s time to climb down, and join your fellow humans on this quest to create all that we can be – together.”

The secret agent then left the tower, for good – never to return.  Because he much preferred the company of the good people below, who had been so patient, for so long, and who were having more and more trouble holding down the resentful, the destructive, the fearful, and the stupefied among them.  He vowed to devote himself to them forever, having done his job.

The end of this story hasn’t yet been written …

Dialogue on limitations of physics

This seems to be a popular format – Q & A. Once again, Socratella has something to say.  This time, she is talking to Thomas, a physicist.

S:  When you say that “nothing is ever created or destroyed, just transformed” you are wrong.

T:  Many great scientists have proven this to be correct. So it’s you who are wrong.

S:  Sometimes your theory is correct, but often, it is wrong.  So what does that mean then?  For a theory to be correct, doesn’t it have to always be correct?  I can think of many examples where the statement that “nothing is ever created or destroyed” is simply invalid.  Since I can think of so many situations where that is not true, doesn’t that invalidate your precious theory?

T:  All right – give me the supposed example. (He smiles and jams his hands deeply into his pockets, anticipating good times.)

S:  First I’ll provide an example where you are correct.  Let’s say that somebody’s home is destroyed – rendered into rubble.  What is a “home”?  It’s a building, but it’s also a place where you rest your head, somewhere you can feel safe – it’s your castle.  So your home becomes a pile of rubble – and from that rubble, you build another home.  This means that your original home, when it was wrecked, wasn’t really destroyed.  It was transformed into a new home.  Is this the type of thing that you’re talking about?

T:  Well … not precisely.  You brought into the formula some things which can’t be measured or seen – a sense of safety, for example.  We don’t look at things like that.  We would simply consider the physical materials out of which the home was built, and we would say that even if these were pulverized and turned into gravel, or blown to small bits, those bits or pieces of gravel are the new physical form of the physical materials used to build the original home.  In that sense, the materials of that building can never be truly destroyed – only transformed.

S:  So let me get this straight – you are only dealing with the tangible, in molecular form, when you put forward your theory that nothing is ever truly destroyed?

T:  Yes, that’s right.  So you see, that statement must be true.  It is never incorrect, therefore the theory is valid.

S:  Well then, I think that this discussion is rather boring then.  We are in agreement.  There’s nothing more boring than agreement, wouldn’t you say?  I guess my criticism of your theory is broader than its physical implications.  I quibble with its application.  I think that given your theory is limited to physical molecules, it has extremely limited application.  But unfortunately, it is applied to contexts in which it does not belong.

T:  How so?

S:  People use your physical theory to reassure citizens when something precious is destroyed.  “Don’t worry, it’s not really lost – it’s just been transformed.  The universe wastes nothing.”  I quoted a popular Hollywood movie there – “The Day The Earth Stood Still”.  In that movie, humankind and everything that humankind has built is being destroyed by alien technology – and the alien wielding this technology reassures the movie’s heroine by telling her, “Don’t worry – the universe wastes nothing.  Nothing is ever truly destroyed.”  He took your theory of physics and he applied it to her grief, attempting to soothe her.  This did not work at all, obviously.  She did not feel better.  I’m sure that you can see how his statement to her was not valid.

T:  (smile having disappeared)  Well, no – he was correct in what he said to her.  Even though those buildings were disappearing, nothing was really being destroyed – on the basis that I’ve already explained.

S:  AHA!  There, that’s where you are wrong.  Also, Hollywood is wrong, as it often is.  Sometimes people actually believe that if a movie character says it, then it must be true.  Leaving aside the folly of that, here is something very dangerous – dangerous because of how false it is.  Let’s keep using that movie for a moment – the woman is very upset at the loss of all that humankind has created.  And he tells her not to worry because “the universe wastes nothing”.  He thereby ignores all of the intangibles, things like the “sense of safety” from my earlier example of a destroyed home.  Let’s look  more closely at this, because it’s a very important point.  He ignored all the intangibles – and he used the resulting purely physical theory, to reassure her about those very intangibles.  See that?

T:  Not sure I follow you (frowning).  Socratella observes that he follows her very well, or seems to, however he seems unhappy about where it’s heading

S:  Let’s find another example.  An ancient place of worship, that some call a “church”, made of local stone, with a stone altar and wall carvings, has existed for over 2,000 years.  Millions of people have sat in its pews over the centuries – gazing at the same walls, the same altar.  When you go in there you feel a very unusual sense of history, because of sharing the same experience with people back to ancient times.  Your feelings when you sit in this church are “intangible” – they can’t be seen or measured by your standards.  They are, however, very real feelings.  They have existence, these feelings.  The sense of awe, the experience of the profound, those are very real.  But when some misguided, violent people destroy this church and render it into rubble, all of these intangibles are destroyed – forever.  They are transformed into grief and loss, which are hardly the same thing.  The sense of awe when sitting in that church is replaced by a sense of hopelessness gazing at the rubble – hardly anywhere near the same thing, is it.  In fact, these feelings are most unlike one another.  This is not “transformation” – it is pure loss, 100%.  Pure destruction. So – destruction does happen.  Don’t say that it never happens.  Untrue.

T:  What’s your point? (glancing at his watch)  I have somewhere to be.  (Pulls out his smartphone and starts scrolling through it)

S:  Yes, this is what you people always do.  As soon as you sense that somebody is making a valid point, you begin to use distraction, and you employ the body language of disrespect.  I’m surprised that you did not spit at my feet too.  (T starts swiveling his head around, looking anywhere other than at S.)  See what you’re doing now?  You are pretending that this discussion is over.  Gee, what else is in this room?  Who else can I pay attention to?  People like you always do this.  Guess why?  You’re obviously afraid.  Well – I’m not letting you off the hook.  Pay attention to me!  Listen!  You can’t leave a discussion right in the middle like that.  I won’t allow you to disrespect me.  And look me in the eye!  Grow up!

T:  (crossing his arms and raising his chin in defiance) Fine.  Go ahead.

S:  The point here is that something VERY real is destroyed, forever, when something which people value highly is destroyed.  And yet, you physicists are so eager to come in and reassure them that no, actually, this ancient church hasn’t really been destroyed.  It’s only been transformed – into different molecules!  And you kidding me?  You actually think that this can be reassuring to anybody?  I hope you see the error that you have been making.  It’s an error of thought.  Now let’s be careful here, because this is a common error, and it is leading to a bad outcome in many cases.  Are you with me?

T:  What do you want from me?  I told you that I’m listening, didn’t I? (pouting, looking down at the ground, scuffing his feet like a 10 year old)

S:  You formulated your theory that “nothing is ever really destroyed” using only physical molecules, ignoring all of the intangibles that go along with anything that people truly value.  Then, after excluding intangibles from your theory, you then turn around and apply this limited theory to intangibles.  You apply your theory to everything, in an attempt to placate and silence people who are mourning the permanent loss of valuable intangibles, which really did exist but which are now gone.  You are using apples to talk about oranges.  You can’t exclude something THIS important when formulating a theory, and then use that limited theory to assess the very thing that you had excluded.  This is simply not valid.  Generally, when you have excluded something, you can’t then apply your limited theory to it.

T:  Is there anything else?  Do you have a point here?

S:  Yes, I do.  Scientists like you refuse to acknowledge how severely limited your theories are.  You hate to think that you don’t have all the answers.  You do whatever you want, you manipulate your theories to suit yourselves, including or excluding whatever you want.  Everything that you do is, by definition, severely limited to the physical world – which is only a very small slice of our reality.  And then, you pronounce that you now understand all of reality, via these self-limited theories.  Well – you don’t understand much at all.  All I’m asking is that you acknowledge your own limitations.

T:  Fine.  Anything else?

S:  Yes – tell Hollywood how wrong they were, in that film where the alien tells the woman “Don’t worry, nothing is ever really destroyed.  The universe wastes nothing.”  Tell them how wrong that is, and tell them that whoever wrote that bit is completely out to lunch.  Actually – no – never mind.  I will tell them myself.  We need to beware of people using limited scientific theories to try and understand the realities that we can’t see – the realities of the human mind, thought, emotion, and inspiration.  Know your place.  And know your limits.  Don’t stray from your own territory.  Well, thanks for your attention, and sorry that I had to fight you so hard for it.  Maybe you should learn how to listen to people who don’t agree with you – that way, maybe you can grow a little some day.  Take care.