Afrofuturism

Sunday Morning Musings: The “Three Gates” and UHC and Quasi-Living Things

Sunday morning musing time.   Its fun being a science fiction writer.  I can string together ideas and see if they fit, in the context of internal logic rather than convincing anyone that something is “actually real”.  And a flow of notions this morning connected in an interesting way.

 

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This will connect with some basic notions: you’ll spot them as we go along, but they include

 

  1. The “three gates” of speech:

Is it true?

Is it useful?

Is it kind?

 

  1. The notion of human equality between groups defined by race and gender
  2. A wilder notion, something called “Big Body Heuristics”: that the actions of large organizations are best understood as if they are demi-lifeforms with dim consciousness and survival motivations.

 

Let’s have fun.

 

 

I think I see a cluster of exaggerations that one side thinks kind, and the other side finds useful.  It involves UHC, Universal Health Care.  Something that the Left says works just fine everywhere in the world but here, and the Right says “it doesn’t work” and “it is too expensive.”

 

I think we can put the raw facts out pretty easily:  Let’s compare the U.S. and Canada, shall we?

 

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) believes Canada spent approximately $228 billion on health care in 2016. That’s 11.1 per cent of Canada’s entire GDP and $6,299 for every Canadian resident.

 

U.S. health care spending grew 4.3 percent in 2016, reaching $3.3 trillion or$10,348 per person. As a share of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, health spending accounted for 17.9 percent.

 

 

People who say “we can’t afford it” wouldn’t’ seem to be looking at the same numbers.   They also can’t say “it doesn’t work, as the relative life spans of Canada and the U.S. are 82 and 79.  The World Health Organization considers longevity and infant mortality to be the most basic indicators of a country’s health.   Beware of people who try to complicate or distract from this.

 

 

What’s the problem, then?

 

I think that the main problem with UHC is that the Left doesn’t want to say “your taxes will go up” and the Right  doesn’t want to say “I don’t want my money spent to help strangers stay well.

 

There is a…shall we way “clarity gap”  because the raw stats show very clearly that it is more efficient and effective for producing the core indicators of health, and cheaper per capita. But…there is a shift of money spent from the private to the public arena.  THAT is definitely true.

 

So…people confuse the truth.

 

Your taxes will go up…but your expenditures will go down, on average.   THAT would seem to be the truth.

 

Government would get bigger (assuming nothing else shifted) so the “government can’t do anything right” people are of course up in arms.   Note that they have to ignore a raft of evidence from around the world that UHC  gets better results.     Usually they will counter with anecdotal, or mention some specific disease where people are better served by private insurance. They’d HAVE to exist, just like there are living cells in that hamburger you just ate.    But keep your eyes on the ball: longevity and infant mortality. Watch them argue about what the definition of “is” is. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

 

So…Cui bono?  Who benefits from the confusion?

 

Let’s see…there would be some on either side. I’ll try to present what I see as the possibilities with as little editorializing as possible. I can’t deny I have a perspective, but I’ll try to be as objective as possible.  I DO start with the assumption that the statistics offered are roughly accurate. They can be checked very easily, which is an advantage. NO ONE WHO DENIES THESE BASIC STATISTICS could possibly agree with what follows, so your opinions are predictable and IMO irrelevant to the discussion.

 

Why might someone deliberately distort the truth?

 

  1. Left: people who want UHC and are willing to twist the truth to get better health care.
  2. Left: people who want government to grow larger.
  3. Right: People who don’t believe the statistics, and believe that UHC is less effective or more expensive for a nation.
  4. Right: People who don’t want their tax dollars spent in this way, for “those” people.
  5. Right: People afraid of larger government
  6. Right: People afraid that their specific health needs will be less effectively treated in such a system.   The cost of taxes PLUS a health rider policy might reasonably be higher than the cost of a basic private policy alone.  This is not an hallucination, and is an honorable objection IMO.

 

All of these have to do with “people”. What individual human beings desire and fear. But…there are other entities involved.  And here is where we veer into SF territory.

 

View “Governments” and “Corporations” as demi-life forms, large and complex enough to have quasi-consciousness but certainly the “desire” to survive and grow.  Each contains the same human beings (consider them like “cells” in the overall body) and each is ideal (IMO) for different aspects of human life.

 

But…they both cooperate, and are in competition. In some ways, deadly competition. Private industries seem better for almost any consumer desires and products, governments better at infrastructures and critical services.    Governments put limitations on Corporations through laws and taxes…and Corporations feed the notion of deregulation and distrust of governments through donations to political groups and advertising.

 

Oh, it’s fun to watch.  I do remember listening to Communists talking about how all the industry should be under the control of government. They seemed unreasoning fanatics to me.  Now I hear people talking about how government can’t do ANYTHING right, and THEY sound just the same: unreasoning fanatics.  Of course, as you modify that POV, you get more and more reasonable: a debate about which form of organization is better for what result at what time by what standards is perfectly fine.

 

But beware of people who enter the discussion with that “government can’t do anything!” attitude.  Treat them like Communists or Flat Earthers and I think you’ll be safest.

 

Look for the real arguments under the lies: yeah, taxes will go up.  But overall expenditures will go down.  Look for the people who understand that, and   obfuscate.

 

And ask yourself: what is the future of our culture? Our species?  Our planet?  What do you consider the basic social contract?  Speak of that honestly, without lying. The truth is enough. If we speak the truth, we will, I believe, come to the best decisions.

 

Unless…you look down on the “common man”.  Think that there is a hierarchy of value and capacity that prevents Democracy from working, or even a Democratic Republic from really functioning.  This is definitely the “nature” side of the argument. It will rarely speak its truth, as some of the conclusions are things we’ve decided are anathema to the dream of America.  There is a toxic aspect to the other side as well: the notion that everyone should get equal results.    On a group level dealing with race and ethnicity, I agree that with a level playing field you will get roughly equal results.    On an individual level…not so much.  And if you believe that it would be equal, even for all individuals, then the force of Government to bring that to life would be oppressive and toxic.

 

OF course, there are people who believe a level playing field would bring equal results, AND DON’T WANT THAT.    They want that nice advantage.  They just won’t say it out loud.

 

And there are others who just don’t believe that ‘those’ people are equal. They will generally hide that behind defining equality as social, or legal, or “in the eyes of God” or “I treat people as individuals.”   That’s fine. And many of them are fine, moral people.    But watch out for those phrases, and be aware of what is hiding behind them.

 

And be aware that when an organization of any kind grows to a certain size, its actions might best be interpreted as those of an organism: hungry, growing.  And at a larger size, with sophisticated communication…one might wonder if its actions might be considered those of an organism developing a central nervous system…or even awareness.

 

The tobacco industry certainly looked out for itself rather than its customers.

 

Those who believe in AGW would certainly consider that the petroleum industry seems to be more interested in its own survival than that of human beings (short sighted, yes. But I didn’t say that demi-organism was smart)

 

And the Insurance Industry, seeing its power threatened would certainly (from that odd quasi-life form perspective) join with other corporations looking to suppress the power of the only “life” form on the planet which rivals and controls it.  “Smart” enough to support the political/philosophical positions that fear government.  Enough to get people to ignore relatively simple statistics, and vote against their own best interests.

 

But that’s just morning musing, just asking what perspectives make sense of different events.  Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed. Not just between different groups of human beings, but between human and non-human entities.

 

Its fun being a science fiction novelist. I don’t have to convince people of anything except: “Isn’t this a fun story?”

 

Well….isn’t it fun?

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.geeksguidetosoulmates.com

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The Story of Love

Many years ago, I was teaching a “writer’s toolbox” class at UCLA, and we were having a great time with subjects like brainstorming, flow state management, structure, characterization and so on.  On the second day a student raised his hand.

 

“Mr. Barnes,’ he said. “You’ve given us so many wonderful tools, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to use them.”

 

“Why not?” I asked.

 

“well, my wife doesn’t support my desire to be a writer.  My kids take a LOT of energy at home, and my job just chews up the rest of my time…”   I could feel the energy draining out of the room as everyone began to slot their own excuses and obstacles into what the first man had said.  I was on the edge of losing them.

 

There is an expression that  “from time to time life gives you a cubic inch of opportunity.   You either grab it, or it is gone forever.”

 

I got one at that moment.   “Well,” I said.  “If you were a character in a story you were writing, and at the end of that story the character got everything he wanted, what would you have him do next?”

 

I watched his eyes cross and the steam come out of his ears. And then, slowly, he began to speak.  “Well…I could trade chores with my wife, do more of the heavy things that take less time, to make more time for myself. I could enlist my kids by making them think it would be cool to have a dad who is a published writer.   I could take my lunch to work with me and eat at my desk…”

 

I was gobsmacked. Here, just a few seconds earlier, he had given up hope. And now he was generating all of his own answers.   I asked the rest of the class the same question, and they started generating positive suggestions so fast they couldn’t write them down.

 

I drove home that night in a daze. What had happened? Over the next few days I researched obsessively, looking for answers. And about three days later I came across the work of Joseph Campbell. A literature professor and expert on world mythologies, he developed a theory called the “mono-myth”, the notion that there is a single story underlying all world literature.

 

To the degree that Campbell was correct WHY was he correct? Why is there a common pattern?  Whether you listen to African griots, New York Playwrights, Eskimo shamans or Celtic bards…why is there a common core? Well, he  also was quoted as saying that world mythology is the extension of our personal stories, and our personal stories are the personifications of our cultural myths. That there is a connection between the external stories we tell, and the internal way we represent our experience and order our memories.

 

That what he called “the Hero’s Journey” is, in essence a distillation of actual life experience as we grow and change and learn.   This pattern has been expressed many ways, and my interpretation is as follows, applied here to the first “Star Wars” movie, “A New Hope”:

 

  1. The Hero is confronted with a challenge.  (“Come with me, Luke!  Learn the ways of the Force!”)
  2. The Hero rejects the challenge. (“I promised Uncle Owen I’d fix the moisture evaporators”)
  3. Acceptance of the challenge (“teach me to be a Jedi like my father”)
  4. The road of Trials (traveling to Mos Eisley cantina, Alderaan, the Death Star, etc.)
  5. Gathering of allies and powers (Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, R2-D2, etc.)
  6. Confront Evil–defeated (Obi-Wan dies)
  7. Dark Night of the Soul (the Death Star attack is failing)
  8. Leap of Faith (in his own powers, in The Force, in Han Solo)
  9. Confront Evil–victory (Blowing up the Death Star)
  10. The Student becomes the teacher (Luke and Han get medals, the group applauds)

 

I suggest a theory: what if stories are the way that the tribal elders pass the most important life lessons to the children?  What if they are saying “this is the way life will be!  You will be challenged. You will be frightened, but must accept them anyway if you are to grow.   The way will be hard and confusing, so choose your companions and role models carefully, so that you can learn the skills that you will need. And if you are facing a great challenge there WILL be defeat and loss, so you must prepare yourself emotionally IN ADVANCE for this stress. But if you do these things, and keep faith, you will win and grow. Then, when you do, you must help the next person along the path by showing them the way.”

 

This notion was the origin of the “Lifewriting” system of personal development, and it underlies the “Soulmate Process” which prepares us to find and nurture healthy relationships.

 

Let’s apply those steps.   At some point in your life you will crave a partner.  There may well be fear or insecurity associated with this need, but you will date and seek love anyway.    You’ll kiss a lot of frogs looking for that prince/princess, but look to those who have had successful healthy lasting relationships to learn the truth of how they work, and who you need to be to find one.  Eventually, you will fall in love, and in all likelihood the first time(s) you will have your heart broken.  It will feel like the end of the world, but eventually you will pull yourself out of it, and try again…and again. And if you do, and keep learning, and maintain an open heart you will eventually meet The One, and bond.   And then…if you live and love with joy you yourself become a role model for those who follow.

 

That pattern is eternal, and universal. It is the story of almost every human being seeking love, and once you see the pattern you can apply it to ANY task in life, but love is so central that I invite you to apply it there first.

 

If there is a single most important step, it might be “allies and powers”: to find role models of people who have loved successfully for over twenty years. Ask them of their struggles, and triumphs.  Ask their advice. How they met, how they wooed, how they maintain the passion in their relationships.

 

Keep track of the answers, and you’ll start seeing the patterns.  Once you see them, you have an understanding of a basic aspect of life we are rarely directly taught.

 

And…after you have found the love you seek, be sure to share your new knowledge, would you?  The children are watching, and hoping.

 

 

Love yourself…and share that love with others

 

Steve

www.geeksguidetosoulmates.com

Halloween (2018) and “Toxic Humanity”

There is a terrific scene in the new “Halloween” film where three generations of Strode women: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak) face off against “The Shape” Michael Meyers.

 

(SERIOUS SPOILERS)

 

The set-up is devastatingly simple: traumatized by the events in the original film, Laurie Strode (Curtis) has become a neurotic, agoraphobic recluse, convinced that Meyers will return to kill her one day, and sacrificing the love and warmth of her family to attempt to protect them and prepare them for the danger to come.  She has become a “gun nut”, obsessed with barriers and traps and the nearness of death.

 

Her daughter Karen (Greer) wants nothing to do with her, and her grand-daughter Aliyison (Matichak) would like to be the bridge between mother and grandmother.    When Meyers escapes custody and comes after them, the reality that Mom was right the whole time hits   like a ton of bricks. When   Karen and   Aliyson are trapped in the basement, Michael battering his way in, Karen grabs a rifle in a desperate attempt to protect her daughter and her own life…and the pressure breaks her.

 

It is an awful scene. This is her dying place, these cold walls and dark shadows her tomb.  She has let down her daughter, who will die under Michael’s knife.   She has heard of the horror, of this implacable hellish, soul-less creature her entire life and mocked the concept…and now it is here.

 

Death itself, is here.   She looks into what Dr. Loomis called “The Devil’s Eyes” and sees no mercy, no hope, nothing but her own ending, and the abyss sucks her in.

 

Even with a rifle in her hands, she screams that she can’t do it. She calls for her Mommy, paralyzed with terror.

 

Michael, the predator that he is, knows she is helpless, comes for her and…

 

She shoots him BOOM.  She was faking!   And what follows is one of the most satisfying sequences in horror film, as three generations of Strodes stand up to this terror, (at least temporarily) destroying it, and in the process healing their shattered family.  Wow.

 

 

The audience I saw it with went NUTS at the basement scene!  THAT was one of the great moments of horror cinema.   She was luring him in with the illusion of weakness, where in reality the training, her fear for her life, and her commitment to saving her daughter has actually moved her totally OUT  of illusion, and into a savage reality:

 

Women can and have protected themselves throughout all history. And throughout the animal kingdom.

 

Female “weakness” is an illusion, a game, an agreement between male and female that works great for producing more grandchildren, but is not based in biological or psychological reality.   Are males stronger, larger, more explosively powerful? Yes.  Does that mean females cannot defend themselves?

 

No.

 

There is an expression: “it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”  And a woman fighting not just for her own life but the life of her child is about as dangerous, pound for pound, as a human being can be AS LONG AS SHE STAYS OUT OF THE SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED ILLUSION.  Get out of her head. Get into her heart, and her body instincts.

 

If you step back and look at the game of male and female, it is arguable  that deep in prehistory the human race decided to play a game: females would pretend to be weaker more timid than they were, males would pretend to be stronger and braver than THEY really were.  The goal?  Produce maximum grandchildren via specialization.

 

And it had advantages and disadvantages for both sides.  The thought that “women’s ambitions and men’s lives were disposable” comes to mind.    Arguably, the human race, post-industrialization, birth control, the invention of firearms and overpopulation, has entered a new era, one in which we can question those gender roles and actually shift them if we choose.  This is new. And…the good news is that this change is actually good for both sides.

 

All that is required for this change is to awaken from the illusion.   To do this, start with the assumption of equality (with some inevitable reproductive complementarity).  It can be difficult because of all the politics, but just as with racial issues, if you START with an assumption of equality between groups, understanding that societies exaggerate the differences for its own purposes (mainly genetic or tribal survival), then “waking up” frees us.    If you stop needing to project guilt, blame and shame and instead ask: “how did we get here, if we are basically equal across gender and racial lines?” all of the answers will come, and WITHOUT demonizing either side.  Stop the war.   We have done the best we could as a species, and now we have the chance to do better. A chance to step into a new future that is rooted in our distant past, but builds upon it to create new options.

 

I ask you seriously, guys: when you saw Karen blow Michael Meyers away (well…or at least wound him. You know how these immortal monsters are!) didn’t that turn you on, just a little?  I can’t imagine a healthy male who would want a weak woman.  Could such a woman protect his children?  Protect HIM if he was sick or wounded?  Don’t you want the strongest life partner you can possibly find?

 

And I ask you, ladies: when you saw that, didn’t you cheer?  Didn’t you feel that that was YOU , given the right situation, the right motivations?  And what would you think of a man who looked at that and cheered? And was turned on by the notion that you could stand at his side, utterly female but utterly capable of defending your children, no matter what it took?

 

This isn’t a salvo in the gun control debate.  Stop the politics, just for a moment. We’re talking about primal survival, the creation of young, one of the primary drivers of human sexuality.  And ALL animals have the means of self-protection and the internal permission to fight for their lives.   WEAKNESS IS AN ILLUSION.    POWER IS SEXY.   That power can manifest as various forms of intelligence, drive, self-confidence, skill, talent, calm, balance and so forth, but except for BADLY wounded people and predators, weakness is NOT attractive.

 

I recently met with one of the producers of “Halloween,”  who  chuckled when I mentioned that Michael Meyers could be seen as an avatar of Toxic Masculinity.  Unstoppable, violent, dominating.   But that would only be half the puzzle, because the other half would be Toxic Femininity: pretending to be weak, begging for help she didn’t need,  thrusting the protective energy (Curtis) out to the hinterlands to harden the heart and then blame it for the very sacrifices that keep the home safe.

 

The path forward is for BOTH sides to awaken.  To end a “war” that has lasted tens of thousands of years.  Which once served a very real purpose which it may well have outlived   It will not be easy, because partisans on both sides are convinced the illusion is real. But there are massive rewards for those who can shake off that fantasy and embrace a new and better world.

 

And one of those rewards is the ability to love BOTH the male and female aspects of ourselves.  And therefore…each other. And the path is to connect to the child self, to commit to the protection of hat helpless one at any cost. From there, we can see we must harness everything within us, every drop of compassion and love, which then spins into a total commitment to protect and smashes the illusions.

 

We can be more. We can be free. We can love ourselves, and understand our world, and embrace each other as we walk this journey called life.

 

The answer, as always, is love.

 

 

Be kind to yourself…and love each other

Steve

 

www.geeksguidetosoulmates.com

Grokking Love

The term “Grokking”, coined by the great SF writer Robert Heinlein in his novel “Stranger In a Strange Land”, roughly means “understand (something) intuitively or by empathy.”  This would be one of the core outcomes of most meditative disciplines: to KNOW yourself, to go beyond the surface stories and the ego shells to discover an ineffable truth within.

 

If I map this over to what the wisest men and women on the planet have said about this journey over the ages, this would seem to be at the very least being “awake”, and possibly knocking on the door of the state referred to as “enlightenment”, which lies beyond the gate called “non-dualism.”  It is, in other words…extraordinary.  And probably beyond the majority of human beings to achieve through sheer will.  Life experience probably gets most of us there, in time…but sheer effort or focus? I don’t think so.

 

But one thing   that is true is that this state MIGHT be useful, or might not, in terms of living  in our world. Depends on too many other factors, including the fact that the state is a fictional creation, and we have no paths to it, no consistent real-world definitions, and no real role models for what it might mean, or the pathways to it.

 

Love, on the other hand, is available to the vast majority of us. Probably all of us.  And since a large percentage of religious and spiritual disciplines that say the core of us, the essence of us, is love…the search for love and the search for truth are aligned.

 

And since coming from that loving space is one of the best ways to connect with others, there is no downside there either.   What about defending yourself?  Wouldn’t “coming from love” weaken you, make you less likely to be able to defend yourself, being so committed to loving?

 

Not if you are in alignment with nature.  Not if you love your family enough to protect it, or want to get home to hug and kiss them one more time.  Not if you love the child you were enough to be willing to defend her. Defend him, to your last drop of blood and last breath.

 

Love helps you forgive yourself, and when you do that, you can look more honestly at yourself because you are not afraid of what you will find. We are flawed. We make mistakes. We have swallowed the opinions of people we trusted…and some of those opinions paint us negatively.  We have values conflicts creating self-destructive behavior. Fears that create procrastination.  Egos that war with the world around us.

 

If we don’t look at that ball of knotted snakes, we can’t unravel it.  And so the ego protects itself partially by discouraging the very introspection we need.  “You are less than perfect!” is true.  “And therefore you aren’t worth it!” is not.

 

Loving ourselves means disciplining ourselves, as well as accepting where we are. Knowing we’ve done the best we can do.  In accepting ourselves, we learn to forgive the imperfections of a potential beloved.   If you can love and accept yourself where YOU are, you will be able to recognize, accept, and love another on your frequency, traveling in the same direction at the same pace.  You recognize a kindred heart, a kindred spirit.  A potential soulmate.

 

So…because love is so healing, so central…I choose love.  “Grokking” seems to imply “understanding” to many people.   Absent a grounded body and an open heart, that can devolve to more “head case” stuff, dangerous to a person seeking a real experience of life.   Interesting. But if  Valentine Michael Smith, Heinlein’s very human Martian, had been a real human being, I’m sure we would learn wonderful things about what was meant by that term. Absent that…we’re just trying to understand. And in a real sense, understanding is the booby prize.

 

Love is the prize.

 

Namaste

Steve

(tomorrow, we will begin a new adventure together, a path of love.  Join me!)

Love Makes You Strong

(Trigger Warning:  There is violent imagery in this essay.  No joke)

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Coming from love doesn’t make you weak, or less capable of resisting evil.   Nope. It actually is the core of willingness to die killing something threatening your family or core values, which is arguably  the most powerful  and clarifying position in the world, beyond even personal survival.

 

I’ll tell a story I’ve told before.  Many years ago, I had a neighbor (call him “Bob”) whose daughter was a friend of Nicki, we’ll call “Janie”.   “Bob” was a nice guy, but there was something strange: he seemed to take some kind of odd offense with me. Challenged me verbally with intense emotions behind it.   Seemed to take pleasure sniping at me.   Called the police on my dog, and then came over to my house and bragged about it and dropped into a boxing stance to challenge me to fight him.  I just sort of shook my head, unable to figure out what the hell I’d done to trigger such a reaction.

 

I tried to make peace.    One day I was at his house, and Bob complained about a bad back.  I invited him to come over to my house and use our spa.   He gratefully agreed.  He came over a couple of hours later in his swim suit, and a folded towel.   He asked me to hold the towel for him. What it concealed was…a revolver.

 

WTF?

 

I asked him why he was carrying it. Without blinking he said that he was having trouble with his boss at work.  That the man was a terror.  And he was SO ugly. And…he looked just like ME.

 

Oh, shit.   Well, isn’t THAT special.

 

I remember sitting down with Swift Deer at my next Judo lesson, and telling him what was happening. That I felt paralyzed.  “I don’t want to hurt  Janie’s’ dad.”

 

Swift shook his head somberly. “And that’s why he’s going to hurt you, brother” he said.   “That’s what he’s counting on.”

 

I was thunderstruck. Swift was right. Whatever was going on with Bob likely had nothing to do with me.   But he had focused his anger and fear on me, and my very affection for his family weakened me.  ESPECIALLY my affection for Janie, which was enormous.  I was frozen: damned if I did, dead or wounded if I didn’t.

 

I went home that night, brain swimming.  What should I do?  I couldn’t hurt Janie’s dad.  I had to deal with this. But I just couldn’t. My love paralyzed me.

 

Then a thought crossed my mind, one of those “cubic inches of opportunity” that slide in from the blind spot: HE WAS TRYING TO HURT NICKI’S DAD.

 

Boom.  Something deep inside me bared its teeth.  Oh, yes.   He was trying to make my daughter an orphan.  My wife a widow.

 

And for some reason…that was TOTALLY different.  QUALITATIVELY different.

He was trying to hurt Nicki’s Dad?   The hell he would.

 

So…what was I going to do?  I remembered a story I was told by…hmmm…I’ll be just a little oblique here.  Let’s say a martial artist friend and instructor of mine who is extremely savvy about the psychology of martial art, science, and sport.   Yeah, him.

 

He told me about a day when a belligerent gentleman came into his school spoiling for a fight.    Roaring “I wanna talk to X!” My friend and teacher listened to the ravings, and got very calm. Reached into his desk, and pulled out a loaded 9mm (he is legally permitted to carry). He set it on his desk. Then imagined the man breaking into his office. Imagined himself shooting the man right through the head.  Rather dreamily imagined the guy’s  brains splashing against the wall, and the body sliding down, death clouding his eyes.

And smiled warmly.

Put the gun away, went out and talked to the guy…who was INSTANTLY as mild as cream.

 

THAT would be my tactic. I imagined “Bob” swinging on me.  And responding with a burst of violence the likes of which he had never dreamed of.   Imagined breaking his limbs and curb-stomping him, and thoroughly enjoying the resulting mess.     Oh, yes…there is definitely a part of me that enjoyed that imagining.  Anyone who really knows me knows it is there, buried deep down, a rabid wolf I’ve been feeding for decades, with the promise that if the justification ever came…I’d let him out.

 

I warmed myself on that vision of destruction, then  went out of my office to my family.  Kissed Nicki. Kissed Toni.  Patted my dog good-bye.   And walked across the street.

Knocked on the door. His wife “Kathy” answered.  I said, “hello, Kathy.  Is Bob here?”

A little puzzled, she said yes, he was back in his office.  “May I speak with him?”

Why sure, come on in.  I walked back to Bob’s office, and there he was at his desk.  He  looked up at me with surprise.  I said “Hi, Bob,” and just talked to him for a few minutes, to his slight confusion. Perfectly pleasant conversation.  Then I looked at my watch, said: “well, I just wanted to come by and say hello.”

He walked me to the front door, I said good-bye, and left.   Weeks later Kathy told me that after I left Bob looked at her and said “You know? That Steven Barnes is really a nice guy.”

AND HE NEVER BOTHERED ME AGAIN. Never. Not once.

Why?  Because I had absolute clarity.  Was 100% ready to go.  The slightest twitch would have triggered it. And on an animal level…HE KNEW. I had left him no uncertainty to exploit.  No fear to strike into.  No lever to manipulate me.

Ready to die. Ready to take him with me.  Hell, I’d said good-bye to my DOG.  Can’t get more serious than that.

How?  By connecting to what I really, really loved: Nicki.  Toni.  And my dog, of course. That love swept away all mists of confusion.  I might be of several minds about my own safety, but NOTHING will harm my family while I live.

Connect with your love, and you have strength beyond fear.    Connect that love to your own inner self, and you change your destiny.

Heartbeat meditation and visualizing the child within me for 20 minutes a day, every morning, is my path.   I hope you find yours.

Nothing is stronger than love.

 

Namaste

Steve

www.morningwriters.com

October 13’s “30 Day Story Writing” after-action report

So we had another great webinar Saturday, where T and I chose an idea, and then dove into process: how do you turn an idea into a story?  To avoid pure instinct and emotion, I discussed the technical aspects, questions like “Who, What, Where, Why, How, When?” and patterns like the Hero’s Journey.

 

If I had ANY lack of clarity or faith in my ability, I would never begin a story until I had applied these tools, understood the overall shape and HAD AN END IN MIND.   I wouldn’t write it unless It felt like it would be fun, and also could see a direct way to write it. There are ALWAYS unexpected problems, so starting with something that has energy and direction is a must.

 

I don’t know what the final title will be, but the brainstormed possibilities were great, and right now I’ve chosen “Fugue State.”  I like that.  Multiple meanings that allow us to twine thematic elements and subtext. Yummy.

 

One of the most important things was THE PROCESS ITSELF.  Brainstorming (between multiple people) mindstorming (when by yourself), the importance of foolishness, how to collaborate without tearing each other apart (one person holds the kill switch, always.  It varies between projects: if T’s name is first, SHE had the kill switch and did most of the mechanical work.  And vice versa) and so on.

 

So I hope people are watching the PROCESS as much as the CONTENT.   Most readers only see the finished PRODUCT, and that is the least useful in terms of learning, like trying to figure out an internal combustion engine by looking at the paint job.

 

Anyway, serious fun.  Today, I just transferred the simple paragraphs of description into WRITER DUET, a great on-line screenwriting/collaboration software.    Wednesday, I’ll break it down into scenes and Friday I’ll add dialogue.

 

On Tuesday and Thursday, I’ll work on the current Larry Niven project, “Ghost Writer.”   And every day, I’ll tweak the Mississippi Shuffle script.  By the way…I sent it to my agents last Friday.  Fingers crossed!

 

 

Write with passion!

Steve

(www.lifewrite.com is the way to join the fun.   Be a part of history!  Our goal is not just to write a story, but a GOOD story, a PUBLISHED story, and one good enough to be win an award.  Hey!  I dream big.)

Can’t have it both ways

I had a recent FB conversation with a gentleman  who defended Confederate statues and memorials, and insisted that they were appropriate.  I do believe I understand his position.      But if he simultaneously claims to be a greater ally of black people, with more respect for us, than those opposed to the maintenance of those statues, I can only conclude that he is either asleep, or a snake.  If he would make the same argument to a Jew about a statue of Goebbels, he is at least consistent, and I can respect consistency.   But he cannot, with a straight face, claim to be more of an ally to Jews than those who side with Jews about such things.

 

And I cannot think of a reason a black person should respect the Confederacy more than a Jew respects the Nazis. I just…can’t.

 

And if your mind goes immediately to the question of “is it appropriate to have such statues?” you are looking at the wrong part of the question.  The right part is to look at the relative compositions of the groups that say “yes” and “no.”   That is the tribe you have chosen, and while I wish you well there, there is a serious difference.   Consider yourself right, better, smarter…that’s fine. But you can’t do that and simultaneously claim that you respect us more than the people who respect our judgement and perspective on the matter.

 

You simply cannot have it both ways.

 

Namaste

Steve

My most important thing today:

My most important thing to accomplish today: rest. I’ve not taken a day off in almost eight weeks, pushing to create my new script. The title: MISSISSIPPI SHUFFLE. Just turned it in to my agents yesterday, and while it is far from perfect…I think it has the potential to be the best visual art I’ve ever created. LOTS of work to be done, yes.

 

But…I can feel that my regulator is “stuck” on “on.” I have to chill, calm down, work out (done: Kettlebell intervals) and sleep until my body feels “light” and my throat doesn’t feel scratchy. Then probably eat sushi and watch movies. Done my basics for the day: more than a sentence on that story (219 words, actually, two paragraphs describing a possible story arc) and when T gets back from UCLA i’ll run it past her. If she agrees, tomorrow I’ll integrate her thoughts. Saturday on the webinar I’ll discuss all the thought patterns I’ve employed so far. Then next week…I’ll write a short script, as if it were a 15-minuteTwilight Zone episode. If it still works, the following week I’ll turn that into text. And the week after that…we polish. Not the only way to create a story (it’s the opposite of “Pantsing”) but it allows me to detail every step of the process for the students.

 

You can still join us!  Go to www.lifewrite.com and get ready to create A HALLOWEEN STORY IN A MONTH, WITH A SENTENCE A DAY!

 

(The trick, of course, is that the “sentence a day” is the MINIMUM. No one says you can’t do MORE.  Heh heh.)

 

Now, what was that most important thing? Oh yes!  A nap!

 

See ya!

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

Fourteen Solid Notions

We’re pushing into the “Sentence a day…horror story in a month” territory.  Today I’ll be choosing one of the two main ideas we came up with.  And I’ll let the students know which it was.   But meanwhile, in  a completely different arena, I’m getting some business coaching, and was given the following list of principles. And (surprise surprise) every one of them applies to writing this story.   As there are many students who are working on their OWN project along with me, I thought I’d share it to stimulate conversation:

  1. Do the Work
  2. Show Up Hungry
  3. Not use your current or past situation as an excuse
  4. Not make someone else responsible for your results
  5. Be polite to your naysayers
  6. Only compare you to you
  7. Earnestly attempt to answer all questions on your own
  8. Buy success with your own time
  9. Take imperfect action, viciously
  10. Not freak out at the clock .
  11. Choose to get uncomfortable every day…
  12. Be brutally honest about where you are
  13. Kill parts of your old self (if not all)…
  14. Lean in

 

Good stuff, yes?  Join us!   WWW.LIFEWRITE.COM

Steven Barnes

First Question From Saturday!

We did a webinar Saturday, the first of the “Write a Halloween Story in a Month With a Sentence A Day” class we’re doing all month. (you can join at http://www.lifewrite.com)

Got a question today from “Judy”:

####

“Good morning Steve, I enjoyed the 1st. part of the short horror story we’re going to build together. I wasn’t able to tune in live as I had guests from out of town. I can already feel the anxiety starting that always seizes my mind when I want to write. I think that I have pinpointed my issue. I don’t have a full understanding of story structure. I have some great books that I have read and am reading but the “click” moment that everyone says will happen, isn’t happening. Is there a foolproof approach that I could use. I’m tired of freaking out about it. It’s zapping the fun out of a creative process that I want to get better at. Thank you. Judy”

 

Judy isn’t alone in this.  “Pantsers”, people who can just sit down and write, can be very intimidating. In reality, everyone is a “Pantser” about some aspects of life, and not in others. All “Pantsing” is is having all the component skills at that “Unconscious Competence” level so that you can enter flow state and run with it.

 

If one of those component skills is NOT integrated, you hit a road bump. Frustration, fear, and “writer’s block”.  If everything is fine, just drive down the road and enjoy the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair. But if the car breaks down, pull over, pop the hood and haul out the tool box.

 

Lifewriting is the tool box.    What is Judy’s need? To have a form of story structure that will serve her, that she can then integrate to the level of Unconscious Competence.    O.K.–got her covered.

 

The Hero’s Journey.  Yep, back to basics.  A story is like a circle. Once you understand geometry, if I give you three points, you can draw the rest of the circle.   So…IF you will apply the HJ to a dozen movies (movies are great because the storytelling if usually more direct and easier to extract than stories and books, more of which can be experimental in structure), you are going to start to get “A-hah!” moments.  Then, once you understand how it works, you can play with it.  So…ask yourself the questions implied by the ten steps:  EVEN IF YOU CAN ONLY ANSWER THREE OF THEM, YOU SHOULD START TO GLIMPSE THE REST OF THE “CIRCLE”.

  1. Hero Confronted with the challenge. Who is the hero? What is their challenge?  Does it take them by surprise?  Could they see it coming? Why or why not?
  2. Hero Rejects the challenge.   If the challenge will change their lives or make them grow, it is likely to be frightening on some level. Why?
  3. Hero accepts the challenge.  Why do they finally own their situation? How are they forced to, or allowed to, engage?
  4. The Road of Trials. What are the steps a character must take to resolve this? Where must they go? What must they do?  What actions must they take, and what will they learn as the result of taking them?
  5. Allies and Powers.  What must they either express of their core capacities…or what must they learn? Who are the people they must align with or learn from to achieve this goal?
  6. Confront Evil and Fail.   The largest defeat usually happens in the last 1/3 of the story. What is it? What goes catastrophically wrong?
  7. Dark Night of the Soul.  This defeat will empty them out, destroy their self-image, or throw them into the depths of despair.  What is their psychological response to the structural disaster?
  8. Leap of Faith.  Always one of three things: faith in himself. Faith in his companions, faith in a higher power.  Which is it, and why?
  9. Confront Evil and succeed.  What is the victory?  How does it come about?
  10. The Student Becomes the Teacher.  What transformation occurs as a result of the action?

 

Now…note that this is the basic structure of story. It can be twisted, turned, minimalized, repeated, expanded or shrunk. Every story actually does variations on it, but I can take ANY story that has been at all  recognized as “story” by a significant number of people, and show how it fits.

 

I consider it a perfect starting place, because, unlike any other structure, you can also apply it to your “journey” of writing.

 

  1. Judy is confronted with a challenge to write a story in a month.
  2. It’s scary to do, because she doesn’t understand structure.
  3. She decides to take the challenge anyway.
  4. She starts writing and planning.
  5. She asks me for tools to help guide her.  (“What is structure”?)
  6. She WILL hit a major stumbling block.  Possibly, this was it!  Most likely, though, it will be found along the way.
  7. She will feel fear, despair, even want to quit.
  8. She will find a way to keep going (or…she will QUIT!  In which case this story ends there, but it is a part of a larger life saga)
  9. She will finish the story.
  10. She becomes a more accomplished writer. Possibly, she will be able to teach others how to travel this path, because she now has greater knowledge.

 

See how this works?  If not, take a dozen movies and “map” them on this pattern.  Choose simple, straight-forward movies, not complex delicate emotional dramas.  They can be harder to “map”.

 

By the time you do that…you’ll be a different writer.  Stronger and clearer on your process.

 

Now get to work!

 

Write with Passion!

Steve

http://www.lifewritingultra.com