Starting Work on my New Book
28 August, 2019
Iron John (here’s a link)
If you’ve never read it, you should.
There’s an old story from the Brothers Grimm about Iron John – the original was called Iron Hans. Like a lot of fairy tales, it’s the story of becoming an adult and has a lot of lessons that, I think, have been lost in our modern world.
The book by Robert Bly breaks the story down and amazing detail. I first read it when I was in my early twenties and it took me several years to process it. Even now, as I’m creeping toward fifty, it informs my decisions and world view. I’ve recommended it to several people over the years, and bought several copies. Consequently, with each time I recommended it, I gave a copy away, and so have no copy of my own right now (thank God for Audible!)
As you probably know, I’m working on my Master of Fine Arts through SNHU. Next term I have to make the final decision on my thesis, which is a complete novel, ready for submission to an agent, of between 80 and 120 thousand words. I’ve spent the last several months working through notes and outlines and brainstorming what story to work on and I’ve decided to focus on the story of Iron John. In fact, I think I’m going to take the story, and give it a modern twist, plus a little of my own spin.
If you’ve listened to my podcast at all, you’ll know that I love to study psychology. Lately, I’ve been really interested in Jordan Peterson’s series on Pinocchio. It’s a fascinating series of lectures of the Jungian archetypes found throughout the story, and how it all relates to the journey of becoming an adult.
So, my twist on the Iron John story, will be a blending of it and the Pinocchio story. Both of them hold fantastic insights into life, and could really make an excellent tale of coming of age, a little romance, some adventure, and what it means to be an adult. I think it’s going to be a very fun project.
Just to make things interesting, I’m going to post the chapters as they develop as sort of a serial novel. Each chapter will be available on my Wattpad site, and I’ll ready each chapter and publish it as a podcast. That way, you’ll be able to hear the story as it develops, maybe give some feedback, and be an early adaptor with me on this journey!
How cool is that?
OK, it’s only cool if you’re sort of a book-nerd who loves psychology. But, in my book, that’s as cool as it gets.
Love you all. Talk to you soon.
Power vs. Force
19 August, 2019
Thinking it through.
I’ve had a lot on my mind lately – thinking about the podcasts, stories I want to write or have written, school, life, work, responsibilities. It’s tough to sort it all out and wade through it all the time. Often I find myself looking for ways to distract myself. In the past I would turn to alcohol, but I recently stopped drinking – it’s expensive and I worry about my liver.
The toughest thought that’s been on my mind lately is whether to carry on with the podcast. It takes up a lot of time, and I don’t always feel like there’s a lot of interest. Also, I had my first brush with illogical rage, which can turn anyone off to putting thoughts, no matter how well-meaning, out into the world.
It was someone very dear to me who is struggling with some tough things in life. In one of my podcasts – in a lot of them, really – I talked about the importance of coming at problems from a place of love and acting through power rather than force. This was enough to set this person off into a rage, which really caught me off guard. Normally, when I talk to this person, we have good, productive talks, and normally we agree on things like the importance of approaching life from a place of love. But this reaction showed me something I’d forgotten: when someone is in a place of anger, or hatred, or shame, or vanity, or guilt, it’s almost impossible for them to see the world any other way but through the glasses they’re wearing. This person is wearing glasses that only show a lack of control, constant chaos, people seething with rage, reckless abandonment, and loss. What place does love have when the world looks like that?
I think the lesson I’m learning is that, even though I tend to look at the world from an obnoxiously optimistic point of view, and try to see the good in everything, this can actually be harmful to some folks and messages of love should be applied with caution.
Here’s what I mean:
In Dr. David Hawkins’ book, Power vs. Force, he talks a lot about different levels of consciousness. He developed a system whereby he could measure levels of consciousness and assign a numerical value to them on a scale ranging from 0 to 1,000, and each level of consciousness is associated with what we might call an emotion. For example, what we might think of as shame, rates very low, at 30 or so, while the joy and love expressed by a dog wagging its tail rates somewhere around 500. I’m not referencing the book for these right now, so please feel free to look at the book and review his charts for yourself. For this blog post, the numbers are less important than the idea.
According to Hawkins, the basic level of consciousness where someone must exist in order to have a relatively fulfilling life, is somewhere around 200. This is a person who is free from slavery, has a reasonable amount of self-awareness and autonomy, has their basic financial needs met, and generally gets along with others.
The person I was talking to, and about earlier, was, I’m guessing, somewhere around 150 maybe. And I was coming at this person with a perspective that probably calibrates somewhere around 350. Normally, it would be easy to assume that, just like shining a flashlight into a dark room, that bringing that sort of energy to someone would turn them around, but it doesn’t really work that way. In fact, it sort of works very differently from that.
Have you ever heard of “the bends”? It’s what happens to divers when they come up from tremendous depths under water too quickly. Small pockets of gas in their joints and blood can expand too rapidly and it can be fatal. I think the same principle applies when it comes to exposing people to higher levels of consciousness, or more light in their life. It’s far better to meet someone where they are, then gradually bring them back up.
It’s sort of like missionary work, or working with the homeless, or helping people in dire straights. It may seem like a good idea to welcome a homeless person into your home, or bring someone from a small, African village to the Big Apple, or give a poor person a winning lottery ticket. But in each of those cases, that action could cause a lot more damage than good. Just like the diver who comes up too quickly, the poor person who gets too much money too quickly will suffer terrible consequences.
The same principle applies when dealing with someone suffering through some hurt or injustice. Showering them with enlightened thoughts about forgiveness, hope, prosperity, and encouragement is likely to cause them to decompress too quickly, and can be very painful. Within the psyche, doing something like this is most likely going to shine a light on their true situation and cause a feeling of desperation, loneliness, fear, discouragement and a host of other negative emotions which, unfortunately, will drive them deeper into their hole.
A far better approach is to gently listen to the person, identify with them, acknowledge them, and see them where they are, but without judgement or too much coaxing. A good therapist does this masterfully. In fact, if you’ve ever been to a therapist and wondered why the work was taking so long, and whether you were ever going to get better, it’s likely that the therapist is simply allowing themselves to be with you, to join in your pain, but without letting themselves follow down the path to where you are, or were in the moment. A good therapist has a tether somewhere, a strong sense of where their light is at the end of their tunnel, and how to get back to their own level of consciousness.
This may seem obvious to you, but it was a profound realization for me. Suddenly all those hours of counseling came into focus. All those times when I wished someone would just come and be with me, finally made sense. More than that, all the times when someone got angry, or rejected what I had to say made a lot of sense, too. I wasn’t being willing to simply be with them and listen to their words or try to see their pain. Instead, I was trying to bring them up from their depths too quickly, and probably doing more damage than good.
Intro to the Boring Dad Lectures
30 July, 2019
When I was a teen my father used to lecture me – almost daily. It was so frequent that I could usually tell what lecture was coming based on the circumstance. He was pretty consistent with them, and I used to be able to quote a few lectures word for word. I even numbered a few of them, even though these days I hardly remember them at all. Mostly I heard bits and pieces of his words surface when life gets bumpy.
My kids missed out on that – the boring dad lectures. I spent most, if not all their childhood years in the Air Force – traveling around, gone from their lives for sometimes years at a time. Missing those years with them was never my intent. The plan was to be a dad, raise some kids, have a good life, then enjoy the grand kids. But things didn’t work out with my first wife – or my second wife. With each marriage I thought she was the one who would stay forever, but it didn’t work out that way. The Air Force is a demanding mistress and my wives needed to take care of themselves. Naturally the kids stayed with their moms since I was usually traveling and couldn’t provide a stable home life.
A few years ago, a little after my 40th birthday, I was pondering all this. I missed my kids terribly and knew it was painful for them, too. One of my kids was going through some tough times and I couldn’t be there. It was the sort of thing that I’d been through before and had a good perspective. With the right sort of information, I knew they’d be able to weather the storm. My father would have taken that moment to give me one of his lectures.
As I was thinking about it, I decided to write them down – not the whole lecture, but just a sort of axiom, or a title. Once I got the first one, the rest started to flow. I came up with forty of them. Forty different rules for living.
With that list in hand, the only thing to do was the write them down. After all, what’s the point of having a list of life principles in a notebook, in a box, in my basement? Not much. Who would benefit from that?
If you’re reading this, whether or not you’re one of my kids, keep something in mind – this is just what I’ve learned so far. These are things I think would have helped my kids. These aren’t laws. These aren’t definitive principles of universal truth. I’m sure that in another twenty years or so I’ll look back at them and wonder what on earth I was thinking. But overall they’re pretty good.
If you’re reading this, I’d like to thank you. I’m not exactly sure for what, but I do feel a sense of gratitude toward you. If you’re reading this, I wish you all the best. I hope these things serve you in some positive way.
Peace, ’n’ stuff.
Boring Dad Lecture Series
30 July, 2019
Right now I’m working on the Boring Dad Lectures series of podcasts. It’s taking up a lot of time, but I’m really enjoying it. I’m also working on my degree which also takes up a lot of time.
But in between all that, I’m still writing, I’m still doing the Dad thing, I’m still working on myself.
Today was Quinn’s first day with Mom-mom – a whole day with just the two of them. Mom-mom took her to the library for a kids’ story time and she had a blast! She made new friends, sang some new songs, and was really well behaved (Quinn, not Mom-mom). Later, we played her new favorite game – puppet show. A few days ago I did a little puppet show with Mini-mouse and now it’s her favorite thing. I have to puppeteer thing thing all around, talking in a high pitched voice. It’s pretty fun! The best thing, is that Mini can get her to brush her teeth, pick up her toys, and get ready for bed. The imagination of a child is a wonderful thing.
I’m finishing up another story that should be posted on Wattpad this weekend – it’s an experimental piece I put together called The Bridge. A little gory, very allegorical, and thoroughly engaging.
Thanks for checking in!
Who am I, you ask?
Let me ask you a question…
Well, let me ask you a few questions.
Do you like to talk? Do you like to listen? Do you like stories? Do you have a story to tell?
I am a writer, interviewer, thinker and wonderer. Come join me for conversations, stories, insights, and a quest for wisdom and creativity. Would you like to be on my podcast? Contact me. Would you like to read free stories? Follow the link on my home page.
Let me elaborate:
Is your life full of false starts and unexpected stops? Can you remember being a child with a head full of dreams and a heart full of ambition? Or, better, are you still that child – on the inside or the outside – still clinging to the possibilities of hope and a glorious future? If so, keep reading. We may have a lot in common.
You see, I like to live in a fantasy world. The world outside, the one I see each day, and probably the one you see each day, is, for me, almost exactly the wrong combination of being both non-fantastical and full of adult rules. I could probably deal with a non-fantastical world – for example, I enjoy having a distinct lack of fire-breathing dragons and evil wizards living in my neighborhood. Also, I could probably deal with a world full of adult rules – for example, it’s important to pay taxes for some reason, and I do believe in the necessity of high fiber diets and plenty of exercise. However, I’ve always felt that the world should somehow be a better combination of non-fantastical and adult ruley. In other words, I wouldn’t mind the paying of taxes so much if there were also small and cute fire-breathing dragons and harmless but adorable wizards (maybe they could drive school buses and turn bullies into toads).
In case you are wondering, here is a short list of my top-five least favorite adultish rules, written in a way familiar to those who prefer to have their decisions informed by the will of a higher power:
1. Thou shalt have a job. The job thou shalt have shall smother thy soul as a wet blanket snuffs a fire, or as a cruel child squashes a frog.
2. Thou shalt only enjoy life to the maximum extent allowed by the paltry pay provided by thy soul squashing job. No more and no less. If thou findest thyself enjoying thy life beyond a reasonable limit, thou shalt amass financial debt to ensure thy soul remains subdued.
3. Thou shalt not resist the whips and arrows of aging, and thou shalt whither gracefully under the weight of thy life until thou art grey, broken, and undesiring of libido or imagination.
4. Thou shalt only vote for the lesser of two evils for by doing so thou whilst ensure that evil will remain amongst thee.
5. Thou shalt suppress the dreams of thy youth because it is those dreams that whilst cause thee to defy the earlier four commandments.
Now, having read these, wouldn’t you agree that each of these rules would be more tolerable if, along with them, you could have a stimulating conversation with a garden gnome about the proper way to rid the rose garden of nymphs all while sipping dandelion wine made by the pan-flute playing ogre who lives in your shed? I would easily follow any of these rules if, afterward, I could just as easily swim to the bottom of the ocean and tell knock-knock jokes with dolphins.
Sadly, perhaps, these are almost exactly the rules I followed by the first half of my adult life. Fortunately, in our modern age, we have the privilege of the second go, and that is what I’m doing.
Now, I would like to tell you the cliché story about being the youth who was constantly buried in book and scribbling stories, but that isn’t quite true. It would more accurate to say that I love stories and love to study and absorb them. For some people, (and this is something I’ll never quite understand) reading a story, or watching a movie once is enough. They’re eager to get on to the next story and the next and the next. My wife is one of these mysterious people with countless books in her physical and digital library which she will never revisit. My reading list isn’t quite as impressive because the overwhelming majority of the books I’ve started, I never finished. However, when I do finish a book, I like to read it again and again until I really know the characters and their lives and understand their minds. I’ve read Stephen King’s The Stand no less than five times, John Irving’s Cider House Rules at least six, Breakfast of Champions, The Life of Pi, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Despereaux, No Country for Old Men, and a dozen or so other stories have been my friends through numerous readings, with each reading helping me to love the characters that much more.
And this, in a roundabout way, is why I write. You see, the common thread among all these book – the singular thing they have in common – is both a beginning and an end. Each of them gives me the exhilaration of a fresh start, and the sad moment when the author shares with us the last and final word. That moment is a deep, melancholy sadness for me because the friends I’ve come to know, whether they are living in a post-apocalyptic world, unaware of a madman with a nuclear bomb, or traveling home from their final adventure in Narnia, truly are, in a way, my friends. Isn’t the end of any friendship filled with exquisite sorrow?
So I’ve endeavored to write my own stories with fantastical friends in far flung places doing marvelous things. These friends, you see, stay with me for years and years, and I know them far more deeply than the characters from someone else’s mind. Now that I’m in a different place, matured perhaps, or relaxed, or whatever else truly inspires someone to write, I want to share these stories with you. I want to invite you in to this world to share their adventures and create lasting friendships that you can take with you wherever you go. Along the way, I also want to share with you why I love stories, and perhaps share with you how to write them – how to create your own friends that perhaps you can share yours with me.