Enlightenment

Doesn’t happen once.  It’s like that ticket stub you keep because you saw that movie with your first love and it was a perfect night and every time you see it, you think everything is possible because there was that one moment where everything fell into place and there wasn’t a single thing you’d change.   So this ticket stub.  You had the night itself and every time you find the ticket stub again, you can close your eyes and embody the memory.  There are days you go looking desperately for it because you need to remember that perfection is possible, and those are never the days that you find it.  Other times, you’re dusting around the books, you pick one up, open it, and the ticket stub flutters from the pages to the floor and you’re instantly transported to knowing that everything is possible again.

That’s enlightenment.  I think.  Unless someone has found it full-time and ever since, has never had to struggle to get themselves back into alignment with taking a deep breath.

I found it driving to work months and months after my ex husband left.  The sunlight came out of nowhere and irrational joy was mine again.  It lasted for all of 20 seconds, and it hit me.  This is the point.  Joy is the point.  Getting to the place where you can let it find you (since chasing it rarely works) and accept it without question when it comes…  This is why we’re here.  The bad stuff that happens just carves out room in our experience so we can take in more joy when it reappears.  And for 20 seconds, I was 100% at peace with everything, exactly was it was.

Of course I lost it again.  I lose it all the time.  I get wrapped up in the dumbest stuff: people in the pool who occupy a lane only to stand on one end and talk.  Can’t you see that you could just as easily stand and gossip in the part of the pool that isn’t cordoned off for laps and let someone who is serious about swimming use the lane?  And I get irritated even when I’m perfectly situated in a lane of my own.  The mere existence of this selfish oblivion, coupled with the failure of the pool management to step in and point the offenders in the right direction, is enough to upend my internal balance while I’m swimming.  And it doesn’t have shit to do with me!

Trust me.  The enlightenment thing didn’t stick.  This might be a solid argument against my claim to have experienced episodic enlightenment.  Perhaps true enlightenment is the kind of thing you only have to do once.

But I don’t think so.  Just about everything worth having must be revisited again and again.  You can’t work out once and then be done with that for the rest of your life.  You can’t commit once and be done.  Commitment is a practice that you must show up for one day at a time, and every morning, you have to make that decision all over again: you.  No one eats once and call it quits, or bathes once and call that sufficient for the rest of their life.  Any of these things that go into living…  love, health, spirituality…  they all require maintenance.  I just don’t think you get to taste enlightenment once and then you’re good forever and ever amen.  In part, because I’m pretty sure enlightenment, like a lot of the best things in life, happens in small experiences and not in the big events.

Or at least that’s been my experience.

I do realize that it is a lot to claim enlightenment, even incremental or episodic enlightenment.  I’ve been the most unenlightened person ever this week.  The pool incident is recent.  My rage dreams are recent…  Enlightenment did not show up and decide to stay.

But maybe the idea that you can be submersed in everything for brief periods of time and then struggle like mad to get back there is okay for me, and if it is okay for me than maybe it is okay for you too…  And that’s mostly what I wanted to say.  Take it how it comes, and if enlightenment comes episodically, well, that counts for something too.

The Camellia Resistance: Book Review

entrope:

Thanks to There and Their for the positive review… and also what is perhaps the best name of a blog ever. :)

Originally posted on There and Their:

Author: A.R. Williams

The Camellia ResistanceBook Blurb:

2044. Willow Carlyle is the youngest cultural epidemiology research director in the history of the Ministry of Health and is on the fast-track for further promotion until a night of passion shatters her carefully constructed life.

Marked and unemployed, Willow falls in with a band of dissidents. Everyone wants something. In the process of discerning friend from foe, Willow begins to unravel secrets that will shake the New Republic of America to its foundation.

My Review:

This is an adult dystopian book.

This days people are becoming more and more concerned about the health and hygiene of themselves and of those around them.

But, even this should be done in moderation. The Camellia Resistance is based in a futuristic society, where people have become so fixated on hygiene that they are ready to limit human interactions in order to stay ‘healthy’.

Like all dystopias, the…

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Self-publishing: John Ashbery, Czeslaw Milosz… and you

Originally posted on Call of the Siren:

samizdat journal, Poland, published by Czeslaw Milosz

samizdat journal, Poland, published by CzeslawMilosz

 

A few more points, my friends, about why you might consider self-publishing … if/when you’re ready.

Here you’ll find some statements (in boldface) culled from arguments in a recent Call of the Siren post against self-publishing (“Self-publish, are you crazy?”).

Each is followed by a paragraph-length rebuttal that (I hope) provides some understanding … and maybe some inspiration, too.

  • Publishers have better promotional channels than you.

Ok, publishers do have promotional infrastructures, but they actually can’t (and won’t) promote every title they represent.  And even when you’re one of the lead titles in a publisher catalog, self-promotion still seems necessary.  You’ll always be the most passionate advocate for your own work.  It’s breathtaking how many mid-tier books appear in catalogs, arrive in galley form followed by the finished hardcover, and then disappear … without a sound.  Those writers, I think…

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Afraid of my Shadow

But I’m not ashamed.  Every fear is a shadow.  Think about it.

Always with you.
Amorphous in shape.
Impossible to pin down.
It just runs as fast as you do when you try to get away from it.
The things you do to cut yourself off from your fears don’t work.

So if you aren’t going to be able to get rid of your fear, what do you do?

You don’t do anything.

If you want it to stop chasing you, you stop running.  
If you want it to shrink, sit down with it.  

Make friends with it.  Accept it.  Get comfortable with the fact that you’re never going to beat your shadow into submission.  See how it shows you yourself.  And then let it do its thing.  Just because you will always carry your fear with you doesn’t mean you have to let it run your life.

Halloween

It’s my favorite holiday.  Maybe it has something to do with the introduction Peter S. Beagle wrote to The Fantasy Worlds of Peter Beagle.  He talks about his appreciation for shape-shifters and actors and how that informs his writing.  (Go easy on me, I’m paraphrasing here.)  There’s something about the weather – chilly enough for layers – and the food (mulled cider!) and the leaves falling and the earlier evenings…  it is the first real celebration of being cozy.  Plus adults can get away with playing with their identities in a way that are typically out of reach.  At least if you aren’t heavily into cosplay.

But the holiday is also one of the glossed-over connections to the connections between western culture and its pre-Christian roots.

It is also a Christian construct.

I see a connection between the macabre celebration of the crucifixion of Christ (all that eating of his body and drinking of his blood) and Halloween.  We celebrate our fears on Halloween, trying them on and turning them inside out to make them safe.

To the Celtic progenitors of Western Culture, Halloween ended the old year.  So in that way, it was a celebration of the cycle of life, the past year dying on one night, only to be reborn the next morning.  Throw in some Roman conquers and the Catholic mission to turn the known world Christian, and the new year became the celebration of the dead saints (All Hallows Day) and the night before like Christmas Eve is to Christmas.*

Mix together the Christian weirdness about celebrating death; the human fear of death; regional traditions surrounding the day, each connected backwards in their own way to primitive cultural roots; generalized anxiety about change and social structure; rising and falling interest in mysticism; horror movies; dissatisfaction; longing for the opportunity to play… and you get Halloween in its current incarnation.  A mess of traditions blended together and appropriated in service of playing out our anxieties and bridging the gap between modern life and dirt.

Halloween is a dirty holiday.  It smells of decay and dirt; it smells of candy-laden loam.  Yum.

Ratwell and I were talking about costumes I could pull off in short order for some last-minute invitations to Halloween parties.  I threw out the option of dressing up as an ebola-stricken nurse.  He was horrified.  Lest anyone else also be horrified, let me add the disclaimer that it was an idea I wasn’t wedded to.  It popped into my head along with The Black Widow (because who doesn’t love black boots and a badass) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This led us to a discussion about how the general population might see Halloween, what appropriations are acceptable and why, and why we dress up like we do.  I think Halloween serves a social function, allowing us to play with those things we fear the most.

Take the sexy <insert identity here> trope that so many women fall into.  If, as a society, we’re still nervous about women’s sexuality and insulting a woman’s sexual choices is still enough to discredit a woman entirely, it makes sense that women dress up as the thing they fear the most: a woman who puts her body on display deliberately, with confidence, with a sense of play, and simply because they can.

In this context, the Ebola Nurse costume is a legitimate choice: here is a common fear that the news is cramming down our throats.  Taking on that fear, owning it, playing with it is a way to disarm the fear.  Nothing deflates fear faster than play and humor.

Ratwell objected because, for a family with direct experience with ebola, drunken people carousing with a clumsy pastiche of a horrible illness, the whole thing might be painful.  “You wouldn’t dress up like a cancer patient, or an AIDS patient,” he says to me.

But why not?  Is it in bad taste?  I can see why it would be, and things like taste don’t need to submit to logic.

We uniformly agree that black-face and appropriations of racial minorities and stereotypes is (at the very least) in bad taste.  I saw somewhere in the news that a mock lynching scene was taken down by the authorities in Kentucky.   (You can google it, but don’t be surprised if it makes you sick to your stomach.)  I wouldn’t argue for the legitimacy for either of these activities fitting under the umbrella of re-appropriating our fears.  First, lynching is a blanket threat.  While it would be universally condemned, it is unfortunately still plausible that a lynching would take place in the US.  There is a direct link between Emmitt Till and Trayvon Martin.  There just is.  It isn’t funny, and it isn’t taking the fangs out of a cultural fear by mocking it.  Those fangs are still out and if that is a surprise to you, then you haven’t been paying attention.

(Digression: Mel Brooks managed to send up racism in Blazing Saddles in a way that feels like an authentic use of humor to turn a miserable aspect of culture inside out.  It’s been done elsewhere, but I can’t think of an acceptable scene satirizing lynching anywhere.  Correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.)

In the end, we were left with the conclusion that most people aren’t thinking about the philosophical or psychological underpinnings of their costume choices.  The boundaries of good taste are inconsistently applied: it is acceptable to appropriate the identity of a witch, even given the long history of witchcraft accusations being a weapon against women and burning at the stake.  It is acceptable to dress up as a drag queen, but it isn’t acceptable to dress up in the stereotype of a different race.  You can get away with pandemics and illnesses that are long-distant: a victim of the Plague would be acceptable, but a modern AIDS patient would not.

Halloween is a mess.

I don’t want to be misunderstood as arguing for equal opportunity offensiveness.  I do, however, find the shifting ground of taste fascinating.  Intellectually, I think it is dangerous to identify a subject as one that just can’t be discussed.  But socially, I’m okay with the idea that there are some things that just aren’t done, nor should they be.  Not even for Halloween.  Not even as a send up of our fears.

Personally, I’m wearing my devil’s horns and a Friday-appropriate outfit: I’m the devils’ dutiful daughter.  Unless you’re a die-hard Christian and uncomfortable with the whole concept of Halloween, I’m pretty sure I’m about as unoffensive as it gets.  Until I open my mouth that is.

* Here’s better reading on the history of Halloween.  http://www.paganspath.com/magik/samhain-history.htm

Self-publish? Of course! The pros

entrope:

There are more reasons to go the independent publishing route, but this is as good of a place to start as any…

Originally posted on Call of the Siren:

She's so relieved by your decision.

She’s so relieved by your decision.

Why should you self-publish?  To answer that question, you need to answer another question first.

Why are you a writer?

If you’re in it for fame or money, well…  You might receive one of these — maybe even both — but I think you’re better off getting a real estate license or starting a Youtube channel to reach those goals.

Good grief, I’m about to do the thing that I usually can’t stand: preach.  For anyone who doesn’t want to hear this, kindly exit the church while I’m climbing into the pulpit…

What I’ve learned from my own continuing journey is that writing a book requires willingness to be genuinely vulnerable.  In the past, my fragile creations have been handled by publishers with less delicacy than a UPS guy  in a hurry.  I didn’t think I could survive it.  It hurt immensely.  But I’m still here.  Still…

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