Journey Back to Circadia

Now isn’t this interesting? Well, it is to me, at least.

In my quest to add something to this blog every day, my brain slowed to a trickle in recent days. Yeah, yeah, there was a lot of day-job stuff to do, and I’m still organizing my new home office, and yada yada yada — but a small part of me was thinking, “Maybe all I have in me is 840-odd consecutive entries, maybe I’m running out of gas.”

Then I thought, “Heyyy, one damn minute, admiral — something about this scenario seems familiar.” So I dug back into the blog, and whoop, there it is.

It was exactly one year ago today — Nov. 19, 2021 — that I posted the first of six reruns in a row — posts reprinted from a former incarnation of this blog that I thought were worth repeating.

Well, yes, I thought they were worth repeating, but also I had reached a point where I was thinking, “Maybe all I have in me is 475-odd consecutive entries, maybe I’m running out of gas.”

As I wrote when I finally posted something new again on Nov. 24, “Wow, I hit a wall. Wow, the walls you hit sometimes when you write for a living.”

Now I’m thinking this is just something natural. Maybe something resembling circadian rhythms hurls me against a wall in mid-November. Maybe the stress of preparing the upcoming holiday editions in the day job, the knowledge that I’m again doing nothing during National Novel Writing Month, the end of the year coming up with still no finished novel, and the enormous guilt from all that stuff builds up into a Big Wall.

Realizing that this is nothing new eases some of the anxiety right then and there. I’m not running out of gas, it’s just Nov. 19. I always “got nothing” this time of year. It’s bad news/good news — I got nothing, but I now know that I always run out of steam for a little while in mid-November. It means this is another navel-gazing session instead of a particularly interesting blog post. On the other hand, maybe this is more interesting than I think. It’s not my call whether this is interesting; it’s yours.

Thanks for your patience. Now that the demon is in the process of being exorcised, let’s see what happens tomorrow.

This

We are always seeking the next moment, when the present moment is all we have. We spend a lot of time on “what happened?” And “what next?” But no so much on “what is happening?” 

Of course we need to assess what happened and where it might be going, but all we can actually affect is this moment, moment to moment. In that context “It is what it is” becomes an important recognition, not a resignation — Not “it is what it is and we can’t do anything about it,” but “it is what it is and we we must work with what it is, not what it used to be or what we wish it would be.”

We always want to be doing something else, somewhere else. We worship at the altar of “anything but this.” But this is what we have, this is all there is. It is what it is, but look at all that it is!

In this context, “It is what it is” becomes more than an annoying shrug.

This is what happened

© Mike_kiev | Dreamstime.com

The most powerful words in any language may be “Once upon a time” or “In the beginning …” The words arrest your attention at once: “Listen up! I have a story to tell, and it all starts here, whatever ‘it all’ may turn out to be.”

It all began when …

We never realized until later how important the moment would be — how important that moment was — because “it all” was different before it happened, and it definitely all was different from that moment forward …

Once upon a time — you know, that time when Quirinius was the big boss — you know, that time when something unusual appeared on the horizon — you know, that time when people saw a wagon propelled by a machine, not an animal, for the first time. Oh yeah, THAT time …

… and away we go, back to the beginning when it all started, or forward to the beginning when it all is going to start.

Now, may we start?

Writing advice from Andy Weir

One of the heroes of the “choose yourself” independent publishing movement is Andy Weir, author of The Martian, among the most successful self-published novels of the last decade or so. I recently blundered across an excerpt of an interview with Weir that included that immortal question, “What is your advice for new writers trying to make it in today’s publishing world?”

He had three thoughts, and the first and third seem obvious, except perhaps they’re not. The first thought is “to actually write.” If you want to be a success as a writer, you need to write and keep writing until you’re able to write well. Aaron Judge didn’t hit a home run with his first swing. He had to swing and keep swinging until he was able to hit a baseball with power. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.”

Weir’s third thought is that “This is the best time in history to self-publish.” The barriers and most of the stigma have been removed. If you just finished your book, you can publish the ebook in less than a half-hour and have it on sale tonight. I’d make sure it’s polished first, but the technology is available if you’re in that much of a hurry.

The middle thought is what caught my eye: “Resist the urge to tell friends and family your story.” It’s such a good story that you want to share it along the way, but sharing “satisfies your need for an audience, which diminishes your motivation to actually write it.”

I know that feeling. I’ve leaked out a detail or two about an ongoing project to friends from time to time, and “leak” turns out to be a good word to describe it: It feels like the story is a balloon or a tire, and if it leaks, some of the pressure to tell it is lost. Sometimes, even when the person says, “Wow! I can’t wait to read that,” the balloon deflates completely.

Weir’s advice is basically, when someone asks you what you’re writing, just smile and say, “You’ll find out,” or some such. Say anything, but don’t explain what you’re writing. 

And write. That’s always the best practice for anyone who wants to be a writer. It may take a long time to reach the point where your writing is “worthy,” although that’s subjective anyway. The only way to reach that point is to actually write. So write, gorram it. It ain’t rocket science — although, as Andy Weir demonstrates, it can be.

And so, create

So Dad would have been 99 years old today, if he hadn’t passed a few months before his 97th birthday. Where’s that “things that happened in 1923” card I bought him a couple of decades ago and never gave him? I saw it again recently while moving boxes from there to here.

A few of the records I own are 100 years old now — platters by Sir Harry Lauder and the like — it’ll soon be a century since the megaphone they sang into was replaced by an electronic microphone. When my Philco radio turns 100, I’ll be 88, or at least it will be the 88th anniversary of my birth.

Mmmm, I’ve been thinking a lot of thoughts about endtime lately. I need to focus less on endings, more on creations, I should think.

“There’s nothing new under the sun,” and yet there’s new stuff all the time. We were made in God’s image, and God is a creator. Every culture has a creation story, an “In the beginning.”

It’s all the same but different. A man imagines a world where he never existed, but it’s a different wonderful life than Frank Capra’s. A little girl travels to a fantastic world full of strange creatures and magical beings, but it’s not at all what L. Frank Baum thought of. A couple torn apart by war meet each other again in a different place, but not Casablanca. We are billions and billions of stories, with common themes and echoes of each other, but never quite the same as each other. There are archetypes and stereotypes and plain old types, but we mix together in infinite variations so that even the strangest story has an air of familiarity and, simultaneously, a sense of newness.

And here I am thinking about how creativity works when I began by contemplating how all things must end. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” The phoenix dies after 500 years of mystical flight, but another phoenix rises from the ashes.

We create something new every day. Oh, it may be a repetition of an old thought, but it’s framed against the freshness of this day. Maybe it’s not original enough to share, or maybe it is, and it’s a thought someone else is hearing for the first time, so share away. One person’s echo is another person’s epiphany, and so the dance of creation continues.

I am fascinated by what came before (Roger Mifflin is one of my favorite characters), because back in the past we can find so much in common with what comes next. The echoes teach us — what? tolerance? humility? You discover you’re not so smart, someone had that insight 100 years ago — but see how you incorporate that elder knowledge into what we have all learned in the meantime.

And so, create! Put pen to paper, brush to canvas, pixels on the screen. Craft something, make something, create! It will help you make sense of all this for yourself and, in the making and the sharing, for many other folks, too.

Listening: Crosby, Stills and Nash

Red asked me to play some music, and I told her this album came from a box that I got for free from a new friend who was trying to get rid of her vinyl. (Of course, 25 years later she not only did not get rid of her vinyl but gained several dozen boxes more.) I sat down to write and listen and, perhaps inevitably, I wrote about what I heard.

“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is a remarkably great work. Stephen Stills was inspired by Judy Collins, of course; she does have very blue eyes.

Then Graham Nash takes us on a ride on the “Marrakesh Express,” the first hit single. The harmony on “All aboooard” is reminiscent of a train whistle — how did I not catch that for 50+ years?

Here’s “Guinevere” now, a lovely haunting ballad by David Crosby. Holy cow, this is a great, classic album. But you know that.

I wonder how Stephen, Graham and David met, and what the moment was like when they realized how great their voices sounded together. Crosby, Stills and Nash transcended Buffalo Springfield, the Hollies, and even the Byrds — each a classic band in its own right. “Supergroups” don’t always live up to the word, but this one did.

I’m trying to write here, but I am caught up in listening to the music, hearing it again as if for the first time. Too often we treat music as comfort food, putting it on in the background and saying, “Oh yeah, I love this one,” leaning on the memory instead of experiencing it again. That has its value — music has a soothing effect on the soul in either case — but listening, taking the time to concentrate on hearing the music — is the difference between standing in a sunny field lost in thought and standing in a sunny field seeing the clouds drift by in different shapes that spark the imagination, watching the wind ripple across the grass and sway the wildflowers in their yellows and reds and blues and purples and of course green everywhere, and the song of birds and crickets, and the fresh smells — know what I mean?

In the quietest moments — “Lady of the Islands” — the ticks and crackles are a bit of a distraction. Some vinyl has worn better than others. But sometimes a worn record is a signal: Alert! Magnificent music here, worthy of repeated listening.

“Magnificent music” — is that an oxymoron? After all, music itself is a magnificent invention that taps something inside us, a thing of healing and universal understanding.

It’s a long time coming sometimes to remember to listen, to hear. And when I remember how sound can spark the imagination and inspire the best in us, it’s like revisiting a place of momentous discovery.

Is this the best way to experience music — on an otherwise quiet morning in an easy chair, a dog sleeping at your feet, and time to listen and relax? All I know for sure is that it was today.

The riddle of the ages

Someday I’m going to die of some disease, or

Someday I’m going to die in some accident, or

Someday I’m going to die slowly, or

Someday I’m going to die suddenly, or

Someday I’m going to die when this ol’ body wears out, but

Someday I’m going to die.

That’s such a weird thought.

And on the subject of weird: Where will I go?

You know, the “I” who is thinking this thought and sending a message to my fingers to write it down. The consciousness that sees this page, turns the head and looks at the water that’s only visible through the trees when their leaves fall off. Where will this consciousness go?

Of course, that’s the question of the ages. Where is Pontius Pilate? Where’s old Will Shakespeare? Is the consciousness that inhabited Amelia Earhart inhabiting some other body, or is it flying around the universe in some other form, or is it just gone, a product of the biological machine that carried it around for all those years?

You want to finish a thought like this with a conclusion, and many people are confident they know the answer, but it seems to me the answer can’t be known for certain until we get there, and then we can’t share the answer in any way we’ve been able to determine.

Our consciousness either continues, or it doesn’t. I find reasons for comfort in both alternatives. In either case, I’m happy to wait for the answer.

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