The Dream & the Reality


Sunday, May 3, 2020. How does anything stand out these days? How did anything ever get noticed when always there seems so much competition in things. Well, for everything there was a time, however brief and heady, when there wasn’t that much to choose from and people were invested in discovering the new. Books, for example. Science fiction books. Audiobooks. Now? Time Crime, for all my ad clicks, is lost in a vast ocean of comparable product. What would it take to transform the two-hundred clicks in the U.S. and the two-hundred clicks in the U.K. to, say, one-hundred sales? Hell if I know. A better story? More compelling writing? Ferocious prose? Does the thing have to leap out at you with undeniably transformative, gripping, can’t-put-it-down talent and zeitgeist magic? Yes. Well, if you just give my book a chance…. Nope. No time. Too many other choices, so many immediately more compelling, so many with a string of five-star reviews and otherwise why take a risk with my money? It’s a ruthless, categorically unforgiving game I’m trying to participate in. No quarter is given and it shouldn’t be, I get it. I need a couple damn reviews, that’s for certain. Meanwhile, we’ll see how long I can tolerate dumping money into advertising.

I didn’t post my Friday journal entry and I didn’t write one yesterday. Does anybody care? Fuck no. None of it has ever been read. I post into oblivion. But that’s not why I didn’t post the past two days. Well, it’s part of it. Mostly, I was just concerned that my rant against the Covid craziness – I flamed our lunatic Governor in another email to her – would turn folks against me, potential readers that would be turned off by my politics. Which I would understand. We don’t need to agree with each other on how silly all this “sham-demic” bullshit is to agree that Time Crime is a tribe worth joining. It’s part of the compromise of blogging, then, versus private writing: the interpretation of your words has to be considered. Hell, no, a reader might argue, I’m only interested in the uncompromising, authentic, unedited truth, come what may. Right. And if I go off on some personal rant about something you disagree with you’ll likely say, screw him, I’m not buying his novel, he’s an idiot, asshole, moron, whack job, what have you. So, here I am editing my posts. And the only rationalization I can apply to the process is that you’re free to read them or not.

I always hated when an artist-craftsman foisted their politics on me. I don’t care a damn what a musician thinks of the President or a war or a right or wrong happening somewhere. Just do your thing, man, play your tunes, communicate in that way. And they lyrics are compelling when they’re mythological and not political. I’m not posting this shit either. It’s not compelling enough. Which is the other compromise induced by blogging: one starts critiquing oneself and then strangling the damn cat of creativity and it all goes down the toilet quality-wise. Artist-craftsmen, writers, have never been capable of proper self-editing. I can edit the hell out of myself and it’ll never be suitable for print. But without an editor sitting by your side what can you do? Write it and post it, come what may.

I don’t know. I suppose it comes down to coming to terms with my vision for the blog. What is it? To spew my words out willy-nilly, hither and yon, unrestricted, unedited, uncompromised? The price will be to be a polarizing, therefore political writer. And one thing I never wanted to be was a polarizing, otherwise political writer. Or even a critic. What I want to do is associate with my tribe, to communicate and compare and critique amongst friends and like-minded folk who enjoy what I enjoy. Am I a fool in that way?

I think the long and short of all this is that just like I never enjoyed the idea of eating from a food cart I have never enjoyed the idea of blogs. As I’ve discussed at length already over the years. And here I am trying to blog. So that it will either be a case of being good at something I don’t like, which could happen because life is weirdly ironic that way and it happens all the time that people don’t like doing things they’re good at and would rather go play a crappy round of golf than write something worth reading. Would I read this shit, these meandering musings? It sucks being in mid-experiment, I can tell you. On the one hand I have a sense that if I were indeed supposed to be doing this publicly I’d have been doing it already sometime over the past nine years and on the other there’s the issue of timing and experience and maturity and zeitgeist. And the simple fact of my primary agenda, which is to be giving something authentic to readers that inspires their readership. But do I really care about having readers? Any successful author, after all, one who sells a quantity of books that precludes intimacy with one’s readers, whose fan base is beyond any one person’s ability to effectively engage because that would, Annie Dillard style, supposedly diminish one’s ability to write what those same readers expect to continue to read. And here I’m writing myself around in circles. And since I went to the damn trouble to write this I’m goddamn posting it, why not? All this is going to have to play itself out as viable or not and as always the outcome is not completely up to me, it’s not all within my control. So, when in doubt, give it out. And let it go and see what comes back.


Dark Energy

Friday, February 24, 2012. After a good day yesterday of following my bliss, writing a shitload, audiophiling, going to the gym and reading, I awoke today with the anxiety and near-panic that I can only compare to what it must be like to be lost in the woods – that urge to run somewhere, to get back to somewhere you recognize, to know where the fuck you’re at. An almost overwhelming urge to hit the internet and look for a “normal” job, to make money, to quit wandering, to act my age. I hold onto the rocks of this unconventional life as the anxiety storms over me like a fucking wave. If I don’t focus, breathe, stretch, put the tunes on and write this shit down, try to remember what my guides are and where they are, I fucking swear I’m going to get swept away. One day I’m grounded, centered and confident and the fucking next I’m crashing on the rocks. It’s like my nervous system keeps using all the wiring I’m trying to rip out – fine wires embedded in my core that still carry the current of my past self, my fucked up, mis-wired mask-wearing self. I want to be happy with my life. I’ll just try saying it. I’ll try acting as if again. If you can’t be who you want to be, then fake it. You try the personality or mental state on for size even though it doesn’t fit in the hope that it “sticks.” In the hope that the confidence you want incorporates into your brain, bones and heart just by acting as if you have what you want or you are who you want to be. I could use one of Canfield’s “come as you will be” parties. I would come as:

  • Successful author, Day of Pigs

Per Canfield’s advice, I’d bring a copy of my book (mocked up) and take calls, emails & texts from my publisher and agent. Here’s the mock-up I had laying around the house in Texas – it’s a photo I took on 11/1/2010:

Day of Pigs mock up (envisioning exercise) – compare this to the book I actually ended up publishing – crazy!

The internal resistance to being who you are is fucking beyond annoying and sometimes frightening. Who the fuck am I if I can’t be who I want to be – who the fuck is fucking in charge inside my head? Where does my heart go? “Losing heart.” I understand that phrase more completely now. It’s horrible to see in others and horrible to witness in yourself. There’s such a seductive power – a dark energy – in it sometimes, depending on where you’re at in life. I wonder if it serves a function? Like when you’re about to die, maybe you lose heart for life to make the end easier to deal with? I fear it. So maybe it’s worth confronting and examining in the hope of changing the balance of power. I want the power. This “losing heart” is stealing my power.

While I’m writing this, Angie sends me a text to check my email because I’ve got a request for h-cheese. Somebody in Saline is interested in trying it and wants to pick some up. What the hell, why not? I’ve still got plenty in the freezer at Union Hall and technically I’m still under my Grant of Inspection (not that it matters for this little transaction). What does this mean? Is it an omen? Is it just a tattered remnant of my previous existence – a leaf that remains on the tree through the winter? Is it important? The answers are within me yet the signals aren’t clear – I’ve lost that much confidence already. It jazzes me to sell a headcheese. It energizes me. The first thing it made me do after replying to the customer, who’s last name is “music” of all things, is send another inquiry to Larry’s Market in Milwaukee, the only out-of-state retailer that’s showed any interest amongst all those samples I overnighted. I’m not going to strangle things or hold on at all, I’m just going to be happy with the two things I just did – the two efforts at connecting to people who show an interest and see what happens. If this helps lead me through the woods, so be it. If it doesn’t, then I’ve lost no more than I’ve lost already.

Monday, February 27, 2012. From Hero with a Thousand Faces:

Often in actual life, and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered; for it is always possible to turn the ear to other interests. Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or “culture,” the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless – even though, like King Minos, he may through titantic effort succeed in building an empire of renown.[1]

Campbell says “Not all who hesitate are lost;” that there is the potential for another outcome besides disintegration into neurosis or psychosis.[2]

It [willed introversion] cannot be described, quite, as an answer to any specific call. Rather, it is a deliberate, terrific refusal to respond to anything but the deepest, highest, richest answer to the as-yet-unknown demand of some waiting void within: a kind of total strike, or rejection of the offered terms of life, as a result of which some power of transformation carries the problem to a plane of new magnitudes, where it is suddenly and finally resolved.[3]

Campbell refers to the Arabian Nights adventure of Prince Kamar al-Zaman and Princess Budur. In short, the story involves two star-crossed young people who have never known each other and who both have turned away from the well-meaning but ill-received advice of their Kingly fathers to marry and otherwise lead conventionally royal lives. Each stubbornly refuses the requirement, anticipating wedlock as a cage steadfastedly holding to their autonomy, aspiring only to their heart’s as yet unrealized potential even as their fathers resort to wrath and punishment to break their resolve and enforce their compliance with perceived duty.

With the hero and the heroine both following the negative way, and between them the continent of Asia, it will require a miracle to consummate the union of this eternally predestined pair. Whence can such a power come to break the life-negating spell and dissolve the wrath of the two childhood fathers? The reply to this question would remain the same throughout the mythologies of the world. For, as is written so frequently in the sacred pages of the Koran: ′Well able is Allah to save.′ The sole problem is what the machinery of the miracle is to be. And that is a secret to be opened only in the following stages of this Arabian Nights’ entertainment.[4]

Tuesday, February 28, 2012. We found out today that the folks who are renting our TX house, and had made a shitty offer to buy it, are moving out – our last rent check will be for May. We have to be prepared now to walk away and let the bank take it. I don’t know what additional financial burden we’re going to have to assume to do that. It’s the only thing left, short of the non-option of moving back down there. We can’t pay a mortgage on two homes. We’ve always paid our bills. Yet if we can’t rent it again (chances are very slim) and we can’t sell it (almost no hope at all) then we’ve no choice but to allow the Texas fiasco to swell to even greater, more damaging proportions than it already has. At least maybe it’s finally the vanishing point. Along with another hard day at zmo for very, very little money (this time in the kitchen, prepping, washing dishes, etc.), the house news hit hard. I feel like we’re at the point in the Alchemist story where the shepherd is within sight of the pyramids and gets beaten to a pulp and robbed by thieves. He loses everything once again in pursuit of his dream, this time within sight of it. My brother Kevin is trying valiantly to bolster my resolve to stick with things. I wrote back to him:

There’s some queer comfort in knowing one can no longer return the way one has come. Enough ground has been covered. Too far into the woods now, too far out to sea, the way forward is the only way left. Finally, the absence of choice.

Guides remain. Though I had a few physically hard days at zmo in a row where I did work that could easily make me feel as exploited and hopeless as anyone in Emma Goldman’s nineteenth century hell holes of employment, I can say that I still feel good about my choice to follow Ari and zcob. Nothing has seemed to play out according to plan, but there you have it – my vogs need work – they need to come even more from within – and I need to get rid of my plans in order to live the life that is waiting for me, right? So, I’m sticking with Ari. I’m cooking (using Molly Stevens’ recipe again for Pernil al Horno), listening to music, writing, walking, phycomythologizing, trying to be entrepreneurial, and there are always the pigs. They remain guides however incongruous and odd their place in my life may seem. When we picked up our pork from Larry D. at Back Forty Acres in Chelsea, we made sure to see his fine Tamworth pigs:

Tamworths at Back Forty

Personal transformation. I’m not interested in merely “falling into” something to do by happenstance. It doesn’t work except for the statistical outliers on the “normal curve” of life. There is something I’m meant to become. It’s my chosen method to prepare, create, and engage. In so doing, I hope to become who I am. Is it improbable while working for someone else, even Ari? Maybe. I’m refusing everything but that which strikes at my heart, that meshes my gears. Maybe this work is my pilgrimage of identity – the identity that I’ve sought for so fucking long. Maybe it’s another fiasco. Maybe I’m refusing too many things. But it’s the only way I know – the only way the feels like progress. I can refuse to believe it’s impossible. I’m giving myself permission to choose what I want and to fuck it up six ways from Sunday again if necessary.

What is the difference between a hobby and a vocation? A vocation, unlike a hobby, is not optional. I think a vocation is, to quote Robert Walter, “that thing which you can’t not do.”[5]. A hobby is something you can take or leave – it’s something you dabble in and don’t suffer ill effects from not doing. A vocation involves suffering and joy; also bliss – that mindful engagement with the world where you are creating and not just killing time. Engaged in your vocation, time and your perception of reality changes – time flies and you’re full of purpose and accomplishment minute by mimute. A hobby is passing the time – a diversion – all the while allowing for the world to break in upon you with more serious and important work. A vocation does not necessarily “pay.” Money is not the focus or even a requirement; you can think of a vocation as an especially passionate or consuming hobby I guess, but again, a hobby is something you can let go of and not feel the torn, damaged, internal yearning to express and engage like a vocation. Your vocations heal, repair, sustain and surprise you. Sometimes I think even vocations can fall away over time. You do need to stay vigilant and find new vocations as your life experience changes you – a vocation is not necessarily for life. It’s for living day-to-day. I think we get scared of diving into our passions and allowing them to be vocations. I think we sometimes keep our “day jobs” just because we don’t want to “ruin” the joy involved in surrendering completely to our passions. The risk involved with trying to turn your hobby into a job is well documented – as soon as you get paid to do something, it “ruins” the experience of it – now you need other diversions, hobbies, to help you cope with the demands and exhaustion that is now your job.

How to avoid this? Are true vocations indeed activities that are unaffected by whether or not you are paid to do them? No matter how demanding they become as careers or jobs, can they remain vocations in that you still must do them and are continually restored by them? I may have it wrong in thinking a vocation will not have aspects of a job. It’s absurd to think, and reality bears this out, that a vocation will never be a burden. Maybe it’s just that it’s a burden you choose to accept and in that way, that fine shift in emphasis towards choice, you escape work and remain within a self-actualizing vocation. Do I expect too much from a vocation? Am I asking too much of life? I don’t think so. Ari touches on this in his “One + One” essay where he discusses the benefits to both the individual and the organization of “non-core” roles – those one or more work activities that are unrelated to your core job. You can work within an organization (your position within the organization is irrelevant) and more broadly engage your skills and talents. There’s a long list of obvious positive results from this that I’ll leave to Ari’s essay to describe. The simple fact that any “job” falls short of becoming, or in fact remaining, your vocation because it necessarily becomes routine as you approach mastery and as you approach equilibrium requires that you keep bringing in new things to do into your life. That means bringing new things into your work and making sure those things are suited to you. It has to be stuff that you have a passion and flair for. It’s the responsibility of leaders (and it should be something a leader has a flair, talent and passion for) to keep an “eye” on folks and always look to “exploit” the emerging talents that they express. When somebody is engaging in their vocation, it is always the case that they’re good at it and often they’re really, really good at it and sometimes they’re so fucking good at it that it changes the world.

But, we have to be careful not to confuse the true nature of a talent as it may or may not fit within the organization. I for one am very good at intuitively comprehending and managing risk, risk of many types, whether it’s health & safety, financial or biophycomythological. It’s related to one of my five core talents (from StrengthsFinder) which is being a futurist – I can effectively and accurately “see” how a current situation will play out in the future. It’s not mystical, it’s just related to how I observe the information available in a current state and comprehend cause-and-effect based on my own experience. I’ve had a couple of bosses who recognized at least part of my flair for this stuff and they as a result of their pushing and my own ambition, I accepted roles that I ended up hating because the job didn’t really match my talents. For example, just because I can almost instantly size up a health & safety risk and provide a lower risk solution doesn’t mean I should do that for a living – it doesn’t mean that should be my job just like it hardly means that it’s one of my vocations. Which begs the question again that I think I’ve asked myself elsewhere in this essay: can we be good at something that is not our vocation?

I’ll bet many of us have experienced the problem of being good at something but not wanting to do it. The situation usually takes the form of your family members, friends or co-workers (or in a rare case your boss) “deciding” that you’re good or talented at something (most bosses don’t care or recognize any of this) that you have no interest in. You find yourself able to accomplish tasks and be “successful” as things that others struggle with and then you’re cast as the expert, talent or “go-to” for that task or tasks. These tasks may indeed come easily to you – you cook food well, you answer phones well, you give good speeches, you run fast, you jump high, you draw well, you sing well, you write well, you can fix things, you’re good at mathematics. But whatever it is, it leaves you “flat.” The world is calling, but it seems like it’s got the wrong number. How can you not like to do something you’re good at? And how can you not like to do something that the world appears to want from you?

A Persian city once was “enstoned to stone” – king and queen, soldiers, inhabitants, and all – because its people refused the call of Allah. Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt for looking back, when she had been summoned forth from her city by Jehovah. And there is the tale of the Wandering Jew, cursed to remain on earth until the Day of Judgment, because when Christ had passed him carrying the cross, this man among the people standing along the way called “Go faster! A little speed!” the unrecognized, insulted Savior turned and said to him, “I go, but you shall be waiting here for me when I return.”[6]

March 1, 2012. I’m not scheduled for work at zmo through next week, so no money. Our house in TX might go to the bank and we’ll lose all that money. I might not get the job I applied for at the z-deli, and if I do get it, I might not like it. Besides that, it doesn’t much better than the job I have now. Angie and I may have to spend another year in this rental house that we don’t like very much. I may never find another entrepreneurial opportunity that jazzes me – I may be losing a vocation. HH may go down in the books as a failure. This book may just be a big, fat exercise in “art” therapy and never see the light of day. The Red Wings may not win the Stanley Cup this year. Blah, blah, fucking blah. I’m trying to remain passionate yet unattached. I’m following my guides. I’m engaging my vocations. An unlived life will not be my destiny. Be brave.

[1] Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 3rd Ed., New World Library, Novato: 2008, 49.

[2] Ibid., 53.

[3] Ibid., 54.

[4] Ibid., 56.

[5] Patrick Takaya Solomon, writer, director, Finding Joe, Pat and Pat, Inc: 2011. DVD.

[6] Joseph Campbell, Hero…, 53.