Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Dear readers: the hardcover version of Time Crime is currently $14.04 at amazon.us – less than half the list price and three dollars less than the paperback – a steal! Note that I do not set anything but the retail price – Amazon has further discounted the hardcover on their own initiative and, if it matters to anyone at all who isn’t familiar with the inner workings of publishing royalties, the sale price does not affect my little two dollar profit. Yes, I said two dollars.
Meanwhile, coming to terms with the long game nature of being an indie author and perhaps a writer of any type – private, traditionally published, indie, what have you – is difficult, no surprise. And I think perhaps impossible. If ALLi, for example, is correct in their assessment that it requires a minimum of three published books in one’s oeuvre to become at all established as an author or authorpreneur then, given that a novel of any quality will require a year to draft and another to edit and publish (if you’re lucky enough to be working on it full time) and more likely several years by the time it’s been set aside long enough for a proper series of self-edits, one’s reasonable timeline for experiencing a sustainable economic return on a writing career expands into something like ten years, a daunting prospect for anyone. And that’s if things go well. Which is to say according to plan. Which never happens. Meanwhile, for anyone trying to hold down a job it seems a hopeless, impossibly strung out affair. So much so that oftentimes, at least to me, a worthy outcome of any sort – a modest, break-even career with an intimate fan base, for instance – seems an insanely foolish fantasy. What novel or series of novels could one possibly create that would justify the inevitably circuitous, decidedly torturous, economically disastrous expedition into the unknown that defines a writing life? To see the Time Crime series published, what would that get me? What would it get anybody? A life’s work to be proud of, you say? I wonder. I mean to say, who needs it? Frankly nobody. So that to have invested the last third of my life in the practice of writing would amount to something resembling insanity.
Statistically, of course, almost every artist-craftsman endures this psychological endpoint, this existential empty space. Without a reasonable chance of return on one’s literally priceless investment of time, energy and money, why write? And it inevitably comes down to the practice of it – you do it for its own sake because that’s simply, in personal mythological terms, what you do. I write because that’s what the experience of being properly alive entails for me. Being read? I don’t know. I was going to say that it becomes less and less important or relevant, that the practice attains primacy. But that would be kidding myself. Every word I write I write with the idea of a reader in mind, even when it’s mostly just me; namely, the version of me that has an ear cocked to the cosmos, that listens out and not just in, so to say.
What of my work, job, life balance? This journal blogs onward. The job pays a few hundred a week and it’s not like we can’t use it. My work, my true work, which is the editing of the novels and the scholarship (reading, writing and corresponding) limps along. The other vocations: music appreciation, walking and cooking also get short shrift. The job, the employment, is what drags everything down. It’s also, ironically, what holds everything together in terms of sustainability and a connection to the world-of-action; that is, while without the job my true work and vocations receive their proper time and mastery becomes a real possibility, I nevertheless endure a confounding, ultimately disorienting and derailing exile. Exile, it can be argued, indeed drives the best art-craft. Exile also kills one’s experience of being properly alive – it’s a living death to be devoted in private to your personal mythology. Because an essential function or dimension of mythology a social one. Awe, Cosmology, Sociology, Pedagogical/Supporting Psychology: these are, again, inarguably, the four functions of both personal and cultural mythology as suggested by J.C. Surrender to this realization, this fact of things, or suffer. Suffer anyway, but to disregard the mythological necessities is to court neurosis at a minimum and, inevitably, psychosis and physical illness and death when the schism is left unchecked.
My vision for the job, then, is merely to keep showing up. I do my best to learn things and to be less of a training burden to my co-workers but I foresee a day when, having attained a certain minimum acceptable level of proficiency and value-add (and this happens on all jobs), it becomes a ceaselessly tedious irritation and a dull dead end. Add to that the inevitable personality conflicts, disappointments and thinning briefcase of enthusiasm (a phrase from The Great Gatsby) and I’ll end up looking for other work. So be it. Birth, maturation, demise in all things. But who knows, it may last.
Goals. Timelines. The construction of such a psychologically contrived architecture or influence is required so as invite any chance of individuation. With seven months and three seasons remaining in 2020, a year which began with such high expectations – after a decade of incalculable strife, struggle, exile and self-work it was to be my year and my decade – it’s time to project my vision of greatness.
- I’ve transformed myself into an indie author, having launched the Time Crime series, and I’ve sold a handful of copies to potential readers outside my family and friends, including a copy each in France and the U.K.
- I landed a seasonal, part-time, overnight job at the home improvement and within a month transformed it into a permanent day shift position.
- I established a website (for the third time) and a blog (for the first time).
- I’m engaging my vocations and getting paid a wage to help compensate for the advertising expenses of Time Crime and its production (contracted) into an audiobook.
- I nurtured my scholarship, fiction readership and Eranos-driven friendship with T.S.
- I unwaveringly resisted the silly politics and legislative abuses inspired by the sham-demic.
Vision-of-Greatness December 31, 2020:
- I am pleased to have surpassed the 100-copy sales mark for Time Crime in its text version (combining hb, pb, epub).
- The audiobook version, having taken advantage of far less competition, has exploded with 1000 sales since mid-August!
- I have 15 reviews on Amazon and even 5 reviews on Barnes & Noble, all positive (three stars or above) with an average of 4.5 stars.
- Ruby is a happy and healthy member of the family.
- I have stayed on at the home improvement, satisfied to collect the part-time income until something better, namely, with less physical and psychological demand and higher pay comes along.
DOP1 2012 VINTAGE POST:
Sunday, September 30, 2012. I’ve mentioned discovering a magazine called Parabola. Then I went on another “literary” rant and failed to mention why I’m interested in it. Anyway, the magazine seems to concern itself with the very themes that I’m continually wrestling with. It jazzed me enough to purchase a one-year subscription (it’s a quarterly rag) that includes the “digital version” which allows me to access the growing number of back issues they’ve archived electronically. They describe their publication as “a journal devoted to the exploration of the quest for meaning as it is expressed in the world’s myths, symbols, and religious traditions, with particular emphasis on the relationship between this store of wisdom and our modern life.”
It sounds dangerously close to what I find myself thinking and writing about and I’m very pleased, excited actually, to maybe get a wealth of exposure to other writers related to those I already know. There’s enough scholarly pragmatism and comparative mythology to remind me of Campbell and when I dug into the editorial information I in fact discovered his name listed within previous editorial groups and in fact he appears in the first issue. It’s legitimizing for me to discover a well-established, apparently respected journal that is academically rigorous, refreshingly accessible, and current. It appears unencumbered by any flabby artistic sensibility, trendy self-help schmaltz, new-age breeziness, or worn-out colloquial interpretations of major life themes, all of which I think damage the validity and substance of important self-work. It’s worthwhile to distinguish between self-help and self-work if only to keep “dime-store psychology” and “TV talk-show sensationalism” from trivializing the rigorous and trenchant work going on. Biophycomythology of course fits right in and so I feel at home within the pages; enough that I’ve given myself some “homework”: I’m challenging myself to write and submit at least one essay on each of the “future themes” they list for the next three issues:
- Spring 2013: Destiny, deadline 11/01/12
- Summer 2013: Spirit in the World, deadline 2/01/13
- Fall 2012: Loss and Letting-Go, deadline 5/01/13
All of this speaks to my biophycomythological efforts and most specifically to writing. It’s already helping me, as I begin the first essay on “Destiny,” to get back in the groove I remember from Oakland University, my time in NYC and even Wayne State, where I was intellectually challenged and attuned to using my writing skills to get where I wanted to go. I’m almost impossibly out of practice – my writing in the dop up until now has been devoted to biography and unrestrained self-expression, a form of writing therapy – but I find myself welcoming the restriction of working with a theme, a word count, a submission format and, perhaps most of all, a critical, professional reader, which is to say editor. It’s fucking great. Whether anything I submit gets in the magazine is irrelevant, because it’s a joy to be so engaged and to have an appropriate outlet for what I write. If they never accept a thing, the essays will appear in the dop and the biophycomythological progress I know that I’ll make is something to be jazzed about.
Monday, October 01, 2012. Here I am struggling to be jazzed about writing the essay on Destiny – things are going, but primarily in circles. I keep writing about the same things and I’ve captured a certain ineffableness that’s in my heart regarding the topic, but what I’ve written – my references to The Great Gatsby, Joseph Campbell, pop culture and biophycomythology are disjointed to the point of baffling incongruity. What the fuck am I trying to say?
I feel like I’m being timed; as if I have only so much time in which to create this version of the writer in me – the one that takes on assignments (even if they’re only self-generated), completes them by the deadlines and submits them. I might be struggling with the idea that if I indeed finish and submit my three essays only to be rejected, then the failure is a clue that my mission is ending. I don’t want (or my ego doesn’t want) to be out of a job, even when the job is only delicately connected to reality. The “unreality of reality” is a phrase from The Great Gatsby that I’m using as part of the title of my essay, “Destiny in Myth: The Unreality of Reality.” I finally like the title – it makes more sense to me than anything right now and, like a good title, serves to keep me focused.
In this indeterminant, transitional training period of sorts, of me catching back up to the writerly self I left behind so many years ago, I like to think I’m catching up on some of the 10,000 hours that a Gladwell writes about – that number that’s supposed to represent the average amount of time that an “outlier” spends working within his field alone, before the world begins to take notice. It’s a calculation based on observation of the lives of many people throughout history that have experienced so-called “remarkable” success in worldly terms (money, influence, fame). But, of what use is discussing the time it takes to live out your myth? It could be argued that destiny has pre-determined all of this in my life – whether I will find material success in writing; how long I continue to write; what the nature of any of the rewards I receive from writing will be. But I know what the rewards are each moment that passes now. I’m not completely mindful, I’m not the Buddha, but I am learning in each moment of this life I’ve chosen, with each word that I type and each word that I delete. I’m having to learn how to live in my myth just as I’m having to learn how to write better.
I’ve been letting go of hh and the things to do with pigs, and I’ve wondered if any of it will come back. Today in particular I’ve been thinking about them again and on my walk I’ve felt as if the whole idea of pigs has been remaining at arm’s length from me and it has the quality of a moving target. Pigs remain an intuitive symbol for me, but my relationship to them has yet to settle into an eminently useful perspective within the world-of-action. I’m not a pig farmer though I’ve tossed that idea around quite often and even visited PDX with the goal of finding a house on some land that would allow me to be a small holder, in the vein of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.* When I make concerted efforts to engage what I think at the time might have something to do with my myth, and end up at vanishing point, perhaps even a fiasco, then I’ve learned it’s time to back away from an idea, to loosen my grip or let it go. If it’s meant to be a part of my myth, it will come back in some way, of its own accord, without my grasping at it.
It’s interesting to pay attention to omens and symbols and the way they interact with one’s life. After the gym, an hour-long walk and a shower, I put on some shorts and chose a shirt. Choosing a shirt is certainly not a big deal, yet it’s interesting why we choose a certain outfit one day and a different one the next. Day after day, we are putting on these clothes that might be expressions, projections, masks, personas or all of these. Anyway, I chose t-shirt – my uniform – to wear and it happened to be one that my mother and father gave me some time ago – it’s too small and I haven’t been wearing it very often – it’s only appropriate for bumming around the apartment:
For whatever reason, I had the thought that I’ll just wear it one more time and throw it away if it bugs me instead of having it take up space in my dresser. You can see that it’s a pig diagram with a half-ass rendition of the various butcher cuts and there’s a technical error on it if you look closely: the “boston butt” as indicated on the shirt is not in fact located on the butt of the pig; rather, it’s the “top” half of the shoulder cut (as opposed to the so-called “picnic shoulder.” The origin of the term “boston butt” is as follows (from Wikipedia):
“In pre-revolutionary New England, and into the American Revolutionary War, some pork cuts…were packed into casks or barrels (also known as butts) for storage and shipment. The way the hog shoulder was cut in the Boston area became known in other regions as Boston Butt. In the UK it is known as pork hand and spring, or simply pork hand.“
I sat down to write, wearing my ill-fitting pig shirt. I reached for Pathways To Bliss, a regular occurrence, looking for a quotation that was buzzing in my head – the one about him standing on the American Plains at a certain time of the year when you can see both the moon and the sun at the same time, just above the horizon, each the same size and color as the other. It’s compelling and I’ve quoted the passage before, but I couldn’t remember exactly where it was in the book so I tried the index, something I’ve rarely done with Pathways. I was looking up “plains” as a long-shot, found nothing but then my eyes fell down the page to “pigs 32-24.” I knew of Campbell’s more than occasional reference to pigs in Pathways, but it seemed curious to see just this word “pigs” as a reference after these years of working with this book. It seemed brand new. Campbell is talking in this section about societies in which so-called “women’s mythology” dominates and how it drives the men to create their own “secret” society – a men-only club of sorts where they can “have spiritual fulfillment and things to do”: (ptb 32).
“Now, the model for this is the pattern in Melanesia. Think what the problem is: how to get away from Mother. No place to go. Women running the whole show. Not only are they running the whole show, but they’re attractive creatures. That’s the nasty thing about it. And you don’t want to get away, you might say. So here’s the way they do it: by raising pigs.”
Wow. Pigs. Even more than the ritual Campbell describes, I’m compelled by how much my realization that Campbell is talking about pigs for a page or two has captured my attention, making my nut spin so to speak. “Spiritual pigs,” pigs as spiritual “food,” pig power as a sacrifice to the guardian of the underworld, raising pigs to help make the transition from boyhood to manhood, a man absorbing the pig’s power, “the man’s spiritual life being linked to the length of his pig’s tusks, which become emblematic of his growing inner stature.” Great stuff. Then I come upon this, which I had forgotten about completely:
“Now, this may all seem pretty primitive and distant. But, you know how the Buddha died? This has been a little puzzle to a lot of people. He died from eating pork. A smith named Cunda invited the Buddha to a meal when the Buddha was eighty-two years old. And the Buddha goes with a little group of disciples to the meal, and the smith is serving luscious, juicy pork and a lot of vegetables. Well, the Buddha took one look at the meat and said, “Only one who has achieved nirvana has the power to eat this pork. I will eat it. It is not to be served to my disciples, and that which is left over must be buried in the earth.” That is a continuation of this theme of the pig.”
At this point, I’m convinced that there is some biophycomythological “return of the pig” type thing going on here. It’s still not clear, but explaining the death of the Buddha in particular, which I had heard described as basically a case of food poisoning (this was from a well-done video concerning the life of the Buddha – I can’t remember the name of it) with specific references to pork and pigs feels significant. Campbell finishes up by saying:
“Many of the great dying gods were killed by pigs or people associated with pigs. Osiris’s brother Set was hunting a pig when he found Osiris and killed him. Adonis was slain by the boar. In Ireland, the Celtic hero Diarmid was slain by a boar, whom he slew simultaneously. In Polynesia, one of the principal deities is Kamapua’a, the youthful pig lord, who is the lover of the volcano goddess, Madame Pele. This is a mythology that stretches all the way from Ireland across the whole tropic world, and it is the first mythology that we have of spiritual rank and the surrogate death.”
Now, the significance of an omen is simply that it’s significant to you. It’s personal, so it’s unimportant whether anybody else finds any significance in it. You intuitively respond to the connections you “see” between something in your world-of-action and the world inside your own head. It’s an indication, to me at least, that you’ve somehow experienced a connection to the transcendent – you’ve experienced a flash of recognition of how your self fits within the Self. It’s compelling to consider that in some way your “you-ness” may be merely a permutation in time and space of the “big” reality, that unnamable larger thing, “the soul of the world” to borrow Coelho’s term in The Alchemist. For me, an omen is a guide and a form of legitimization, a signal – it’s a clue to the way things really are.
The problem with omens is that they are just clues – they don’t spell things out for you – I don’t know for example exactly what the fuck to do with the symbol of the pig in my life. I’m more certain of the benefits of letting the pig in and seeing what can be done in my life by allowing the symbol to “work on me” (Campbell’s idea) than anything else, of any particular thing I’m supposed to be “doing.” So the same thing that’s good and appealing about omens – the experience of transcendence giving you a “wink” and a “nod” and sense of the larger mystery – is the same thing that paradoxically perpetuates the mystery and the suffering that sometimes goes with it. An omen may tell you “Good job, you’re on the right track” and another time “Wait, go this way instead.” But it’s all intuition when you try to apply the message-from-beyond into the world-of-action. It’s like getting an “app” without the software to run it – you have to design your own software. I think everyone can do it – everyone can use omens – but it takes practice. The practice might be the following of your bliss. By staying in touch with transcendence in a work-a-day type way – making sure it’s how you direct the moments of your life – maybe we get better at reading any omens we get. And then maybe we get more of them, even to the point of seeing everything as an omen and therefore you really have attained enlightenment because omens aren’t omens anymore, they’re the way things always are for you. I can’t express this anymore eloquently than Campbell does in the following passage. I think the fact that he’s not using the word “omen” per se, (I’m not sure he ever uses that word), but instead uses just about every other similar idea viz., “forces,” “miracles of coincidence,” betokening, and a “conviction of the waking mind” does nothing to diminish my point:
“For when the heart insists on its destiny, resisting the general blandishment, then the agony is great; so too the danger. Forces, however, will have been set in motion beyond the reckoning of the senses. Sequences of events from the corners of the world will draw gradually together, and miracles of coincidence bring the inevitable to pass. The talismanic ring from the soul’s encounter with its other portion in the place of recollectedness betokens that the heart was there aware of what Rip van Winkle missed; it betokens too a conviction of the waking mind that the reality of the deep is not belied by that of common day. This is the sign of the hero’s requirement, now, to knit together his two worlds.”
If we’re born wise; born as the Buddha, then why do we unlearn everything and spend the rest of our lives trying to recollect what we once knew? What’s the lesson in that? What’s the point? If all life is the same, because the All is beyond all forms of opposites – somehow beyond any idea or human concept of form – and the transparency to transcendence would put us all in the same non-dual condition, then why life? Why the silly permutations of this world? If reality and all the gods are just amusements, just illusion, just maya; if there’s just one-ness, why live, why be alive, why life at all. This is of course, simply my adolescent philosophizing trying to catch up to my adult self; these arguments I’m having with myself are those of the ages and any number of greate thinkers have presented them more intelligently, patiently and eloquently than me. We all want the answers to the mystery of life, but is it too much to ask? I’m fortunate to have just read a children’s tale in the latest Parabola that describes the “error” another way. A man is obsessed with praying until he can see all aspects of Maona, the Earth-Maker, God Himself. He meditates or otherwise “prays” his way through all the things manifested on this earth – he’s contemplated all the works of the maker and he’s still not satisfied – he wants to know God too. Sort of like the Buddha. He eventually thinks he gets there – he’s talking with god and it turns out to be chicken hawk deceiving him – nature plays a joke on the man to demonstrate that he’s asking too much of life. Paul Goble adds an eloquent explanation to his re-telling:
“Here in this important and thought-provoking story, Maona cannot be seen, and anyone who thinks he sees Him is filled with presumption and conceit and will always be deceived by trivia, like the man deceived by the chicken-hawk. Natalie Curtis concludes: Maona is seen in all his works, and the whole world of nature tells of spiritual life.”
All you get to work with are the “works” themselves – everything else is unknowable and if you need any more explanation than that, then perhaps one hasn’t really comprehended them. Why do we ask more from the works than we’re getting – why isn’t the mystery sufficient? Omens just might be a more concentrated version of the “works” – an “espresso shot” of nature and our place within it so as to wake us up somehow, to keep us properly within ourselves, within our place in the Whole, and biophycomythologically on course. Certainly trying to enjoy it more helps. I recall Campbell’s advice that life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived….
Tuesday, October 02, 2012. Why did I insist, as a younger man, on “wasting” so much time on pleasure as a compensation for pain? Was I a hedonist, or was I up to something else? I remember it as a combination of hedonism and heroism. I guess I was just trying to learn how to enjoy living, because I intuitively thought was what life should be about. Most often however, I found myself in school, on a sports team, mowing the neighbor’s lawn, shoveling the neighbor’s snow, working for the man, or otherwise doing something I didn’t want to do but had somehow been convinced that I did. I repeated this pattern until January of 2010.
Wednesday, October 03, 2012. I’ve been playing writer for a few weeks now and it feels like good work; except that I’m not producing any good writing. My Parabola essay is a mess – a jumbled, incoherent, unfocused purge of shit. I have The Great Gatsby and Joseph Campbell battling it out amongst shards of the dop, shards of myself, at least a few questions, and the idea of biophycomythology all of it colliding into itself like a collapsing star, compelled towards entropy. I’m disappointed that I’m turning this self-inflicted homework assignment into another fiasco. I like fucking around with it, but only if I can see that I won’t be fucking around with it forever. I enjoy filling my days with writerliness, I enjoy the engagement and the expression of my bliss, I can handle the work and time flies, it absolutely flies. But my impatience, my nemesis, my dragon, lurks. It sticks its ass into my happy world and farts. Destiny. The topic is busting me up on the rocks, on the Symplegades. It’s a bear thrashing the shit out of me.
Friday, October 05, 2012. I’m frustrated by the fact that when I write, all I seem to do is reiterate something Campbell has already said more effectively and eloquently. Who the fuck needs to hear it again from me? What the hell am I doing? I’m trying to write an essay on destiny and I can’t get out of my own way, or I can’t get Campbell out of my way. I’m not writing this essay to demonstrate my connection with what Campbell writes about, nor my understanding of what he writes about. It’s not my intention to create my own “final exam” of Joseph Campbell 101.
Yesterday was as close to a perfect day as I’ve been able to get, and the thought of it sustains and emboldens me to see just how much of that perfection I can fill my life with. Why can’t I have most of my days be filled with good writing, good walking, good food, good tunes, good biophycomythologizing and the potential of getting a hook into society? That’s the artful life I want to live. The day ended with Angie revealing some trepidation about the future of her job. It’s no surprise that her career will leave her wanting – working for someone else always does. But the financial unreliability, while always there, emphasized itself and then of course my fat, stinking dragon – impatience – took the opportunity to squat in the doorway of my biophycomythological progress. The turbulence of panic started running away with my mindful appreciation of being-here-now and it’s poisoned my thoughts today with ideas of getting this essay done so that I can submit it and get it published or not, and get paid for it or not and then use that result, for better or for worse, to dictate what my next move is, viz. trying to get a job that pays. Ugh, what a waste of energy. I pulled an Elton john cd out of the vaults and gave it to Angie to listen to on her way to work. She’s always liked Elton and like I told her, when things are feeling out of control – when the things we aren’t in control of, like what happens at work start getting the better of us – laugh and do something you are in control of, like listening to your favorite music. Taking control of whatever little thing you can take control of in your world can re-assert your “you-ness” and keep you from falling into despair over how life pushes you around. Ugh, I don’t want to write about this stuff now – I want to write my breakthrough essay which will lead to my new life of earning a living through my vocations! I want to “bring into fulfillment” my “gift to the world,” which is myself, and get frigging paid for it.
So I’ve killed it: my desire and ability to write. Just like every other writer-wanna-be, I’ve fallen flat on my face. Finally with all the time in the world to write, I find that it’s too much and it’s destroyed my inspiration. So I sit here noodling into a journal. A worthless, self-indulgent purge and self-therapy exercise – how fucking boring can it get?
Sunday, October 07, 2012. I’m not deleting the last two paragraphs only because it’s a record of me going through what I think I need to get used to going through. Shortly after I wrote that bullshit, I had a wave of inspiration and was banging away when Angie got home from work at 5:30. So that’s how it works. There’s an article in the Ann Arbor Observer about the spaces that some local writers prefer to write in. No surprises: offices, coffee shops, bath tubs, blah, blah. They write where they need to write and that’s what I do. Now I’m at the kitchen island and later it may be the couch or the kitchen table, whatever. They’ve all published books, so they’re legitimized in that way – they can call themselves professional writers. I can’t. But I feel that I may be able to get there. Some of them spoke about when and how much they write and they seem to approach it like a job in the sense that they’re not waiting for inspiration – one even gives himself a regimen of five-hundred words per day.
None of this is really new to me – it’s just new to think of myself as being part of their vocation. Many people write, but to think of yourself as a writer is something different. I’m trying another hat on for size; for now I’m “acting as if” I’m a writer who is destined to be published – much like I was in TX, before we started the hh fiasco. I was a writer then, with no reason to think I’d ever be published, yet I was running with it anyway. So it’s a return to form so to say; it’s a return to something that is compelling me forward. We’ll just see how things go, step-by-step, starting with this essay. I’ll try to finish one, submit the query, then work on another and submit that query…. I’m struggling to adapt to this life that I’ve chosen – my confidence flags, I experience waves of anxiety, but I’m confident that it’s what I need to do right now. I keep going back to it. It doesn’t leave me and maybe I can trust it as I learn to work with it as a possible vocation. I’ll see if I keep writing and see what comes of it, trying to stay mindful and present and not too caught up in a vision of the future.
My “breakthrough goal” is to get published and paid for it by my birthday next year. I like that goal. I like committing to it. I like giving my all to it and believing I can write and make money at it. Making a living at it should be part of my vog, but as I make my way through this new adventure, I want to keep the energy close to me and applied carefully – I want to temper my impatience and work to become a confident writer within myself, regardless of the world’s perspective on it right now. I need practice “acting as if” and trying on this writing life. I feel like I’ve entered a different role, in line with my heart, and in spite of all my mistakes, I do have confidence in this direction. It’s really more like my heart is in charge, leading me – I’m speaking the truth more, in spite of my bullshit, and I can’t refuse myself like I used to. I do worry and I know I shouldn’t. I gossip and talk shit about other people and know I shouldn’t. But I cut myself some slack, show some self-compassion, and try to mentally commit to chipping away at my faults. I also know that pouring my energy into my strengths is the only way to move forward at speed, which is how I want to live life. I’m experimenting with just how much I can transform my talents and interests – my vocations – into strengths.
Monday, October 08, 2012. Restless ways. I really get sick of my restless fucking ways. The facts are that most of my life has been a mess. After forty-seven years, the grand total of time that I’ve felt like I’ve had my shit together has been about forty-five minutes. I’m starting to comprehend that it’s not just me. Who ends up with more than a year or two of accumulated time where you feel like you’re getting it right, dialed in, on your game? Are you a writer if you’re not writing anything worth reading? I need to allow the writing to come and go. The idea of demanding from oneself, like some of these schmucks, a minimum number of words per day, inspired or not, is frigging stupid. Everybody, including me wants to turn everything into a damn job instead of a vocation. Why?
Tuesday, October 09, 2012. Maybe the pigs haven’t returned. Maybe I’m not a writer just like I’ve never been anything else in particular. Maybe that’s it: I’m nothing in particular. Despair. Not a deep, artistic angst that will lead to groundbreaking creative actualizations. Nope. Just the same old “I don’t feel like I’ve ever belonged anywhere” bullshit. Bitterness at having invested so many seismic efforts at actualization. Various ridiculous and shamefully excessive efforts at forcing a connection between me and the world. Masks. Me trying on hats, putting my best foot forward, gathering my energies up each time and going all in. Results. That don’t match up at all with my expectations. Instead of YES! you’re fucking fantastic, you’ve arrived, this is IT, welcome to the world you fucking awesomely actualized expression of destiny! It’s YES! except we want you to do this instead. Or, YES! but you’re on your own getting it done. Or, YES! we want you to do this forever except we’re not going to pay you shit but please do it anyway.
I’m not a businessman. I don’t get it. What I want never has a profit margin worth pursuing. What I want to do always ends up just being a fucking favor to the world. A pro bono situation where everybody goes yeah, that’s nice, cool, great, super, but ah, no sorry, you’re gonna have to starve if you wanna just do that or if you want a job, well, fuck you because really, you intimidate me and I’m threatened by your modest talents because I don’t have even any modest talents. Just a huge ego and hutzpah and the willingness to do it just good enough and fuck whoever’s dumb enough to work for me at shitty wages doing meaningless work. People who want to do something special don’t go into business. People who want to give the people what they want, which is some version of what they already know, go into business. There are exceptions, at least in the beginning. Zingerman’s was an exception for a time, but only after they got past the first few years of selling shit that was just a little bit better than every other deli’s shit, and then only until they reached a certain size, maybe half as big as they are now, with half as many employees. They got lucky in the very beginning. The deli, from what I read about it, wasn’t any big fucking deal. It was just timing. It certainly wasn’t a new idea. They were the umpteenth version of a deli in that exact same spot. Same damn building. It was all timing. Yes, they sold good food, but it wasn’t great food. They got great later, and now they’re in the process of screwing it all up. They’re concerned about having jobs for the partners – jobs that pay $100K per year, like that’s any big whoopy shit. I break my balls day and night for $100K? What the hell? The food business is an insane joke. Because besides the hierarchically-oriented assholes, who think the whole point is to rise above the level of the hands-on making of the food, you’ve got to somehow convinced folks to pay triple or quadruple what they really want to pay to get anything that tastes like it’s supposed to. AND, if you can do that, you still have to be able to sleep at night paying your slaves – oops! I mean employees – the type of money that a high-school summer job cutting grass at the local golf course pays. Only you want people to act as if it’s a career and they’re going to dedicate their life to it. How about screw you and fuck right off?
Well, that’s off my chest. I sure have a gift for bitching. That’s my gift. What a gift. What a gift with some kind of fucked up future that is. Whatever. It’s what I do. Bitch.
I read something. It was in Oprah’s magazine (Angie has been getting a free subscription). There’s a funky earthy nostalgic restaurant in Massachusetts called the Dream Away Lodge (that since appearing in Oprah too many people know about) that’s run by some fifty-something fella who trained as an actor with the New York Theater Workshop or something. The director of this workshop says of the guy who’s been running this homey and popular restaurant:
“The life of an actor was too small for Daniel’s talents. His gift is gathering people and helping them find their commonality.”
For a time, I could see myself doing some version of what he’s doing viz. the hh gastrofarm, and I thought I might actually somehow be going down that road of food-for-commonality-type-thing. In the same way I thought I’d be going down all the other dead-end roads and vanishing point directions that I’ve gone down. Do most of us just make a life out of fiascos, broken dreams, busted visions and false starts? Of not having a fucking clue about what it fucking is that we really ought to be doing? Writer? What the FUCK makes me think writing is any more me than any other fucked up waste of time world-never-asked-for-it-and-therefore-doesn’t-give-a-flying-fuck thing to do? I want to be me and get paid for it. Get in line, asshole.
I didn’t expect to end up in this shitty state-of-mind. I was writing up a storm, enjoying it, feeling great about life and living and now I’m wallowing in negativity and borderline depression. What gives? Is it me having yet another revelation about myself? Is it me realizing, yet again, that I’ve poured my energy into something that the world neither needs nor wants? Am I indulging my little child-like explorations of myself? Yes, I have six vocations. But apparently they exist only in my own head and have no connection to reality.
So I got the hell out of the apartment early – 10:30am – with the intention of walking to a picnic lunch in the park – Gallup park. I could barely get my head straight enough to get out of the door – what Angie calls “monkey brain” which is that non-stop chaos of thoughts that your mind does when it’s not focused or it’s full of angst and schism had me locked up. Guilt and obligation, etc. I knew I was in some biophycomythological trouble when even the walk didn’t sound good; I couldn’t think of a good route. But staying inside with myself sounded even worse, so I showered, dressed for the outdoors, and then wandered around the apartment for fifteen minutes, with my pack on. In the end, I sat on the couch and put my head in my hands – a real mini-meltdown. My brainstorm was to pack some food. Hiking food: bread, honey, cheese, a carrot and a hunk of cold chicken breast left over from making stock (dried out of course, but I seasoned it heavily with salt & pepper and it was passable). I figured that way, no matter which way I went or for however long I was out, I’d have some food to keep me going. I could figure out the hike logistics as I went. I even considered packing some beer in a thermos like Angie and I did with the dog once during a bayou walk into downtown Houston. The added pack weight coupled with my growing impatience with myself and my inability to get my ass moving nixed that idea and I stuck to the food and got the heck out of the door.
I exited the apartment, whew. Another great, clear, sunny, colorful fall day. Very cool temps, but I wore shorts anyway because I’ve learned that a good walk or hike with plenty of insulation on the upper body is a good combination. It usually gets warmer as the day goes on and your body heat does a lot to make shorts the best call until it gets closer to winter. Then of course I had no water, nothing to carry it in from the sink and no cash. I shoved myself out the door anyway, crossed Plymouth Road, walked down Green for thirty yards, then bingo! – I remembered the CVS across from the apartment had a Bank of America ATM so I turned around, walked back across Plymouth, got money at CVS, bought two liters of Smart Water and finally hit the road with some semblance of purpose and direction. A clumsy start, but I was determined to stick with it.
I got deep into the park, talking to myself practically the entire way, trying to gather myself, in an hour and a half. I checked the time: 11:54am – time to eat no matter where I was. Lots of leaves falling, waterfowl in the river, sunlight on the water, picnic tables in proximity, the time was now. I ate, watched the geese paddle by, sat in the sun, and ate my lunch. Quieting the riot in my fucked-up head and heart. I thanked whatever earthly forces, including Angie’s job, were allowing me to try to enjoy this day – this time and space – and to restore myself. What a frigging basket fucking case. I’d probably be better off in prison because then I’d have a real reason to be miserable.
I headed east, across Dixboro, then north up Earhardt, the same familiar route Angie and I often take back from Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, towards Glazier Way west and finally north on Green towards home. A three-hour trek. With tunes, beers, some butternut squash soup to make and a Tiger playoff game later tonight, along with this writing things could be much worse.
My “destiny” essay is a mess and I’m concerned about getting anything done that’s good enough to submit to Parabola. But I’m used to running things out all the way to the end, to the last knot in the rope, right up to the very last second of possibility so maybe that’s what it’s gonna take. I’ve got less than three weeks. Like usual with my new ideas, I’ve plunged into my latest vocation with a desperate burst of “this is my thing – I’ve finally found my major vocation, the one that will pay the bills, the one that self-actualizes me in the world-of-action!” I HAVE BECOME ME!! Blah, blah fucking blah. The only career I’ve ever made is that of taking myself too fucking seriously. But I quit zmo because I felt an overwhelming motivation to be who I am and it includes writing. Does it include going into business again? I doubt it. I don’t see myself coming up with anything financially viable, let alone sustainable – it doesn’t seem to be the way my mind works. I take some refuge in something David Carr wrote in a New York Times Magazine article on Neil Young, just prior to the release of Young’s autobiography in September 2012:
“Dylan, in a note his manager passed to me, says it’s clear why Young has not tumbled into musical dotage: An artist like Neil always has the upper hand, he says. It’s the pop world that has to make adjustments. All the conventions of the pop world are only temporary and carry no weight. It’s basically two different things that have nothing to do with each other.
“Waging Heavy Peace faithfully catalogs the disappointment Young has produced in those around him, but he expresses little regret today. I work for the muse, he said…. I’m not here to sell things. That’s what other people do, I’m creating them. If it doesn’t work out, I’m sorry; I’m just doing what I do. You hired me to do what I do, not what you do. As long as people don’t tell me what to do, there’s no problem.”
Monday, October 15, 2012. It occurs to me that I may have created, inadvertently or perhaps subconsciously, the opportunity I’ve been looking for my whole life, which is to spend my time doing what I want, in control of my days. I’m essentially retired from the world-of-work as I’ve known it, the world where one gets a job, through whatever tedious or humiliating means necessary, and spends the rest of their allotted working life trying to keep it. What I hated about all my jobs has been removed from my life: I don’t work for “the man”; I don’t endure the clownish absurdities of getting paid to do what somebody else doesn’t want to do; I don’t pour my heart and soul into trying to fix it, change it and make it better when everybody in charge just wants it “good enough.” I don’t waste my valuable time.
Maybe I’m a “kept man” or a “house-husband” but I don’t feel like either. I feel like I’ve earned the time to be myself and do what the fuck I want to do. I want to write for one year. Not to make an unreasonable comparison with someone perhaps far more talented than me, but Harper Lee for example (author of To Kill a Mockingbird) managed to obtain the privilege, by way of friendly benefactors, of quitting her job (an airline ticket agent) for a year to devote herself to writing. One year seems like a good and fair amount of time to commit to the thing that I “can’t not do,” the thing I’ve done all my life, on and off, but never with the seriousness of a vocation. Writing was always just something I found myself doing when I had extended periods of solitude, usually when I was out of work. It’s not that I think I’m talented enough to make a living from it, and I know that a zillion people write or call themselves writers and do essentially what I’m doing, which is journaling or struggling to create novels, stories, or essays. Only a handful of them, maybe Gladwell’s “outliers,” maybe others too, have the talent, drive and the opportunity that combine into a professional career of any sort. But I do have a talent for writing and it’s been born out from elementary school onwards. I’m not brilliant, or I’d already have been living the life of a writer because brilliance doesn’t go unnoticed, especially not until the age of forty-seven. But I have more than a skill and I’m going to try to turn it into a strength by claiming this year – from October 2012 through October 2013 – as my writing year.
I only know about Harper Lee because Angie and I just watched a documentary on her. Her friends, a married couple of some means, became her benefactors when they fell into what they called a “small amount of money” (from the husband’s musical career of all things) and gave it to her as a Christmas gift to allow her to take a year off of work and write. A remarkable act of generosity, and if ever anybody made the most out of such an opportunity, it was Harper Lee, at least in terms of her only novel and the film that came from it.
Mastering the Unreality of Reality
“But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the washstand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Joseph Campbell suggests that what we call “destiny” is a word to describe the playing out of our personal myth, our “hero journey.” If we allow our “bliss” to propel the “driving themes of our lives… the expression of our deepest, truest zeal,” doors will open and we will, with “a good deal of compassion and patience” be able to deliver our life boon – our message – to the world.” Further, if you believe that we are a product of the “transcendent wisdom” of the universe and contain within us a unique expression of it, then our only destiny is to “reintroduce” this potential into the world. “You are to bring this treasure of understanding back and integrate it in a rational life.” Why should life work this way? Campbell explains:
“The laws of time and space and causality are in us, and anything we can see or know anywhere will involve these laws. What is the universe? Space. Out of space came a coagulation that became a nebula, and out of the nebula, millions of galaxies, and within one constellation of galaxies, a sun, with our little planet circling it. Then out of the earth came us, the eyes and the consciousness and the ears and the breathing of the earth itself. We’re earth’s children, and, since the earth itself came out of space, is it any wonder that the laws of space live in us? There’s this wonderful accord between the exterior and interior worlds, and it’s not as though God had breathed anything into us; the gods we know are projections of our own fantasies; our own consciousness, our own deep being.”
It’s a logical distillation: be who you are in the world-of-action and in sync with the archetype of your place in Time, and you are transparent to transcendence. We are to surrender to our myths – to become masters of the unreality of reality – because there we find what we have forgotten. That’s it. We live out our hero journey, and it will be enough, we will be fulfilled. It is our best destiny.
“The talismanic ring from the soul’s encounter with its other portion in the place of recollectedness betokens that the heart was there aware of what Rip van Winkle missed; it betokens too a conviction of the waking mind that the reality of the deep is not belied by that of common day. This is the sign of the hero’s requirement, now, to knit together his two worlds.”
There is what should happen to us, what does happen to us, what we are, what we might have been, and the agents or forces that propel or oppose us. There is what we choose to do with the time that is given to us. “For when a heart insists on its destiny, resisting the general blandishment, then the agony is great; so too the danger.”
The part of destiny that contains an undeniable sense of forward motion, accomplishment and victory over the future is difficult to reconcile with the equally undeniable sense of a requirement to relax backwards, surrender and accept the past. What’s missing of course is accordance with the present. There is no peace from the unsettling pushing and pulling, from existential “nausea” and spiritual “grief,” unless we can somehow find the middle: grace in our presence within the round and compassion for things as they are. Meditation helps. Quieting the mind so as to release the heart, encouraging ourselves to “be” versus “do,” to connect to the “All,” to shatter and annihilate – to unravel – the “key knot” of our limited existence (cite this: hero), and be who we are, is essential to transformation.
Enlightenment beckons in accordance with our individual capacities, some witnessing great strides, others rewarded with only the briefest flashes of stillness but in the end, failing transcendence, we still find ourselves here: at the kitchen table so to say, coffee cup in hand, our particular incarnation of bacon and eggs supporting our reemergence into the world-of-action as individuals, as self within the Self.
If we remain inattentive, unengaged, the days merely play out, consumed in the tedium of what we get paid to do, in the pedestrian expression of our skills, in the selling of our precious time for something often considerably less than it’s worth. Or we strive for the sake of striving, impulsively following paths that are not our own, fueling the dreams, desires and destinies of others at the expense of ourselves. More or less continually rebuked, discouraged, disappointed and fatigued by the impact of living, we may choose to withdraw, like Amaterasu into her cave, terrified at the sight of the “heavenly pie-bald horse…flayed with a backward flaying,” finally offended by the horrible impossibilities of life. Or we might resemlbe Jay Gatsby, retreatinged desperately and intractably into a romantic and romanticized past; surrendering to a sentimentality and nostalgia so hypnotic that it establishes the conditions of our undoing.
For Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess whose disappearance darkened the plain of heaven, the cave is respite from suffering – she is content to worship, for a time, the Deity within herself, putting the world aside. But outside there are sounds of merriment (the gods have contrived to draw her out). Wary but curious, she peers out, surprised and humbled to behold a vigorous scene of life and wonders, “I thought that owing to my retirement the plain of heaven would be dark, and likewise the central land of reed plains would all be dark: how then is it that Uzume makes merry, and that likewise the eight millions of gods all laugh?” 
“Then Uzume spoke, saying We rejoice and are glad because there is a deity more illustrious than Thine Augustness.”
Emboldened, the gods respectfully place before her a mirror representing contemplation of “the fulfillment of that which is potential in each of us.” Astonished by her own reflection she is drawn forth, reaffirming her devotion to “the guardians of life and custom,” restoring her unique light to the plane of heaven and thus restoring the world itself.
Gatsby likewise contemplates the merriment and riot of the world outside, despite his retreat from it. The glowing parties he entertains on his “blue lawn,” attracting all manner of inelegantly intoxicated guests, are meant to demonstrate, in the same ostensible way we all wish to demonstrate, success. His material victory over the limits and inquisitions of birth legitimize his long-held “instinct” toward future glory and allude to the fulfillment of his potential. But the parties are a contrivance, just as they are in the Shinto myth, concealing within their extravagant theater a blooming desperation, a jazz-age Bacchanalia designed in fact designed to attract Daisy, a woman he has endowed, romantically and unfairly, with the power to re-manifest his dispossessed happiness, in defiance of the sufferings and offenses of time. Here Gatsby errors, revealing a heroic lack of mastery:
“Freedom to pass back and forth across the world division from the perspective of the apparitions of time to that of the causal deep and back – not contaminating the principles of the one with those of the other, yet permitting the mind to know the one by virtue of the other – is the talent of the master.”
Amaterasu, virtuous and sincere, honors the Deity by coming forth in the world as she is, without pretense, and the Deity is pleased. Gatsby is sincere but desperately so. Intolerably impatient, he compromises the Right and Moral way, betraying virtue (and therefore the Deity) through his ignoble accumulation of material wealth, insulting the archetype of Time and failing to “knit together” the two worlds in a rational way. “Man in the world of action,” declares Campbell, “loses his centering in the principle of eternity if he is anxious for the outcome of his deeds”  and certainly Gatsby was impatiently, cosmically transfixed upon Daisy as an almost heavenly, goddess-like transmuter of time and space, herself transmuted within Gatsby to an ideal, an Arthurian queen, his troubadorian love having become divine, mythical; a sustanence against all trials, yet a power, a metaphor, having long ago outstripped the pedestrian dimensions of the earthly, time-bound woman of Gatsby’s inspiration.
How much of the future is ours to influence? We envision ourselves in that mansion by the sea; we can see ourselves on stage or the podium, an adoring crowd spread out before us, or more modestly, we dream a quiet life unencumbered by demand. Our heart aches for the outcome we are meant for – that ideal result that both actualizes and engages us most completely and accurately with the world, bestowing an abiding sense of being properly alive, our boon in synch with the reception of the universe – the mind and heart leaping forward at speed at once within the world-of-action and the grace of the heavens. The internal inertia can be such that it carries with it a sense of “undeniability” – a pre-ordained quality. There are after all, examples of lives that have overcome obstacles as obscene and impossible as to make it appear as if Ganesha himself has taken their hand and led the way. These might be the statistical “outliers” – those individuals that seem charmed with a rare combination of talent, drive and opportunity that coalesces, almost beyond their intention, into a life of “remarkable achievement.”
The same “instinct” that propels us to create a compelling vision – a glorious unreality – also seems to play an inescapable role in the generation the outcome. Vision boards, visions-of-greatness and Mandalas, by manifesting a stirring schism between the future tense of our best destiny and the tangible force of its representation in the present, are designed, in the context of an empowering centeredness, to cement influence over the accomplishments of the future. We make our plans. It’s been argued that that which most occupies our thoughts is attracted to us – the life we envision most devotedly somehow comes to be as if there really is a “law-of-attraction,” or perhaps law of intention, an otherwise divine form of influence residing behind or within the otherwise indifferent manifestations of the Mystery. Brain science tells us that the brain is “plastic” – neither a so-called “hardwired” and inflexibly set mental fixture nor an ineffably fluid and ephemerally intangible essence; rather, paradoxically, a resilient, often intractably definitive identity with an equally plastic – intentionally changeable, re-wirable – characteristic of self-mutability. When we not only envision what we want, but infuse those visions with the accompanying emotions of well-being, joy, etc. that go with the success – the receiving of the money, the award, the job, the house, the car, the mate – if we play it out as if it’s already happened, our brain chemistry is identical to that which occurs when those events actually take place – our “brain sees no difference whatsoever between visualizing something and actually doing it.”
But there must be something not quite identical about the brain chemistry of what we think about and the brain chemistry of what we do. Indeed, the internal schism we experience between unreality and reality can, arguably, be seen to energize the subconscious mind “to seek out and capture all the information necessary” to bring the visions into reality. How else to explain the contrivances, synchronicities and omens that seem to work on our behalf to bring our thoughts into being? Maybe just as the universe “abhors a vacuum” our mind abhors “biophycomythological” schism and works tirelessly to resolve it? How else do we find ourselves “tuned-in” to opportunities and advantages that without such “pre-experience” we are blind to? Is our spirit tapping into Campbell’s “place of recollectedness?” Why is it that if we don’t design an emotional pre-experience of success – of destiny – the odds of knitting together our two worlds are diminished? Can an idea as trite as the power-of-positive-thinking be so close to the truth?
It doesn’t have anything to do with some distorted, delusional, self-help, rose-colored-glasses type of mind set. Nor does it have anything to do with sliding down the slippery slope of Cartesian doubt where the only thing we can be sure of is that there’s a thinking process going on and all else is questionable. Let’s agree that we’re here in the world of action, that we’re not dreaming, that cause and effect is of some flimsy use at least, and that our intuitions of something other – some tangible dynamic between unreality and reality – might also have influence, at least because we’re unable to prove otherwise or even because we don’t want to take this all too seriously:
“Humor is the touchstone of the truly mythological as distinct from the more literal-minded and sentimental theological mood. The gods as icons are not ends in themselves. Their entertaining myths transport the mind and spirit, not up to, but past them, into the yonder void; from which perspective the more heavily freighted theological dogmas then appear to have been only pedagogical lures: their function, to cart the unadroit intellect away from its concrete clutter of facts and events to a comparatively rarified zone, where, as a final boon, all existence – whether heavenly, earthly, or infernal – may at last be seen transmuted into the semblance of a lightly passing, recurrent, mere childhood dream of bliss and fright.”
The question remains as to how much control we have – is everything fluid or fixed or some combination of both? It’s clear that simply visualizing something, however “deeply” you do it, does not necessarily result in the manifestation of it in your life – a one-for-one cause-and-effect relationship is not guaranteed. We have limitations that come from our genetics and environment – nature and nurture has something to do with our personal outcomes. We can’t be concert pianists, for example, if we have no talent for the instrument nor, for that matter, any access to a piano in spite of our talent. It’s been said that the difference between a vision-of-greatness and a fantasy is that one is strategically sound and the other isn’t. So the limitless quality of destiny – that existential inertia, the energy of our potential, that instinct of our future glory – indeed has a limit: we cannot be and do anything in this world despite all the self-help advice to the contrary. Or look at it this way: we can indeed strive and otherwise aspire to be and do anything in this world, except most of what we endeavor to be or do will turn out poorly because we’ve no real business doing it – we possess neither the talent nor the opportunity to make it happen authentically.
Which in the end makes intuitive sense: most of us, when contemplating our destiny, aspire only to things that we know in our hearts – within our “deep psychology” if you will – are somehow possible and rational, somehow strategically sound and within our grasp, albeit an outstretched one. We only require a little cooperation from the world-of-action – some assistance from Ganesh perhaps – to help us along, removing roadblocks and applying appropriate checks when necessary so as to realize our destiny without the accompanying grief attached to its manifestation. We are aware intuitively of our “place” in this world, of what we can realistically expect from our lives; our destiny is not fantasy. We are not neurotic.
Rather, it’s our most real reality. Campbell addresses this delicate psychology in an endnote for The Hero with a Thousand Faces by way of Otto Rank’s Art and Artist (1943):
“If we compare the neurotic with the productive type, it is evident that the former suffers from an excessive check on his impulsive life…. Both are distinguished fundamentally from the average type, who accepts himself as he is, by their tendency to exercise their volition in reshaping themselves. There is, however, this difference: that the neurotic, in this voluntary remaking of his ego, does not get beyond the destructive preliminary work and is therefore unable to detach the whole creative process from his own person and transfer it to an ideological abstraction. The productive artist also begins…with that re-creation of himself which results in an ideologically constructed ego; [but in his case] this ego is then in a position to shift the creative will-power from his own person to ideological representations of that person and thus render it objective. It must be admitted that this process is in a measure limited to within the individual himself, and that not only in its constructive, but also in its destructive aspects. This explains why hardly any productive work gets through without morbid crisis of a “neurotic” nature.”
In short, it’s normal and productive to perceive your destiny and to work towards a manifestation of it in the world-of-action. But it’s a process of transformation and expression, not annihilation and chaos. Not until you’ve found a rational means, as Campbell suggests, of “knitting together” your two worlds, does your unreality have a chance of becoming real. But if we’re not neurotic, then where’s the problem? So-called “self-help” books and psychiatry notwithstanding, why do we find ourselves living a less-than-authentic, less-than-best destiny? “Not everyone has a destiny: only the hero who has plunged to touch it, and has come up again – with a ring.” Campbell suggests, by way of Jung and Schopenhauer, that the myth we are to live by, the underlying essence of what makes us who we really are – who we ought to be in the world-of-action – can be observed in the behavioral patterns of our past, in retrospect, even as far back as our childhood. Like the baby Buddha, we are born knowing all and only unlearn it as we succumb to the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” of this world. If as adults we’ve not progressed beyond the first three chakras – survival, creativity, will – it’s because we’ve not met the challenge of the next four, beginning with the heart and its true expression. Campbell might suggest that we have not dug deep enough. Why? Because the demands of the first three chakras can seem to require all that we have to give. Surviving childhood, adolescence, sexual maturity, gaining adulthood and the travails of making a living have often seemed an accomplishment sufficient to legitimize an entire lifetime. From the 1942 film Now, Voyager:
“Oh Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.” – Charlotte Vale
We forgive Charlotte (played by Bette Davis) her compromise because from her emotionally and psychologically war-torn perspective it isn’t one – she’s already come a great distance, overcome a world of contrary inertia and impediments to her identity, and emerged within sight of a reward that, as a final ablution, demands a courageous, moral patience, a virtuous bet on the future of a life to be spent with the married man she loves. Jay Gatsby’s character could perhaps have taken a lesson from Charlotte’s noble perspicacity.
The internal judgments and self-criticisms – the biophycomythological “brakes” that we struggle to put aside within ourselves through much courage and self-work – are of course sadly reinforced by our failures in the world-of-action. Add to that the crippling idea that our best destiny is too much to ask for – an extravagance and not an entitlement – and we get not just the peculiar manifestation of what Fitzgerald called the “interminable inquisitions” of the middle west, but a universal fatigue of the spirit, an oxidation of our internal iron and a bleeding-out of the blood of our being into the entropy of the grave. Refusal of the call results, as Campbell warns, in “a kind of drying up and a sense of life lost.” Indeed, when the aspect of the inevitable creeps in; the idea that there are larger forces outside our control with the authority to appropriate our personal destiny into some existential inevitability, some dismal fate, it’s a clue to become suspicious of our original vision. Have we’ve failed because we’re destined to fail? Have we fall short because we’re meant to? Are we refused the stars as penance for desiring the moon?
Suspicion of any doctrine that implies fatalism – of surrender to any diminishment of individuality into caste or career that we have not chosen freely or that imposes a limit upon others – is founded in that place of “recollectedness” that is only intentionally denied: we know, intuitively, that it’s right to follow our heart no matter the life-predicament it puts us in. Turning away from personal responsibility because we’re afraid, impatient, frustrated, confused or fatigued, never frees us because it’s a betrayal of self. Betray the self and you necessarily betray the Self of which you are an expression, thereby contributing a universal imbalance – a schism within and without – that cannot be maintained through any earthly effort. Impossibly divided, your heart – that part of you that knows your destiny – dissolves and you with it; you “miss” your life and surrender your potential to the void. More dramatically, enantiodromia, that radical and violent reversal, the appropriation of your being by the shadow within yourself, the dark energy you’ve kept precariously in check, coalesces like a storm. Your desperate heart, restricted to the point of inconsequence by your irrational death-grip on rationality, uses the only energy left to it, contriving a desperate bid for unity and rebirth – for life – by way of annihilation: it betrays you as you’ve betrayed it, appropriating whatever energies remain available to it in order to survive. You might become what you hate; you might find yourself behaving in ways you neither recognize as part of yourself nor are able to effectively reign in, becoming compulsively, almost uncontrollably other than the person you once were. The resulting psychic shock and trauma forces recovery or abjuration – you reclaim yourself or become a rider-less horse.
“Bringing the boon back,” as Campbell forewarns, “can be even more difficult than going down into your own depths in the first place.” The myths describe any number of failed outcomes, and we risk those same “fiascos.” What for example, explains the subtle predicament of confusing our best destiny with some significantly rational opportunity, of misinterpreting a path through the forest – which is always somebody else’s path – for our own? It’s called “falling in love” for a reason, because the ungrounded, unmanageable free-fall of the experience, the impossibly gripping gravitational attraction is, for a time, a disorienting, consuming plunge without hope of a handhold. Only the passage of time, the playing out of love’s wild energies can temper its powerful seizure, the dumb-struck senseless swoon of it:
“I can’t describe to you how surprised I was to find out I loved her, old sport. I even hoped for a while that she’d throw me over, but she didn’t, because she was in love with me too. She thought I knew a lot because I knew different things from her…Well, there I was, way off my ambitions, getting deeper in love every minute, and all of a sudden I didn’t care. What was the use of doing great things if I could have a better time telling her what I was going to do?”
Gatsby’s “green light” at the end of Daisy’s dock – the light he contemplates from across the bay night after night; the light he reaches towards with trembling arms, literally and figuratively as representative of his goal – diminished from talisman to token and marked the departure point from his best destiny when he mistook it for a reflection of the light inside himself, for something commensurate with his “capacity for wonder.” He indeed mistook his future for a dream “that was already behind him.” He contaminated the principles of the “causal deep” with those of the “apparitions of Time” by hinging his weary heart to Daisy, a human charm in the world-of-action and therefore failing to mind the gap of the “world division.” We’re not meant to beat on, boats against the current and at the same time keep our trembling arms outstretched, though we too often become that very same unsustainable contradiction of inertias.
Campbell advises attaching yourself to the symbols that move you and allowing them “to work on you.” For, over time, despite their sometimes maddening remoteness, the truth of the symbols – the images and stories – is revealed, step by step, piece by piece, commensurate with one’s capacity and need for them. The fall, the psychic schism, can be arrested in favor of a sustaining grace within the mystery, but only by way of wholehearted surrender. Those symbols that provide an immutable resonance and abiding steadiness to each treacherous experiment we make across the world division are our guides; they are our grace among the impossibly mysterious influence of the larger Self, helping us transform in accordance with the demands of the journey. Instincts of future glory sustain us, humor and compassion buffer grief and loss, curiosity leads to astonishment and, like Amaterasu, the reflection of our particular radiance in the world will draw us forth, providing the essential energy to knit together our two worlds, fulfilling us in accord with the demands of the planes of heaven or earth. Pursue virtue and purity of heart, aspire to master your two worlds, in short, be who you are, and the Deity will be pleased…
* Supra, dop chapter, “PDX III.”
 Campbell, Joseph, Pathways…p.32.
 Ibid., p.34.
 Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces…, 196.
 Paul Goble, “Winnebago: A True Story,” Parabola, Fall, 2012, 75.
 Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, 108.
 Oprah Magazine, November 2012, p.183.
 David Carr, New York Times Magazine, September, 2012, p.19.
 F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, (New York: Scribner, 2004), 99.
 Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, 112.
 Ibid., 112, 120-121.
 Ibid., 119.
 Ibid., 106.
 Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces…, 196.
 “A Journey in the Dark,” The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, directed by Peter Jackson (2001; New Line Productions), DVD. (Is this a direct quote from the novel?)
 Campbell, Joseph, The Hero…, p.196.
 Ibid., 181.
 Joseph Campbell, The Hero…, 182.
 Ibid., 196.
 Ibid, 206.
 Ganesh is the Hindu god of obstacles. He is typically represented with the body of a man and the head of an elephant.
 Gladwell, ??
 Jack Canfield, The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 81.
 Ibid., 83.
 Biophycomythology is a word I created to capture the philosophical, psychological and mythological aspects inherent in the study and application of being who you are.
 Joseph Campbell, The Hero…, 154-155.
 Ari Weinzweig, GTGL1, p.??
 Joseph Campbell, The Hero…, note 22, 345.
 Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, 94, 112.
 Now Voyager, Warner Bros. film released 1942.
 F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby…, 176.
 Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, 114.
 Ibid., 119.
 Ibid., p.133
 F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby…, 150.
 Ibid., 180.
 Joseph Campbell, The Hero…, 196.
 Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, p.??