The Veil of Virtue & the Devil You Know

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Detail of Saturn, Francisco de Goya

Book sales have tanked this past week. Who knows why? Spring weather in places? The cover putting people off instead of drawing them in, perhaps because the epidemiological nonsense is finally considered passé (devoted readers will recall that the cover of the novel, created in January 2020, was never intended to imply a mask but rather, and rather unintentionally yet effectively, a veil). Or do book sales always plummet in early spring? Again, who knows? Somebody does, perhaps, but not me. And what does it matter, anyway? My task is before me regardless of sales. Write and write and write and let the rest go….

Such is a vocation. One does what one does, in other words, regardless of the world’s reception. Hence, following one’s bliss doesn’t translate necessarily to happiness but rather fulfillment on behalf of personal mythological authenticity and Jungian individuation. Be who you are and you do your proper part and the cosmos is satisfied to apply its play-of-opposites influence to things. It’s your influence against that of the world-of-action, that’s all. Employ it or don’t. If you don’t, you’re in schism and your contribution, in cosmological terms, isn’t. You become a schism, a problem to be overcome by way of the activity of everything else. It’s a shitty way to be and a shitty thing to do and so be it; some folks prefer to be shitty. Or can’t help being shitty. Hell, we’re all shitty at some point. Life contains this aspect.

Alternatively, deploy your proper energies and they empower other proper energies within and without. Things are furthered, in the Daoist sense. Alongside compassion, frugality and humility, the so-called three treasures idea that permeates this ancient Oriental philosophy.

What are the corresponding opposites? What could perhaps be termed the three curses? Heartlessness, extravagance and pride. But we need these, too. For there is no play-of-opposites without opposites. And to seek to transcend this condition of things, arguably the condition or the nature of reality, is to first and foremost, allow it. We’re better than this, you say? No we’re not. And this is where, for example, the world ties itself up in knots of righteousness on behalf of current affairs and agendas, inevitably political but originally personal. We only criticize what we fail to recognize within ourselves. Me included.

The so-called times, then, which differ very little from any other time in human history, merely demonstrate a particularly intense (or at least intensely communicated) example of a strength being transformed into its opposite, namely weakness. So that hyper-liberals, once so compassionate and inclusive, have somehow set themselves upon a path of viscous, selfish, agenda-laden righteousness at all costs. They decry violence, exclusivity, elitism, disempowerment, adjudication, oppression, imprisonment, consolidation of power in the State and what do we witness besides a systematic appropriation of freedoms, widespread censorship and the ruthless tyranny of a single-minded agenda designed to benefit the in-group and the expense of the cancelled and the outcasts? The worst thing about being righteous, in the end, is becoming what you hate.

Meanwhile, the true leaders and the agents of change and the hope for humanity take refuge in the arts, as they always have. For the arts express mythology as a whole, uncensored, bestowing our own reflection before us, uncensored, and at the same time offering a glimpse of the truth available to us in this life. There may or may not be another life. Yet the idea of something transcendent is the sliver of freedom that aggravates and weakens and ultimately serves to split the unholy timber of inhumanity and wrath upon which the crucified Christ, for example, hangs. Purple prose? Or the prairie rose?

I long day yesterday on the job, sore bones, the inevitable period of recovery that consumes too much time and energy but so be it. The home improvement accommodated my request to back down my hours and next week I’ll enjoy a more moderate schedule. Which coincides nicely with my need to surrender to the demands of TC2’s book cover design, the process of which begins April 1st. The book cover image being an example, even a symbol, of something that means everything and nothing, a little version in itself of the play-of-opposites that defines our predicament.

A book cover is everything because for an emerging or struggling or unestablished indie author – call us what you will – it inevitably speaks to the content, to the writing, more than, well, the writing. Which describes exactly why an established author’s name is routinely the prominent feature of a book cover, the artwork upon a Stephen King novel, for instance, being rendered essentially inessential. The name sells it, the imagery doesn’t. For me, it’s the opposite. I get clicks on my ads based exclusively upon the cover design, the imagery – the image symbolizes whatever integrity, vibe, theme, intrigue, energy that the potential reader may be seeking or responding to against the wealth of the competition.

Conversely, to place too much importance upon the cover art, to obsess upon what it communicates or doesn’t is a good way to snuff the potential synergistic life out of it. Which is probably why it’s not only not required for R.V. to read the novel but is instead rather inadvisable. The impressions and intuitions and sleights of hand, as it were, involved in getting the feel of the novel more or less rendered in an intriguing manner, in just the correct balance of evocative and accurate chemistry – the little magic trick – is fascinating in psychological and mythological terms. Mythological especially because a book cover mythologizes the novel. And while a second or third version of a popular book’s cover further mythologizes it, the very first cover (again, on behalf of an unknown author) has to do infinitely more work on behalf of the story. Because for a time, the image is the story. There is no mythology without an image, after all, and for better or worse in the beginning the book cover is it almost despite the writing.

Meanwhile, Easter is in the wind, and the mythology of rebirth. And a powerfully super natural (sic) mythology – conquering death and all that. And it prompts me, as a card carrying member of this screwy human race, to risk a little righteousness on my own behalf, come what may. Namely, for all yea who are so keen to declare your virtue in the form of, say, a yard sign, I would counter that you merely risk communicating its opposite; namely, the same antagonism you seek to dissolve. Perhaps better, then, to keep it to yourself until, well, it was Nietzsche, wasn’t it, who suggested be careful, lest in casting out your demon you exorcise the best thing in you.