A tumult of a constantly shifting lens.

If you look up the word 'tumult' in the dictionary it paints an image of an angry crowd of people all milling about close to each other. Perhaps the day is hot, and everyone's talking over each other, shouting, disoriented and confused. That's a tiny snapshot of the world at large. An increasing number of people now have access to computing platforms (phones, tablets, and actual computers) that give them the capacity and opportunity to share their views. Right and wrong are moral judgments based on subjectivity, the same as good and evil. The art of discernment is requisite in this unfolding era of 'Babble'. I'm adding to the noise.

Who are we listening to and why? We all want and need the better deal, the most affordable price with the highest quality product. Our right-hand doesn't recognize that we're eating our left hand. In this self-cannibalization, we cry out in pain and confusion, not knowing why we do it really. Have you been told that you cry in your sleep, or awoken to find yourself this way? Maybe upon scant self-reflection, you chalk it up to your workplace or something you watched before bed that disturbed you a little. I bet you it's deeper than that. 

Imagine a dense and dirty fog settling over the lands like a great shadow. The malaise can last you the rest of your life if you're not careful--the shadow and the light dance side by side, but never leave each other. If you find that it's much easier to look at the fog than at the light, you're not alone. But recognize this: it's a decision. And that decision isn't necessarily your own to make.

All the items you prop yourself up with each day--your computer, your phone, your friends, your TV, your books, your media in all its forms, also prop up the people you surround yourself with. Whether that's at work or at home. Many of us in the developed world are surrounded by influential voices. Popular TV shows, Facebook, Twitter, and even Youtube--these media conglomerates are informing you and everyone else you know. If you're lucky, you are influencing these media in your own way, hopefully with an eye for a better change.

Because we are by nature adaptable creatures, and because we have so much surrounding us on all sides, we are adapting to the influences of everyone else's thoughts. If left alone for a while you might notice that your thoughts run in new cycles every three months or so. As new information becomes available, that information gets processed over and over again on cycle in your mind. 

You're also influencing yourself by what you seek out. If you're looking for specific information, you can find it. And it is changing who you are when you do discover it. Doctors inform other doctors, as well as patients via the web--same with health coaches, scientific studies, and all the rest. All of this leads to a necessary fragmentation of mental resources and personal identity issues. The breaking down and building up of character is a lifelong process involving you and the millions of people you are now connected to.

I submit then, that when we say we want to 'find ourselves' we might cast a loving glance backward to a different time. A time when people didn't have access to the same level of information or groups of people's influences. A time when people had only their families and their towns or small groups of people to be influenced by. Simpler times, maybe, but mankind has never really been all that simple. Because of adaptability, we've been evolving to this very point. We're seeing the world through a constantly shifting lens. 

There are so many questions this raises, of course. Write down all your questions and submit them to yourself for deep examination and self-reflection. See if you can answer just one or two of the questions that arise. It's an exercise in personality and character to do so. 

Taking Shape

Have you ever written an essay for high school, or worked hard to finish a paper for college? I bet you've done one or both and received feedback that you didn't like. That negative feedback often (not always) pushes us to learn from our mistakes and create something better next time. You might blame your teacher for how you're feeling (crummy, let's bury our head in a pint of ice cream), but your teacher is just relaying the facts. Putting words together is a skill. This kind of skill isn't meant to be easy. I posit that if writing were easy, its value would be significantly decreased. As it is, reading is starting to seem like a disappearing act. I'm grateful for everyone who still picks up a device, looks at a screen, or blows the dust off a book and scans their eyes over words!

My own books and stories have gone through a similar arc over the years. I've gotten feedback from my editor when my writing is particularly shitty. There's a vehemence about how bad it is. Luckily this occurs because my editor believes in my writing prowess and knows when I'm phoning it in. My fingers practically fly over the keyboard and when I'm just downloading the raw bits and pieces of a scene or a whole chapter, I (being the human that I am) leave significant parts out. I change the way a character would do, say, or react in a situation that's not to be believed. I don't do this consciously. This simple faux pas comes down to my not being truly present with the material. I'm so intrigued by the scene, or I'm so rushed by my 'need to get the word-count', I lose sight of the real picture. In other words, I don't take my time. When that happens, the words lose their meaning and the whole train comes to a crawling, lumbering slow-down.

With the 3rd book in the Owen Hunter Series, that has happened over the last two years. I'm doing everything in my power to go back over the manuscript I originally thought was brilliant, leading to a perfect conclusion, and am having to see how I botched it. In my need to rush through, I made things much worse. The new manuscript is taking shape. 

In the years since I launched into my writing career, being green, not knowing how this whole thing worked, I've learned a lot. I've learned how to be patient with feedback and take it to heart. There's no easy way to admit when you're wrong, just dead wrong. I've had to do that and go back to the drawing (writing) board often. It's a character building experience. The more you write, the better you get (in theory), and the more you stay focused on the structure, the easier it is to not make so many mistakes in the first place. 

Speaking of taking shape, I've also learned an enormous amount about making my own book covers. I've designed and redesigned them over the years and there's been an evolution. At first, I relied on the talents of people I paid. Recently I hit a new level of understanding in design (thanks to the help of people over at kboards, with keen eyes, and generous feedback) and have taken that to new levels. I'm going to work hard to continue taking artwork (in written and visual form) to new levels. 

I'll keep you up to date as I get nearer to pushing the publish buttons on the 3rd and final installment of the Owen Hunter Series PREVAIL. And keep a lookout for my new book The Wizard & The Jewel due to be out late summer or mid-Autumn.

FB Posts

With each post, we've been trying to see how we can spark a conversation. And not just how, but what type of conversation. It's been an experiment, this virtual world. An experiment of riches and of failures. We've agreed and quarreled. We've touched on issues and shied away from them. Each day more and more people share their point of view, their perspective, their ideas. Everyone says what is correct from their perspective, from their angle of view, and it isn't always right. 

We have shared pictures of our lives, snapshots out of context, painting moments as if it told of the sweeping monotony and minutiae of our daily existence. Then we started sharing videos, saying more while saying nothing at all. Next came memes, a trite bite with a crunchy kernel of truth that wears down the enamel of our toothy minds. At every turn, there has been a try to share something meaningful, something life-changing, something game-changing, and something worthwhile knowing about, reading, understanding, believable, honest, authentic, and (like this) pedantic. 

It's been an interesting ride on the virtual wave of 'socializing'. "Here, wear this blindfold. You can't see or hear the people, other than an image of their face, and their words. You'll have no idea how serious or how funny they are trying to be. Try it, you'll like it. In time, you won't even remember they were flesh and blood, people who made noises with their mouths, people who spoke volumes with just their eyes. Men and women whose beating hearts are precious jewels hidden away behind brave chests. It's okay, all that stuff was superfluous anyhow...just try it, you don't need to _see_ these people to appreciate them. And, what's more, you can know all of them or so many more than you would comfortably fit into one place. Oh, and you _need_ to know them all! As many as you can! Let them be your friends! It's the wave of the future."

And somehow that feeling of being alone, of being lonely, persists in spite of these promises. Thank goodness we still talk to and meet with flesh and blood people, the ones we share close proximity oxygen with. 

You've been promised the universe and given a screen.

Each night I die.
Each morning I am born.
Every day I’m a wanderer
in an all new house.
Every night I experience a new bed.
My mind holds one of my
hands gently
While pinching the skin of my beliefs
with the other hand.
My heart beats a spurious song
to a rhythm unheard.
My heart beats relentlessly behind a fragile cage,
Making each new birth
possible
Making each nightly death
passable
— Scott Msrmorstein

The Social (Media) Experiment

There are repercussions, consequences, and outcomes of using our speech that can be far less than favorable to our agendas and desires. What we say these days can be instantly spread to larger and larger circles of people with perfect fidelity. On the internet, there is no ‘whisper down the lane’. What you say is captured forever, potentially misconstrued out of context, and bashed back over your head like a heavy club, or at times like a sharp ax. But all too often, your words will simply fade back into a sea of words. Voices that cannot be heard with the human ear. Voices that can provide little in the way of substance. Voices which are self-directed and self-interested. 

Those who choose their words, their timing and the conversation to enter into poorly, know this simple truth well. The internet isn’t a court of law, but you are being judged by what you say, how you say it, and where you say it. 

Social media, Facebook, in particular, has become (for me at least) a den of unhappy echoes. Voices that crowd in with opinions that are less than ‘fully baked’. If we are to use critical thinking or even just common sense, the words people put in tweets, in random posts, and in comments within posts, paint an ugly or stupid picture, and so end up characterizing and perhaps, in a sense, ‘typecasting’ a person’s image. How you are perceived online is how you bleed through into everyday life. 

We don’t get our words right when we speak out loud among people either, but usually, we can catch on to what we’re saying and correct ourselves. When you are more familiar with people, friends or even coworkers, for example,  they hear a great deal more than just your words. Facial expression, body posture, and movements all add that missing depth to what it is you’re attempting to communicate.

Have you noticed, for example, that everyone is usually just trying to make everyone else laugh? We are using our humor as a species to deflect and ease the inordinate pressures of a modern world we can barely keep up with and weren’t designed by nature to endure on a permanent basis. Yet, we have created this new world and we are constantly striving to adjust to its rapid shifts and changes.  

Now, to be perfectly clear, I’m not here to make any of this sound like its a bad thing. People are social creatures. We are all familiar with the argument that much is lost in translation through the written word alone when it comes to socializing ‘virtually’. And yet, virtual is all we have. If you don’t believe me, look up the word virtual in full, and you’ll see I’m technically correct.

This same argument about words not communicating the full import can be turned to media like books. If an author/writer isn’t entirely sure of herself, what she wants to say, how she intends to create a sense of context, how to describe body language that goes with dialogue, then so much really is lost in translation. Those books often end up with poor reviews.  We're not all writers. Especially on social media. The war is of words, and if you're not especially skilled in using them, you will waste your voice to a cacophonous sea which makes no audible noise.

While you may now be thinking to yourself how pointless this all is, just realize that life could also be seen that way. We're here one day and gone the next. All our carefully laid plans to acquire materials and goods become forfeit when its over. Similarly, when our words meet blindered eyes and stuffed ears, we are a garbled distraction for a few moments at best.

If you're a writer, someone who is doing their best to communicate, then really go all out. Use social media, your blog/website, as a way to really take your time and articulate your perspective, your vision, you understanding. Make it clear that when someone reads your words, they are reading your mind, your heart, your sense of being. It will at least give you more connection to others. 

I wrote the following in my journal today...

I think we take for granted the ‘relationships’ we have online nowadays. These are mostly false relationships because the words on a screen can only describe as many dimensions as we can (or are willing to) absorb.

Video games provide a similar allure to online social media sites like twitter and Facebook. It’s glamour wares off when people stop listening to us. We are indeed social creatures, but that doesn’t mean are socializing can happen only in the virtual realm. There is something powerful about seeing, touching, smelling, hearing and generally being around another human being. Smell, or the olfactory sense, is often subtle, but what most people forget is the pheromones we give off. These don’t have to have a sexual affect on our being, but they are psychosomatic. We get a pleasant feeling around some people because of this subtle sense.

In the same way, the way a person looks, and the way they speak, what we hear when they talk, make a funny voice, make a silly face—these are all part of the social aspect that is completely missing from the virtual atmosphere. No amount of emojis can truly suffice or supplant the range of body language that we get to imbibe from our real life friends through the written word alone.

Especially because these written words are often inarticulate, ill timed (often) and constant. One thing I didn’t mention is that we can also appreciate the silence or the gaps between what we say out loud and how we spend time with someone in person. There’s an intimacy and an immediacy absolutely missing from the virtual environment that no amount of rationalizing can replace or explain away. 

Video games are false and provide a false sense of accomplishment. This was one reason of many I quit playing them ages ago. It seems like you have completed your objective until you realize that nothing in your life has made any change. To seek that sense of change you return to a video game (herein lies the addictive factor) until/unless your pre-frontal cortex kicks in and reminds you that there are actual accomplishments to be made in the world around you with real results: cleaning your room, going to work and earning your money, saving up for travel experiences, creating artwork in some form or other—these become items that can be seen and shared by others. If you’ve gone to another country, your own inner psyche gets broadened by the experience and you take on new character traits and can share that with…your friends.

Looking at a picture someone took is great, but it almost always leaves you feeling like you wish you had been there to see it for yourself. And that’s the great thing about a picture, it can evoke a feeling, inspire an action, or repel you in some fundamental way. Often the pictures we see of smiling happy people on facebook or memes are fun, but short lived ‘thrills’. All of these things serve to drive us away from the moment. A comedian famously said that the present moment sucks, and that’s why you want to get away from it with your phone, a movie, a video game—anything to not actually ‘be here’. So we have to look at ‘why here’ sucks so much. What is it about life that we can’t stand?

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now myself. I’m not sure. I don’t know what it is about life that is so incredibly boring and bothersome. I think there’s an acute awareness that inactivity is a total submission to the straightforward movement unto one’s personal physical and eventual absence from this planet. In the end, it reduces down to a fear of death. A fear of ‘not living’. And so we have to cram absolutely every possible thing into our daily life in order to be or feel ‘ok’.

However, back to social media, cramming in time for this platform leaves us feeling a mixture of emotions. Because it’s life condensed onto a screen, you’re seeing everything at once, and not most of what you want to see. Instead you end up seeing what the company has decided was a good filter for you. And this helps nothing at all. Think about it for a moment: you visit facebook, you see a few posts you agree with, a few you could have thought of yourself, a few that ask for people’s opinions (which you may or may not have been in the mood to participate in), and one or two old memes along with a smattering of ads you couldn’t care less about.

There's a lot more to say here, but there are other projects that need my attention and time. What do you think? Even if Facebook and Twitter have connected you to friends and family from afar, how often can you keep up with them? If you're young and have a busy career life, how do you manage personal projects, immediate family time, and time with your friends you can spend time in the same room with, sans computer? If you're retired maybe the social media experiment is a boon for you. Everyone's different. These are just my musings.

If you have a different idea I'd love to hear it in the comments section below.

Fresh Paint & Matching

So far I have published two major pieces in my canonical fictional works (to date).  The first in the series is called Pursuit, and the second in the series is called Plight. In the past I have made my own covers for these books because I didn’t have the financial means to get other artists to create the vision I had in mind for each book.

Recently I’ve discovered the power of a particular Mac program called Affinity Photo and have begun to learn extensively how to use it. In the process, I realized I am quite good at taking images, manipulating them to my purposes beyond their original intent, and making them into something entirely my own. I created, as a result, all new covers for my first two books in the series, and plan to make an even better cover for the third than the one I’ve paid for (I like it, but it doesn’t match the series.)  These images are purchased and licensed, and I’ve completely manipulated them from their original look to fit the look I was going for in the first place.

As a result, I think they look so much better, and they match. They actually look as though they are part of a series, rather than disconnected books. I have been making my own book covers for years, but they haven’t been the greatest. Merely serviceable. These are marked improvements, and now that I’m confident in my skills for creating better book covers, I intend to continue doing so for all my future publications. 

In case you didn’t know it, I had also bought some powerful (Mac only, sorry) software for interior deign of the printed version of my novels as well as much cleaner and more fancy ebook versions.  

All of my books have been converted using this newest software. Additionally, I’ve made my fictional works available in multiple ebook formats, you’ll see a button called ‘Other E-stributors’ and that will open a new tab or browser page with all the vendors where you can purchase in those formats. iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Playster, Kobo and more are all there, and they all look good on those devices.  

I keep the price of my books reasonable and fair. Happy reading!

Wizards & Magic Publishing & Prevailing

I'm in the throngs of writing an epic modern day fairy tale about a wizard. I don't like to do things in any sort of 'traditional' way, so this particular yarn is going to reflect that fact. The Wizard in question is Ionor. The story is told from his perspective (first person perspective.) It's a challenge to write about magic in the modern world. But an even greater challenge is to thrust the main character into his original world which he had never experienced before. The rules there are different. The wizards there are also different. He's used to living among us regular humans. He's used to a lot of things because he has lived among us for nearly 300 years. 

Imagine taking Superman and having him only know cursory bits and pieces about his home world of Krypton. Then one day he gets pushed there before it's destroyed. He knows only how to behave like a regular person, while his strengths are immense and his talents are impressive on earth, they are erased from his time on Krypton. He doesn't really speak the language, he doesn't know about custom or decorum, and that is just some of what's going on in the story I'm writing about.

Why Write About A Wizard?

Aren't wizards overdone? Haven't we heard enough from these beings? Aren't there about a bajillion books covering the trials, travails, and adventures of all manner of wizards? Of course not! We can never get enough wizards! Ionor is incredibly powerful right off the bat, brilliant and capable too. But when he's brought to his homeworld, he has to dig deeper and learn even more about himself than he's ever had to before. What's so fun about this is that it gives a whole new meaning (in my mind) to character arch. The story is mostly straightforward with a few twists and turns. In a world of over-stimulating news and information overload, I like to dabble in the magic. Magic is also something specifically addressed in this newest piece I'm writing. 

Who couldn't use more magic in their lives?

What about PREVAIL and OHS Book 3?

I've hit a slow down with the editing process. It's all my own fault. It has to be right and what I've written and rewritten just...has not been on the mark. I'm not willing to put something sub-par out there for people to read just for a quick money-grab. This is my first serial novel and my first work of fiction. I don't have any intention of sacrificing the artistry for the story or vice-versa. Sometimes a rough draft is written too hastily, and you lose sight of what the story is all about. I did that. So I'm undoing that by making sure every part of the story is consistent and flowing forward in a way that is surprising (in a good way) and entertaining, as well as (possibly) thought-provoking. 

 

A World of Illusions

I'm a big fan of a well done illusion. The magician takes out a deck of cards, shuffles it, and does something that totally stuns everyone watching. It's unexpected. It's a fantastic illusion. It looks like magic. It's just well placed science and art, we know this intellectually, but our eyes deceive our brains. Sometimes an illusion is so craftily put together, so outrageous in composition, that we simply are not capable of figuring out how it was done. It defies all our attempts to explain it.

It's still an illusion and not magic.

We fall into a similar hypnotic trance if we read a particularly engaging novel. We're transported from wherever we actually are into a fictitious world that feels almost as real as the one we normally occupy. And it's no different when we watch a good TV program or movie.

It's still just an illusion.

When we create scenarios in our minds about upcoming events based on trajectories we're keen on, we can become embroiled in fights long before they would even occur. We are often adept at creating the very inner-illusion of our problem externally when we meet with the circumstances we foresaw. In fact we do this kind of thing habitually and repeatedly to the point we don't even notice that we make many of our illusions into an unnecessary and painful reality. 

Being mindful means shedding light on this strange illusion-making habit we have. Maybe we can stop it, and maybe we can't. Maybe we can change it.

It's a matter of great curiosity why we continually perform these self-sabotaging 'magic tricks' on ourselves. I don't have any answers or pointers about this. I just find it curious.

I too create these illusions, but then I put them into novel format (whenever I can). I purposefully create the illusion on the page. This achieves a couple of things. One, it often (definitely not always) puts a stop to the outer discord I would otherwise sow. It also helps me release any unrecognized emotions floating around under the surface. Or at least see that they're there. Sometimes those emotions are too strong and they trip me up as predictably as you'd imagine. 

The idea of using the creative power of inner illusion and putting it on the page is it traps some of the energetic investment there. It doesn't escape as easily from your projection to the page and out to the people around you because as you review it, you can begin to see the absurdity of it.

Illusions are powerful. We need to be conscious of them because they really can negatively impact our daily lives. Our phones and computers can be a major contributing factor to this--especially social media.

Think about this just a moment: you are reading words on a screen right now. And you're reading words on a screen when you look at your social media feed. The difference is in what those words evoke or provoke in you as you read them. Now, they could just be words on a screen if you wanted to be all Spock about it. That might even be preferable. But words illicit and influence what we think, how we think about something, and our actions or reactions. 

If you really think about it, our words are programming ourselves and others in a way that has never before in history been possible. Our words are programming a very large audience all at once. Whether that's through social media, or blogs, or tweets--our words can create powerful and even dangerous illusions that can actually harm others. Or help them. Or really powerfully and radically help and change someone's life. It's up to us. 

The amazing thing is that it's up to us how we want to program and condition ourselves to change our words, create better illusions, and make better realities and conditions as a result. It's up to us.

With these same hands we can create tools of construction or destruction. That's on us. It's up to us. It's not a 'one person job'. It's a collective humanitarian effort. 

Inexplicably Disquieting

It went like that sometimes, laying there in the dark, a soft thud from another room. A room you know is empty. The thud so soft but so distinct you can only guess it's gravity pulling on clothes. But what clothes? You didn't leave any clothes in there to fall. So what was that noise? The world is otherwise quiet, and your mind is noisy, playing back music to you from sometime in the day, or from sometime in your life, thoughts about what you'll do when your alarm goes off. Will it be different when you wake up? Another thud, just a little louder, but this time against the wall. What falls on the wall? That doesn't make sense. Heart beating faster now, body otherwise warm and cozy under the covers, you debate with yourself about getting up. A tentative sounding bump on the ceiling. Your eyes are drawn in that direction, but it's pitch black. Nothing to see here. Just noises. Does the house settle in ways you don't even understand? Do the laws of physics even apply here? It's not windy outside...so...There, did you hear that? Another sound outside your bedroom door. Like a shuffle. Now you know you need to get up, and also your bladder is full, and this isn't as funny anymore. You sneak your arm and hand out of the covers, turn on the light, and get out of bed, your heart hammering, your mouth and tongue dry, and open your bedroom door. You turn on the hall light, walk down and into the darkened living room. Nothing. No clothes fell. There's nothing there to make these noises you know you heard. Sighing, you use the restroom, and then make your way back to bed.

Next morning you open your phone and read a report about a thief who was shot dead three streets down from you. It happened about an hour before you would have got home that night to go to bed. You look around your apartment. Nothing is out of place except...that Christmas nutcracker on your coffee table has fallen on its side. It was not like that before you went to bed. You begin to see other things moved as well.

You chalk it up to absent mindedness on your part and go about your day. You leave everything as it is right now, intentionally. You even take a picture of your living room. Then consciously lock the door before leaving for work.

Later

You get home, walk in, and see the nutcracker is on the floor in front of the computer. Your heart stops. What else has moved? Your bedspread is pulled all the way off and laying on the floor. While you're wondering how this happened you hear something in the living room. You race out to see what it is but no one is there. You feel something, a shiver move through you, caressing your spine briefly. Suddenly you don't feel so good. It's time to go out for a while, maybe to a Starbucks to put all of this out of your mind.

You go and have a cup of hot chocolate. The people at the Starbucks seem to be enjoying themselves. You know you'll go home and this will all be just some bizarre paranoia of your mind and nothing will have happened. Not again. No one could get in your apartment just to move a Christmas nutcracker and pull the sheets off your bed. You dig out your phone and read more about that story, a much more thorough read.

By the end of the news report you're shaking. It's your cousin who was shot and killed because he was trying to steal something from one of your friends who lives on that street. You have some guesses about what was to be stolen. What disturbs you most is that your cousin had a falling out with you a few years ago.

You get back home, opening your door wearily and step in. The nutcracker is is righted. You go into your bedroom, the bedclothes are fine. Breathing a sigh of relief, and chalking it up to your over active imagination (you shouldn't have watched that silly horror movie two nights ago!) you go and sit at your computer.

The screen shows a Word document open. On the Word document it shows a name.

Bill Anderson

Your recently deceased cousin's name.

Why we don't know what we want anymore.

How often have you pined for 'the golden days' or 'the good old days' only to think back and realize how badly you wanted to be somewhere else: preferably the future? If you think about it, even during 'the good old days' you were looking for something else--another when. Now you're in a radically different place and chances are things haven't gotten better as a result of moving forward. The good old days were when you dreamed of the future you're now living, only your dream didn't exactly go as you mapped it out in your head. Instead, it's the way it is exactly at this point in time. So here you are and here it is too. Life on life's terms without your consent or permission. Is it what you wanted? Are you looking for the golden days again? You probably can't recreate them if you tried. Because not only did they never exist, they only existed in your imagination of hindsight. The past always has a charming glow, a thin chimera of 'better experiences'. But it wasn't so. And to think it was is dishonest.

And what do you want for your future now? We'll perpetually fall into this trap, so let's not kid ourselves otherwise. We want a future bright and certain and filled with happiness. Happiness is an idea when all the causes and conditions come into alignment to support our desires and needs in an effortless and harmonious way. In other words: brief, and unreliable from an external point of view. Happiness, as it is said, is 'an inside job'. It's also an idea. Joy on the other hand is something you can bring into your awareness by taking a step back, a breath, recognizing what you already have and filling yourself up with gratitude. Your friends, your family, your accomplishments, your possessions--all these can bring you joy if you allow yourself to revel in them. Happiness is more akin to a giddy sensation and almost always fleeting. Again, it's just a concept. Move past the clinginess you feel toward your pursuit of happiness. Instead recognize that life is full of strife, suffering, with bouts of needless and senseless destruction. Entropy, good people getting the raw deal. Sane people losing their minds. Also recognize that life is full of amazing people who bring inspiration, education, erudition, illumination and groundbreaking changes to those who suffer right along with them.

In other words: the opposites of life are side by side, clasping hands and batting hands away from each other. You're not going to have a great life without opposition, and if you think that's the case you're delusional. You will not have all your desires and wishes come true. No one does. Thinking it's possible or likely is worse than a pointless endeavor: it's dangerous. We don't grow without strife, without struggle. We can't even comprehend purpose without strife and struggle because without those elements a person is grown in a vacuum--like a carrot grown without dirt, in some kind of tube.

You don't know what you want anymore in life because either you have everything (and are still suffering/unhappy etc.) or you have nothing you actually want (in the end it amounts to the same), or you have just enough to know you want more but can never attain it. If you're reading this you're not likely to be starving. You have a computer in front of you--even if you're at a public library, you're still better off than so much of the population of earth.

You can't know what you want anymore because, if you're living in the Western World (North America) you are constantly told what you need in order to be happy, successful, liked, approved of and everything else. You don't know what you want because you want everything or you're turned off by all the incessant media suggestions. This leaves an ever widening gap in your psyche, does it not?

And to fill that gap, that black hole of uncertainty and desire, you'll do anything. Well, almost anything. You'll climb the highest mountain, read the most books, paint the best pictures, watch the most Netflix, eat the best food, run the fastest 5K, bench the most weight at the gym, be the best at your job, and so on and so forth. And when you tally up all your accomplishments you'll still be you, no different than when you embarked on the journey to do it all, see it all, experience every pleasure...and at some point you'll have to recognize that death is staring you down. Either from what seems like afar or from a'near. Who knows? It's the only thing you don't know. And with so much stuff available in this world, how can you possibly truly know what it is you want?

Even if you practice joy each day, looking around and calling forth joy, you'll look at that as an attainment, as a possession. Will you not? And then you have to ask yourself how valuable is it to experience joy every day?

Suggestion

I submit to you that you already have more than you could ever want right now, and that the only thing you haven't got yet is true recognition. Just recognizing all you have. Take some time each day to really look at what's available to you. Look at who is available to you. Recognize that there's a monumental, gargantuan, hunger roiling away inside you. Recognize that the hunger doesn't want to be fed all the shit from the world. It doesn't need that. The hunger you have inside only wants you. All of you. You and you and nothing but you. You are the only answer to the eternal question; 'what do I want?' You are the only water in the desert of your own mind to slake your thirst and the only meal prepared right enough to fill the gap. You right now as you are, with all your endless thoughts and feelings and memories and experiences and quirks--you're enough. When you take some time to be with your hunger and feed your attention and presence back on yourself, the flame of hungry desire submits and grows weak until its died out.

I sit in meditation just to feed my never ending hunger. It quiets the less palatable demons that drive me.

This is a temporary affect, however. It requires constant application until you're dead. Because all hunger is cyclical, all thirst comes back again.

There's No End

Nobody gets a pass at desire. We're born with it and will die with it. The only element I've found that stabilizes that hunger is vigilant meditation, pouring myself back into myself. And from it arise major insights about how to be and apply myself in this world. Not just for the sake of doing good and being accepted in society, but for the sake of evolution, art, and providing something perhaps less tangible to those I'm surrounded by. The joy of meditation is absolutely not an escape route: it's a way back into this world, where I can also be with you. Where I can be with myself. Where you can be with you.

Healing —The Early Days

I haven't spoken about this topic in a while. There's a story to our personal healing, and whatever that is or looks like for you, I think there are quite a lot of commonalities between the stories. Common threads, elements, and experiences. Most people know me as the guy who came back to life from all those heart attacks.  The man who survived the odds. Prayers from all over the world, from people I never met and never knew all helped make the difference. Long before the heart attacks, however, there was a young man who grew up all over the place. You might say I was a 'mixed bag' of upbringing. This mixture of places and times, a childhood uprooted and moved all around, led to a lot of adventures, character building, and sheltering. My parents were protective of me, and I know they were for good reasons. On the other hand, I also got to experience the latchkey childhood for a time. I don't know anyone in the early '90's who didn't have some exposure to that themselves, and if not them--their friends.

From 6th to 8th grade I attended grade school on Roosevelt Island, PS/IS 217. Here's some pictures if you want to see what I mean. PS stands for Public School, and it's unclear what 'IS' stands for to me. Maybe industry standard? It wasn't the best or worst school, I liked my art and music teachers, and most of the rest of the time they stuck us in front of computers or had our heads lowered to text books while the teachers droned on. I don't know what learning there is like anymore. They had an adequate gymnasium and it's a very contemporary styled building--the architecture seemed very futuristic to me back then. In class one day we watched Bill Clinton get sworn in as our 42nd President of these United States. I remember thinking, man, what a trip!

Those were good years to myself and my family. Living in NYC was pretty amazing. Roosevelt Island, while it had its unwelcoming side effects, was otherwise pretty cool. There was a local pool that the islanders could enjoy during the summer, for a fee of course, but who cares, right? It was a pool by the riverside! I loved it.

By the time I was 15 and going to high school in Manhattan it became apparent that I was much too tired to be attentive in class. I would try to sit up and write notes and do my work, but I just could not for the life of me keep my eyes open at all. A whole year of very poor grades began to draw a circle around a deeper and more disturbing issue. Finally my father had me checked out by a chiropractor who specialized in determining whether someone had chronic fatigue syndrome. I failed all the good tests and passed all the bad ones. I was diagnosed with CFS and I had a new choice to make.

Home Schooling

It didn't take me long to decide on myself. I was now 15 and realizing that it took all my energy each day just to make it to school. By the time I'd climbed 3 flights of steps just to sit down in science class, or five flights just to attend gym, I was so exhausted I could hardly focus for wanting to fall asleep. Choosing to take school at home wasn't just a no-brainer, it was my only option. I think my parents must have known that too, but I remember the talk I had with them pretty clearly. There was no pushback from them. They agreed that a program where I stayed at home, made my own schedule, communicated with my teachers directly and applied myself at my own pace was the best of all words. This was 1995, and the Internet was just beginning to be used for more than AOL and later on CompuServe. It was still dial-up connections and speeds, but my mom and dad researched which homeschooling options made sense and finally settled on Oak Meadow High School for me. There website now is nothing like what I remember from back in the day. The curriculum was sent to me via syllabi and that's what I had to go on. My parents got me all the text books, enrolled me, paid for tuition etc, and off I went on a solo journey through the rest of high school from 10th through 12th. I completed my journey by the time I was 17, and by that time I'd completely reversed and healed myself from CFS.

But how did I do that? Well, it was not easy, that's for sure. It took a lot of effort on my part. There were 3 primary areas that I had to bend my will and concentration to in order to achieve full healing. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome knocks you on your ass--and that's a polite way of putting it. No matter how hard you try to get through it, you still feel tired at the end of the day most days, but each new day offers a new promise for the intrepid healer. Here are the 3 areas I worked diligently in without any compromises or letup. It was a militant lifestyle.

#1 Food & Supplements

I was on a bevy of supplementation. I don't recall all of them, unfortunately, and there's no way to track down a list of what I was on. The supplements had to do with establishing metabolizing minerals, especially trace minerals into my body. There were multi-vitamins, and other metabolic styled supplements that were tailored to my specific needs. I was also taking a lot of herbs, which helped tremendously, and you can check this website out for more information (NOT an endorsement of these products, by the way, you need to be tested for what will work best for you, if you are someone dealing with CFS!)

I was strictly vegetarian. I would eat eggs, and cheese, but I drastically limited or completely (in some cases) eliminated all soy from my diet. No red meat, no fish, no chicken or pork either, in case it's not clear. Dairy was limited considerably. Also, and this is extremely important: almost no sugar in the diet. Very little salt either. All of that was crucial to getting better. And as torturous as that seems to a 15 year old, I was able to get over my tastebuds and cravings pretty quickly and not look back with longing, or drool over a loved one's dinner plate. Oh, and I had a super strict policy about not watching more than an hour or two of TV per week back then. I mostly read or slept or did home-school work.

#2 Meditation

Yes, back in 1995, yours truly was an every day meditator. I read a book that changed my life forever. I got really into doing the daily practice exactly as it was detailed in the book. By the time I was 15 and a half years old, (or 6 months after being diagnosed, entering home-school, and being militant about my diet and rest routine) I was meditating earlier and earlier each morning, and my energy was increasing day by day. This sounds counterintuitive, but try and remember that I was 15. I was going through puberty, growth spurts, and all kinds of hormonal sequences were all kicking in around the same time. I was experiencing rather profound insights about everything. One day in meditation in 1995, I had an insight about our universe and that there were multiple universes. This kind of stuff was not covered in any of my syllabi from school and I had not been watching television either. Actually, at that precise time, scientists were not speaking about this publicly yet anyway. It was more than a theory in my estimation--it was a dead certainty I had. Only a year or two later did I actually learn that my insight was proven by science, and this bolstered my faith in meditation immensely.

Meditation, along with diet, no television, and plenty of rest and supplementation were my life savers.

#3 Writing As Therapy

At that time, my other resort was writing. I wrote poems, short stories and class related essays. I wrote to myself and then deleted what I wrote. Sometimes I even used the computer to write my thoughts, and after a while I taught myself how to type on the keyboard with blinding speed. I discovered that writing was a form of therapy I could always count on. It soothed my agitated mind and heart when meditation seemed to push stuff up to the fore. It helped me articulate the deeper questions I had (think existential) for which no answers ever seemed (or seem to this day) to be adequate enough. I discovered I had a powerful mind and because of this powerful mind I could use it to help my body and nervous system to heal. Writing was where I began to develop my voice. When my voice got stale, I'd read books and I'd try again. When my voice sounded like other authors, I'd stop reading and practice just writing and listening to how my own actual voice sounded in my head as I wrote. It was a form of exquisite torture, because no matter what I put down on the page, it never sounded right or felt quite right.

I still write every single day, and it still saves my life every single day. I also still meditate nearly every day, with the idea that writing is just another form of meditation for me.

By the time I was 19 I was fully recovered from CFS, an almost unheard of feat. By the time I was 26 I wrote and self-published my first book on a unique aspect of healing.

I'll continue the journey of healing every day, and I know so many of you will too.