Recent Developments As A Writer

When I made the claim that I had at least a circumstantial case for having been Philip K. Dick in a previous life, I realized something very crucial: If I was him, I had nothing to show for it in the pace I was able to write stories. Between 2003 and 2012 I had only finished three novels, and only published two of them because one was an attempt to break into mainstream fiction that never went anywhere. The only novels I had actually sold had taken years to complete (Seven years for the first and two for the second). By comparison to Phil, I moved at a glacial pace.

Three things happened in 2013, though. First, I had memories that were tentatively confirmed of personal details of Phil’s life and began noticing striking similarities in personality, taste, tendencies, and even appearance between us; this was when the idea that I might be him first entered my mind. Second, I had a backlog of unfinished or back-burnered projects that had potential to apply new ideas and styles to (I’m still working through that backlog). Third, I hit upon the realization that I already had a publisher who would work with me, and I didn’t need to make it in the mainstream necessarily if I could be a big fish in a little pond, because I had gotten attention from a broader base of fiction readers than the tiny LGBT subgenre I write in.

I had the motive, means, and opportunity to really push myself to become a great writer and live up to a claim that fantastic, without using that claim in connection to furthering my career (I decided early on that using past life claims to promote my work would kill my chances of being anything but a curiosity, like Barbro Karlen).

As I got to know Phil’s life and work and began to remember things that weren’t in the books I read or the documentaries I watched, I eventually found I really had no need to try to become him in some liminal act because I came to see myself as a continuation of the same mind, prone to my own individual differences and free to do whatever I wanted with these ideas. I developed my own idiom, focusing more on questions of competing narratives of identity rather than competing narratives of reality, inspired in no small part by the traumatic effects of gender dysphoria and its social and familial fallout that I learned firsthand.

But one thing I have not managed to do is to tap into some of the other things I have, like the severe physical anxiety symptoms I’ve experienced, or traits like misophonia and hyperacusis that make life difficult for me. I don’t really fit on the autistic spectrum because I don’t have any of the core traits (e.g. I’m not obsessed with fixed interests, patterns, and numbers and I don’t have the expected communication deficiencies), but I have some sensory integration issues that remain undiagnosed because the DSM has no category for sensory integration disorder and neurologists refuse to diagnose adults with it even though they acknowledge that some of us aren’t diagnosed properly as children. It is debilitating and it makes my life much more difficult than it has to be.

I tend to make my characters rather normal for the most part; I didn’t make them as neurotic as I am because I don’t know how to do it without making them hard to relate to, or seeming like an object of pity. The truth is, like Phil, I have a difficult time being entirely stable because dealing with the demands of a noisy, fast-moving world full of hostile people is more than I can deal with most of the time. I guess part of the reason I never write characters like me because I can’t think of any way to give them reason to hope for anything in a future setting, except maybe death by indifference or possibly becoming the most functional mental defective on an offworld colony full of mental defectives (however, Phil already wrote such a story based on his own fears of this happening to him). I could really give my writing some pathos if I could figure out how to do it without burdening the reader with a story too depressing to finish, but I get cold feet or feel like I’m going nowhere every time I try.

I have all the tools to write like the legend whose memories I claim while still being authentic, individual, and genuine; I just need to learn to use all of them. I feel like I’m learning but I still need to figure out how to confront some of the most uncomfortable parts of my experience in my writing before I can really say I feel like I’ve done my very best.

Finished.

I got my second wind and managed to bang out the remaining portion of the book. Total word count according to OpenOffice is 62,392 words, or 141 pages of single-spaced, 12pt Times New Roman text.

I’ll be sending it off to a few readers I trust to look over for basic spelling/grammar and input on the story. For tonight though, I’m calling it and spending the rest of the night doing nothing in particular and feeling good about it for once.

I’ve officially finished as many novels in 2013 and 2014 as I finished between 2003 and 2012.

Almost Done

I’ve nearly finished my sixth novel.

I’m over 60K words now, probably going to have about 62K total in this first draft. It’s been coming in fits and starts of late since I’ve been battling severe emotional exhaustion and depression/anxiety that won’t go away. Over the last few days I’ve managed to scrounge enough energy and motivation that I think I can just manage to finish the book by the end of this weekend.

Considering I actually started writing this book back in March based very loosely on concepts I’ve been kicking around since the later half of 2012, and it’ll be the second novel I’ll have finished this year, that’s pretty damned good. I’ve more than earned a break; a project like this used to take me about two years to complete. I can only hope that working at such a grueling pace will produce something of good quality that my readers will actually enjoy.

I’ll probably be taking the rest of my summer to get out a little, or at least get some cleaning done around the apartment.

Loosely-Associated Thoughts on Liminality

I’ve been having a bunch of scattered thoughts on the purpose and meaning of ritual and religion in a larger context, but I’m having a difficult time stringing them together. I guess for now, a bulleted list might help me put them in order and expand upon them at a later date.

These thoughts are still being refined. Consider this another “thinking out loud” post.

-Religious ritual is a form of liminality, and the lack of liminality is a hallmark of the modern Anglo-American makeup. This void originates from the High Church/Low Church split that sprang from Calvinism and its eventual integration into the mainstream, and has to do with the Calvinist roots of modernism and the rejection of uncertainty and things deemed “superstitious.” However, because modernism rejects subjective experience and emotion as being superfluous, it also denies the need for liminality, thus leaving a void to be filled by any number of low-quality substitutes such as consumerism, television, team sports, and various strains of secular and religious fanaticism. In no way are these intended as direct substitutes, since that would imply a design that recognized the importance of liminality; they are rather seized upon instictively as substitutes for an ineffable something lost in a past now so distant that we scarcely understand that we have lost anything important. It always struck me, when visiting predominately Catholic countries like Spain, how much public ritual and liminality still play an important part in the lives and minds of the people there. Despite my misgivings about Catholicism as a whole, it does at least offer a degree of liminality that our Anglo-Calvinist milieu is distinctly (and perhaps uniquely) deprived of.

-The liminal act is a vital part of the human experience, and one craved by the human psyche. The exact content and focus of the ritual is less important than the creation of a state of otherness wherein the practitioner of the ritual becomes something other than themselves, or enters a time or space other than their own time or space, or makes use of ritual items which become something other than their actual physical presence (for example, the Wiccan ritual of the Chalice and Blade where a cup and knife become the embodiment of the female and male energies in union). The reason and purpose of liminality has been understood by practitioners of esoteric rites for a very long time but has only recently come to the attention of academia, especially in the disciplines of anthropology and sociology.

-It is crass to compare, for instance, consumerists or sports fans to pilgrims, or cartoon characters, products, and mascots to gods. I have certainly heard sociologists (or at least armchair sociologists who see something of a pattern but cannot clearly interpret it) make the comparison, but it is vitally different. What is missing from these surrogates to ritual is the dimension of liminality, wherein these figures are at least momentarily transformed, in the mind of the practitioner, into something more than what they are. There is no equivalent in modernity to the hunter who dons a buffalo skin to ritually “become” the buffalo, or the bread and wine that ritually “becomes” the body and blood of a Messiah. Indeed, we are encouraged to always observe the unreality of things that are unreal, out of a deep-seated fear of superstition that ultimately goes back to Calvinism and its hatred of both Catholicism and its ritual remnants expressed in Protestantism. Furthermore, the structure of the consumer culture seems designed at times to emphasize and reassure us of the insincerity of it all, because a product mascot cannot, by its very nature, foster the sort of reverence of a religious icon.

-It was inevitable that Calvinism’s relentless push to eliminate superstition through the application of Aristotelian thinking as the chief philosophical underpinning of all critical thought would ultimately result in atheism. The progression from Calvinism to atheism was the inevitable result of Calvinism’s literalism and materialism. However, the Anglo-American cultural milieu has been made deeply schizophrenic by this split between the persistence of earlier, religious forms of Calvinism and the inevitable progression of their ideas to total atheism among those who followed that progression. This phenomenon seems isolated to the West, and concentrated in those countries that embraced Calvinism though not entirely limited to them. Furthermore, the rise of antitheism is a further and inevitable progression of the stark dualism and black-and-white logic that is the highlight of Calvinism, wherein religion becomes the “other” to be feared and denounced as entirely negative just as a Calvinist might fear other religions or even irreligion as the “other.” This split- inevitable as it is- has made the West vulnerable to civil unrest and will inevitably result in a conflict where religion and irreligion will struggle, either by civil or forceful means, for supremacy unless the culture evolves to reconcile this schism, either by the unlikely event of the complete abandonment of either religion or irreligion, or by the introduction and adoption of new, extraneous ideas of nondualism. It is therefore desirous, in the interest of peace and stability, that nondualist thought be brought out of the cloisters of the esoteric and into the public attention as an alternative to the us-versus-them narrative of the Calvinist cultural milieu.

-Liminality is not entirely positive, since it does represent a moment of vulnerability. The practitioner of the liminal act must suspend disbelief for at least the duration of a ritual for the mechanism of liminality to work; however, the total and continual suspension of disbelief is often the result and moreover is potentially damaging when cynical leadership determines when and where the liminal state begins and ends. It is therefore desirous that the restoration of liminality be taught as the choice of the practitioner and not as the prescribed act of a larger body.

-One can understand the mechanics and underlying purpose of liminality without “losing the magic” so to speak. Liminality is not an intellectual process but an emotional one, and one need only be possessed of the ability to enter the correct mood to practice a liminal act in some form.

Shipwrecks off Point Reyes, California

While information on individual wrecks remains sparse, I’ve found a bunch more shipwrecks that happened off Point Reyes which just strengthened my case for having accurately remembered one.

I had previously ruled out the Labouchere because it was the wrong kind of ship; the ship I saw in my memory had its paddles on the side, but I seem to recall reading that the Labouchere was a sternwheeler.

However, any number of other ships apparently were wrecked there between 1830 and 1870, which is the time frame for “Clyde” to have been involved in such a wreck:

http://www.nps.gov/pore/historyculture/upload/map_shipwrecks.pdf

Information on these wrecks is scarce, but this really opens up a wide range of possibilities for having been shipwrecked at Point Reyes in the mid-19th century.

Base Line

Today, I established a base line for the feeling I would get in a place with no past life resonance.

I visited the recreation of Fort Vancouver today in Vancover, WA. It was a site that I considered possible from my mid-19th century life, but I was unsure about. In other words, a perfect control because I had no certain expectations (nor had I planned to go there, but bumming around with some friends from Vancouver we ended up there anyhow).

I got the usual slight tingle of nostalgia from 19th century artifacts and architecture, and a slight feeling of unease that there as no chapel on the site, I did not get the impression that I had been there before as such and left feeling like I’d come no closer to encountering a site from a past life.

On the whole, however, that’s good because it gives me a base line for how it feels to travel to a place where I have no clear expectation of how I’ll feel and don’t stumble upon anything past-life related. I wasn’t just pulling memories out of thin air even though it was certainly plausible that I’d been there as “Clyde” or whatever his name was. That will serve me well when I visit some of the medieval sites in France and England next year trying to figure out if I was at all correct about having been Count William (I have serious doubts).

In all, this was a very useful detour, I think.

In the Present

I’m at another point where my mind is fixed largely on the present. I suppose it’s not all bad in and of itself, but it seems when my mind is fixed on the present I tend to lose insight and become agitated, fearful, anhedonic, angry, and obsessed with death and destruction.  I also find it hard to be genuine about anything with myself, whether it’s my feelings or my desires, and that tends to complicate things in a very ugly way.

It’s funny… it seems I reflect better on these past life experiences when I’m handling my emotions well than when I’m doing poorly.  It’s almost as though I were healing vicariously through these other lives though that’s only one possible explanation out of many.

The trigger for this was ironically gender-related. Just a random stranger addressing me as “young man” who meant no malice by it, really. I’ve been in rough shape emotionally ever since. Part of the reason it took me so long to recognize that I had gender dysphoria in the first place is my tendency to revert to a state where the only emotion I feel with any clarity is anger and my defenses go up so strongly that I hardly know my own feelings.

Often, gender dysphoria goes unrecognized for what it is because it is a type of dysphoria, the same as you would get with any number of other mental illnesses.  It can be confused with anything from severe depression to borderline personality disorder, and in my case I thought for a long time that I was in the prodromal phase of schizophrenia (that, thankfully, has been ruled out since I’ve never had a true psychotic episode).  A weak or confused sense of self is also part of the gender dysphoria matrix which makes it harder to discern between psychosis, borderline personality, or gender dysphoria and has made it harder to figure out exactly what role these apparent past lives actually play in my identity.

The biggest difference with gender dysphoria, versus other disorders, is that people like me tend to respond well when able to present as a gender other than our biological sex, and I had been doing really well for several months despite some ugliness from family that had my moods lower than they should be.

In some ways, crying over a life I may or may not have lost a little over 99 years ago is preferable to this feeling of being emotionally blocked, angry, and fearful.  At least in that case, I can feel empathy and loss instead of anger, inhibition, and frustration.

Don’t worry too much about me.  I have meds I can take on an as-needed basis to deal with spikes in dysphoria while finalizing my transition.  Still, I find the best medicine is simply being able to be myself for once.