Archiv der Kategorie 'Media'

I follow joy into clarity

I used to think of sense as truth, and I suspected that there was one truth for this universe. That made me stress, because I thought I had to find this one whole undividable universal truth in order to make sense of my life. It was as if my happiness depended on my ability to solve an unimaginably huge puzzle that I could never hope to have all the pieces for.

I discovered that I value my joy more than truth, and this became my sense instead. Since I can tell just by paying attention to myself whether or not I enjoy something, joy is easy for me to pursue. Now I no longer view information as pieces of a puzzle that fit together in exactly and only one way and that have a predefined picture on it. I view them as mosaic tiles, and I can arrange them in ways that I enjoy.

Even as I thought I was trying to solve a puzzle of universal proportions, I did it by arranging the pieces of information I had. I recieve information from the world through my senses, and I receive information from my senses through the sense of thought. That’s why I feel my brain to be in perfect harmony with my heart. If my brain is my main organ of interpreting information, and if my heart is my main organ of distributing energy, then it makes sense for them to work together so the brain can guide my heart to pump life-blood into my toes as well as my eyebrows, and my heart can tell my brain how to guide the toes and eyebrows to letting the blood flow through in wonderful, life creating ways.

I don‘t need to know exactly how my brain and heart and toes and eyebrows manage to create life and wonder and beauty and joy in order to feel it when I pay attention to myself.

I enjoy life when I feel safe, that is confident that I can meet my needs now and in the future. I know myself to be part of this world, and to me it is a world of abundance, full of energy in different and everchanging forms — sunlight, cherries, dung beetles, rivers, clay, polecats, birch trees, and a billion other things. I view all matter as a form of energy, and I feel energy constantly transforming into new and beautiful forms, constantly composing new life.

I figured this out by paying attention to cherries. I love eating them, and I want to make sure that I can eat them in the future. I have found that the easiest way for me to do so is to not cast my shit in a steel container. That would make it hard for dung beetles to find. There are a myriad of forms of life that thrive on the forms of energy I cannot thrive on, and they ingest and transform and release it in ways that all feed on and into this wonderful complex awe-inspiring web of cycles that I call the universe. All I have to do is release the energy I can no longer use, my breath and my other excrements, and trees and dung beetles and other beautiful lives will transform it until it reaches the cherry tree. I know that it will sooner or later reach the cherries because I am not trying to change the cycles that are right now creating perfectly tasty and healthy food for me. I don‘t try to control life because I can‘t solve the puzzle, so me meddling in what the dung beetles and trees know how to do would probably not result in cherries. It may result in something even better, but that is difficult for me to concieve right now, and the chances of it going badly wrong are too high. I may end up in a world were I have to eat parsley.

I can‘t concieve of anything existentially destructive happening, Cause there’s no power in the ‚verse can stop it.
I‘m rearranging my mosaic tiles as I type. I now think that there is a bundle of energy that I call the universe, and I don‘t know how big it really is, but it is all energy in different forms. Just like I view the cells of my body as myself in tangible forms, so I view myself as the universe in a tangible form. I feel as connected with all other forms of the universe as my cells feel connected to each other. It’s difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends, because my skin is permeable and soft. To me, that is the beauty of life.

I have heard similar views of the world from a lot of very different sources, like higher physics and the bible and Asian philosophies, but as long as I thought of worldviews as puzzles rather than mosaics, I constantly worried that I was missing some vital pieces. Or that in the end, I wouldn‘t like the picture the puzzle forms or my place in it. Now I can arrange the tiles in ways that show me beauty and make me feel joy about my place in the world.

Clarity is what guides us. I follow joy, because I know what it is for me. But as long as you know what you are following is to you, it will lead you to clarity. So I‘m not saying all of these things because I know what truth or justice or goodness or holiness is, but because this is where my joy led me. That to me is clarity.

I realise now that I could have followed my truth or my justice or my goodness or my holiness instead and it would have led me to the same world I am in right now. Just like I couldn‘t have solved the universal puzzle of joy, so I could have created a beautiful mosaic of my truth. When I say my holiness, I am saying holiness as I relate to it.

I‘ve heard it said that genious is taking already existing ideas and combining them in beautiful ways. That’s all I‘m doing.

I view the world as endless opportunities to create my own mosaics rather than challenges to solve universal puzzles.

I didn‘t realise it at the time, but I started this blog in order to increase clarity and joy. It worked for me, and I posted it in order to share with you. I want to concentrate on the offline world that is full of sunlight and cherries, but as long as the internet exists and I have access to it, I will probably come back from time to time and share more. The internet is part of the offline world, after all.

So even if you don‘t read what I write, we are part of the same bundle of energy, and we can nourish each other.

You can share any of this.

Messages in Fiction

I recently listened to the spectacular podcast StoryWonk Daily, which has been my greatest source of writerly inspiration and crafty insight since I discovered it about half a year ago.
The hosts Lani and Alastair discussed gender issues in writing last week, and in episode 197 − The World Vs Men And Women − Lani got very passionate about messages in fiction, arguing that you should never include them. She most likely meant that you should not preach to your readers or be anvilicious, but she ruled out the possibility that messages could be integrated into stories gracefully, organically. To me, expressing what you believe in and dropping anvils are two very different things and I‘m as passionate about achieving the former as Lani is about avoiding the latter.

I think that our understanding of the world, our values and biases and unquestioned assumptions will always shine through in our writing, and that the stories we as a culture tell each other have an impact on our society. How big that impact is, I don‘t know, and being a writer, I‘m likely to overstate it.

That doesn‘t mean I will have my characters get on a soapbox and preach − In fact Lani herself gave an excellent example of what works much better: She talked about the gay and transgendered characters in her books (which I haven‘t read yet) and that she included them without making a fuss about their sexuality or gender, without portraying them as jokes or freaks, and most importantly, that she made them rounded characters instead of clichés.

I think there is a common concern amongst writers that readers will not get the message if they are not explicitly told what it is. But they do. They are usually a lot smarter than you think, and will not thank you for patronising them.

As almost always when it comes to good fiction, the writing rule Show, don‘t Tell applies. Don‘t tell me that friendship is important, just show me how little Maggie defeats the evil narwhale by realising just in time that she has to get over her pride and ask Sandra and Robin for help even though she bragged to them earlier about not needing it.

If you‘re having trouble with this, just think about Terry Pratchett, and how he manages to tell us profound things about the human nature while simultaneously spinning one hell of a yarn. He never compromises his story, because his messages and yarn are intermingled, are one.

To give you another example: Zoe from the TV show Firefly is a very capable, tough and strong woman. We know this because of her actions, and it would really ruin the effect if another character turned their head towards the camera and intoned: „You see, kids, women can be capable too!“ I think it’s a good rule of thumb that you shouldn‘t have a character say anything just because you want your audience to know it. Also, it would assume that the concept of a strong woman is somehow new or daring or unusual, which would undermine the message that strength is completely normal for women.

Whether you are a writer or create other media, just the simple choice of which characters to include and how to portray them can have a huge impact. A fellow StoryWonk listener (Hi Jenni!) linked to this article by Ms. Twixt about girls and women in TV shows, and the statistics are pretty grim:
Less than one third of the characters are female, a number that hasn‘t changed since 1946. Likewise, only 19,5% of the workforce on screen are female, even though in reality, that number is 50%. In crowds, girls and women only account for 17% of the people.

The article concludes, „Other research GDIGM cites finds that girls who are exposed to more media have the feeling that they are fewer choices in life, and that, on average, the more media boys watch the more sexist their outlook.“

I‘m sure most television writers and producers don‘t set out to paint a sexist, reactionary picture of the world or want to endorse that women are so inferiour to men that the main reason to show them at all is to serve as eye-candy for straight men. Still, this is what most of them are doing, and if they don‘t like it, they had better include as many strong female characters as males, and not sexualise every single one of them.

I could probably make similar observations and arguments about people of colour, queer, trans and genderqueer people and every other marginalised group. Sure, you could fall into tokenism, but to be honest, I as a trans genderqueer would much rather have a dozen token trans sidekicks to identify with in the books I read and the movies I watch than be treated in the media like I don‘t even exist.

PS: StoryWonk are just celebrating their 200th episode! I‘m getting on my trusty old soapbox now to tell you to go forth and listen in on the fun!