tao te ching

I’m not a religious man. Christianity taught me early on that religion is just another bullshit way to control people, and while I still lean more agnostic than straight atheist (if only in acknowledgement of the finite nature of human understanding of existence and the cosmos), I would not join a formal religion for any reason.

That said, I’m drawn to certain aspects of religious theory. I like Jesus teaching people to be nice. I like the Buddha’s sense of presence. I admire the hopefulness of prayer and the stillness of meditation.

And I love the Tao. If anything, I would consider myself an informal Taoist. I’m certainly no scholar, but I do my best to understand.

I generally work off the Stephen Mitchell or Ursula K. Leguin translations. I try to read a passage each day, to remind me of the closeness the Tao tends to hew to my own beliefs about what life is and could be.

I am going to attempt to explain my attachment to each stanza going forward, not all at once, but in pieces. I will undoubtedly anger some Taoist scholars who will scoff at my understanding, but this is about a personal understanding and connection. If it helps someone else, who gives a shit if some academic somewhere disagrees with the interpretation?

Tomorrow.

Target: 1100 words
Written: 325 words, novella: The Mungk

lost in space

There are certain shows and stories that, for whatever reason, hit me so hard that the endorphin spot in my brain explodes in a shower of “holy shit”.

Lost In Space, the Netflix version, did that for me. I felt like the writers really understand the concept of put your characters in danger and keep them there. The tension was palpable, right from the start. The magnetized aliens, Penny and Dr. Smith in the box, Judy in the water, it goes on and on. Terrifically done.

One of the best series I’ve seen in this new “golden age” of television. Beginning to end. Great characterization, well done weaving all the threads together, good mix of tension, humour and conflict.

I like when a story really sucks me in. Like the way you can feel the Alabama sticky in Jasons Aaron and Latour’s Southern Bastards or the chill vibe of Dazed And Confused. There’s a reason I don’t limit myself to certain genres. It’s all about experience and empathy, and that can be found in stories about elves or stories about football. It can live in a love story or a revenge kick.

Creating closer connections and greater understanding (or at least, having a good time trying) is the whole point of art. Exploration. Understanding. Joy in the thing, even if it’s insanely dark.

As always, the day I decide to up my target is the day I miss it. I hope I’m retired in twenty years so these ever increasing targets don’t grow out of my reach.

Target: 1100 words
Written: 764 words, novella: The Mungk

moscow mule

We’re getting quite the collection of specialty items. We now have moscow mule cups. You know, the mottled copper ones. They’re quite nice, but as with all specialty items, they have their own storage and cleaning rules. I’m a fan of doing things right, especially when it comes to food and things, because I believe it elevates the meal or the drink (or the proper plumbing or whatever).

The funny thing is that I could give a shit about doing the same with fashion. I don’t understand accessories.

Things that elevate experience are good.

Things that collect stuff are bad.

Target: 1000 words
Written: 247 words, novella: The Mungk

back to work

Vacation brain is the worst. I feel like maybe I’ve some kind of brain injury that’s dulled my cognitive abilities. And I’m usually such a smart guy (sarcasm, of course).

Not that I’m necessarily unintelligent, but I found danger in believing in my own intelligence and I understand now how that assumption, that my intelligence would carry me through without doing the work, completely derailed my life for almost two decades.

So, I choose to start from the assumption that I know nothing, even about the things I do. The only thing I believe in is that I have the capacity to learn.

Target: 1000 words
Written: 2552 words, novella: The Mungk

starbase

I have conflicted feelings about SpaceX, mostly because of Elon Musk. I think space travel is awesome, and as a cyberpunk/sci-fi geek, I don’t dislike tech (well, good tech, useful tech, not the bloated shit that tends to come out cool and end up trying to lock us in servitude with bullshit we don’t need. My favourite todo app is one that is no longer even maintained, hardly. They got it to a point that was cool and stopped trying to jam up the works with unnecessary features and redesigns. Honestly, most things that need to be fixed ever get fixed, but every executive out there wants to seem like they’re doing something, so our interfaces get tweaked, shit we don’t want gets crammed down our throats… etc.)

Anyway, I personally think the world would be much better off without Elon Musk having any kind of power or influence over it. Megalomaniacal narcissists like he and Donald Trump (and most raving Republicans these days, from Gaetz to Koch) are ruining this world. No one should be a billionaire. At that value, you have everything you could ever want. Give the rest back.

Use it to run healthcare or promote green initiatives, civil rights defense. But anything higher than one billion (and even that’s a debatable number – as in too fucking high) is way too much, and clearly warps a person’s brain with entitlement and selfishnes.

Fuck Elon, but long live space.

Target: 1000 words
Written: 1089 words, novella: The Mungk

pushing on

My glimmer seems to have gone silent. Faded into obscurity. Maybe it’ll roar back as a glorious beacon, a lighthouse guiding me away from the rocks, but for now, it’s little more than the darkness of the void.

Does light make a sound? If so, do different kinds of light make different kinds of sound? I would assume yes. Infrared versus visible and so on. I don’t know a lot about light, if I’m being honest. My focus has always been on people, culture, politics and psychology. Sociology, even as I worked in technology. I’m far more fascinated with how people work, the philosophies of their existence and what is from a purely behavioural standpoint, rather than the hard science of physics or chemistry or whatever. I like science and I like math and whatever else, but it’s not my obsession.

My obsession is why do we behave how we do? How do we do it better? How do we make the world better, through our behaviour and our philosophies, not simply technology?

These are the things that keep me going.

Target: 900 words
Written: 709 words, novella: The Mungk

no control

One of the most underrated and difficult to grasp concepts, for me, at least, in terms of growth, is the fact that I have absolutely no control over other people and what they do.

I feel responsible all the time to make sure things are done and done properly, and I have very clear ideas about how to treat others. I don’t like subterfuge and politics. I don’t see a need for drama, save in fiction. Use your big kid words. Calmly. See other people’s perspectives. Try to see the thing from as many angles as possible. Come up with at least one explanation that makes you sit back and think, “Wait. Maybe this isn’t exactly how I thought it was.”

And that works for me, when I can get out of my own head and past the insanity and depression. I’ve never been diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder, but if a compulsive need to play devil’s advocate and offer an alternate way of looking at a thing is part of that, I’m at least kin in spirit.

I don’t defy to defy, though. Being a Nineties grunge kid, I know lots of people who turned their back on anything that became popular, as though mass acceptance made it ultimately rotten, as though it lost all quality because people liked it past a certain threshold. But to me, that’s ridiculous. Wouldn’t you want the things you love to make it big? I want peace on earth; leaving that as a niche market seems counterproductive.

I want love and freedom and the dissolution of bigotry. Open attempts to understand one another. If that were global, I’d be ecstatic.

But I can’t control anyone. Letting that go was easy; it’s obvious. Not feeling responsible for everyone and everything isn’t. I don’t want to tell anyone what to do. I would like to provide an environment where they can make their own decisions, hopefully good ones. I’d like to help.

A lot of people simply don’t care. They’re too caught up in whatever drama or anxiety is playing out in their head to realize it.

Separating empathy and responsibility is something I struggle with every day. I don’t know where the line is, and feeling responsible for all the world’s ills is one of the great tortures in my life.

Target: 900 words
Written: 445 words, novella: The Mungk

slight consideration

I’m taking my own well-being into account these days. I knew I would start small, and I did.

I read short books. Crappy books. Short comic series. Standalone movies. Single season shows that got cancelled.

I wrote a haiku.

A piece of flash fiction.

A one-shot comic.

A short story, which was really more of a noir, back-twisted rant I didn’t believe in.

Weirdly, all the individual work was published. The comic is pending, because comics are collaborative, and I’m an anxious collaborator, in the sense that I’m terrified of anything beyond the script stage.

I try to remember. Little things build to bigger. Most overnight successes spent ten or more years laying groundwork.

Learning. Mastering. You don’t pick up a guitar and channel Jimi or Kim Thayil.

That shit takes time.

Piece by piece. Trying to remember, it’s not about hitting targets. No such thing as delayed gratification; the joy is found in each stage. To defer it to the end is to guarantee frustration and a fleeting moment of exultation, if we even make it that far.

Most of us will not.

Target: 800 words
Written: 631 words, novella: The Mungk