Tuesday, November 30, 2010
But as long as I have that, I don't get a lot of sex burn out.
Where I do get burn out is everything else. Getting horny isn't too hard. Forcing myself to write another short story when I have a sudden allergy to writing short stories is another matter altogether. I wrote around sixty shorts in three years. Shorts now make me break out in hives. I see that 5k limit looming up and start clawing my way up the walls, thinking of all the lives my characters could have lived and all the things I could have had them do if I just hadn't gotten them in a chokehold right where chapter two would have started.
Plus, then, there's this feeling that I've totally lost any knack I had for it. Oh yeah. That's a great burn out feeling. I can't dooooo iiiiitttt I'm shiiiittt at it oh God why, why did I ever start down this path? Why did I ever think I was any good? Nobody wants my work anymore everyone hates me I've lost it all before I've even begun.
And said feeling also applies to the simplest things like how a sentence looks. Whether I've put a little silly aside in somewhere. How many times I've used the word just- oh, how burnt out I am on the word just. And the word sometimes. And the word and. I hate the word and! If I ever see the word and again I might have to get up on the clock tower.
But there's more, oh there's so much more before the clock tower and the sniper rifle and the people screaming: "She filled a page with ands and then went berserk!"
I'm also so, so burnt out on wondering if anyone reads my work, or likes my work, or likes any of the weird concepts my fevered brain comes up with. I'm burnt out on trying to second guess why somebody did that and what it means about me and what it means about them and oh did that publisher just close? Yeah, great. Great. Thanks for that. My burn out could really use some further bad news, to make it worse.
Any time soon I'm gonna wake up in the hospital, with skin grafts all over me and someone asking me why I thought it'd be a good idea to stick a McDonald's apple pie up my fanny. That's how bad my burn out sometimes is. So bad, that it has to reference a post I did on the Grip a few weeks ago, about apple pie fanny.
But please- don't fear. For my sanity. There is one thing I'm not burnt out on. There's one thing I'll never be burnt out on, not as long as I live. And it keeps me going, even when I don't want to. I switch to novellas for it, when I don't want to write another short story. I keep replacing those words, when I don't want to see them anymore. I get myself all in the mood and think up new and weird scenarios for it so it'll never be just the same thing, over and over again, this one thing that keeps me going.
The characters. The characters keep me going. The people in my stories- they're always there. And they're always ready to talk, whenever I need them. And they push when I don't want to go and they comfort me when I think I can't, and they put soothing ointments on my burn out.
I won't ever give in because of you, my characters. I promise I won't.
Monday, November 29, 2010
and on to my regular entry:
Get Your Sexy On
Sunday, November 28, 2010
By Lisabet Sarai
By the time you read this, I will hopefully be in Japan, enjoying the final days of a holiday, eating sushi, riding on bullet trains, visiting ancient temples and castles and all the other activities that are popular in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Hopefully I will not have died in a plane crash, or have been buried in the aftermath of an earthquake. If I am, well, carry on! I loved my life and I wouldn't change a moment.
I'm writing this almost two weeks before the post date. There's no topic posted yet for this week, and I don't want to hassle Kathleen just for my convenience. So I'll just say hello and tell you to have fun in my absence.
Watch this space for something more substantial next week!
Saturday, November 27, 2010
I’m here today at the invitation of the great Ashley Lister—fiction and nonfiction writer, poet, wit, critic, sage, scholar, teacher, friend, and mensch, all par excellence. An author who knows how to make me laugh, again and again. And laughter is gold to me.
Needless to say, I was touched and honored to be offered a turn at the rostrum during Ashley’s send-off. Of course, like all of us here, I wish he weren’t leaving the Grip. But, like all of us here, I know he’s made a sound decision and he’s doing the right thing. And (like all of us here) I look forward to observing and applauding whatever amazing stunts the rascal gets up to next. One can only hope that if he finds himself with a clone one day, he’ll send the extra Ash back over here.
Though Ashley didn’t know it when he invited me to participate in this week’s OGAG, “New Beginnings” is a topic that feels timely for me, too, in a way. There are areas of my creative life in which I could use a new beginning right about now. I might even settle for a slightly used beginning, if it were in good enough condition.
I’m at a juncture where I may want to partially reinvent myself once again, from the artistic point of view. Yes, I’ve done it before; and luckily I had the foresight to keep the lease on the reinvention lab active. In addition to being an erotica author, I’ve been a songwriter-bandleader and a playwright; a humorist and an ad writer; an entertainer or, if you will, showman. (That’s showman, not snowman. I suppose “snowman” could be a good next move, except that I get chilly far too easily.)
Please don’t misunderstand: I have no plans to cease writing and publishing my erotica. [Pauses for spontaneous lightning storm of flashbulbs. Not a sausinge. Strikes pose like Nora Roberts at keyboard, but misjudges podium dimensions and knocks coffee cup to floor.] But for various reasons, I feel I also need a new vehicle—to park in the garage next to the Eroticamobile. To put it another, even more sexually suggestive, way, I may want to get outfitted with another peg to hang my hat on.
In any case, my attitude toward new beginnings is like the aphoristic attitude toward new friends:
Make new friends,
But keep the old.
The new ones haven’t heard all your jokes yet,
And, who knows, the old ones may eventually return some of your books and DVDs.
The point is, even when I am ceasing and/or desisting from some area of artistic activity, I try not to burn bridges—even internal ones. Instead, whenever possible, I merely rope them off with plush purple snakes, while leaving them intact. After all, you never know when an older model of Me may be called out of retirement while the current version takes five. Or maybe Older (i.e., younger) Me will have a cameo in Newer (i.e., older) Me’s next big picture. I’m sure We can come to terms: I’ll have My people start drawing up the contracts first thing in the morning.
Getting back to the topic of new-beginnings adventures ... I’m pleased to have seen that when we undertake them, we get to keep what we’ve learned as we move forward. Isn’t it interesting how the same sorts of situations, challenges, personalities, and frustrations crop up in the different contexts we explore in life? Thank goodness a new beginning doesn’t mean starting from scratch in terms of one’s hard-earned wisdom, judgment, savoir faire, and familiarity with the basic realities that largely carry over from one endeavor to another.
And here’s another thought: In reading about the professional lives of creative notables, it has struck me that people much more talented and much more important than I am have routinely had to wonder, at various points in their illustrious careers, what they would do next—for both internally and externally generated reasons. To a large extent, I think the constant need to embrace, seek, or make new beginnings goes with the creative life.
That said, I’m the kind of persnickety person who’d rather lie dormant than embark on something new just for the sake of embarking on something new. My interests and ambitions are eclectic, and I wait for those inspirations or opportunities that feel truly suited to my dealio. (Fortunately, I’ve convinced myself that I do not actually age during those waiting periods.) So at present, though I may be in the market for a new vehicle, none of the vehicles that I see around town look quite right for me. [End of automotive metaphor—and not a moment too soon, as the 4:58 railroad metaphor is pulling in, right on schedule.] Instead of hopping on a passing train, I’ve also pondered designing my own locomotive from scratch. But the big risk in doing that is that you won’t fit the gauge of the existing infrastructure, and you’ll end up stranded in the station yard. This I know from experience—and I have the OshKosh B’Gosh overalls to prove it.
And so dormancy sometimes has its place in my creative life. Stagnation, on the other hand, is to be avoided—if only because of the brackish odor. And then there’s wheel spinning. But that sounds suspiciously like an automotive metaphor, and I promised.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Now on to new beginning ...
They are thrilling and terrifying at the same time.
I am about to start a part of my life anew in just a few weeks. I will be graduating college after 6 and 1/2 long years, and I will finally have a degree. I am so excited and yet ... not.
When I started my degree program, things were looking good. Teachers were due to retire soon, states were upping their requirments of science for students to graduate, and jobs were to be plentiful.
The reality now, several years later, is looking rather bleak. Teachers are holding off returing because they simply can't afford to. Classroom sizes are increasing as districts are requiring teachers that already have jobs to handle the increased demands in science credit requirement.
The new chapter in my life that is just beginning isn't starting out so well. With a mountain of school loan debt, and no real job prospects, I am looking at rushing right in to the master's program just to defer my debt for another two years in the hopes that I will be able to find a job then.
New beginnings can be a wonderful thing, when you find a new love, when you start a new career, when you embrace a hobby that fills you with passion.
But new beginnings can also be rather disheartening. I know that I have done something to be proud of, I stuck with school and I will soon have a piece of paper to reward all of my effors. Yet when job prospects are so dim, and I know we will be struggling the next few years just to break even, I could really do without the mountain of school loan debt.
So in a few years, I might have a better outlook. But for now ... new beginnings kind of suck.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
This is my last post here at the Grip and there are a few things I need to say before I go.
I’m indebted to many people here. I’m grateful that I was ever invited. I’m grateful for the sense of family that the Grip provides. And I’m grateful for all the commentators who are kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules to make us bloggers feel as though what we’ve got to say has been worth reading. You wouldn’t believe how important some of those comments can be to a writer’s confidence and self-esteem. Thank you. Considering I’m writing this on thanksgiving, it’s ironic that there is a lot here for which to be thankful.
I truly wish I could continue writing here at the Grip. However, as the saying goes, wish in one hand and shit in the other, and see which fills up first. I don’t need to participate in that experiment to understand that wishing won’t help me to any great extent.
I’ve got one or two things happening in my life right now. Things that are making my existence ‘interesting.’ I’m using the word ‘interesting’ here in the same sense it’s used in that fabled curse, when some bastard wishes you a life lived in ‘interesting times.’ Well, at the moment, my life is distressingly interesting. I won‘t bore you with the details. The bottom line is that it would be imprudent to carry on blogging at the moment when there are other aspects of my life that seem to be redefining the word ‘crisis.’ However, I’m reassured by the words of the truism: what doesn’t kill you only prolongs the inevitable.
I believe that Mike Kimera is going to be filling in the Thursday slot from next week. I do hope regular readers will make him feel welcome. I also hope no one will mind if I occasionally visit when circumstances allow because this is one group of friends with whom I want to remain in contact.
And I’m going to sign off with a poem from one of my favourite poets.
by Edgar Allan Poe
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
Best wishes to you all…
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Photo by C. Sanchez-Garcia
"...Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,
because you have struggled with God and with
men and have overcome." Genesis 32: 28
I’ve just dropped some people off and I’m steering my way out of the parking lot of the mall. I’ve got NPR on the box and now that I’m alone I turn up the sound. Some numb nuts married to Nicole Kidman.
“We met each other at a social affair and we just had this deep instant connection.”
“Oh fuck you. Please.” Now the bitterness is beginning and I’m not sure how to cut it off before it trashes the rest of my day. I put on a CD of old Chess records recordings. I’ve got Muddy Waters on the box singing “I Just Can’t Be Satisfied.” Good. That’s what I want to hear. You and me, Mud.
I pull the van over under a tree in the corner of the mall. I shut off the engine and roll down the window and just breathe for a while. High over head, a mated pair of brown tailed hawks that have always seemed to claim the mall as their hunting grounds, are circling like beautiful little fighter planes. Usually there’s a lot of squirrels around but they vanish when the hawks are up there. I love to watch them, circle and circle, like gold fish in a bowl. As old uncle Walt Whitman says, they don’t weep over their sins, and there’s not a question of respectability or unhappiness among any of them. Watching them calms me.
I'm suffering these days from a kind of spiritual fever with which I infect myself when I struggle to recover the past.. The years in the “Garden”, as I think of it. In my religious days, when I lived communally, when I was an idealistic young man growing up in my huge crazy spiritual family, as lost and wasteful and regretful as those times sometimes appear to me, watching the hawks overhead reminds me those were also the happiest and most purposeful years of my life. I had to let it go.
How I became spiritually soul-sick this week, is this. Recently I heard of the death of someone I knew a little bit from those days. I knew his wife a whole lot better. When we were young, we lived in the same “church center”, did everything together and were very close friends. Now understand, this was a profoundly erotic, beautiful young woman, the kind of woman my shy young self would have been absolutely paralyzed in the presence of under other circumstances. She was a buxom, slender young thing, small faced and sweet, with beautiful sleepy eyes which disappeared when she laughed, which was often; philosophical and curious, creative and artistically gifted. We were strictly celibate, and that gave us a great freedom which is not something people usually associate with celibacy. We were brother and sister, Adam and Eve before the apple, living like happy monks together in the spaciousness of that great innocence, doing what we believed God wanted us to do to make the world better, as free and open hearted with each other as children.
Years later she was “blessed” in the wedding tradition of the Unification Church and dropped off the face of the earth for the next twenty five years until I got the news about her husband. Now she's an aging widow with kids. There was a contact address and I sent her a check to help her family. I didn’t hear back, but I know the check was cashed.
It wasn’t so much about her, really. It was a check I wrote to myself, to that fortunate kid who walked at the side of that magnificent young woman as her best pal, brother and confidant. They were inhabitants, hot house flowers of that invisible Garden.
There are web sites, where members still gather. I visited some of those sites, looking for her new face, looking for the friends I used to know. The faces were there, but other things too. Discussions of purity. Suspicions of liberalism. Laments about the cultural corruption of our youth by the secular popular culture.
These were not new ideas to me. These were the ideas I'd sacrificed for, long, long ago when, among other things; we marched together picketing adult book stores and theaters. I stood there at the Garden’s gate as it were; I read the words of my old friends, saw the old care worn faces with their children and even grandchildren. And all the time I thought - what would they think of me now and my stories? What would she think, not even so much if she ever read my books, but was simply exposed to their existence? Stories of graphic sex, stories of desire gone wildly wrong. Violence, and not the playful kind either. Tragedy and illicit ecstasy. Would they see the intention, the soul behind the stories, or would they whisper “He’s become a pornographer. He’s become one of them.”
The thing I can’t explain to my old crowd is that these very stories they'd find so viscerally revolting, these stories come from them.
Without my romanticized notions of our life and times, without the spiritual pain of isolation, without the grief of our shared betrayal by those we trusted, I would have nothing to say, no story to write about worth the reading. There has to be deep pain, because like a violin string, a soul has to be stretched tight before it sings.
I had faith. I was a good disciple, a good follower. It was the ravenous and unforgiving God I followed and the too human custodians of that great unblinking faith that were unworthy of that young man. And when I finally did blink – it all fell apart. Coming from a idealistic place to an ordinary place, the world looks so harsh to me, probably more than it does to other people. And when I think of this wonderful young woman, now much older, though her wings were cruelly clipped, her faith hasn’t changed, I just have to wonder. How does the world look to her? How would I look to her if she knew me as I am now? Would she really despise me so much? Maybe it was better she didn’t contact me to say thanks for the check, or maybe she already knows my stain, has heard about it from someone in sad, disgusted whispers, and steers clear of me, a sinner and a leper from the world she still cherishes.
One of the spiritual goals I aspire to, and haven’t yet achieved is the ability to let go of the past, because it’s a very rich and passionate past, filled with adventure and soaring spiritual experiences. Filled with the most excellent people. I’m still struggling to embrace exile as the gift that I do really know it is, and to be happy not only with what I have but what I’ve lost.
Overhead, the hawk couple are circling close together now. Do they love each other the way people do? Are they better off if they don’t? Do they ever go just joy riding together on those huge spread soft wings, or is it all business for them?
One of the hawks has seen something. She dips her wing, gathers herself and drops in a fast glide until she disappears behind the trees. It’s a beautiful sunny morning in a beautiful world, where some small animal is having a horrible moment.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Which is probably why I fookin’ hate new beginnings. I hate how beginning-y they are. All fresh and shiny and in your face, constantly screaming look at me, look at me! Look at how totally radical I am!
Because, you know. New Beginnings are apparently a Ninja Turtle, direct from 1991.
But I digress. About Ninja Turtles. When really I want to talk about all the other reasons I hate New Beginnings. It’s not just their feminine hygiene style freshness. It’s not just the fact that they’re green and from the early nineties.
It’s all the stuff you’ve got to do that you didn’t have to do before. Shake all your new colleagues’ hands, for example. Even though they’re all weird coffee-drinking office snoots who talk too much about things that bear no relation to any life I’ve ever led.
And if you read my post on Life After Death, you’ll know I’ve led A LOT of said lives.
But oh no. They can’t be like me, in any way. They have to drink Twinings, instead, and when I tell them I don’t drink hot drinks, I have to go and sit in the corner with a dunce cap on my head. They don’t ever wear trainers, not ever, and they all talk in loud voices about that time their son Tristan did a poo.
Or summat. I dunno. There was a Tristan in there, somewhere. And yeah, all right, they probably didn’t say poo, but I just made that bit up, ok? Because otherwise it was just some nonsense about what university Tristan went to five years ago. As though I can really say anything or have any type of conversation with a person who talks about another person I do not know and a thing they did a thousand years ago.
I could never bring up a thing that happened to my son a thousand years ago, in a conversation with a total stranger. Unless the thing was “my son aged backwards like Benjamin Button. That’s why he no longer exists, now.”
Because of course I don’t have a son, and wouldn’t talk about him anyway even if I did. They've no point of reference, after all, you see. It means nothing to them. When you meet someone for the first time, it's far saner to talk about things you can both discuss.
Like, you know. How much I fookin’ hate New Beginnings.
I mean, even the other sorts of ones can be so, so awful. New editor turns out to be a Twinings drinking psychopath. New friend eats your cat and shits out a dog. New contract goes tits up. New boobs explode and poison you.
But what’s weirdest about all of this is…I still long for you, New Beginning. I keep checking the horizon. I’m waiting for my real life to begin, and all that. And when I held that first contract in my hand- I have to accept that that was a New Beginning.
And oh, how it was like the birthday of my life. I’d wait forever, for that feeling to come around again.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
By Lisabet Sarai
Our topic this week, mooted by Ashley, is "New Beginnings". I believe that this is because this will be his last week as a regular member at Oh Get A Grip. Of course I deeply regret his decision to move on, but I understand that each of us needs to make difficult decisions to enhance our personal and professional lives. And there does come a time when one must say "Enough is enough".
I've learned a great deal about Ash during the months that he has been with us, as well as a lot from him. For one thing, after studying his masterful technique, I'm starting to get some idea how to write humor. I could never have composed last week's tongue-in-cheek post about the Pearly Gates if I hadn't had Ashley's hilarious posts as exemplars.
Ashley has also taught me quite a bit about poetry. I started writing poems when I was in grade school, but I have little formal background in the forms and constraints of verse. Hence, it thought it would be appropriate for me to attempt a Shakespearean sonnet in honor of his departure, and to say thank you.
Farewell to Master Ashley
The time has come, dear Ash, to say adieu.
You're going to leave a gap here at the Grip.
No one will ever take the place of you,
So wise and witty, erudite and hip.Your insight into language we will miss,
Your barbéd sarcasm and bawdy verse,Your skill in capturing a Sapphic kiss,
A cuckhold's shameful lust, a vampire's curse.You know that you will be the first to hear
Should I e'ere find myself in Lancashire!Lots of love from Lisabet
Saturday, November 20, 2010
The accident that preceded my experience occurred when I was a little over 2 and 6 months old. My mother was cooking dinner and I was playing on the floor in our kitchen. I had decided that I wanted a cookie, so I asked my mother for one. Before giving me the cookie, my mother left the kitchen. Impatient and clever as any 2 year old, I decided to fetch the cookie myself. The cookies were located in a cabinet over the counter.
I opened one of the lower cabinets beneath the kitchen counter and dragged over my small child-size table. Using the ledge inside the cabinet, I hoisted myself onto the little table. From there, I climbed onto the kitchen counter and from here I stood up and opened the cabinet above me.
I don’t remember the actual fall, or the turning around to face away from the cabinet, my mother filled in the blanks for me. She says that she returned to the kitchen after being gone only a very short time to see me standing on the edge of the counter. Her first thought was that she was afraid to yell, because it might cause me to jump and fall, but before she could even run forward, I did fall. I toppled off the counter onto my head. The floors in our kitchen at that time were
cement covered in linoleum.
My memory picks up again a little after this point. My mother and I were being taken to the hospital by my uncle, my father, a police officer at the time, had also been called and was ahead escorting us to the hospital. I recall my mother slapping my cheeks lightly and begging me to keep my eyes opens open while alternately yelling at my uncle to slow down. My mother was seven months pregnant with my brother at the time and terrified.
Again, I have gaps in my memory. I don’t recall arriving at the hospital What I do recall, is staring at myself in a hospital bed. I did not stay and study myself long. I was lying in a bed, covered in electrodes. I believe I just stared at myself for a moment, not really at any particular point, or for any reason that I was aware of. It did not alarm me to be looking at myself from a perspective that would
have been in front or above me, none of this struck me as usual at all. I also never once looked down at myself (the “me” doing the looking) during the time I was surveying my surroundings.
After looking at myself, I looked around the room, and at some point I began staring into a window in the wall. In it, I could see my mother and the nurse, they were in another room. My mother was standing next to the nurse who was sitting at a console and they were talking. I could not hear them, but I could see their lips moving. I watched them for a little while and that is the end of this memory. Sometime later, I recounted all of this to my mother; it was then that I learned I had been unconscious the whole time I was in the observation room.
I do believe that what I experienced that day was an out of body experience. Since then, I have had other experiences that have solidified my opinion that there are “more things in heaven and earth, Horatio...” For instance, I once witnessed a child’s memory crying in a corner, I have seen a man dressed in period clothing cross into a lane of highway traffic as if he were completely unaware that the road
existed, and I have panicked my mother into swerving to avoid hitting a man walking in sneakers and hoody on a rainy night, before I realized he was not really there.
I am not religious. I do not believe that when all of us die we go to some extremely crowded kingdom in the sky or that we are judged and divided. Is there life after death? My mother told me when I was a child that the “only constant in life is change.” My answer to this question is, yes. We do not die, we only change. Is this “life” after death? Would you recognize it as such? Will you know yourself? Will you be capable of knowing yourself in the level you do now or will it be from a different less individualized level? These questions are difficult for me to answer as I feel that the strength of an individual’s spirit plays an important role in determining the quality of their “life” after death. What I am sure of, is that day when I was a child staring down at myself in the hospital room, I crossed the boundary of my own limitations and for me the “other side” is a reality.
Michael Mary Leathers
Friday, November 19, 2010
Now, looking at the flip side, is there life after death? I have absolutely no clue.
I can say that I hope there is, because the very idea of sudden winking out of existance scares the everloving crap out of me. The idea that existance is merely a firing of neurons, a happenstance of one amino acid bumping into another several millions years ago and having such a good time that they stuck together, is terrifying.
Yet I really, really, really hope it is more than fire and brimstone vs heavenly choirs. Spending an eternity floating among the stars, seeing worlds born and suns die, is my kind of an eternity.
So please, forgive me for my brief post, but I am going to turn back over to the questions of death after life before I hurl.
Indeed, I believe in death after life.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I was talking with God the other day. He apologised.
He apologised for lots of things; the ambiguities in the bible that lead to religious wars; the anomaly of good folk finishing last whilst scum-suckers get all the decent stuff. The slowness of broadband speeds in certain areas. God appreciates that there are a lot of things for which he should apologise. But, most of all, he apologises for all the misunderstandings about life after death.
Personally I don’t understand the confusion. I have always hoped that there is no life after death. It’s bad enough having to endure this shit once. The thought of going through existence for a second time is worse than depressing. It suggests that there’s no viable escape route.
But God assures me there is life after death. Heaven exists. It’s a lot like that nice place on earth – the one where good things happen on a sunny day – only better. There’s no sadness or suffering. It’s lovely.
God says that everyone is dying to go there.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
“The eye with which I see God,
and the eye with which God sees me
are the same eye.” Meister Eckhardt
Fans often ask writers, where do you get your ideas?
This hasn’t happened to me yet, since I don’t yet have any fans, but it’s a question I’ve often asked other writers. I’m not going to tell you where I get ideas. But I propose to illustrate to you the mentality from which creative ideas come. You take a thought. Any thought. The trick is the spin, how you spin it. So we’re going to get very weird, and this may get long, so go use the toilet now if you need to.
Let’s talk about death.
I believe in death. Death is the only thing I know for sure is waiting in my future. As one of my characters, Nixie, once observed “The best evidence of a soul is the vacancy of a corpse.” I’m not sure what happens next, and as I crawl towards the grave I think about it more and more.
A couple of weeks ago I was writing here about Kabbalah and the view of the afterlife proposed by western Hermetic magicians, and how it parallels traditional Tibetan Buddhist ideas about the afterlife. To recap, these belief systems state that behind the physical reality (“Malkuth” or “Maya”) of the world where ego- Sanchez-Garcia is sitting in a Starbucks pecking at a keyboard and thinking he needs to use the toilet soon, behind this world is another in-between world, the world of “Yetzirah” or the Astral, or the Bardo as the Tibetans call it. This parallel world of the Bardo is the world immediately after the death experience and prior to the birth experience. This, they all agree, is a world of slippery illusion.
Hermetic magicians believe that thoughts create actual forms in the Astral or Bardo plane. These forms are inert until the magician imbues them with intense emotional content through ceremonial magic. In effect he gives life to them. It doesn’t have to be a magician, magicians are just the ones doing this on purpose. A mother kneeling in desperate prayer to save the life of her child is doing exactly the same thing, bending reality with the intensity of her desire.
What if . . .
Those are the magic words by which writers conjure the imagination.
What if . . . this were true. What if . . reincarnation were also true. What if . . . the soul is meant, not for final and static judgment, but dynamic evolution. Three “What ifs . . . “ Let’s take them for a spin.
I have died. Just now. Ego-Sanchez-Garcia has croaked at his keyboard in a Starbucks in a shopping mall and the college girls working the coffee counter are in a panic who to call first, the manager or 911. Bye-bye.
According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, as the body shuts down it experiences distinct levels of light and sound – which eerily resemble what medical subjects in sensory isolation experiments have also reported. After the last level, during which a pure white light is experienced, there is a space of pure empty being without the experience of ego or personality. It is described as a pure clear sky at midnight of vast distance and emptiness and tranquility. In this moment the soul has the opportunity to surrender itself to the Godhead and achieve enlightenment in the Astral. If it refuses out of fear, and almost all souls do, it tumbles back into the world of experience. What happens next seems to depend on the person. If a Christian, he might meet Jesus or fall before the throne of an angry and lordly God of Hosts surrounded by winged angels. If a Muslim, maybe a Caliphs garden with beautiful adoring hoaris. According to the Tibeten Buddhist lama Chogyam Trungpa, none of these experiences are what they seem. They are real enough, but not in the sense that we think of reality. Rather, these are the desperate creations of the ego-soul in isolation grasping at life as it knows it, generating its own reality on the fly, because it needs something to be in relationship with in order to define and nail down its own existence. Things must fill that void. The things and particularly the people who appear are what the Tibetan lamas refer to as “tulpas”. It has a flexibility that makes sense to me. It fits human nature as I know it. An evil man, no longer able to hide his evil from himself, might find himself in Hell attacked by devils. A good man might find himself in gardens of peace surrounded by the people he loved most.
What if . . .
I love women. I love their company, much more than men. I love the way a room feels when a woman is in it, the sound of the female voice, the appearance of the female body, the insistent nurturing of the female nature. I’m married and faithful and etc, but there are many women over a life time I wish I’d known better and have thought of often and with affection.
What if . . . I have already unknowingly created tulpas of these women in the astral plane?
Let’s give that thought a spin.
Let’s start with one, we’ll call her R. I know R in the real world even now, she’s for real. She’s married to a man she adores and is devoted to. She’s a smart, sensuous woman, this R, and in a better world we might have been very close. But if I think about her enough, then in the Astral – hey – there she is, coming up to greet me. Coming up to indulge in the intimacy we could not have indulged in when we were in the world. Time – or something like it – passes and we become very intimate, very physical, very devoted and riotous lovers who constantly crave each others company, pleasure and conversation as we explore our new world together.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch.
The Real R is on her death bed. She dies in some other place at some other time. In the Bardo, her own Bardo, she meets her beloved husband, her grown children, some lost lover or two, but I am not in the congregation, I didn’t rate that high on the passionate thoughts scale when she was alive. In a way she is in two places at once. Ego–R, the Real R, is reunited with those she loved in life, and the other, the Tulpa R, is with me.
Here’s another interesting thought. Putting all this woo-woo aside for a minute, think about this one. The people you love, the person you think you know, how well do you really know them? How well do you know even yourself? Is your image and understanding ever going to perfectly match the way they perceive themselves? In the end what you have is an image of the person according to your own perceptions and those perceptions are always going to be distorted by what your ego wants to be true. There will always be a limit to what you can ever know about a person, no matter how intimately.
What happens to the Real R is anyone’s guess. But the Tulpa R – we’re very attached to each other. I don’t want to let her go, but my time of rebirth is coming, experienced in the astral as death, and I’m forced to accept the tragedy that now I have to give her up. What greater pain, than to find a great consuming love and then be forced to give it up, in this world or the next? I think this may happen to everyone if tulpas exist. So I am reborn, not as ego-Sanchez-Garcia, but as the reincarnation of “R”, not based on the original “real” R who lived and died apart from me, but Tulpa R, a creation of ego-Sanchez-Garcia, because this was the fiercest karmic attachment I had before I was reborn; this tulpa woman who has now been given a body and experience in this plane, created from scratch from my own love and desire for my own astral creation, and now infused as the vehicle of my soul. In this way R has been reincarnated, on a totally different trajectory, while ego-R, the Real R, is maybe reincarnated as whatever her Tulpa husband was, or lost lover, or whoever she was most passionately attached to during her sojourn in the astral. Imagine if the Tulpa-R now reincarnated as a certain woman, met the Real R, reincarnated as the tulpa of her previous husband, ( i. e. now she is a man), met each other? Would they not be magnetically drawn to each other?
And why not?
What if the original Ego-R, the Real R, had been my material world lover, and I, her material world lover, became her best tulpa-creation, whom she also longed for and astrally created from desire, and we had been materially reborn – as each other?
Could this be the spiritual secret behind soul mates?
Here is the great weird secret universal to all esoteric religions – pay attention I’m going to throw out something interesting now.
Lets suspend disbelief about all this woo-woo for a miunte and say the afterlife experience is an illusion of ego and exists in its own plane of reality and not reality as we know it.
If yes, therefore –
The God we worship does not exist.
That exoteric God is a projection of our own human nature, as all the gods new and old have always been. They are all tulpas, fashioned by Man after his own fractured image, and then worshipped as man's creator when the opposite is true.
The desire to create an anthropomorphized God after our own image is the very spark of the Divine within, it is an echo of the act of God creating Man after His/Her own image. It’s just what God does.
Mankind, we are God’s tulpas.
And before I forget, this kind of convoluted thinking? How many balls can you get going in the air? This is where story ideas come from.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
And if that makes God something that came out of The Trapdoor, well. He-She is just going to have to deal with that. I don't make the rules. The rules tell me that God could be anything, anything at all, and the thing that came to my mind was a creature that splurges out of a hole in the ground, based on some kid's TV show that disturbed me years ago.
Though I'm not sure why God is based on that TV show, specifically. I mean, there were plenty of other TV shows that disturbed me. Terrorhawks, for instance. But just imagining God as that drooling greasy witch-woman puppet is...yeah. That's worse than the plasticine option.
Plus, I'm pretty sure if there is a devil, HE'S the one who looks like Zelda from the Terrorhawks. Not that him being Zelda makes him a woman, either, however. I don't even know why I'm saying him, because he's probably some neither-blob, too.
Try playing that one, Al Pacino. I can just see him now, in "The Amorphous Blob's Advocate".
Doesn't quite have the same ring, does it?
Anyway- where was I? Oh yeah. In that place that needs a six page digression before I can really face it or answer it or just...I don't know. I honestly don't know. I just know that my head is full of all kinds of weird and wonderful things - people and places and loves I've never known.
Or at least, loves I've never known in this life.
And all of that stuff, all of that stuff I write about and babble about and can't stop thinking about...I just don't think it all comes from me. I've hardly lived any life at all. I don't know anything about anything. And yet all this nonsense comes out of me and spreads itself all over the page and I just think...
You came from a life I've lived before, didn't you. I know you, from some far off and half-hidden past. I feel full up with you, pressured by you, sometimes it's like a thousand voices all talking in my head, at once.
And if that's mad, well okay. But really, how much madder is it to believe in a bearded guy, in a white robe, sat on a cloud?
Monday, November 15, 2010
If you're following my NaNoWriMo progress, my word count Sunday night stood at 27,470 (and three bodies. both counts will rise in the coming days)
Sunday, November 14, 2010
By Lisabet Sarai
“Next! Stand right there, on the yellow line. Let's see your papers.”
“Here you are, sir. I hope you'll find that everything's in order."
“Hmm... What? What in the name of the One Whose Name Must Not Be Uttered is this nonsense?”
“My portfolio, sir. I was told that we were supposed to assemble artifacts from our mortal lives that would argue for our admittance, a sample of whatever we'd done that we considered most worthy of Divine notice.”
“Quite so. But this looks like – smut! Filthy, obscene, unmitigated porn!”
“Well, I suppose some people might call it that. Others, including myself, might label it art. In any case, it's my life's work – novels, short stories, poems, all celebrating the glory and mystery of desire...”
“Don't talk to me about Glory and Mystery. I sit on the right hand of The Omnipotent and Ever-present Himself – at least on festival days. How can I show Him – this? He'll cast me out of Heaven before you can say 'Salacious Seraphim'!”
“That would make a good title for a story...”
“Huh? Be still, you silly cow, while I try to figure out what to do with you. Let me look at the rest of your file... Married, no children, kind to animals, voted in every election, donated regularly to charity... Oh dear. It says that you died lashed to a bondage frame, with dildos inserted front and rear. He won't like that at all...”
“It was one-hundred percent consensual, I can assure you. Anyway, the ropes and the flogging didn't have anything to do with my aneurysm. Better to kick off while having fun, don't you think, instead of wasting away in an old folks home or being mangled by a drunken driver? Although I am terribly sorry to have caused my Master distress. Can you send someone – an angel or something – to let him know that it wasn't his fault?”
“I'll put in a request. Your concern for him is commendable, despite the unsavory nature of your relationship.”
“Unsavory! We were lovers for fifty years. Isn't loyalty considered a virtue? Isn't Heaven all about love?”
“Yes, of course, but under the circumstances...”
“Look, if the Big Guy hadn't wanted us to have sex, He wouldn't have given us the equipment, would He? Or the inclination, for that matter. You can't have it both ways. If He really is the Creator of All Things, then He's responsible for every kink and fetish I've ever written about, and lots more besides. He's got the original Dirty Mind. You know what they say; in the beginning there was the Word and the Word was made Flesh – moist, warm, swollen, palpitating, feverish flesh! I'm just doing what He commanded... loving my neighbor and urging everyone else to do so, too."“Your logic seem sound. But I can't let you enter the gates dressed that way. You'll upset the other souls. They expect eternal comfort, serenity, purity...”
“Oh really? Are you sure? Maybe they'd like to wear black leather instead of white gossamer, to trade in their harps for other instruments of pleasure. I could make some recommendations... In any case, I'm not so sure I want in, given your sanctimonious attitude. If Heaven is really as prudish and uptight as you make it sound, I don't think I belong here.”
“Wait! Where are you going? You may not find the realms beyond these Pearly Gates to be exactly your cup of tea, but I guarantee you'll like Hell even less. Don't be fooled by all those tales of delicious wickedness and wild carousing, or all those dark, romantic portraits painted of Satan and his minions. Hell is more like an endless trip in a freezing third-class railway carriage, packed in with sausage eaters who haven't changed their socks in three months.”
“Well then – I'll just have to create my own afterlife. I've been building worlds for so long now – the word made flesh, you know – it shouldn't be too difficult. Maybe I'll try a bit of reincarnation. I'd love to slip into a lithe new body and console my poor, lonely Master...”
“Wait, Ms. Sarai! Let's discuss this. The Sacred Maintainer of the Universe doesn't like to be rejected...”
“I'm not rejecting Him. Just His headquarters. I don't think I'm interested in replacing my pen with a pair of wings. Anyway, wherever I am, despite what you may think, I know that I'm doing His work. And what you consider disgusting smut, I see as my poor but honorable legacy.”
“See you around, Pete. Drop by my Fantasy Factory if you decide you want a little action.”
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Being clinical for a moment, the consumption of food and the enjoyment of sex are both sensory experiences. One of the reasons I have always been puzzled by calorie-counters is because it seems so unnatural to relate the glorious sensation of consuming food with the uninteresting preoccupation of counting numbers. It’s like looking at the Mona Lisa and saying how many grams of blue paint Da Vinci used. No one cares and the detail is extraneous to any genuine enjoyment of the picture. Just like with calorie counting, the obsession with unimportant mathematical detail is the antithesis of a sensory experience.
But it’s the linguistic relationship between food and sex that fascinates me.
Fancy a sandwich? Regardless of your answer, are we talking about two slices of bread surrounding an edible filling (named after the Insatiable Earl, John Montagu, fourth earl of Sandwich)? Or are we suggesting a threeway with one lucky individual being pressed between two obliging members of their favoured gender? Would you want that sandwich as an aperitif? The main course? Or instead of a satisfying dessert? If you’re not completely satisfied after that banquet, we could always have seconds.
Did he pop her cherry? Is she getting juicy for him? Did he give her a cream pie? Did she get him to eat her kebab? Or did he just get his fingers covered in her honey? Have they both tasted forbidden fruit?
We consistently discuss sex and sexuality with the same terminology we use for food. He’s going to eat her out whilst she swallows him whole. She can be described as juicy, tender and ripe. He can be shown to be bringing the beef or the pork to the table. (Pork being a noun and a verb in sexual terminology but only a noun in food terminology. Surely no one would tell the chef: ‘I want you to pork me this lunchtime’ and expect a pork-based meal to be presented?)
A lot of the language used here is metaphorical. If we consider the rationale behind metaphors as a linguistic strategy for better understanding related concepts, it gives us an idea of how our society views sex. (Admittedly, this does suggest an acceptance of linguistic determinism, but anyone who is unclear on that concept will probably have given up on this particular blog entry by now). The only problem with linguistic determinism in this situation is that the interpretation will always be coloured by our personal prejudices.
Those of a religious bent will argue that tasting forbidden fruit is never a good thing. The health conscious will advocate the benefits of her being juicy or parts of his anatomy being plump and swollen. Those who disapprove of sex are likely to compare intimacy with junk food – both commodifying and diminishing the experience: he’s eating her fur burger; she’s gobbled up his greasy corndog.
Metaphors are a wonderful area of study because they reveal so much about the person using them. Looking at the metaphors relating to sex and food it’s surprising how often they can reveal a great deal about the situations and mindsets of the person using those tropes.
Ashley ‘starving-hungry’ Lister.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
“How does it feel, where you are?”
“Here? Its okay. You keep it cool in here.”
“Not this room. Don’t be stupid.”
“I don’t understand then.”
“Describe where you’re sitting.”
“Smells like medicine. Piss, a little bit.”
“I just told you. Not here. I already told you what I want.”
“Anywhere good. Nice. Someplace where you’ve been, with food that you liked. Someplace I wouldn’t know.”
“Wow, I don’t know.”
“I’m waiting. The clock is ticking. Don’t cheat me.”
“Take a minute.”
“Okay. I was in Lyon, in France, okay? When I was in college, I was in France for this one summer. It was France.”
“I’ve never been to France.”
“Okay, so France.”
“You went to college. What were you going to be?”
“Be? Well. I don’t know. Shit. Not this I guess.”
“I suppose so.”
“Sorry. I guess I sound insulting.”
“You’re very honest. You’re doing very well.”
“There was this café downstairs from the place I was staying.”
“It’s the food I want to hear about.”
“Do you like French food?”
“I did. Once.”
“Don’t apologize, it doesn’t suit your line of work. Just tell me where you’re sitting over there in Lyon, in good old France.”
“I’m sitting, now I’m sitting at a small table in the café. This table is round, and black, and the edges are scratched up with little white lines, and there’s some little brown craters on the edge, that’s where people parked their cigarettes without putting them out, and they burned along down the table.”
“Very good. I like that. How does it smell?”
“There’s a lot of water around because it just rained. Yes, that’s right. So it smells like water.”
“What does that smell like?”
“What does what?”
“What does rain water smell like?”
“Oh. Wow. It’s . . . hmn. Like. Dirt. A little. When it rains? And it hasn’t rained a long time? Then the ground just opens up – “
“Like a woman, you might say.”
“Yes, like a woman – “
“Mother Earth. And you smell the dust smell rising up because its just rained, and the air is fresh and clean for a little while and you can smell everything. And there’s this bakery next door and they’re baking bread. And the guy inside is making fresh coffee from this big espresso machine with little gold tubes and black knobs and a big eagle on top. So I smell bread, and coffee and cigarettes because the table next to me, they’re smoking these little black cigarettes, and the rain makes everything smell like fresh plowed earth.”
“Excellent. Thank you. I can smell it. I want some coffee. Bring some coffee.”
“Now I’m drinking coffee, the guy brought me some coffee in a little tapered white demitasse cup with a gold painted rim, in a little saucer and its kind of cute, and there’s this thick brown foam on top of the coffee, and there’s a tiny little spoon next to it in the saucer.”
“Coffee is a very sensuous thing. Drink your coffee for me.”
“Would you like cream in the coffee?”
“Is it good coffee?”
“Yes. I think so, yes.”
“Then certainly not, you barbaric little thing. Don’t you dare put cream in it. Just a spot of sugar. How does the cup feel? How does it taste?”
“I lift the cup, and its shiny with sunlight, and hard. The gilt line around the top has a little nick in it. And I sip the coffee.”
“It tastes good.”
“I don’t know what you want from me! I’m sorry.”
“It won’t do! You’re cheating.”
“What do you want me to say? Its coffee.”
“Should I call the agency? Ask Miss Ursula to send another girl?”
“No, I can do this.”
“Try again. Don’t cheat this time.”
“It tastes bitter – “
“No! You’re cheating again.”
“Okay! Fuck. Wait. Okay. I’ve got this. I lift the cup.”
“I put the cup to my lips and the steam touches my nose at the same time my lips meet the coffee which I’ve put a little spoon of sugar in. I take a small sip, because I don’t know how hot it might be, and the hot coffee washes back on my tongue and it hurts a little and I like it, I like the way it feels, and I take a little breath up through my nose and let the air into my mouth so I can really blow up the taste and get all of it in my senses.”
“Good. Keep going.”
“It’s the taste of smoke outside at night, burning wood, darkness, a bitter taste and the things that taste bitter are the things you go back to, coffee, beer, things that shouldn’t taste good, but that’s why you always go back to them, because they taste exactly as they are and they taste bitter, and you feel comfort, because the bitter makes me think of my mother’s kitchen, and sitting late at night with the radio on and talking and money and … fuck . . .”
“Are you crying? I’m not able see you from here.”
“You sound bad. I’m not trying to make you cry.”
“I know you’re not.”
“Let’s go back. What are you having with your coffee?”
“I don’t usually eat with coffee.”
“This time you are.”
“They had this cherry strudel.”
“They? Think again.”
“Ahem. Yes. The coffee fills my nose with smoke and bitter dark, and there is this cherry strudel, and eating cherry strudel with my coffee makes me feel like I’m rich. I have a fork, a silver fork, and I press the side into the cherry strudel and a piece comes off on the fork and I lift the strudel to my lips and put the drippy warm strudel in my mouth. And it tastes like cherries.’
“What do cherries taste like?”
“Wait. I have to get something from my purse.”
“Hurry. I want my strudel.”
“I got it, wait. I have to tear the foil. They make these things hard to open.”
“I can’t turn my head. What is it?”
“Wait. I got it. It’s open. They have this screwy little cartoon strip inside that shows this cartoon dude unwrapping one and putting it on his dick.”
“May I see the package? Hold it up to me.”
“It’s red, it looks like.”
“Cherry flavored. Am I cheating?”
“Oh. Oh I see. Go on.”
“Wait. Mmmhh! Yuck. Tastes like rubber and cherries. Okay. Cherry strudel. I’m tasting my piece of cherry strudel, and my mouth waters at the taste, as if running to meet it, like a lover and the lover is sharp edged and smooth and soft, with crusty crinkles and the cherry gives me a high acidy taste at the sides of my mouth and I love it, and the cherries burst into hot little globules of sugar, and it tastes like a candy sucker at the dentist’s office when I’ve been a good little girl.”
“That’s fine. That’s enough.”
“How’d I do?”
“You were wonderful. Thank you, Miss. With all my heart. I’ll tell the agency I’m very pleased with you. In the drawer of the night stand there, behind the pill box there’s a small brown envelope with two hundred dollars in twenties. Take it for yourself. Just between us. A little tip.”
“I want something else.”
“What can I offer you?”
“I’ve given you a taste of coffee and pie again. Give me a taste.”
“You don’t have to tell me that.”
“Car crash? What’s it like when it happens?”
“I’m listening to the radio, I’m thinking about my lunch and what I would like to eat and where I would like to eat. There is a small restaurant with espresso coffee served in real cups and some excellent cherry strudel. That is what I’m thinking of when I look up at my rear view mirror, as I’m waiting for the street light to change. I see a huge engine grill flying towards me and there’s a ridiculous little metal dog on the top and the word Mack.”
“Are you scared?”
“Not really, no, I never was. There’s no time. There was just the grill, and a kind of rudeness, like being pushed very hard in a crowd, and then something rather soft spreading over my head and bright flashing sparkles passing by which are tiny pieces of tinted glass which had been my sunglasses but are now being pushed inside my skin, and there is cold air and rain on my face and a buzzing in my head and a great emptiness and silence and everything seems kind of silly and embarrassing. I feel exposed just laying in a bunch and not moving, like I should be doing something responsible, maybe directing traffic or some such thing. And then I’m in a bed and I don’t remember. Is it enough?”
“Were you scared?”
“Why do you keep asking?”
“I want to know if my mother would have been scared.”
“There was this moment, I kept fading in and out, and once I touched my teeth with my tongue and they weren’t there anymore and for a moment I had this idea I should get up and look for them. Then I felt a little scared I think, because it was a strange thing laying in the street and not having teeth. Then I don’t remember. I remember people standing over me. Then I don’t remember again. You’re only scared if you think too much and when it happens to you, it’s very hard to think.”
“Do you think my mother was scared?”
“I wouldn’t know. Did she die quickly?”
“They say she did.”
“Then she was probably all right. Does any of this make you feel better?”
“Not that much. You?”
“It makes me more sad, remembering how it is to sit in the sun with good coffee. But I don’t mind being sad.”
“I do. Sad sucks. Truth doesn’t set you free does it? That’s just bullshit they tell you, isn’t it?”
“Maybe truth sets you free after it’s done fucking with you.”
“Am I done? Should I get dressed?”
“I’m going to rest now, I suppose. Before you put your clothes back on, please come stand beside me.”
“All right, I’m over here now. Look up at me. Can you see me okay? Should I turn on another light?”
“No. Just stay there a moment. You look so fine that way. You’re very fine. What a fine young woman you are. The window light on your breasts, its just marvelous.”
“Thank you. Actually. Coming from you, I mean.”
“So, that’s enough. All done.”
“Thank you. Fair enough.”