I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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By Jeff Somers
These days, everyone knows what an origin story is thanks to superhero movies and comic books. We’ve now seen multiple iterations of the origin story behind figures like Batman and Spider-Man, and will no doubt get to see them a few more times before the sweet release of death. Of course, the term “origin story” applies to more than just comic superheroes. Breaking Bad is basically the origin story of The One Who Knocks, and even inanimate objects and great novels have origin stories. Sometimes those origin stories are just as interesting as the novels themselves—like in these seven books.
Twilight, by Stephenie MeyerTwilight is a book series that will be discussed for decades to come, in part for its cultural impact, in part for the backlash that impact inspired, and in part because Meyer has been pretty candid about its inspiration: a dream. As she writes on her own website: “In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire… For what is essentially a transcript of my dream, please see Chapter 13 (‛Confessions’) of the book.” Plenty of writers would kill to have a dream that turns into a bestselling novel series, and it’s refreshing to hear a story about inspiration that doesn’t hint at any sort of rarefied knowledge of the creative process.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
Perhaps the most famous literary origin story of all time, Frankenstein is such a permanent part of pop culture it’s easy to forget just how remarkable a book it is—arguably the first science fiction novel in the modern sense. Shelley was traveling with her future husband, Percy Shelley, and others (including Lord Byron) during 1816, the “year without a summer.” Bored, the group came up with the idea of trading “horror” or “ghost” stories to pass the time. The early 19th century was a giddy time, when people thought things like electricity and science! (always with the exclamation mark) could do anything, and so Frankenstein’s Monster was born of a ghost story challenge.
Killing Floor, by Lee Child
The origins of the mega-successful Jack Reacher series are both prosaic and inspiring. At age 40, television producer Lee Child lost his job. Needing a way to generate income, and uncertain of what to do with the rest of his life, he decided to write a book. Normally stories in which people write novels in order to make money end in tragedy, but in Child’s case that novel was Killing Floor, which went on to be a bestseller and here we are 20 novels later. Child got the name Reacher from a grocery run with his wife when he retrieved a can from a high shelf and she told him he could have a career as a “reacher” in stores. Child and his creation Jack Reacher are therefore inspirations to all struggling writers (and midlife crisis survivors).
The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss wrote his most iconic book as a response to the “primer” books of the age, especially Dick and Jane. These books, while written in a very simple style to help young children learn how to read, suffered from one defect in the opinion of Theodore Geisel: they were boring. He was therefore inspired to write a similar simple book that would engage children and make them want to read, which we are disturbed to discover was apparently a revolutionary idea in the 1950s. Working from a short list of words the publisher thought every six-year-old would know, Geisel took the first two words that rhymed on the list and The Cat in the Hat was born.
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
It sounds like a made-up story, but it’s true: Tolkien, a professor, was grading papers in his office when he happened on a blank sheet of paper and wrote down a sentence that came to him from out of nowhere: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” No one, apparently, was more amazed at the sudden presence of this sentence than Professor Tolkien himself—especially the word hobbit. That sort of inspiration and automatic writing is the sort of thing writers live for.
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
Most people know the story of the “the scroll”—the sheets of tracing paper taped together on which the first draft of On the Road was written in about three weeks in 1951. But On the Road wasn’t the product of three weeks’ feverish work, it was the result of years of real-life travels Kerouac undertook with Neal Cassady and others, driving around the country. Kerouac took notes along the way and worked on several early versions of the novel before having his breakthrough in deciding to write the story as if he were writing a letter to a friend, using the rhythms and improvisational aspects of jazz music as his muse.
The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
In the category of “writing novels to make quick cash,” Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler was literally written to satisfy gambling debts, which is so meta and self-reflexive we’re sorry we just lost our train of thought. Oh yes: Dostoyevsky loved roulette, but roulette did not love him, and in 1866 he signed a contract wherein he promised to deliver a publishable novel in a matter of weeks or he would give over the rights to all his work for the next nine years without compensation. He pulled it off, and while The Gambler isn’t considered among his top-tier works, it’s a great book, and even more interesting when you consider the personal nature of its inspiration.
Origin Stories always fascinate people. This morning I read a summarized detailing of the life of Gene Wolfe, who passed away April 14, 2019, a prolific pioneer of Science Fiction/Fantasy Novels and Short Stories, and it got me thinking about others. The above was written by Jeff Somers regarding the origins not of authors but of the stories they penned that, in many ways, regarded them as important literary figures.
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Netflix Original Docuseries: Our Planet
NARRATED BY DAVID ATTENBOROUGH
It's not that we don't care, we all care, a little bit, some more than others, in reality, it's just that it's hard. It's all just so hard. We have jobs, and relationships, and emotions to work through every day, and now we're having to fix the mistakes, the political and environmental and social mistakes that we created while we were to busy trying to find some way to make it all just a little bit easier on ourselves, you know, more convenient; and while there are some people who would like to pretend that some of our problems are elaborate illusions and pretense rhetoric so they don't have to actually worry about, geezus, something else, and while others are so busy pointing fingers and trying to diagnose some fundamental root we're all ignoring the very real truth that there is something that each of us can do, some minor changes to our every day lives that will have a very real impact on everything. If we'd only just discipline ourselves to be aware of our individual impact...
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On numerous occasions I've used this platform to talk about the things that interest me: art, psychology, movies, music & c, over the past few months I have been thinking a great deal about the albums that have not only had the greatest impact on me but that are, in their entirety, the best full length albums from start-to-finish. I've been working on putting together a list, and though it's not yet complete, and will likely never be, because I have not yet published a blog this month due to my SEO project, which is very, very nearly complete, I need to publish something so here we are:
While I was living in Santa Fe my girlfriend and I were invited to a small intimate show at High Mayhem studio; that particular night I wasn't in the mood to go out and though I tried to weasel out of it my girlfriend persuaded me to make the exception. It was the first time I heard the music of Brown Bird, David Lamb and MorganEve Swain. They were touring to promote the new album Salt for Salt, it was phenomenal, and over the night the band became my favorite with songs like Bilgewater, Blood of Angels, Fingers to the Bone, and Thunder&Lightning, every song on the album, from start-to-finish, is incredible. David Lamb passed away in 2014 after a battle w/ Leukemia, MorganEve, his widow, continues what they started together with her band The Huntress and the Holder of Hands. Brown released 10 albums, and all of them are unbelievable.
The summer between my Sophomore and Junior years of high school I was one of 17 students that went on an environmental science trip through the American Southwest. It was an awesome trip and I'm grateful to have been selected. On the trip I started crushing on one of my classmates, Lindsay. I had known her for a few years, but it wasn't until then that I really started getting to know her. She introduced me to the Hardcore Punk Band AFI or A Fire Inside. They had just released what would be their final album with Nitro Records before signing with DreamWorks, The Art of Drowning. The album was en-genius however the album released prior, Black Sails in the Sunset is one of the greatest studio albums ever recorded, and remained my favorite well into adulthood.
I was in middle school when my best friend Jason and I started to develop our musical identities; until then most of the music that I listened to I had grown up with, it was an extension of my parents though it continues to remain important to me even today. The music of The Rolling Stones, The Doobie Bro., Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and Jimmy Buffett. The first time I can remember sitting down and having a conversation about music, well, about a band and specifically about a single album, the first time that the concept of a great studio album occurred to me was when Jason and I started talking about Eve 6's self titled album; the album that included Inside Out. Most people are familiar with the album, or at the very least a couple of the featured songs, however in it's entirety the album is amazing. It was unlike anything that I had heard up to that point, and it changed the way that I looked at putting together a record.
I cannot remember where, or when I was introduced to Andrew Bird. It just feels like his music has been a part of my life forever, though I'm fairly certain it wasn't until after high school that he first showed up on my radar. I'm grateful that he did. There is not a single album of his that I do not like, though The Mysterious Production of Eggs released in 2005 holds a special place in my heart. I have seen Andrew Bird multiple times, including one pop-up show at The Guggenheim Museum while I was living in New York City, The Twilight Concert Series in while I was living in Salt Lake City, and The Lensic Theatre while I was living in Santa Fe. He puts on an incredible show.
There is not a lot I can say that hasn't already been said about Fleetwood Mac's album, Rumors. In many ways I feel like including it on this list isn't fair to those that haven't been so collectively discussed, nevertheless Rumors is in incredible album.
In high school my friend Rick and I used to exchange music, we spent a great deal of our free time digging deeply into the world of Indie music and when we returned from the abyss we were better for it. It was in one of these trips that I discovered Bright Eyes, now a household name Connor Oberst exploded from the Omaha music scene with incredible haunting lyrics and brilliant yet simple guitar riffs. No one had heard anything since Elliot Smith, in the wake of lyricist Oberst is a member of a very elite list. His album I'm Wide Awake It's Morning is immeasurable, and genius.
My sister introduced me to Sufjan Stevens. Come on Feel the Illinois had just been released and he was the most discussed musician at the time. I was overwhelmed in awe. His music remains one of the most influential of my life, and he is still a favorite. I saw him play at The Paramount in Austin, Texas several years ago he and his band came out wearing wings, and Stevens was the Majestic Snowbird himself. It was an incredible show. My Brightest Diamond opened for him, in part because a number of the members My Brightest Diamond were also playing with Stevens—they were an introduction to an entirely new genre of music for me.
Thank you for sticking with me this far, I'm going to save the rest of the last for another blog on a later date. I was hoping to have this list published in January but time has become a very, very precious and scarce commodity. Look for upcoming continuations of both this list and my series on Communication.
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I have learned a lot throughout the course of building this website. I have done a lot of work online for many years, but nothing has been quite as informative or as stressful as developing communiteabooks.com. I am currently, and have been for the last few months updating the SEO to all of my products—I have over a thousand, and have many more to upload. One of the most important things that I have come to learn is that if you are planning to build a website you should have a basic knowledge of SEO before you do.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and if you have been researching the merits of starting a blog or any other kind of website you have undoubtedly come across these three letters at some point throughout your process. SEO is how search engines, such as Google, find your website. It is the use of unique key phrases that Google can track and direct people to where they want to be. There was a time during the internet post-pubescence when simple keywords would do the trick, that time has come and gone—the internet is over-saturated with keywords. Stop using keywords. With that said it is also important to consciously develop SEO key phrases. Be consistent with what you can, for example my product SEO uses the common phrase Hardcover; Used. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace at Communitea Books; Collectible, First Edition/First Printing; Fiction/Literature; $---.-- of course some things change maybe the book is a paperback and is a remainder (Trade Paperback; Remainder) and the title and author and price and genre might be different but I have created a consistent SEO template that is easily translatable, and is unique to my website and standards. It is incredibly important to find key phrases that you can maintain throughout the development of your website (or blog).
I am an example of someone who learned the hard way. I uploaded over a thousand products without having the understanding of SEO that I do now, and I ignored SEO. I have come to realize that it is so important that I have stopped working on almost all other aspects of the website in order to work my product SEO. I am noticing a decrease in sales these past couple of months, however my website is seeing an increase in traffic, and that's solely because of the SEO work I am doing. I cannot focus on marketing or sales right now, and that's fine because I am catching up on a process that I should have paid attention to at the beginning of this startup. You don't have to make the same mistake that I made. Create an SEO strategy, even if your blog is only a series of weekly rants that allow you to vent, or a creative outlet, it doesn't matter, because you never know what you may want it to be in the future, or what it might organically become—work the SEO!
I read a lot about SEO before, and during the first few months that I put this site together, and my brain did what it has a tendency to do in similar situations, my brain automatically over-complicated SEO. I watched videos, I read articles, I talked to people and it was so simple that I unconsciously decided it was too complicated to focus on with everything else going on. It's not, SEO is as simple as writing an about me on a dating site, it's probably easier actually because it can sometimes be a little challenging to explain yourself to somebody else, unless you're over-exaggerating some truths, which is almost exactly what we all do on dating sites. So, think of SEO as your websites about me and think of all the dates that your website is missing out on if your about me isn't as complete and accurate and amazing as it could be.
If I had taken the time to understand SEO, and I had included it with each product as I was uploading them in the first place I would have saved myself a very considerable amount of work, and the only thing that I may, or may not have sacrificed as far as a silver lining is regarded is this blog entry.
I should reiterate, in your initial learning curve when trying to understand SEO you will come to realize that there is a lot that can be included with SEO, it can be incredibly complicated, there are people who have spent entire lives and careers devoting their time to SEO. However, that does not mean it has to be complicated, I am not oversimplifying the intricacies of the process, I am however pointing out that it's like learning a language, depending on how you need to use it, whether you're moving to a foreign country or visiting for a week, there are degrees necessity. You don't need to be fluent in French to visit Paris for the week, and as far as SEO is concerned if your blog is about cooking then your language is not SEO it's a variety of herbs, spices, meats, temperatures, etc., SEO is important but only in the spectrum of your week in Paris. It's easy to over-complicate that but, and especially if you're an American, you already have the worldview that all you really need to know is to point and say “How do you say?” in whatever language in order to move your vacation along.
Don't over-complicate your SEO, be consistent, be thoughtful, be inventive and create a strategy. You want your site to include SEO, because why put all your time and effort into something if people cannot find it. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest are great tools for creating traffic but only if happenstance puts your site right in front of their face. That's where SEO comes in. Let them come to you, because people are looking for your site. They want to know what you have to say. You've decided that your have a voice, and something worth saying, now let SEO amplify your voice. All you have to do is decide how best to describe that voice.
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Sometimes when you trade a sure thing for the possibility of something unknown, and when the unknown is grasping to the veiled promise of distinction, when the bust fireworks of the commonplace, or contemporary comforts, are subconsciously expected you are more than likely to miss out on the subtleties of life. So now, with an intro like that, how can you not continue reading this blog? And although this intro might be a little heavy handed considering the inspiration for this thought was roasted and steamed and sipped from the saucer of an Spicy Aztec Mocha from Mildfire Coffee off of Huebner Road in San Antonio, Texas. I am inclined to defend my position with fierce veracity...
I spent the morning at Local Coffee at the intersection of Military Highway and 1604, it was packed, hardly a seat left un-millennialled, Starbucks would have been put to shame, if they were to be bothered to look up from the happenstance of their political dark roast; I ordered a house drip, the Guatemala, it was, um: coffee. The internet however was quite reliable, which was essentially the reason I was there. I wanted to get out of my cluttered living room and observe our species in their natural habitat while pushing through the monotonous droning work of SEO, but after the trendy muzak and metaphorical poo throwing in the unconscious arrangement of thoughtless commentary I began to Google “alternative coffee shops near me.” Fortunately, and only a short 8 minuets away, was the small coffee roaster Mildfire Coffee Roasters.
It was quiet when I walked in: five people including the two baristas, whose suggestion (the Spicy Aztec Mocha, remember?), was fantastic. The small square tables were tiled, there were bags of coffee beans on the floors, and various couches and armchairs anywhere that it seemed remotely plausible. The walls were red and yellow. Oh, and the internet, even after confirming the password, did not work. I wouldn't be able to continue monotonously reworking the SEO for Communitea Books. However, I also probably would not have enjoyed the several settled moments of quiet humanity that followed. What is it really, then, that we sacrifice when our expectations crumble beneath us?
While I was there I nurtured a minor crush on the barista because the atmosphere demanded it, and she had a nice smile—she wore flannel. I like unique, and it's situational. The smell of the entire coffeehouse changed several times while I sat writing this—that's cool. I couldn't help but be reminded of the aroma at Local, there was only the unbalanced steeped residue of an overly-ambitious state of pseudo progressive conformity in the air, and yes it was stale. Like the chalky thud of an old fire pit after tossing a rock to put a dying ember out of its misery. Local, unlike Starbucks (generationally I should think, Starbucks belongs to the mistakes of an ignored generation, my generation) is the patchouli habitat of under-developed progressive trend setters. My attitude towards such characters, when perceived through my fine tinted primrose Starbucks impulse bought sunglasses (Disclaimer: I have never, nor will I attempt to buy any such thing, especially at Starbucks), is, at its foundation, a product of subtle irritability ignited by my inherent misunderstanding of being driven by the deeply-rooted construct that "cool is sexy," for all intents and purposes I'm afraid of them; though, honestly, I have nothing against these young idealistic plighters beyond my own stereo-typically unexplored trepidation of their socially vogue agenda and, having developed and fought for idealistic progressive sensitivities myself, I, and maybe with a degree of unfairness challenge their motives. You see, from my perspective developing and standing up for ones ideals is one thing, but it is quite another to be progressive for the sake simply of being progressive, you know, as if fighting for a persons rights was trendy—like the eighties—or a way to “let off steam,” cause it might get a few hundred likes on Instagram. Caring about ideals vs. looking like you act like you care about ideals, in even an ideal world, would normally be the same thing, because someone might even accidentally change something for the better, however, and not without a few hours of sleepless directive thought towards the contradiction, I've discovered that somehow that is just not the world we leave in; When I overheard "I'm a sapiophile. Intelligence is so f$&king sexy," at Local, and the way that it slipped from their tongue without any apparent regard, just irked me a little more than it probably should. Intelligence should not be sexy for sexy' case.
Shit, where was I going with this?
I heard a song on Pandora a couple of weeks ago, some of the lyrics caught my attention and I thought, after the song had ended, I should post that on Facebook. Only, I didn't post it on Facebook. I forgot. I heard the song again a few days later and I thought, Oh, that's right I was going to post that on Facebook. Only, I didn't post it again on Facebook. The third time that I heard it, tried to remind myself, and then again forgot to post I decided to go hunting for it. Although I couldn't remember the song title or the band, I did know that it played multiple times on the Brown Bird Pandora radio station (is it still called radio?) I took this search as deep into the rabbit hole that I could fathom, well as deep as Google would allow me, and guess what, after all of that I still have no clue what it was that I wanted to post on Facebook, just a few simple lines from a song that played on Pandora. I've been listening almost all day today hoping that it might come on, it hasn't, or I simply missed it, again. But, you know what, I can still remember the smell of Mildfire Coffee Roasters, and the feel of the tiled tables, and the taste of the Aztec Mocha.
Do you ever get the feeling like you're imploding, but you can actually foresee it as if the impending implosion is being organized unobserved from beyond you; the recreation of an explosion that has already happened but you are only becoming aware of it as the reaction returns to your center? Meanwhile you feverishly fight to disarm the detonation which has, for all intents and purposes, already taken place, and you watch as time counts backwards and, knowing the simplicity of disarming this device you offer yourself as a means to "make things better," only to watch time conclude and then proceed to reset itself, over and over again for eternity? No, yeah me neither...
The point? Pssh, I have no clue. I know only that it started with a Spicy Aztec Mocha which, for me, seemed to stop time, if only for a little while...
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Have you ever been in the position, while in conversation, where you make a seemingly blanket statement and whomever you’re conversing with responds with something like, “You don’t know that!” Say you made a character judgement about a mutual acquaintance, or something along those lines, and you were called out on it. I am quite certain that every one of us, at some point, has either made a character judgement or called someone out for making one. Have any of you ever thought about the senselessness of that response? You don’t know that! Because, like, of course I don’t bloody know that, and neither do you—so why do we say it, or any number of similar commands? Simply, it is because we unconsciously think in absolutes. It is more common, when we hear someone make a statement, to assume that they think they know everything, when, in actuality, none of us are speaking beyond the purview of our own perspectives. So, again, why in that case do we question others, and ourselves?
The way that people communicate with one another has changed steadily over the last ten years, and each of us has our own understanding of what that looks like, exactly. However the basics of conversation have not changed, and I believe that at the foundation of our perceived misunderstanding is a growing lack of effort, or the willingness to effort the time that is required to develop relationships, and to be better communicators. We have seen at the foundation of our current digital world order a growing, and marketed desire to simplify our lives in their entirety, and no generation maneuvered that better that better than Millennials.
I need to interrupt myself briefly for a moment to explain something so that throughout the course of this series on Communication we can all remain on the same page, at least in reference to the perspective that I am applying certain understandings. We have found ourselves in a position, for the first time, where generational experts find themselves disagreeing with one another regarding generational boundaries such as where does a generation of Millennials end and Generation Y begin. The majority of the public seems to accept that Millennials include everyone between the ages of—roughly—twenty and thirty-seven, and, personally I could not disagree more. Millennials as far as me—and many experts—are concerned fit in between the ages of twenty and twenty-seven or twenty-eight. Frankly the accepted generational boundary of fifteen years that has established generational lines for the last sixty plus years was interrupted by the invention of the smartphone. 2007 began a new era in human understanding, and evolution, and everything changed. So, when I speak of Millennials I am referring to people between the ages of twenty and—we’ll say—twenty-eight.
There is far more going on during the act of communication, and building/developing relationships than simply an exchange of words between two, or more people. Communication scientists and theorists developed a model to explain interpersonal communication called the Interpersonal Communications Model. The necessity of such models became clear when it became clear that what we are saying “between the lines” ends up shaping those lines, which offers insight into why some people are effective communicators in some situations and not in others. In our infancy, as we are learning about talk and developing our words and discovering our selves we learn how to react to the way that others are reacting to us, and we start to realize that there is a difference between us and them, and the way that they speak back to us, as a result we begin to develop a narrative of self, which is followed later in our childhood with the notion that we need to build relationships, and develop connections with other people, and much later in life the ability to influence people; and we do so in order for us to understand what’s going on around us, and how we are going to be treated by others.
“What’s going on? What’s going to happen next? How am I being treated?”
There is a Sender/Message --> Channel --> and Receiver (SMCR) in the Interpersonal Communication Model and it wasn’t until the 1950’s that we began putting the emphasis of communication on the Receiver and not the Sender, the direction of our conversations, and the means in which we actually communicate is largely dependent on how the Receiver reacts to the message based on how the message was interpreted or misinterpreted. When two people are communicating we are not talking about a topic only, we are developing micro-definitions of self, who we are is being revealed when we talk, and in so many more ways than the words we choose, which are sometimes themselves manipulated by either Semantic or Psychological Noise, the meanings or prejudices that we maintain for any number of reasons of those words.
In every conversation between yourself and someone else there are always six people also involved in the conversation:
In Face-to-face situations communication is inevitable. We are always combining the use of words and non-verbals when interacting with one another, and in every situation a message whether we intended to or not is always sent, whether it’s as intentional and situationally obvious as a once over or as slight as the energy or vibes that surround us at any particular moment. What we are saying—or not saying—and how we are expressing it are related to one another, and they can either enforce or contradict one another, inasmuch every conversation is always about content and relationship, we are always talking about a topic and we are also always communicating about how we are treating one another.
“Interpersonal communication is a process whereby two or more people within a particular context and who are aware of each other act together to create and manage shared meanings, through non-conscious display or conscious sending and receiving of messages using a shared repertoire of verbal and non-verbal symbols.” ~ Professor Dalton Kehoe
I’ve always found communication, and the way that we communicate with one another to be incredibly fascinating and equally as important, but few people seem to acknowledge it in the same way that I do. When I decided to write a blog series on Communication I made the decision to approach it academically from the perspective of a scientist or a professor, as if the intricacies of how we interact with one another, how we develop relationships: how we communicate, and essentially who we are can be qualified. Our moods, our emotions, our experiences, our traumas, our fears, our anxieties are all reflected in the way that we communicate with another, and in our desire to connect with each other. I believe that our willingness to effort in the means that we communicate and develop relationships will affect upon us the means to open up to connecting with one another in ways that we have not yet explored.
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Myths and mythology for much of my life I found to be ingenuous and unworldly; myths went as far even as to annoy me, and I think that for a long time I saw them as unnecessary childlike guides that were intended to help us to interpret our world, and when it occurred to me that-that is exactly what they were the simplicity of it steadily grew on me, and suddenly I felt as if the necessity of myth was more important for our humanity than I was once able to accept, I began to perceive mythology from an emotionally intellectual vantage, and that changed the way that I perceive myself, and the world around me.
We tell stories to help us to understand ourselves and our worlds in ways more spiritual and emotional than we are--or were--otherwise able to acknowledge, however when we take those tales at face value when we ignore the intention and the power of mythology as it affect us spiritually and emotionally we ignore a guiding principle at the root of the human experience. Some myths we dismiss as fairy tale while others are so blindly accepted that we believe them to be literal and not parabolic, and from either perspective we lose a great deal of understanding, and of purpose.
“People say that we we’re all seeking is a meaning for life…I think what we are really seeking is an experience of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell
It became abundantly clear to me that we have rapidly abandoned a sense of self for the sake of convenience and diplomatic submissiveness, and we did so, I believe, from a fear of self-reflection, the great professor and writer Joseph Campbell coined the term “follow your bliss,” a modern manifestation of similar phrases such as “Know your own happiness,” (Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility; 1811) , “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing,” (Dale Carnegie, quoted by Jill Murphy Long in her book Permission to Play: Taking Time to Renew Your Smile; 2003) and others, and still for one reason or another it can be incredibly daunting being asked to find what makes you happy and then to do it [often], for a number of reasons, if not that people get stuck—we feel stuck. I know that personally I have struggled a great deal with the concept: the idea that once you discover who you are, and/or what you’re supposed to do everything should simply fall into place, which, of course, begs the question: well, how the hell do I do that? And, what if I never actually find out who I am, or what I’m supposed to be doing?
I have suffered from numerous creative blocks throughout my life that have affected me in ways: emotional, physical and intellectual, and every one of them was based the subconscious ideal that I really don’t have all that much to offer, and so I would kind of shut down at first and then that attitude would become a very real part of my personality. Like in the Jim Carrey Movie, Yes Man (2008). I actively sought different ways to change the way that I process thought and that I perceived that world. And yet the incredible healing power of myth has always been readily available, the issue has become that many of us have been conditioned to perceive myth as the childlike fairy tale only, and not encrypted parables developed to model and oversee our emotional and spiritual selves.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that mythology is archaeological psychology. Mythology gives you a sense of what a people believes, and what they fear.” ~ George Lucas.
Religion is a mythology that wears the mask of its own certainty, a parable which has been denied the possibility of evolution, and the only thing, the only idea since its inception that has been disallowed to evolve. Revelation 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll; if anyone adds to them God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. Joseph Campbell said something along the lines of: the narrative of Christianity can stay the same; the myths are based in truth, it just needs to incorporate modern myths in order to successfully associate with a contemporary ideology.
Myths allow us to conceptualize feeling and our spirituality in ways that would otherwise be difficult if not impossible for many to understand. These stories offer us a way to relate exactly in the only way that we are—or were—capable, as a reflection of the physical self. Consider the Roman or Greek pagan Gods, for example, and specifically the fact that there were so many: God(s) of the Sun, God(s) of War and of Love and others, many of us who have been raised with the perception that God is a being the origin of our image, whether we believe in God or not, and we attribute that to the Roman and Greek Gods of myth, but, in reality, these gods were merely vessels, the personification of what we might not understand in order for us to relate to the myth, and to our world. Campbell refers to them [God(s)] as an energy, or a reflection of the Sun or of War or of Love. Myth opens us up to the energies of the universe so that we can relate, and experience our universe on an emotional level.
Unfortunately we canonized the ethos of our myths, the space holders—the characters—and allowed the truths that, “All the Gods, all the Heavens, and all the Hells are within [you] us…” To be appropriated and manipulated and turned into fairy tales and further for our general perception of what a myth is to be distorted.
Have you ever wondered why we accept the standards from which we build the foundation of so many of our ideas upon? Have you ever looked at a definition, for example, and wondered why it was necessary to suggest, as an addition to the definition, that something might be, “A widely held but false belief or idea?”
Myths offer us only an opportunity to relate to our world and ourselves in ways that we otherwise may not be able, by inviting us to explore the energies and the many experiences that we are capable of in our lives, experiences that, without our myths, we may otherwise neglect or be guarded against.
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I was sitting on my couch last night listening to the rain, and reading; something that I read distracted me from what I had been reading, although I did continue for several paragraphs before I realized that I hadn’t actually retained a word of anything that I read after losing myself in thought. I started thinking about my life, and more specifically how I live my life and the day-to-day routines or anti-routines that are the makeup of my waking hours. A great deal of my time is spent working on communiteabooks.com, on my website. If you’re wondering what that actually looks like it is: ordering books to build my inventory, uploading books to the website, looking for new ways and new platforms to market, as well as maintaining, and building on my current marketing and social media marketing strategies, coming up with new creative design ideas for the website and implementing them, reading and studying up on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practices, learning to write code--not very well, or at all really--in order to create the best possible website that I can—I am currently working on figuring out a way to alphabetize my inventory by author instead of the first letter of the product title, because that is a bit of an issue for browsing, and overall customer experience on the website, I’m kind of losing my mind trying to figure it out—writing blogs, and taking, packaging, and shipping orders (I may have overlooked a few things).
I’ve been feeling anxious lately because...well I thought it has been because I have not yet seen the same return for the work that I have done on the website, as well as a growing anxiety that includes, but is not limited to the idea that I am not meeting certain expectations that some people might have of me, or that I have of myself—in my family and social life. I have kind of thrown myself into this project, well, this career head first, and entirely. The only consistent social experiences I follow through with during any given week are my workout schedule—which in, and of itself is a solo activity, I just happen to be surrounded by people while working out—and our Monday night Trivia game at Cibolo Creek Brewing Co., and I haven’t been enjoying that as much as I once did. It’s not the game, or Cibolo, or the people really it’s just that the intrigue is fading a bit. Also, for the last few years I’ve been thinking about the things that interest me, and I may have covered this briefly in a previous blog, but I’m having a difficult time thinking of anything that I actually enjoy doing, like given the scenario: “what would you like to spend one evening every week doing?” I think about bouldering, camping, hiking, biking, reading, making music, painting, photography, writing, I can think of a dozen or more things that I have enjoyed at different points throughout my life but I’m not currently doing any of them, for example: I have a nice cycling bike, when I lived in New York and Santa Fe I would commute by bike (and train), but it was a significant part of my life, my bike currently has two flat tires, and changing the tires on one of these bikes is not exactly as straightforward as changing a tire on a Huffy, still I could do it—I just don’t.
“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, last night I realized that I have been sabotaging my own happiness. Not to an extreme or anything—partly because I don’t really do anything to either extreme of any spectrum—but, sabotaging it nonetheless. Here’s another example: I spend a lot of time uploading books to the website. When I first built the site I spent three months (at least) eight to ten hours a day doing nothing but uploading book after book after book after book. When I upload books I type in the title, the author, a synopsis, add a picture, write some SEO, figure out an accurate representation of the condition of the book, decide whether it’s new, used, remainder, rare or collectible, and the genre, and determine a fair (or better than fair) market value price and I save the finished product to the site. I do this for every book. At the time I also watched all of The Office, Parks & Rec, Numb3rs, and something else, I can’t remember. I took a break from uploading books to the website and started developing Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Buzzfeed sites, and working on technical stuff and marketing for the website. I recently came back to uploading books, and I’m only doing maybe twenty a day, unless it’s Tuesday because I’m uploading my own books as well as the New Releases of the week (new books are released on Tuesday’s). Anyway, I realized that I actually really enjoy uploading books! I love going through each book, figuring out the condition, researching the price, discovering again if it’s signed, just everything about why I love books in general I get to do every day. I also love building the website! I love developing new design techniques, figuring out SEO, and all that crap—I’m not much for technology but the design aspect of it and coming up with new ways to direct people to my site, it’s so much fun. What I don’t actively like, granted, is that I do all of this on a computer, which I’m reminded of constantly when the damn thing doesn’t want to load something, or the internet randomly stops working, or if I move from one tab to another and when I return the first tab has to reload again often causing thirty seconds of anxiety riddled silent belligerence. Nevertheless, I am really enjoying the creativity and the experience. And, I never noticed how much I enjoy until now. Instead, I worried only about the tens of thousands of people that will one day visit Communitea books someday...
I related a number of things in my life currently to this sabotage of happiness, and it clearly affects me in a number of ways, all of which are easily recognizable but unconscious nonetheless: attitudes, behaviors, choices, thought processes, actions and more what I do and do not do. it's present in almost everything that I thought about, in some way. Do you know that feeling when you are putting so much thought and effort and intention into an idea or a dream or a goal and you’re applying yourself actively in the process in as many positive ways that you possibly can, but that goal always still is just out of reach?
I've begun to correlate the concept to developing an open-mind. You know? Like, how do you do that, really, how do you train your brain to be open-minded? A lot of people out there think they know, they just simply accept all progressive ideas and tendencies as truth in the extreme form, and unabashedly argue the merits until they’re blue in the face. However, I don’t believe that the unconscious demanding of compassion is actually acceptance or understanding, your just think that you might want it to be—"fake it till you make it". I was watching some stand-up special on Netflix the other day and the comedian was telling a story about something that I cannot repeat in a blog aimed to market for a small business, but it challenged the way I thought about something. A lifestyle that I didn’t have an issue with before, and I still don’t, and yet the way I consciously thought about the idea—that I have been a proponent of anyway for as long as I can remember—provided a new perspective, and a new understanding. Basically, I don’t think you can develop an open-mind until you really stretch an idea in favor or against as far as you’re able, you know, until you have reached the furthest point of your own level of acceptance that you are personally capable, and then to stretch your mind further until the idea itself is stripped of meaning entirely. It’s like actively thinking about the universe expanding, allowing your mind to stretch itself into a space that you were previously unaware of.
I have put so much intention into developing something for such a long time that I never really stopped to let it expand, or to see what it was capable of expanding into. I was just going through the motions, and so monotonously that I was no longer aware even that I was enjoying myself.
And then, of course, I started thinking about how long I’ve been doing this to myself, and the obvious answer is sense my last serious relationship ended while living in Santa Fe, and that’s true in the sense only regarding how intensely I have been sabotaging my own happiness but, in reality, I have been doing some form of this for years, and ultimately it goes as far back as when I decided to drop out of college. Coming to that realization was interesting because I do believe that our society has learned to ignore the efforts and creative developments of the individual in exchange for a system of machine-like functionality.
“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, which prevent us from living freely and nobly.” ~ Bertrand Russell
I left university in response, largely, to the very concept. I didn’t want to be another cog in a machine, I didn’t want to think with narrow-minded un-intention, and therefore blindly falling into that possibility made me nervous. However, simultaneously I could not ignore the fact that I was, nevertheless, a part of this system. I couldn’t just will myself out of it. And I didn’t have enough guidance or understanding of that system to maneuver in or around it, at the time. Unfortunately I spent the next five years systematically destroying everything that would have allowed me to create exactly what I would eventually need to create. I essentially lived somewhere between the systems of man and of nature, like a little mouse scurrying about looking for food. I believe that I began to sacrifice my happiness, but I cannot be sure exactly what I was sacrificing it for. Somewhere through my short string of very memorably bad relationships I sacrificed sacrificing my happiness for the more adult like, and responsible action of sabotaging my happiness.
Are you familiar with Time Release Therapy? The idea is that you consciously, and unconsciously let go of certain behaviors or emotions, such as depression or anxiety, by going back to before when they took root in your psyche and you allow yourself to feel what you felt, and then to “come back to the present,” with those negative behaviors or emotions having never existed—that’s somewhat of an oversimplification but the idea is getting across. I had a conversation not too long ago with someone who referred to Confirmation Bias as pseudo intellectualism, I think he even went on to list several other negative adjectives, and I have not yet been able to get that out of my head. I have, of course, come across people with ideas like that before, especially living in Texas but for some reason this one conversation affected me a great deal. If he thinks Confirmation Bias is pseudo intellectualism he would have a field day with Time Release Therapy. What do people actively do then to work through their issues, you know? I mean we live in a society where we are taught--whether directly, or indirectly--that we have to actively do something in order to change or fix it, but we’re also taught what it means, and looks like to actively do something, and it correlates with disregarding what many would consider pseudo intellectualism. Affirmations, for example. The act of affirming is actively doing something, but I was thinking last night as I was reciting some affirmations, “what the f&$k am I doing?” And, thinking about where the belief that an affirmation would not work came from, like why did my doubt of affirmations even cross my mind? So I started affirming to affirm.
“Affirmations do make a difference.” ~ Me
…and then I started laughing, because I realized that “It’s OK for me to happy...
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Communicating with each other—how we develop and maintain relationships—envelopes so much more of our day-to-day lives than most of us really realize. In general the intention of communication is to convey a thought using verbal and nonverbal techniques the meaning of which describes your idea in a way that you can only assume I will understand, and you maintain the assumption that I have both heard and understood your intention—what you intended to express—from the cache of information that I keep based on my own experiences without having been misled or misunderstood in order to develop the same understanding of the thought that you intended to convey.
If, for whatever reason, I don’t understand the concept that you have tried to express in the way that you have tried to express it you might assume that the fault is mine, and I will likely assume the same; and that’s only if we both realize that the thought was unsuccessfully expressed. A circumstance that Psychologist Cordelia Fine has coined as Vain Brain in her book, A Mind of Its Own, where Fine also points out that, “when asked, we will modestly and reluctantly confess that we are more honest or better at something, and we rarely consider ourselves at fault…”—this is also known as a Self-Serving Bias (an idea that some might consider pseudo intellectual bullshit—psychology is not counterintuitive to religion). And, also assuming that our moods, triggers, and stigmas have not indirectly influenced your intention, as well as how well you might have expressed yourself nonverbally.
Aristotle in his work The Rhetoric suggests that talk is about persuasion, about influencing people. Most of us simply express ourselves in some manner of small talk much of which is supported only by the means of whomever we are communicating with decides—whether consciously or unconsciously--to interpret, and accept as our intention, and we continue throughout our lives as if very little has happened, or with the assumption that we were understood exactly as we intended. However, more often than not, we weren’t. Osmo A. Wiio, a Finnish professor of communication, humorously suggests:
How many times can most of us recall while engaged in conversation a happenstance where we’ve finished speaking, and the other starts talking about something that is so outlandishly bizarre, at least in regards to a response, that we accept that they could not have possibly understood what we might have been trying to express? It has happened so often in certain friendship circles of mine that my friends and I have coined a term for it: Organic Conversation. It’s kind of like playing Telephone and trying to make sense of how it is that we went from Orangutan from Jungle Book to Orange Peel Lemonade; though we all know that there was, at least, one person in the group that intentionally manipulated the direction, otherwise the game of Telephone is a lot like the redundancy of playing tic-tac-toe.
I have read about-, studied, and taken courses on Communication because, along with understanding our emotions, I cannot fathom a more important, and more necessary tool to have than being a good communicator. Our society, well the nature of our humanity is to change; we change, or grow, or develop, or evolve, or learn, or transition, however you are willing to recognize it without being triggered. Throughout the course of a single lifetime—my lifetime for example—I cannot express to you how many times my surroundings have changed, the people around me have changed, my careers have changed, my perspectives, and my beliefs they have all changed, and it’s true for most of you, even if, say: you were born, grew up, lived and plan to die in your ‘hometown,’ everything else that you knew, with the one exception, has changed. In fact the only thing in any one of our lives that will never change is that we will always be surrounded by people, the specific people will likely change, but nevertheless there will always be people; we will always be interacting with someone in some regards, and, for that reason alone, the ability to communicate effectively is profoundly important. Still, many of us maintain the Self-Sealing Belief about our role when trying to communicate with someone: when something is going well we take credit for it, and often unconsciously develop the idea that because we facilitated or communicated something well in the past or situationally that we have a talent for it, while if something does not go well we fault the situation, blame someone else, or claim that it may not really be worth out time.
The National Communication Associate did a study titled, “How Americans Communicate.” In which 62% of us claimed that we feel comfortable communicating in general, while 87% of us felt that we were comfortable communicators in our personal relationships, and with our significant others. However, only 42% of Americans felt that we were effective communicators. 42% felt that we said what we meant to say, in the way that we meant to say it, and yet we’re not positive that our intention is getting across. We feel less effective than comfortable. 53% said that a lack of communication was the most frequent cause of a breakup, while 29% said money was the most frequent cause (I mentioned money only because it’s a considerable factor for many of us in our lives). One of the problems is that most of us are not conscious communicators, and we do not often allow for the time to understand what gets in the way of communicating to one another.
When it comes to communicating with one another simple may not always be better, and it’s important, I think, to allow ourselves to address conflict—in the best way possible—without brushing it off as drama as a large number of people are beginning to suggest. It’s important to learn to be more conscious when we are speaking with one another about how we are talking to each other, in order to avoid hardwired reactions, and Self-Sealing Beliefs that will inevitably make things worse—especially if you effort to ignore them.
Since I started writing this blog I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the direction that I would like the blog to take and, I think, because there are so many things that interest me I have accepted the fact that the blog is just going to be more broadly approached then some, and I have to live with that. Though, it has also occurred to me that Relationships and Communication have had a major, and lasting impact on me throughout the course of my life, most of which I’ll explain in some detail throughout a series of blogs that I have decided to attempt regarding Communication. I will be indirectly joined by Professor Dalton Kehoe of York University via his The Great Courses Lecture on Effective Communication Skills, I have watched this course a couple of times now and it remains fascinating to me that regardless of how important I do find academia there is an obvious disconnect between practicality and academia, and the way that people live, and interact, and communicate does not always parallel with the science of it, at least not comfortably, like solving a math proof. I think the way that some professor teach something as practical as communication makes it come off as more of a science—an idea—than an active part of our day-to-day lives, and I hope that these blogs challenges and creates that assumption.
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In point of fact America has always been great.
I believe that it is insulting to the American people to suggest otherwise, regardless of whether it is in the form of a media debate or a campaign slogan; however, America was never great simply for the sake of being great. Many Americans allocate greatness for convenience in order to validate something, or themselves; attributing our greatness to a flag and a pledge, in honor specifically of a military that may or may not feel contempt for the manner in which Americans express themselves. Our greatness does not rest entirely on the shoulders of our military, our politics, or our sociopolitical perspectives. Our greatness is not the contract that is our constitution, the foundation of our greatness is within the written resolve for which the constitution has allowed us to be, and to become.
America is great because we aspired to do great things—because we aspired to greatness. The American people never waited for the government or the media to tell us what to think, or how to act, or who we were; we did not need everyone to agree with us. We are not great because of our personal ideologies but, rather, because we have been idealistic. America is great because we aspired to be educated, to be artistic and analytical, to be compassionate and resolute, challenging and supportive, and to be open-minded and critical. America discovered greatness in people and our ability to connect with one another in our compassion and our understanding.
“We stood for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars…We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easily. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step to solving any problems is recognizing there is one.”
America is great because we stand for one another, not against; we did not paint right and wrong as a portrait of personal preference or belief—we became one despite of our differences, and stronger because of them. We discovered greatness in humility, and intelligence; for a time we allowed religion, science, and intellect to coexist and to develop not as one, or together but besides one another, because we were accepting of one as well as the others. Our scientist did not do things just to see if it could be done, we did so for the sake of our development or survival, and we didn’t use or conceal our advancements solely for profit. We admire artistic endeavors, and stand suspended in awe at our achievements; regardless of the medium. We found integrity in our identities complete only if accomplished, and educated in the arts. We found dignity in drawing, painting, photography, dance, writing, and music and more—and we continue to, only we disparage the education of the arts.
We are more than capable of greatness, because we have never ceased to be great; Americans have always adapted to-, and felt empowered by challenge: we are twenty-second in scientific achievement, with intent and direction—we have the means to be better. We are third in median household income, because are idea of what work is, and what it means to work hard has been influenced—we have the means to be better. We are seventh in literacy, because we belittle education, and don’t recognize the need to reform and develop—we have the means to be better.
Many Americans have allowed the intention of a powerful few to dictate their morals and their beliefs; we have been exploited in exchange for our convictions, governed to direct our own authorities towards one another; pitted against unity, and detached from our purposes. We are not manipulated by a specific party affiliate, as American we are being handled by our government in its entirety as they use the intent of our own greatness, and capable passion against us. Our affiliated parties have many of us believing that they alone are the means to better our situations—that is not true. As Americans our liberation is not in disunion. America is great, and always has been great because we stand for one another.
People develop as a product of their time believing their childhood years to be among the best of their, and therefore anybody’s life. It is easy to look back on a time with the imagination of a child and see greatness, and that greatness may not seem to exist during any other point in our lives. I believe that our present is one of the most difficult times for America, there have been periods of struggle throughout our history, when many people could rely only on hope—many had nothing; I know that today we have more than we have ever had before, the benefits of developing technologies and sciences, but still so many people belittle and discredit our sciences in reaction to a perceived threat against their religion. I cannot help but to feel trapped in-between a culture of fear and/or invalidation, but for what? To what end?
I cannot understand why someone might listen to another human being offering philosophical or psychological guidance or direction and it being brushed off as, “pseudo-intellectual bullshit,” or “bushwa decadence,” why are we so dismissive of information? Why can we not accept one anothers perspectives in open-minded understanding? Whatever concept of greatness that any of you have come to revere about America our greatness is, and always has been a representation of our ability to concurrently be artistic and analytical, to be compassionate and resolute, challenging and supportive, and to be open-minded and critical. America discovered greatness people and our ability to connect with one another in our compassion and our understanding. America is great, because we have always managed to find cohesive contrast in our understanding, and perception of our world, and ourselves.
We have never before been so eager in our absoluteness and judgment of another as we are today, and regardless of whatever reason you may think you have to predicate and undermine those that behave or believe differently than you, it is not enough of a reason to dismiss the characteristics that help to define, and allow to endure what American greatness tenaciously is.