writing and offlining

I’ve been feeling good for a few days now. Maybe especially since finishing the novella I was writing, though the title has already changed since writing that post. But I’ve been feeling good and positive. Chelsea’s parents are here, which is a good time, and my cat’s just being my cat, so that’s always awesome as well.

Been reading a lot of poetry, something I basically did not read at all last year, which is sort of odd. But I suppose I’m making up for it this year.

Don’t know what to say, really. Just feeling good, happy, productive.

I started a new novel today, too. Just finished the first chapter, even. It’s about terrorism and systemic violence and systemic power. It’s inspired a lot by the Tsarnaev brothers, oddly. I read Masha Gessen’s excellent book on the Boston bombing and it really got me thinking about all kinds of things, connecting the treatment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and especially the way the FBI treated his friends or people he barely knew, to the way governments treat minority groups, dissidents, and certain demographics when they commit a crime. Also reminded me how much that event influenced my writing back in 2013. I think I wrote three stories directly because of that bombing.

It’s going to be a tricky novel. A very complex and complicated one. It’s going to require a lot of thought and planning. Speaking to Kyle Muntz about it this morning made me realize it’s definitely a novel, and possibly a very long one, and not a novella.

So I know I talked about my next project being about anarchism, but I’ve had pretty good luck with these recent novellas. So I’m deciding to just jump into the shiny new idea, rather than sit on it for a few months, like I used to.

And so I wrote the first chapter, and I’m extremely pleased with how it came out. Gives me more confidence to tackle this project. Also, I’ve decided not to share a whole lot of information about it while I’m writing it, which is sort of atypical of me, since I sort of use this site, in part, to dump extraneous thoughts about what I’m working on while I’m working on it.

Sort of unrelated but also kind of related, I’ve uninstalled the twitter app from my phone, so now the only social media on my phone is instagram. This is probably a dumb thing to talk about, but I did the same thing with the facebook app when I decided to cut down on my facebook time sometime last year or the year before. It was successful, since not having easy access to social media in my pocket will create enough of a barrier of access that I’m unlikely to devote a lot of passive time to it, which was all too easy when it was just a few thumb taps away before. Along with that, I’ve logged out of facebook and twitter on my computers, because, again, that little barrier of access (insignificant as it seems) is typically enough to keep me from spending a lot of passive time on either site.

Because passive time is kind of my disease. Probably most people suffer from it a bit. Instead of just not doing things, we’ll tab or thumb over to facebook or twitter and just start scrolling. Hours can get used up that way. I’ve mostly found it makes me less happy, which is not ideal.

I found, too, that when I cut down on facebook, it usually just means I spend more time on twitter, so this is kind of a symbolic way for me to back off both social media sites.

Intentionality is something Chelsea and I talk about a lot, and we’re both trying to be better about it. We want to be more intentional with our time and activities, since it’s so easy to just sit on a couch watching netflix while I have a laptop open and I’m scrolling through whatever. It’s not like it’s a terrible thing, but it often makes me feel like I lost time by being so passive about my evening, just letting various screens dictate my time.

And so this is part of it. Trying to avoid the passive scrolling and use that time for anything else. Like drawing maps, learning origami, writing, reading, or just actually watching the shows we put on netflix, instead of just creating a background noise to our passivity.

But, yeah, I’ll probably be offline a bit more.

You won’t miss me, because how many of you are even reading this? A blog is like a silent cry into a void! And mine’s no different.

Anyrate, I’ll be writing about terrorism for a while. Hopefully it doesn’t blow up on me the way Songs of my Mother did, but I do think it might be around 100,000 words, which is a lot of words to write.

I’ll let you know when I finish.

humane power

Hold fast to the great thought
and all the world will come to you,
harmless, peaceable, serene.

Walking around, we stop
for music, for food.
But if you taste the Way
it’s flat, insipid.
It looks like nothing much,
it sounds like nothing much.
And yet you can’t get enough of it.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

Makes me think of the old adage don’t judge a book by its cover.

Though the Tao appears as the mundane, the insipid, the bland, it contains all things. It is vast and incomprehensible and beautiful. But to our senses, it seems like very little. It seems like a leaf or a grain of sand of a garden in winter. And yet, we always want more of it. We always return to it. It fulls us up in ways that are hard to describe, hard to justify. It’s a necessity but we don’t see or hear or smell or taste it that way.

This is what we strive for too. It’s not to be simple or ordinary–for the Tao asks us also to be different–but to be non-invasive with our differences. Don’t shout them from the rooftops or dress to be noticed.

It reminds of a moment from the show House where he’s meant to be looking for Cameron’s replacement. A dude with a ponytail and tattoos gets turned down from the job and his response to House is that he would’ve thought House would be fine with some non-comformity. House scoffs and tells him if he wants to be a real non-conformist he should be like the kids who spend all day in the library studying their medical textbooks, because those are the people who really don’t care what you think of them.

Which is interesting in that it’s true, and it’s essentially what the Tao asks of us. I mean, it’s not to study all day. But to be fine with seeming clumsy and foolish and out of sync with the world, because following the Tao seems strange to people. Not because it’s obvious who follows the Tao just by looking at them, but because it asks us to fall back into the rhythm of the natural world.

And, sure, there’s a discussion to be had about what natural means, since we, as humans, are a natural part of the world and because we’re a natural part of the world, everything we do is natural because how could it not be?

But to argue about semantics is to really miss the point of the Tao Te Ching. What the Tao asks of us is to find that stillness, that serenity, that beauty that the earth teaches us. The earth, the wind, the sea. There’s great beauty, great feeling–there is greatness there. To be like water.

These are values to aspire.

Greatness comes to us when we follow the Tao because the Tao is a generative process, source.