In our homeschooling this fall we’ve jumped into astronomy, so tonight I took the kids out with a star atlas and binoculars to scan the night skies.
Yesterday, after I had conquered an ugly migraine that wanted to keep me down, I followed Cerelys around for a little more of her hectic day to record another chapter of her story (I’ll proofread and post it later). She’s been getting into some dangerous places, deep in the sordid heart of the illegal story trade, as she runs around and works her magic for Mordrin, who’s frantically trying to keep the peace in Gadilia while he builds his network and prepares for the big vote. The autonomous regions are vital for his plan, but without the unifying presence of Gadilia, they’ll be far too splintered to offer any useful assistance. Peace-making is tricky work, but Cerelys is good at it. And of course the DUE-PIPs are still giving her headaches, but I think for the first time she’s starting to appreciate just a little of their perspective. Although she’s still as convinced as ever of the basic injustice of their prohibition of stories.
During my three week vacation and trip out west, I did a lot of reading and no writing, which had the effect of making me think quite a bit about my writing in a philosophical sense – specifically what I gain from the practice that keeps me going. My ideas are still helter-skelter, but I thought I’d plunk them down anyway before I forget. One of the questions I ruminated on is why I’ve become so enthusiastic about the idea of keeping my art completely free. I know many others, with good reason, see the point differently. I’m not saying that artists don’t deserve to be compensated for their work, which enriches humanity — but for me, the freedom from thinking in those terms was exhilarating, and infused me with a fresh love of the joy of creating art for its own sake. When I quit worrying about the traditional route of publication and marketing, I found myself refreshingly free from the confusing and daunting process of hoping to find agents and editors and publishers, as important a service as they all offer. I was like a kid again. I could create just for the sheer joy of it, share it with the world as I’m making it, flaws and all, cast my stories to the wind like a child blowing on a dandelion, knowing that a hundred seeds might not find good soil, but if even one should take root and brighten the heart of another child with its pert shock of yellow, then the world would be immeasurably richer a place.
Well, I had planned on writing a bunch of short stories so I could experiment with different styles and techniques, as well as using up some of the files of ideas I have sitting around and collecting cyber dust. But . . . after finishing the last one, “Stories,” I just couldn’t get away from that world. Cerelys and Perrin kept calling me back and their personalities are stronger than mine, so I acquiesced.
Memorial Day brings up a lot of mixed feelings in me. I love the idea of America. I love her proud heritage of heroes willing to suffer immense privations, injury and death in the noble fight against tyranny. But I can’t let that heritage of honor blind me to the truth that America isn’t always the good guy. Far too often, the opposite is the case. America doesn’t always fight for freedom. In fact, America isn’t even a free nation. Ask the millions of non-violent citizens we’ve locked up at a rate that far exceeds that of any other nation on earth. America’s governmental agencies — FBI, CIA, NSA, DEA, etc. — have a shocking history of cruel and perverted experiments, torture, and murder which no reasonable person could hear of and still maintain that America is always the good guy. And yet…there is so much of good and heroism and freedom-fighting in America’s history. On Memorial Day, I want to honor those Americans who truly were heroic, who truly did sacrifice everything for the sake of freedom. But I don’t want to do so in such a way as to pretend that everything American soldiers do is on the right side or on the side of freedom. Perpetuating that myth won’t do anything to stop the trajectory of tyranny that America has been hurtling down for so long.
So…today, I honor all of our fallen heroes (and there are many of them). I mourn all of her fallen troops who were misled or coerced into fighting an unjust war (and there are many of them). And I remember and honor all of the victims of America’s unjust wars. Innocent families in Afghanistan who were blown into eternity by American drones without ever knowing why. Innocent victims of police brutality and governmental tyranny who were ripped from their families, stripped of their property and left to rot in jail for no crime but peacefully daring to exercise their God-given freedom. Children who needlessly suffer hundreds of seizures a day. Torture victims languishing in Gitmo. American history is full of true heroes, and I take time today to honor them. But at the same time, I mourn the many victims of American evil and tyranny because it is no true patriotism that refuses to acknowledge those deep and shameful bloodstains on her fingers.
Last night, it struck me forcefully that humanity is really one organism. Not as a metaphor or an ideology to pursue – not in the abstract sense in which I’ve always understood such language – but at an actual physical level. To explain what I mean, I’ll back up and adumbrate the train of thought that led me to the realization.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve developed the artistic habit of using meditation and self-hypnosis techniques to get myself into a highly receptive state and then writing as passively as I can, trying to let my subconscious control the whole process. That’s how I wrote my novel this past year, and sometimes I use the same method for handwriting in my journal. Well, as I was doing this last night, it struck me how strange it felt to “shut down” the conscious governing part of my brain and let my writing hand just do its own thing, as if someone else were moving it. I wondered if the practice could be some form of “automatic writing” (whether due to the subconscious, the ideomotor effect, or some other moving force).
Lately, I’ve been pondering the difference it makes to think of living your life as a creative act of art. Writing my novel has been good for my happiness simply as a creative endeavor that forces me to be fully in the present during the times I’m writing. I’ve discovered that a side effect of those times of making art is that it produces an afterglow of happiness in your brain. So I started thinking, what would it be like to think of all the daily routines of life as a canvas for creative art? What would it look like if I could write my own life the way I write a novel?