Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Mountain Spirit

So much depends
on the spirit of a man -

that in a round world
sighs for squares;

that with pretty women
looks for calm men of good character.

So the martial spirit thunders:
I disagree on principle!

makes war on everything except more life
a bristling seed waiting to sprout

in service to manhood we spread
across the planet arrogantly

we order thousands of institutions
we shape days and nights of millions

all, all in the insane hope
that in the most dank valley of soul's despair

the mountain spirit will prevail.

"The Persian Eye of Gaia"

Valery Simenon woke shivering and sweaty from a forgotten dream to hear the call of the Muezzin to morning prayer.

Of all the places to get himself exiled to, the Persian authorities chose the one place where conservative Islam still flourished. Every morning he discovered all over again why science had spent centuries stalled in the former Muslim world: it was because the Muezzin's call to prayer woke people too early to fully recall their dreams, and the insight was lost in the call to submit.

But he also knew if he stayed a moment longer in his hessian cot, then the day would begin in a blast of melting heat, and unless he was up and about he would lie struggling to move half the morning in the low cot, while the heat wore his sanity and salt levels down. So he moved with a purpose in the brief moments of coolness before the sun rose.

As he slipped into his cotton overalls the Muezzin started to call again. Valery stopped still and listened.

The Muezzin announced the arrival of a new Governor, first in Arabic, the local language, then in Imperial Persian, the ancient language which the authorities had revived in recent years. Before the annoucement had finished, Valery had jumped out of his tiny shack and begun running. A new Governor could mean anything to him, even a change of fortunes.

Sahara City was under a protective dome, with in reality protected only the crops from biotech attack and made little difference to the humans who congregated there. Hence, in the main decontamination area where newcomers arrived, a bazaar had sprung up and Sahara city had become quite the destination for the former Europeans who fought their way south into Africa. And even though much of Europe was gone, submerged within the ocean when the poles of the planet tilted 23 degrees and the seasons abruptly vanished as if they had never even existed, still their reputation for being purveyors of fine weaponry persisted, as it had through history.

As Valery passed through the transparent goo that was the protective and antiseptic membrane of the inner dome, he came against a newly arrived group from a Rare Location: the Vatican City. And, he noticed with sharply drawn breath, they had slaves from Silver River. Fighting down his distaste he pushed through the smelly and colorful crowd of slaves and slavers, and found himself on the street which traded in charms and trinkets, made from the now useless electrical equipment that the planet was littered with. And there, walking through the black-skinned Beduoin traders, swathed in the perfectly starched uniform of the New Persian Empire, walked his greatest enemy.

They met talking smoothly in English, not touching hands, as was customary for hygiene:

“Pleasure to meet you again in such colorful circumstances,” the Colonel said.

“Governer,” Valery said, “welcome from the Sahara City's only scientist.”

“Ah, I recall our years of study at Teheran university still,” said the Colonel.

“I fondly remember the time,” Valery replied.

“All that time in Persia is sour. And I am exiled to this rotting hole in the inhuman sludgepit of Africa.”

“Exiled?” Valery asked, “By the Emperor?”

“Yes,” the Colonel replied.

“But you did not find him attractive?” Valery said mockingly.

“Only homosexuals gain real power in the Persian court these days. It's the backlash from Islam,”

“They say it is the new islam, but here in the Sahara they say it is the Great Satan,” Valery said. Then he deliberately changed from English over to Persian: “But why not accede to his requests, then? Surely forced homosexual sex is a small price to pay for professional success?” and he went still, gazing at the Colonel with aggressively twinkling eyes.

“You are trying to slander me,” the Colonel said finally, in Arabic. He spoke so because the local language was considered more manly by the inhabitants of Sahara City who stood listening openly.

“On the contrary,” Valery said, chasing him into Arabic, “I have never understood why a man would pursue a career even to the point of abandoning his only friend to exile. What would such a man stop at, if he could do that to his friend?”

The Colonel's eyes narrowed. He returned to English: “This is not the proper place or time.”

“The only improper place or time is when we are dead,” Valery said. “And you'll wonder why you spurned my friendship!”

“Valery, I have no wish to renew ancient arguments,” the Colonel said. “However, I must point out that the woman you were lover to was in fact destined to rule all Persia for many years before her son the Emperor could take power. Valery, her death is simply a political thing, and nothing to do with you or your love at all. The simple fact is, you took events personally and behaved absurdly as if the Emperor himself had killed his own mother. It was intolerable to have you in court, not because you were hetrosexual and they homosexual, but because you held them in utter contempt! Now, let us talk no more of these matters for now. The Court has all about ears even here.”

And with that, the Colonel swept past and left Valery shaken to the core by his terrible words and standing in middle of the bazaar.

In the dark days after the Disaster, when the planet's orbit had not yet settled, the biotech plants had swept across the ocean and eaten everything in their path. Persia alone had stood in the way. An alliance of genetic engineers and military specialists had worked to defend Persian territory.

The onslaught had been terrible. A wave of Green Goo, high as buildings, bubbled up from the Indian ocean and moved steadily north, always north towards Teheran. Finally, in the last days of the defense it had been Valery who had seized on the idea to abandon Teheran and retreat to the mountains in the North. He had argued that the Goo showed every sign of having a goal, and no sign of progressing beyond Teheran. He argued that the Goo was part of an intelligent biological design that spanned the planet's surface and worked with unknowable and dumb force. And people believed him, because he had taken part in creating this force. So he had a fair reason to be able to predict how it would work in warfare.

But some he would not convince. These, the seven-hundred year Muslim alliance of military, merchants, bankers, and religious political figures, stayed behind to defend Teheran. And in what turned out to be mere moments of successful defense, the Goo silently swept across the city.

No-one knew to this day what had occurred next. The Goo receded as Valery had predicted, and the land itself was again safe for human habitation once the remaining spores of Goo were poisined. But many felt that day they had better been defeated. For the military and religious men who had stayed behind in Teheran had been forever changed.

Many whose faith was incompatible with the changes to their bodies committed suicide before the arrival of the common people from the North. But those practical military men for whom honor came before personal matters, and for whom successful defense of the city mattered more than their lives, the change was not inappropriate. For these men, who had expected death and nothing more, received a new kind of life entirely. For these war heroes had been physically changed, their endocrine systems altered permanently in unimaginable ways, their neural pathways and brain chemistry and even genetic expression permanently changed.

Thus the homosexual elite of the Persian Empire was born. Men who had imagined only stable family lives, suddenly felt a new pull to organise their lives around, the insistent and compulsive contact with men who had stood with them in Teheran to face a certain death. Even the young emperor-to-be, surrounded by his private guard of hand-picked men in that final defense, suddenly took a different view to the possibility of his mother ruling Imperial Persia for several decades. Why? Because she was not a man. And to those men who had to reconstruct their personalities after the defense at Teheran shattered their souls, manhood alone became the extreme expression of merit and homosexual inclinations the criteria of genuine humanity.

And the attack of Green Goo had left another mockery of Persian honor.

For in the centre of the ancient Teheran Bazaar now stood a solid black obelisk, a phallic shaft of pure computational matter of mysterious design, seven foot tall and impervious to attack. The masses took it for a sign from Allah that they had been spared destruction, and a new Qua'ah, sacred rock, of Islam. But Valery knew better:

It was some kind of transmitter of signals, this much he knew. And from his past life, now dead and buried half a world away under miles of living Green Goo, he knew exactly where the information it gathered would return to. And Valery knew what no-one else in the city or the empire did, that Persia had become a vassal state even as it believed it had entered its period of greatest power since the ancient rule of Cyrus. The black box, as he called it, gathered detailed data on every human thing around them and transmitted it safely back to the central processor, which he knew even now grew and learnt in the former Central Australian Federation. It was one of the many eyes of a self-learning biological machine designed the manage man's environment more perfectly than before, the machine they had arrogantly anamed after the ancient Greek Goddess of the Earth:

It was the Persian eye of Gaia.

Starting a novel in the middle of the action

I went surfing for any helpful info on breathwork last night, the transformative healing methodology.

Information on breathwork is experiential and psychologised. I am not intellectually satisfied by nonlinear and trans-rational methodologies such as kinesiology and breathwork, but I have the good sense to go on using them. Here is an interesting quote, from a site called the Catalyst:

"As with other methods of attaining altered states of consciousness, holotropic breathwork has received some criticisms. According to Taylor, "Mostly the criticism of holotropic breathwork comes from those who haven't done it, or from those who are frightened of deep work. Some have said that "hyperventilation" (faster and deeper breathing) brings material to the surface before it is ready to come and can cause problems. Western medical and psychological response to hyperventilation has always been to repress it by having people breathe into a paper bag or take tranquilizers rather (than) to encourage full expression and experience of whatever is happening.”

Taylor adds, “Our experience is that material seems to come to the surface when people are ready for it. People do breathwork so that material can arise."

As I read this I vividly recall the hyperventilations I had as a teenager, in the fucked atmosphere of my family life at the time. Any recollection of the time is bound to be insinuated by my own biases anyway, and it is gone long ago, just a dream.

I do believe that I would use holotropic breathwork in the second installment of Gaia. The superstable and hypertolerant meritocratic society, the United States of Canada, would probably use it to help adolescents, with early twenties trainers and maximum intimacy and connection from the experience. Instead of using alcohol and drugs and excessive promiscuity to enact childhood trauma and heal emotional wounds of childhood, teens could use breathwork for the same ends.

I explained the meritocratic form of government to Craig the other day, and because of his special lucidity of presence it came out remarkably quickly and lightly, flowing in an ordered and simple way.

So I got excited and wrote it down. Then I got really excited and saw that I'm actually the appropriate person to write about this idea in a nonfiction book, and that it is historically the similar time and place for these ideas to enter public discussion as it was for their first incarnation with John Stuart Mill's writing.

(I remember how indignant I was to read in Mill that more educated people should earn more votes. Outrageous! But then the last century has shown just how destructive and deluded public intellectuals can be. I am thankful for David Hawkins work, which puts intellectual achievement in the context of humanity's wider spiritual vision, and is a powerful reassurance of human significance and meaning for me.)

Anyway, I submitted the meritocratic idea to the developement process. Quickly and fluently I summarised it in one sentence, detailed the three main ideas, the setup and the payoff for the reader; then I began to develope the 3 main ideas in terms of their characters, motivations, principles, simple and complex expressions, pro and contra elements, concrete expressions, and their conclusions. This was exciting and vivid. As I did so I began to spontaneously write extra ideas around the original structure and form paragraphs and chapter and subsection headings. When I had done I had a couple pages of each of the 3 main ideas, the setup and the payoff.

The design documentation told me to re-examine these ideas from three different contexts, so I simply brought up the main intellectual influences on the ideas, which to my surprise was incredibly easy. But then a sense of unease came over me, as I considered how complex these ideas were becoming. They would I saw quickly take on a life of their own, absorbing time and energy as they did. And I saw it was time to take a break last night from designing.

On the ten step design process I am up to step seven, but I have added a step seven-A because I believe that contextualising nonfiction is more crucial than in fiction, where the dream of fiction transcends the fact of the words themselves. In nonfiction, the hero is the reader, and the hero's journey is the reader's journey of discovery using the context of the book. Thus the sacred glamour of the Book itself in nonfiction is what makes it the magical tool for discovery.

The design process for my novel Return To Gaia, with it's labyrinthine backstory and outrageous lengths without action, frustrated me sufficiently for me to finally and grumpily take Aristotle's advice and start in media res (in the middle of the action). I was thinking of the opening of Homer's Illiad when I wrote the following, and I shocked myself by just how deep into the story I could begin. I mean, for God's sake, this short piece of writing is the start of the LAST THIRD of the book as I have designed it! Is that to say the scene breakdown I have done, all the character development and world building of the first two thirds of the novel is to be assimilated into mere BACKSTORY?!?

I do not know the answer to that yet. I have two things to do:

First I will post these 'in media res' chapters up in my next entry.
And, second, tonight I'll sit down and rewrite the design documents to see if this novel will fly or not if I start at that point. I am far better off redesigning that writing yet another first draft, I know that. I know that. And how glad I will be to turn out a remarkable novel, after all this time put into it!!

Why do I feel compelled to explore Buddhism in so much detail?

I read the Dhammapada when I was seventeen, Juan Mascaro's Penguin translation. I reread it last year, at the age of thirty, along with the Bhagavad-Gita, two or three times. Then, early this year I discovered the Dalai Lama's work, The Open Heart, and read that quickly and became interested. It was only on my trip with A. W., my former flatmate, to Sydney in October that I read modern tibetan teachers in detail, but eschewed Western writers as just not kosher buddhism. Quickly I learnt how to take refuge in the triple jewels, the bodhisattva vow, the 8 verses for transforming the mind, and a number of other things from Mahayana. Then once things broke down with A. K. I also stopped practice, and about a month passed.

The notion of writing a Sci-Fi short story about a far-future Shin Buddhist sect, entitled "Murder on Planet Pureland" was also a casual driver of my reading too. Nowadays that has expanded magically into a novel-sized idea, which I have developed the five-paragraph plot precise out of the premise.

Now, then, since my trip to Kangaroo Island I have begun reading the Buddhist books by Americans, studying Chinese Zen in detail (and posting my findings on my Krowbah blog, a satellite blog to this one), and filling out my historical understanding of the origins and progression of buddhism from the First Council days of Ananda's leadership to the Western diaspora of the tibetan mahayana and vajrayana teachings. It is interesting to gain this overview and to peer cautiously into a future secular form of Buddhism.

it is also interesting to draw analogies between Western developments and Buddhist schools.

Theravada-Hinyana is comparable to the 12 Step Recovery Movement. Like recovery Hinyana is sufficient to secure happiness for the individual within an ordered community, so long as he does not leave the community.

Mahayana is comparable to cognitive therapy in the Mahayana mindfulness incarnation, but also the emotional aspects of Mahayana are allied to the nascent emotional intelligence movement in humanistic psychology. The complexity of Mahayana makes it a brilliant complement to humanistic and cognitive therapy, and like these therapies it proves finally just useless for altering deeply rooted emotional habits.

The really transformative traditions of Buddhism are Che'en Buddhism and Vajrayana (aka Tibetan Tantra). I believe we will see interesting secrets emerging from a more open-minded China in years to come. Many of the Taoist secrets have yet to see the light of day, and likewise the openess of the Mahayanists may not reflect the same willingness about the tantra practicioners.

Dark Zen and the Dream of the Ruined Land.

Today I woke, did yoga, and chanted as I have been doing for the last week on waking and before bed. I got a coffee with my last milk and went online. I found and downloaded the Cha'an (Japanese: Zen) Buddhist teachings of Hsi Yun. I downloaded multiple introductions to the Lotus Sutra and Amazon pages of commentaries and translations. I googled for the Platform Sutra, the Shorter and Longer Amida/Pure Land Sutras, two mysterious pages of quasi-Jungian dream-style buddhisms, the teachings and mantras of the Japanese Pureland and Shingon Sects, details of Nichiron subsect of Japanese buddhism, and, finally and most magically of all, stumbled upon a marvellous Western zen form, called Dark Zen.

All these I downloaded and filed away on the hard disk.

This has been my practice for nearly a week now. I have progressed through Theravada and Vajrayana forms to the far east Asian forms of Buddhism and now, today, here and now, to my enormous satisfaction, broken finally through to a genuinely Western form of Buddhist Zen, Dark Zen.

I spent two hours online and then, full of excitement, I felt compelled to apply the Dark Zen methodology.

Not only did it deepen the liminal range of awareness, it also made sense of the Dharana of Hsi Yun/Huang Po. It makes perfect sense to me that the Buddha does not want people to attach their sense of self to the breath and would merely use breath counting as a means to an end and not an end in itself.

So when the Dark Zen teaching instructs the dharma practicioner to attach oneself to what is antecendent to the breath, it takes a radical leap into a new phenomenological space. The hermeneutic here is that if breath, mind, senses, etc appear from the Buddha Mind, then by attending to the ground of being of any of these things one effectively is attending to Buddha Mind itself. This perfectly dovetails for me with the teachings of Huang Po, except unlike Hsi Yun the Dark Zen teachings are HOW-TOs!

So it seems to me a remarkable thing, this Dark Zen.

While meditating I slept and fell into a dream.

Falling past the liminal barrier, I wake shocked and battered by the experience, only to return again and again, attracted by the inner light I experience.

I experience combat in a strange ruined land. I am a mythic hero, in the dream. I return and return only to find myself repelled, so I return under darkness. I find refugees hidden upstairs in a variety store. I find giant machines like squids from the Matrix defend a vast black castle on a hill. Figures harass my every step, but I have appeared through a different way than usual. The usual way has a guardian who forces me to forget every time I enter or exit in dreamtime. Now I have evaded the guardian, but I cannot defeat him.

While investigating I find a free-ranging tormentor, the Cowboy, is chasing me. I cannot defeat him by my childish and pathetic means, pebbles and bits of cloth. I am utterly exposed to him.

Then time slows. I realise that here is an opportunity, not a problem. I realise that I have powers in the dream world that the Cowboy does not have. And in that instant I see his weakness. I strike his right cheekbone, impossibly fast, and he is defeated.

I wake filled with strangeness and shadow and mystery at having dreamt such familiar things. I have known for a long time that my dreams are censored, and this dream only deepens the mystery.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

world's smallest political quiz

I am a 'centrist'. My word for it is that I am a moderate politically, but that infers conservatism. It is interesting how many people (over 30%) on a libertarian website are moderates. Makes me proud.

Faith in opportunity.

It is very easy to look at difficulty I experience now as a mute animal would, without thinking or considering how I cause it by my choices.

Furthermore, it is possible to look at the mental disorder of anxiety as a plain old Problem, with no upside at all. Or, on the other hand, it is possible to look at it as an invigorating challenge, even as a source of self-esteem/pride/sense of achievement. After all, I have managed to survive and often thrive with the condition for some time now.

But is it possible for me to see it as an opportunity?

On the Hawkins map of human consciousness, from zero to a thousand, consciousness above 200 is positively charged. In the 200s, those whose consciousness tests at that level using kinesiology are able to deal with problems effectively and survive okay, whilst people below 200 must simply survive their difficulties as best they can. But once we get to the 300s, the situation is completely different. Consciousness at that level is about opportunity. Instead of handling challenge, the (few) people who rate at that level actively seek challenges out in order to grow! And it would seem to me that is the difference between someone like myself, who is positive but only in the low 200s much of the time, and someone like my friends Matt and Marc, who both rate at 350: we have a different attitude to challenges. When I see problems they see opportunities.

So that answers my question: No, it's not possible for me to see anxiety as an opportunity... yet. But one day soon I have faith it will be.

Anxiety attack

I wake up with a throbbing head ache. The day's heat is gone but the house is stifling and sweat pours off me. The cat meows at my feet while I stagger into the kitchen, which has no lightbulb.

I open the microwave and in the light of that try and find the panadol my brother bought me three months ago. The cat continues to cry. The anxiety is too intense and I have to quit after a few seconds.

I fall onto my yoga mat and call the cat over, but she ignores me. I walk around slamming doors, try and find the panadol again, and again the anxiety is too much for me to continue.

I turn on the tv. I turn on all the lights. I turn on the electric kettle. Then I go and wash my face. The cat continues to cry. After a few deep breaths I begin to empty the cupboard out onto the benches, throwing out most of the dry food as I go. I do this for a little over a minute before the anxiety is too intense to continue.

Now I have the wherewithal to be able to fill the water filter, but not yet to find a glass. In fact, I don't own any glasses; I use empty newcafe coffee containers. And I can't find any at present. My head is buzzing and my centre of gravity has vanished, which is normal enough anxiety experiences, but intolerable combined with the headache.

Finally I empty two of the three cupboards in one quick dash of a few seconds and discover the half dozen remaining panadols. I gulp two down and find a nescafe container to fill with water and sit down in front of the television.

I drink and drink. Slowly the pain abates. But the heat does not.

I discover that I did not go offline before I collapsed on the bed in the middle of the afternoon, so I slowly close down the various windows, cursing as I do. A blessed American movie is on, 'Enemy of the State', thank god, providing an hour of exquisite distraction and peace. The two cups of coffee gradually return my ability to think a little. I glance at the biography of Isaac Newton that I am reading and it is too much effort to focus.

The Invisible Attacker.

I dreamt I visited my brother in Sydney when he used to live there five years ago. In the dream he had said he would be happy to pay for me to visit him there. But I was too proud to ask him for money for the hotel and then too scared to tell him I was actually IN Sydney.

In the lobby I'm on the verge of a panic attack on the way to my room. Suddenly I am struck in the head violently. I spin around and stagger but my assailant is invisible.

People stop and look at me, as I look for my invisible attacker. People are laughing at me. Then my invisible attacker strikes me from the front and I stagger back, my ears ringing, in shock.

I wake up with the phone ringing and the awareness that by not managing money wisely, I am my own worst enemy. The invisible attacker is me.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Reading Michael P Kube-McDowell's Enigma

My impression from reading this book is that Mr Kube-McDowell wrote and sold an excellent proposal, including the remarkable opening chapters, and then coasted into the rest of the book. Just my impression.

Because the opening chapters of Kube-McDowell's Enigma are MAGNIFICENT! I mean, yeah, they are FI-INE. He sets up a scorching relationship between the mother and his hero, but then lets it lapse through the middle of the novel until a weak female character picks up the slack. The casual viciousness of the mother, Andra, is extreme and unjustified I think. Certainly he tries, but it is insufficient. And once the main character is in space, beyond the reach of earth, the relations on board become his world, with a kind of Orson Scott Card-esque intensity, in a most repulsive power struggle revolving around protocol versus reality. And sadly, compared with the moral significance of Card's work, that is not enough to compel your interest.

The knowledge that in Kube-McDowell you have someone who deeply cares about their work and pursues a moral end in it and through it, is sufficient to hold my interest to the end. But that is not enough to warrant calling this book strong throughout.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Day After My Birthday

Yesterday I woke, unconscious, and saw Matthew off. Marc returned and I was still asleep.

We went to get a cat from the pound, and there I found my dream puss! A bluepoint siamese female, only 18 months old (so therefore a, um, a, Cancernian puss!) sleek and sad and gentle and miaowing her confusion at her having found herself in a pound. Poor girl.

I will pick her up on monday, if all goes well, then carry her home in a towel, if I cannot find a catbox. I should phone Sebastian and ask him; he has a cat.

I also tried to do an hour and a half of writing work, fiddling with my scene breakdown and toying with the toplevel logic of the project, steps one two and three. I ended up spending ages designing a rudimentary snowflake to help me imagine the basic structure better, and feeling then as if I had merely been messing around, playing. Then I began to think: maybe I am stuck.

But the reality is that I am not stuck, I am ignoring the work to next be done. Next I need to kindly review my accumulated years of notes on this novel, inserting scenes or subtracting as I do with this computer beside me. I can afford to do about an hour of that kind of thing today, and then I must be off.

By the way, after getting the cat I was whizzing about like a fly in a bottle, I was so excited. And then we had Chinese food and a snooze and I went to Maslin's beach for some nude sunbathing and met Daniel's mate (and now mine!) Robert of Sheffield. He was about to leave and invited me home for dinner later.

Then some blokes engaged me on the physical level of our being at a nude beach, so we talked about that for a while, and they gave me a lift to Roberts', which suited me fine, along with beer and chips while we were travelling and shooting the crap. Interesting couple. Hans was an ageless, 21 year old-looking massuer who said he was 47, and his partner, who physically looked utterly spent, dissipated, and crumbled, surely came in not less two decades older. Yet they both tested remarkably strong on the quick kinesiology test I did and both we sharp-witted, honest, and interesting, so it was lovely to talk with them.

At Robert's an Iranian mate of his was staying, to whom I became attracted enough to speak my mind as the night progressed. Robert of Sheffield, as I call him, spoke at length about the Revolutionary history of England, then we got onto the Orange Men and the causes behind the Irish Rebellion and North Ireland. Then it was time to view jpeg of Sheffield and surrounds, which were marvellous. I am sure one day England will be honored as the cradle of Anglo civilisation, perhaps even among the stars (who knows?).

I have a new friend, Craig. Craig is an astrologer, and because of my detailed knowledge of the field I immediately struck it off with him. We met Friday, during a motorshow of Gouger Street which had wonderful racing autos from every era parked along the street. I took him to the Hampshire and Myers and Borders and to the Bus, then waited 90 minutes while I found and got the bus back to Marc's house, with whom I have been staying the last four nights.

Well it is a nice rest from my present life, and now I am feeling happy to be here, in my own place. It has been an exciting time. I have come to ground on my own turf again, and I am different for the journey.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Sci-Fi scene breakdown

I leapt into the scene breakdown today for Return To Gaia.

Each chapter got a single line designation. I did it from memory.

I was talking to Marc W, with whom I am staying at present in his townhouse in Fullarton, about the novel.

The high level logic is worked out well now. Low level logic is still unfolding. But because I have made so many notes over so many years, I was reluctant to write the scene breakdown (much less the prototype draft or first draft!) when so many pieces of plot would slip past unnoticed.

But then I remembered the saying “You only find research when you no longer need it,” and “Put your body in the way of change.” And I realised that I had to write the Scene Breakdown anyway, then I could change it within the context of the excitement generated by having written it. My own advice to advance forwards in the design process could easily be taken NOW, even though I was not ready.

Sure enough, much, maybe 80 percent of the plot, materialised at my fingertips last night and this morning.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Yesterday and today; denial and joyfulness

I got into town early enough (12:30) to see a guy about a course, put two blog entries online at the public library, and get stood up for a coffee, which was okay. Then I started chatting with a guy who would make an excellent date for my exflatmate, so I played cupid and he gave me a lift home for my trouble.

Sure enough, my exflatmate, A W, was at the window at nine twenty thismorning. He blushed when I gave him the phone number (cute!) and protested it was sunburn from a car detailing job he did yesterday. I had been up til two so I woke easily enough, and he needed the rest of his furnishings out so he could sell them en masse today. My exneighbours rocked up for a final inspection, which was cool cos I got to help them out a little; AND alert the property owner to the plumbing problems and excess water costs he was paying because of a washer in my bathroom.

I have SUCH amazingly fucked up feelings about property owners, it is hard to believe. I avoid them with a vengeance because of the feelings of vulnerability (they have the power to evict me) and irritation (I am in their property AS IF it is mine, and paying them money for the privilege). I go to lengths to avoid dealing with these feelings... just rejecting negative feelings, however, does not seem sufficient. I must also confront them, else they become a hidden influence.

Reading Ms (Tara Bennett) Goleman's book at the moment, a chapter or two a day, on "Emotional Alchemy", and it has considerable insight into the nature of moment-by-moment experience. Her sophisticated analysis is supported by a strongly compassionate nature, which gives the book its power to influence. And this reaction to the property owner is exactly the kind of hidden emotional pattern she discusses. Interesting.

It is fair to say, then, that my basic strategy is avoidance, then anxiety, then aggression/frustration, then guilt and shame. Yes it should be horrible to spell it out here, but that is just the coping strategy, just the entree really. It is the underlying negativity that is "coped with" by that strategy which is of particular interest to me at the moment. This is the complex of interesting behaviours that is dubbed as denial in the pyschological literature, pride in the Christian literature, and ignorance in the Buddhist; and it is the everyday condition, I am taught, of over 80 percent of humanity at the present time.

God help me!

What am I avoiding?

- A BIG pile of papers represents the invested value of my past 15 years; it sits untouched in my office.

- Educational opportunities, in spite of my love of learning, lie untouched for months at a time.

- Opportunities to contribute not taken up.

- Chances to get fit and healthy ignored.

- Relationships not fostered and tended to.

Dear me... it's a bit much to look at all at once! Worse, it is blantantly contra my values to ignore these things! I am smiling at the delicious irony, but inside I feel afraid, and glad, and excited, and, funnily enough, actually JOYFUL in my inner heart.

Time to get to work.

Monday, November 15, 2004


I have developed an affirmation which I like:

I am now becoming more and more
Relaxed, effective, productive and happy.

I find it easy to remember, and I repeat it sometimes when I have the presence of mind to take a micronap during the day. Self-care at its simplest level is simply this affirmation of the self.

I write a play and track down education opportunities

Today I wrote a one-man play, entitled "Public Displays of Affection Betweeen Men". It is about aggression and mutuality between two men, once friends, now enemies, and their contemplation of shifting relations. The acts came clearly in three "arenas"; Arena One, In the Boardroom (which I wrote today); Arena Two, On the Steet (which I haven't written, but which is between a bum on the street and a student who has just dropped out of society); and Arena Three, In the Bedroom, which I as yet have no idea what it's about.

Today also I tracked down the person who by ringing me to talk about funding had so disturbed my day yesterday as to render it a lost cause. We talked more about funding, and I talked about my goals:

To be in full time training work that I love by February 2005.
To be looking for such work by January.
And, therefore, to achieve my Training Certification successful by the new year, around a month and a half away.

As to the "management plan", it involves very simply this:

working when i can work.
resting when I cannot.
and doing my best to be positive.

lol... it's a bloody good start, compared to the very average, survival-level of business at the moment.

Anyway, that's my thoughts for today.

I look quite strange at the moment I suspect... wearing a hooded running top on a hot day, with a small beard and a yellow clothe bag, stopping as I walk to flip out my black leather bureau to write more of the play as it arises in awareness. It is good to allow creation to happen. My character Simon says as much, though he is in a hard spot in the play and unable to create, even the act of selfing, so to speak, is a creative act. It is not so bad a tale.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Dreamer

The Dreamer.

I recall walking a street in Sydney once and sensing the dream-consciousness becoming alert parallel to waking consciousness. But it is rare to hear from it and there is little transgression between the two. But something about Sydney's unique dynamism awoke it.

Last night I fell asleep beside this computer and woke as the dream consciousness disappeared... pfft! ...and the waking self appeared with its perceptual constraints and divisive misperceptions.

Outside of consciousness lie other consciousnesses. When I sensed them in Sydney it was incomprehensible and strange. Invisible powers.

Out in the world our work is "orthopraxis". Out of action we reflect, until by slow degrees action and reflection occur at once. We reflect on the impermanence of these perceptions and ideas; we ask "What is it experiences this?"; we are mindful of senses, thoughts, emotions, impulses, until the deeper grain of experience is revealed beyond arbitrary categories, false opposites, subtle distortions of context that foster victimhood and vanity, and blatant denials of experience deeper than the sense of self. That fairly well summarises this life-path; it says nothing, however, of what lies beyond.

I do not remember my dreams. But I remember this. My dreams in childhood reflected childish things, abandonment issues and wish-fulfillments; now my adult dreams reflect the adult matters:

In my dream last night I was not "I", but another self. That much I recall, tantalisingly. There was a dream self at work, autopoetic. I recall he had goals, dreams, visions and wishes, as well as a world to himself, relations, and ideas. I recall this, but not the dreamer himself. And I am forlorn without the memory.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

definitive moon poem



ironic how we mesh worlds
when we define

de-creating thrones
principalities outre
archangelic re-routes

woodchips sigh
climbing birds howl
the moon rises
fat slugs whisper green

strange how the moon
has no face

(devolving life
a four billion year crash
and burn slides into heat hell)

no forms

strange how the sun
strange how

narrative breadth
inhabits in the inbreath of a baby

how much more then i,
i, i, i
corroded by time
a time module
set on survive

breathe out at last
sang breath,
hopeless hole breath
faraway waking-dream-breath

death is a new breath
without a sky
the sense of birds
inhaled into falling dark



strong, true, welcome life
yellow in the brain's branches
o circular moon!

sci fi books that are optioned into movies

tonight at the hampshire i get in a long conversation with a fellow who worked in animated films. I wait there for some fellah i met online, who stands me up to his peril.

we talk about optioning sci-fi movies. he describes to me how it works:

it used to be the studio system funded the movie one hundred percent. now it's never more than 60 percent funding, and the director and producer rarely work for the studio themselves. the studio merely owns the means of production and distribution, while these days the director invests his own money into the project, gathering the writers' screeplay, the actors, the crew, all together in anticipation of a successful project.

As a result, there are more unique movies coming out now than ever before. Storyboarding is now used in association with on-screen animated versions of the films, which are then shown to actors to tell them what to do.

When a book is optioned, it is usually only the context of the book that is purchased, and the filmmaker is free to alter the content how he wants.

I ask how to write a sci-fi book that will become a movie:

Focus on the book. If it's a unique idea and a good story well told, then you may have a hit. Focus on the best book, and let the movie makers do their job with your work once it's published. It is best not to worry about whether or not it will fit a film, and concentrate on creating a book that entertains YOU.

Good advice.

Later on he comes on to me:

"There are two options I want to present," he says. "In the first, we meet up for coffee and make friends. In the second we go home and have sex. Which one are you interested in with me?"

"Number one," I mumble, bemused.

I am glad my online acquaintence does not turn up. I had felt obliged to agree to meeting anyway, and had no interest in him. But this fellah is much more interesting, and it is just possible that he is lying and is the person I had originally agreed online two nites ago to meet.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

bad mood du jour

last nite i looked over sum other blogs to see what was goin on. it's been a while

i've been travelling.

i went to a doctor for antidepressants and he gave me a name of one to research. i suppose just the fact that i was there for me indicated that i felt the need for assistance and support, but he seemed to want me to research things first. i suppressed frustrating while he spoke:

find an all-consuming mission in life, he told me. emmerse yourself in something you consider very important and emotionally fascinating. that is the easiest cure for depression, he said.


what can i say?

i can enumerate the difficulties that bring me to his office, and even play the victim if i thought it would do any good. it will not.

i can pretend i find his advice useful, since i already have utterly captivating ends to which i am devoted, and little or no comprehension of the nature of my difficulties.

can i NOT assume that they are chemical in nature, and that antidepressants, as an extreme option, are necessary in the wake of the failure of other means?? i do not care to mess about in causation since hateful hunting-down of causes and effects has proven completely useless and irrelevant to me. i simply care about becoming productive, happy and effective; about being able to sleep and eat regularly, be able to contribute to relationships, and create and enjoy prosperity.

god i could say this to myself a thousand times and would it help? perhaps. positive thinking seems to work.

i have no answers. i am quite down.

nevertheless i stumble through life, and i cannot comprehend how to escape the suffering i experience except through the aid and support of others, and the vagaries of faith in a higher power. it is MOST frustrating for me, since my mind is the same mind I had when I WAS productive, effective, and happy, but i am NOT productive, effective, and happy.

it is the most frustrating experience i have ever had. it is more frustrating still with the awareness that life is there to be enjoyed yet for some reason i do not and seemingly can not, as if by some invisible obstacle that stops me. it is incomprehensible, frustrating, meaningless and irritating.

i will return to my Small Daily Steps philosophy tomorrow. today i want to vent a little. im okay really.

Monday, November 01, 2004

3. How to write a first draft novel in two thirds less time with pleasure. Plot

Plot is a mechanism for arousing your reader's "storydars", their radars for narrative. Plot does not have to please, it just has to convey the story.

E M Forster has a charming way of explaining the difference between a plot and a story. A plot is this:

The king died, then the queen died.

Dry, factual, and effective. And a story is this:

The king died, and then the queen died of grief.

And those two words, "of grief", are loaded with implication. They imply drama: the queen outliving her king. They imply causation and necessity: the queen dies because she cannot live any longer. And they imply her character: the queen loved the king more than her life. So here we have a story.

It is helpful to think of story and plot as two triangles. The premise you have just written will have three angles to it: it happens somewhere, it happens to someone, and they do something. So imagine that as a upside down triangle.

Now take the plot: it has a start, developments, and a conclusion. Visualise that as a rightway up triangle, and in combining them both you have a classical symmetry.

In Indian culture this symbol is called the Yubyam, and it is a symbol of alchemical fusion of contrary forces together, and regarded as a sign of power. The upright triangle is regarded as the masculine aspect, a phallic image of expressive power and vigor, while the downwards triangle is the female, image of the vagina, receptive grace, beauty, sensitivity, and the power to create life.

Perhaps the most vigorous expression of this fundemental form of human consciousness is in the Tibetian word, Vajra. Varja means "having a head made of diamond". When you read great works of literature, you will notice about them that they have a certain quality of unity, as if they had crystallized, diamond-like, from within their creator. The magical spell of great books such as Anna Karenina, if examined, is a mystery that arises directly from the cystalline and rigorous structure that is imposed, insivible to average readers, onto the text.

Vajra denotes the kind of hard headedness required to create a classic normally. But by generating this form right at the beginning, so much grief and difficulty in creating such a thing is simply elimiated. So creating a good plot to suit your premise is a cause for joy and pleasure. All this may be kept in mind when crafting a decent plot structure.

Now, here is my suggestion on how to do it:

Simply expand the premise into five to ten sentences. In doing so, look for disasters that occur to your character. Write about what happens, not what is thought or felt, not about the environment or the supporting characters. Write a police report, stiking only to the known facts of your premise.

Now, a warning: a plot is just a mechanism for producing recognition of a story in the reader's mind. It serves absolutely no other purpose but to serve the reader in reading your story. So the plot basically belongs to the reader: just as you require supports to write the story, so the reader needs a strong plot to support them in completing the novel.

Many writers feel that if their story is good readers will enjoy reading them. This is true. But it is also true that if their plot is good, more readers are likely to finish reading the book. If the plot is not strong, readers will feel confused, then within five pages become bored and stop reading. If you are writing for yourself or an audience that cannot escape such as your family, then feel free to discard this step in good faith that doing so will help increase your domination of their time and energy.

The first sentence will begin much like the premise does:

A rougue scientest flees his country after a biotech war leads to a totalitarian revolution.

This is disaster number one for my novel, Return To Gaia. Sentence two is:

He builds a computer, Gaia, to manage earth's environment which turns against humanity and kills billions.

Disaster number two.

Many years later, his son tries to destroy the computer and fails, losing his beloved in the process.

Disaster number three. Now, then, the resolution:

Realising the son's grief, the computer Gaia becomes sentient, absorbs his beloved's mind into hers as her personality, and tells him that his father lives and in the meantime has return to the country he fled and returned it to civilsation and freedom. Gaia regrets harming humanity, and now wants to aid them.

Now that comes in at exactly five sentences, and it is as a result of some months of fairly aimless working and writing. It is astonishing that I could have achieved the same result (and have!) in only two days of reflection and writing.

Now, these incidents are just that: incidental extensions of the seed idea, tiny feelings groping in the dark for moisture, nutrients and light. If they are to grow, they will need the light of more reflection, and the nourishment of a bit of fun, excitement and joy.

It is also possible that your hopes at germinating your seed premise are not fulfilled. The feelers of plot grow then die. The sense of excitement grows dim. This is wonderful news, because it means you have only spent two days and already figured out that your novel is a dud.

Congratulations! You are in the elite corpus of writers who do not need to spend 6 months slugging away at a first draft, getting half way or worse to the end, then realising to their horror and grief that they have a flawed diamond, or a lump of coal, in their work.

As with a growing seed, some feelers will live and others will die. It is important to recognise that your plot is only a machine for growing your novel into something a reader will finish reading.

After you have written your five to ten sentences, go ring that writer friend again and share your developments with him. He should be saying good things, suffice to say, and your short plot should trigger his readerly response of "Tell me more?"

This step, as before, is absolutely crucial. Reflection without action powerless pedantry. Do the thing and claim the power. Ring and read a friend.

"If this sounds suspiciously like back-cover copy, it's because . . . that's what it is and that's where it's going to appear someday."
- Randall Ingermanson

2. How to write a first draft novel in two thirds less time, and with pleasure. The Premise.

Okay the bizarre idea I have here is that writing a novel should actually be FUN. If you have attempted a novel before most the time advice will sound just wrongheaded. I know I have floundered in novels many many times.

But I wish to emphasise that the fun does not originate from the novel and never really does. In fact the circumstance are just the key to unlock the door to satisfaction and pleasure, and the real trigger of joy lies in the person himself. The fun of writing arises, in other words, from clearing away mental junk that stops you from appreciating the exciting, inspiring and invigorating essence of an idea.

That is what we are to do now, and the end result is called a premise.

Many writing books talk about a premise as a kind of machine for storymaking. For instance, "love leads to regret which engenders satisfaction" or "pride goes before the fall" are not particularly useful generators of inspiration to me. But what makes them particularly repugnant to me is the denial of the subjective sense that there is an actual drama being generated by the premise. So all the suggestions I make about creating a smashing premise shoud be prefaced by one simple rule:

If it doesn't excite you, then it's not the premise.

Now unless you are chronically depressed (in which case, my apologies), you as a human being have an inborn "storydar", a radar for narrative. Our minds come readymade to recognise the pattern of information we call stories. But we are not, alas, born able to write novels.

So what a premise involves is writing a sentence which has an explosive intuition of "it's a story", but also adheres to the following strict structural principles of novel writing:

1. Shorter is better. Try for fewer than 15 words.
2. Don't use character names. Say “a handicapped trapeze artist” than “Jane Doe”.
3. Write it around the character who suffers the most.
4. Write it around the theme or idea which you feel is to be the absolute essence of the story.
5. The premise is the idea-behind-the-ideas. Take out all details that are not absolutely germinal. The premise is the seed of drama, no more. Take our any thing else.
6. Fianally, and most importantly, once you have a robust sentence, pick up the phone, ring a writer friend, and say something like:

"Hi, I've got this idea for a novel and I want to share it with you to see if you find it interesting:"

Then tell them the idea. You only have to do this once, but the essential act of ringing up another and telling them the idea to guage interest levels is the fundamental orthopraxis of writing. Remember: orthopraxis means that you reflect with action in mind, then act. Reflection (writing the premise) is NOT sufficient.

My suggestion is that you must act somehow in order to your reflection to be valid orthopraxis. Do this one thing and you have the power. Fail to do it and the more exciting orthopraxes in preceding steps will seem unaccountably difficult. Practice orthopraxis when it is easy, and it becomes possible when it is hard.

If you have no desire to share your premise, it is also possible that your premise is a dog, or that it needs space to morph into something more exciting. In that case, move on to something more exciting.

Here is my premise for Return to Gaia:

A rogue scientist creates a non-sentient learning computer to manage earth instead of humans.


1. How To Write A First Draft Novel In 60 Percent Less Time

My intention as a writer is to thrill and excite my readers with dramatic action. This is not a personal thing I want to present of myself; in fact, it is more a statement of my effect in the marketplace of the human soul than a bit of information abou tme. Yet in many ways it is a highly significant it of info, and one which can be examined for it's assumpsions.

Clearly writers would like to have sincere motives. It is all to easy to dismiss commercialism from a serene and cynical veneer of individualism. It is hard to develop one's own relationship with commerce.

Robert Kiyosaki tells a story about commercialism. When he was in Singapore, a young female journalist apporached him and ask d his advice. She had written for a literaru audience, and she wanted advice on how to become famous with her writings.

Kiyosaki's advice is memorable: Get a job doing sales. She reacted with shock to his statement. But Kiyosaki was adamant:

"The reason I have written bestsellers is not because I'm the best writer," he reasoned, "But because I'm good at selling."

For me Kiyosaki embodies the optimistic realism of the marketplace. His stories teach in a lively way. But the deeper ingredient of such a writer is the sense of purpose they bring to their work. This sense is more the flowering of a reflective character by grace than it is a deliberate process of (for example) learning sales. I would go further: it is this context of an internal blossoming that triggers a person to be willing to learn sales or any other skill set needed for the job. Without the grace of inner attainment, the satisfactions of the world pall to shadows and show.

There are ways to inspire this blossoming:

Love other writers work. Actually find the specific paragraph that makes you swoon with pleasure, and write it out and show it to your friends. It is a significant level of growth if also that you have friends you can share beauty with. Write it out on computer or hand. Write it and then look at it in a new light. This is the fastest way to conquer grace.

Write down your top ten motives. The poet Rilke said that the idea that is most true for him is that which draws all the parts of himself upward in inspiration, pride, attainment, and growth. So find the motives that are anabolic to you body, life-inspiring to your heart, and which arouse your mind to big ideas. This small work will repay tenfold in the electric effect of this reflection in your writing, and in the increased passion of the experience of writing.

Many optimistic realists such as Robert Kiyosaki write about purpose, goals, and so on. Since I strive to be merely realistic in my life, and admire and revere these optimists, I can hardly criticise them. But it is important to acknowledge the general limitations of the human mind and body:

We do not know the end of our lives. We do not know wherein our contribution lies. Nor, when we really get down to it, do we fully comprehend the phenomenon of man, the nature of knowing, and the astonishing fact that we subjectively experience our world. All these things are mysteries that realists or optimists or reasoning folk or even subtle and brilliant intellectuals can only take stabs at. So it is useful to spend time - a lot of time even - comprehending the way your mind generates your particular sense of reality. The brilliant intellectuals such as Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky in literature are notable for the radical perspectivism in their work. This extraordinary and luminous quality - of representing multiple perspectives in a unified way - is the direct growth of subjectivism - the realisation of our limits of experiencing. Their moral greatness is a source of profound pleasure because they embody the thing they speak of, in all its subtlties and complexities.

So this is the first and most profound step in writing a novel. This step is backed up by the corollary - that writers write. Reflection is loveliests when it is directed towards action. The word for this, orthopraxis, is the essence of the dictum that writers write. Writers write because they reflect and contemplate. And writers reflect and contemplate because of WHO THEY ARE.

Who are you?

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