Angels or Demons

I both love and hate philosophy.  I enjoy discussing different philosophical thinkings and views of the world.  Sadly, I don’t really enjoy reading philosophy because most philosophers are excessively long-winded that blather on incessantly.  Were I a strong advocate for their specific views, the attention to minutae might be appealing but as a tourist to that realm of thinking, it gets cumbersome.

One philosopher that I’ve been rereading recently, however, is ‘Meister’ Eckhart Hockheim. These days, he’s probably most famous for being referenced at the end of Jacob’s Ladder.  In it, the character Louis Denardo tells the titular Jacob,

“Eckhart saw Hell too.  He said, ‘the only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won’t let go of life, your memories, your attachments.  They burn them all away.  But they’re not punishing you,’ he said.  They’re freeing your soul.  So, if you’re frightened of dying and…and you’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away.  But if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth”

This singular quote has seemed a bit apropo (if more than a little melodramatic) with the recent tragedies that have befallen me and my family.  For example, I lost my computer and all (and I do mean ALL) my files.  That’s years – decades – of writing gone.  Gone and likely unrecoverable.

On the one hand, true tragedy.  My life’s work, up in smoke.  But on the other hand, all of it was and still is in my brain.  All the stories still exist.  Vincent Pierce, Everett Kendall, and so many other characters, still live inside my mind.  And getting them out is as simple as daily visits to the library until I am able to buy a new computer.  Or even just jotting stuff down on a notepad.

A lot has been lost, sure.  Tiny nuances of characters and settings and events that could only be born out of a certain time and place in my life.  But the essence of who they are and what they do hasn’t been lost.  And while I lament what has been lost, I also have the opportunity to rebuild from the ground up.  I can start fresh, of sorts.

So that’s something.  🙂

 

 

Speaking of nice, I will be at Anime Mid-Atlantic this weekend, hosting a bunch of panels as well as helping to man some panels for my publisher, Haven Publishing.  And also promoting the print release of my newest novel, Rhest for the Wicked.  I hope to see you there!

More To Come

A series of ill-timed and unrelated tragedies have befallen my family over the last week.  This has cast a strange silence over all of us.  In an emotional paralysis, we seem to be bracing for yet another blow to hit.  Everything from professional delays with no source with which to redress to legal matters that came from out of nowhere, we seem beseiged from all sides.  In another time, I might make a joke about somebody having cursed us.

So, regrettably, everything is sort of on-hold until stuff starts to sort itself out.  When will it sort it self?  Man, ain’t that the million-dollar-question.  Until then, please just bear with me while my family and I try to sort through these matters.

 

And hopefully, I’ll see you at AMA next weekend!  🙂

Patterns and Habits

Pattern recognition is one of the greatest aspects of the human mind.

While it is far and away not infallible, pattern recognition allows us to see trends in our environment – and ourselves – and to predict future events.  It is through pattern recognition that that all science was formed.  Science, all skills, and even simple communication, depends on our understanding of patterns.

Patterns in nature are called cycles, but patterns in our own behavior are often called habits.  Habits are interesting phenomena, both physiological and psychological.  They are a product of both our bodies and our minds, often without us even being aware of it.

Through the application and use of pattern recognition, we are able to see habits, identify them, and understand them.  And more, we are able to change them.

Habits are self-perpetuating behaviors, that we do because we have done them and we’ve always done them because we’re used to doing them.  They are easy, and humans will by nature follow the path of least resistance.  Changing a habit, then, is an act of will, of dedication, of sheer determination.  It is by changing our own habits that we take command of our own lives.

No habit can be unconquered.  Even critical habits such as eating and sleeping can be mastered (see intermittent fasting and polyphasic sleep for extreme-but-healthy examples; tragic and unhealthy examples exist as well).  More mundane habits such as diet and fitness, with nothing to say of skills and knowledge, can likewise be conquered in days and weeks.

In the exercise world, we have two major benchmarks to shoot for: six weeks and six months.  If a fitness program or a diet can be maintained for six weeks, it’s considered to be a habit.  Maintaining the diet or exercise program now takes less effort than before.  The person will ‘default’ to that diet and program.  At six months, the behavior is now a lifestyle.  It now becomes harder to NOT do it than to do it.

One of the easiest ways to affect change in your life is to apply simple pattern recognition in the form of a journal.  Monitoring one’s diet in a journal has had documented and profound effects, even without the person going on a diet.  Just being aware of what a person is eating day in and day out, for each meal, causes changes for the healthier.

Journals also provide us with other key information.  Dream journals can often provide insight into what our mind does when unleashed during the small hours of the night.  Thought journals and spending journals can astound the keeper at what their resources go towards.

Keep a journal.  Review what you write down from time to time to see what patterns jump out at you.  Decide if those patterns – those habits – are really things you want to maintain.  And then, if you so desire, seek to correct them.

Promise of the Future

I watched someone’s life get saved this weekend, all thanks to the Internet and social networking.

An alert went up Friday night about a missing person.  It was someone I didn’t know and don’t believe I’ve ever met, but someone whom many of my friends considered to be a close friend.  My Facebook feed was littered with notices of ‘have you seen this person’ and ‘this person was last spotted…’.  Friends from many different spheres of my life posted alerts, looking for the person in question.

I threw up a copy-and-pasted alert, hoping to extend the reach of the alert.  All I did know is that this person – whom many I consider to be friends were very worried about – had made a worrisome Facebook post and then just up and disappeared, with no further contact.

This morning, I awoke to find that contact had been made and the individual was safe.  A healing process began, both for a community and for the individual whom, regardless of what they were going through personally, must have taken away some comfort to know how loved they were and are.

It was amazing to see.  In the past, when most people have talked about Facebook, it’s been to complain about the newest interface or to suggest that social networking was replacing real-world networking.  Many people level a great number of complaints against the digital age – one where social media is king – and for good reason.  But this time, someone discovered how much they mattered to many people.  And I get the impression that a life was saved.  Maybe that’s an exaggeration, or maybe the life that was saved wasn’t the person who went missing but the person who witnessed the public cry for support and realized that maybe they matter to that many people too.

Whatever the details, I took away from the events of this weekend something remarkable and inspiring, and very hopeful, about the digital age we live in.

Sexism in video games, cosplay, etc

Sexism is a disease; a mental illness with a pronounced component.  In theory, it could be considered a sexually-transmitted mental illness.  It is an inability to recognize an individual as a person, and instead seeing them only as a collection of sexually-desirable elements.

To present this another way, tell me what you see:

Do you see a duck? Or do you see a rabbit?

Now, take a look at this one:

Do you see an impressive costume worn by a beautiful woman dedicated to her craft?  Or do you see large breasts?

In essence, that’s sexism.  Everybody looks the same picture of the highly revered cosplayer Yaya Han.  But some people see a cosplayer at the height of her professional craft.  And some people see large breasts.

One of the great dangers of sexism is how poorly it is understood.  Sexism comes in a lot of forms and a lot of varieties, and manifests itself in many ways.  However, it all boils down to a single question that might as well take the form of an optical illusion: do you see a woman, or do you see boobs?

Men – not just quasi-sexists but also legitimately good and decent men – turn a blind eye to sexism and its resulting debate because they do not understand it.  Most men cannot quite grasp the difference between appreciating beauty – especially sexual beauty – and sheer objectification.  And it is that objectification that is the key to sexism: the reducing a person to a thing, the reducing of an individual to an object to be possessed.

This isn’t about ‘the Disease of Sexism’.  This is about ‘the Cure of Sexism’.  Sexism, viewed as an illness, cannot be treated with a vaccination or any other tangible medicine.  It can only be treated with awareness, acknowledgment, and vocal opposition.  Not from women alone, but from men as well.  A lot of good men are staying quiet in the sexism debate because they don’t well enough understand the situation, or they feel this is a fight between women or bigots.  Or worst of all, they fear they are hypocrites if they decry sexism and still enjoy sex and sexuality.  The thing is, men, you don’t have to trade in your love of sex and sexiness to oppose sexism.  You should just do what one should always do: behave respectfully and speak up when you see wrong being done.