Category Archives: Life Stuff
Getting Past God – The Hero With A Thousand Faces
The first time I opened The Hero With A Thousand Faces I got about 120 pages in and stopped cold. I picked it up again 2 years later, and it alternated between delivering inspiration for stories and just plain blowing my mind. I’ve read it three times now and almost every page is dog-eared and many sections are underlined. What changed? I was able to look past my old meaning of God, allowing me to see Campbell’s brilliance in explaining the challenge we face today as individuals in a society built against our nature.
Campbell talks a lot about God in all the forms the idea takes, and you will have to get past your meaning on either side. Here’s a passage that should help you get around that word if you’re worried that reading anything that has the word God in it means you believe in the Christian doctrine. It’d be a shame if you let that keep you from the secrets in this book (and others).
‘Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. The living images become only remote facts of a distant time or sky. Furthermore, it is never difficult to demonstrate that as science and history mythology is absurd. When a civilization begins to reinterpret its mythology in this way, the life goes out of it, temples become museums, and the link between the two perspectives is dissolved. Such a blight has certainly descended on the Bible and on a great part of the Christian cult.’
If that offends you, don’t take it so hard. The idea of God has been around a lot longer than society has used that word for it. It’s an attempt at telling the story of existence, it’s bigger than Christianity or any religion.
Campbell begins with the introduction of the Monomyth, ‘the one, shape-shifting yet marvelously constant story ‘ that we find in the heart of all stories, ‘together with a enchantingly persistent suggestion of more remaining to be experienced than will ever be known or told.’ It’s born from our culture’s myths and dreams, lost or found in the tragedy and comedy of our lives, acted out between the heroes (you) and the gods (also you), and kept alive through eternity by the continuous creative force of the World Navel.
This sets the stage for The Adventure of The Hero. Campbell walks you through specific steps like The Call to Adventure, The Road of Trials, and The Crossing of the Return Threshold using examples from myths around the world.
Then he steps into the nature of the universe in the sections on the Cosmogenic Cycle, which are particularly fascinating.
Summing up this book in short order is harder than most. It is dense, like neutron-star dense. You could write full-blown essays on any number of sentences or paragraphs throughout the adventure. My favorite section comes in his brilliant summation of it all.
‘… it is not only that there is no hiding place for the gods from the searching telescope and microscope; there is no such society any more as the gods once supported. The social unit is not a carrier of religious content, but an economic-political organization. Its ideals are not those of the hieratic pantomime, making visible on earth the forms of heaven, but of the secular state, in hard and unremitting competition for material supremacy and resources. Isolated societies, dream-bounded within a mythologically charged horizon, no longer exist except as areas to be exploited. And within the progressive societies themselves, every last vestige of the ancient human heritage of ritual, morality, and art is in full decay.’
This is to say that our collective stories have run out of power and we have replaced them with empty versions, a black and white reality that stands in defiance against the natural world. The challenges facing the hero used to exist past the edges of society. Stepping out of society was part of the journey, but culture wasn’t the monster to be slain. Society and culture were largely on the side of the hero, even though tyrants sometimes had to be killed.
In our day, the challenges are society and culture themselves. Our stories and myths are the monsters that must be defeated to find ourselves. The monsters no longer wait outside the edges of the campfires, hiding in the woods.
They are inside of us.
They are our rituals, our religions, our beliefs, and the controlling structures of distraction from truth that hold our society together.
‘The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed, must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. “Live,” Nietzsche says, “as though the day were here.” It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal—carries the cross of the redeemer—not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.’
If you’re to find yourself in today’s world you must live a life that defies the stories that make up the fabric of our civilization. You must cast off meaninglessness and resist coercion to buy into the lies and confusion with your entire being.
The modern hero has to travel underneath our culture’s misunderstanding of what it means to be human and find secrets to set themselves free, and hopefully in turn, others.
We each have to write a new story about ourselves and our world to realize our full potential, and nothing is more difficult or more essential.
Non-Dual Sandwich Bliss
As I sit here eating this sandwich, overflowing with happiness, I think about how I would like to eat this sandwich forever.
But it’s not the taste of the medium rare tuna, topped with the perfect mushrooms, and some divine mystery sauce that’s lighting me up.
It’s the flavor of awareness.
Eating this sandwich forever would quickly lead me to get tired of it.
It’s the temporary nature of experience that makes it so sweet. The unique configuration of this moment, and every other.
And, it arises from the inside, the joy comes from the awareness itself.
Why would I wish to always have the experience of the sandwich when that would make me sick of it?
Because I attribute the feeling to the external trigger, not the source of the feeling itself.
That’s the trap for us, confusing the triggers of the experience with the experience of awareness itself.
We want more triggers—more sandwiches—but if we take the time to look at what’s underneath, we don’t need so many triggers to remind us.
The Oasis Cafe in Salt Lake City was busy, and at first I felt assaulted by the experience—especially the loud girl at the next table talking about her business.
But I quickly reminded myself how blessed I was to have the opportunity to eat such a wonderful meal. I imagined myself surrounded by a bubble of light to contain my energy and keep from soaking up everyone else’s. The experience quickly changed from assaulting to wonderful and I started reading The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts while I was waiting for my food.
Reading deepened my awareness, helping me remember the truth that nothing is “right” or “wrong”, it’s all just awareness experiencing itself in different flavors.
That the girl talking incessantly about her new business was young and simply excited to be aware, not annoying and loud.
It’s all how I chose to label the experience. She was an expression of the whole and she had a great purpose to serve—even if either of us never knew what it was.
We spend most of our time at odds with the ever-changing nature of our own personal experiences; fighting the space between triggers of happiness, labeling them as painful, boring, or wrong. Fighting against external configurations that don’t have the ultimate say about how we feel.
We forget that eating the sandwich forever, to only do the things that make us happy or joyful all the time, would eventually lead to boredom or suffering. These triggers simply open us up to our full, unbounded experience in the moment. The bliss is already there, you’re just playing like it’s not because the game is more fun that way.
Seeing this and remembering it takes a ridiculous amount of practice because the whole world around us is doing its best to forget its true nature. That every moment is as full and perfect as any other.
That the sandwiches are doorways to an experience that’s always there. We act like it’s not because there would be no game to play if everyone was in on the secret.
So if you’re in on the secret, you really have to work not to be fooled. But the more you work at it, the space between being fooled and remembering gets shorter, because you start to realize that the space between isn’t actually there. That every moment is as full and perfect as the moments you label as the highest in your life.
No matter what you believe, you’re a creature made of particles and the elements of stars who’s dodging comets and global disasters without even knowing it. You’re a part of a civilization that for all of its horrors has also created great beauty. You get to experience a view that will never exist again, in every single moment, and you get to choose how you experience it.
The sandwiches only jog your memory.
Alan Watts—The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are—Book Review
Alan Watts–The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are–Book Review
In this book Alan Watts explores the foundations of what it means to exist in disconnected society and proposes a new viewpoint as part of the solution.
‘We do not need a new religion or a new bible. We need a new experience–a new feeling of what it is to be “I.”‘
So, who are you? What aren’t we supposed to know about who we are?
That you’re it. You’re what the word God tries to express and fails to do in myth and metaphor.
‘But this is because we think of God as the King of the Universe, the Absolute Technocrat who personally and consciously controls every detail of his cosmos–and that is not the kind of God in my story. In fact, it isn’t my story at all, for any student of the history of religions will know that it comes from ancient India, and is the mythical way of explaining the Vedanta philosophy…In the Vedanta philosophy, nothing exists except God. There seem to be other things than God, but only because she is dreaming them up and making them her disguises to play hide-and-seek with herself. The universe of seemingly separate things is therefore only real for a while, not eternally real, for it comes and goes as the Self hides and seeks itself.’
Your experience is simply the universe exploring what it means to be you and the whole of existence is in support of your exploration of free will.
You’re Joseph Campbell’s hero at the center of every journey ever taken—’And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.’
Deep down, you’re an expression of the whole universe; the unfathomable and eternal consciousnesses that lies at the center of every life form and object in existence. And so is everyone else. The people you love and the people you label as evil. We’re all it. You’re just playing that you’re not so that the universe can know what it’s like to wear your personality; to taste the unique flavor of your life and experience; to feel your loves, horrors, victories, defeats, and everything in between.
You’re TS Eliot’s ‘Still point of the turning world.’
You’re the essence that every religion ever imagined has tried to capture through metaphor.
And so is everyone else.
And why does shifting our view and changing our experience of “I” matter?
Because we’re distorting reality with our current view.
‘We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean, “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not always sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.
The first result of this illusion is that our attitude to the world “outside” us is largely hostile. We are forever “conquering” nature, space, mountains, deserts, bacteria, and insects instead of learning to cooperate with them in a harmonious order….The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events–that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies–and will end in destroying the very environment we from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends. ‘
At only 160 pages it’s a quick and fascinating read.
Happy Facebook Birthday Everyone!
I just passed my 29th birthday and I’ve met a lot of people along those orbits. Most of them in real life.
Even so, I use Facebook, and have since 2004. I grew up with AOL and AIM, the internet reaching its puberty right around when I did. That shit was awkward.
Back to the point. Facebook birthdays. Everyone who lists a birth date has one and hopefully gets a large number of HBD’s on their timeline.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about Facebook birthdays. Other people’s make me anxious. Mine tend to make me happy. Conundrum.
Other people’s birthdays make me anxious because I feel like I have to write something witty or heartfelt, which takes time (that I don’t have at a glance). A quick “Happy Birthday!” is better than nothing, but I usually get frustrated, block it out, and don’t post anything. I’m the type of person who tries to send handwritten cards to family or feels guilty.
For awhile, I even boycotted Facebook birthday-wall-wishing because it seemed to shallow to me. It’s too easy. No real effort required.
Then, I switched to text messages or personal messages, feeling like they’re more personal and substantial.
Why do I think about this so much?
Whenever I see a bunch of messages from friends on my birthday, it almost always makes me happy, whether the messages are ace Hallmark material or not.
So I try to remember that just saying something, anything … is better than nothing. The interaction may be too easy and shallow(to a degree), but it does add a small drop of happiness to someone’s day. So I should just wish them a happy birthday and stop brooding.
I almost never remember this. There is at least one or two instances over the past 2 days where I haven’t wished people happy birthday.
I’m sure I’ve missed your Facebook birthday or will at some point, so here’s my placeholder Happy Facebook Birthday! to everyone, forever and ever.
Flexible Daily Template for an Optimal Life in 2014
Optimal is a flexible and helpful lens to view your life through in 2014. When you look for formulas that deliver happiness, perfection, enlightenment, etc. you’re attaching yourself to unattainable things. They’re unattainable, because every day is different and your optimal state is always changing. Some days you’re just not going to be happy or you could be sick, and that’s OK, because that’s reality. Attach yourself to optimal, not perfect.
I have an appreciation for the power of templates and lists. Not the rigid, do-it-this-way-every-single-time-in-this-order-no-matter-what-happens-or-the-world-will-explode templates, but templates that outline essential components for success and allow for natural fluctuations.
I created this one for my daily life because I sometimes get caught up in activities and habits that are distracting me from what’s important and ultimately, this makes my life less than optimal. These are things I can always do to move towards a more favorable state.
- Drink more water
- Practice physical Yoga
- Complete work that you’re proud of
- Interact socially, IRL
- Learn something new
- Create something – Write, draw, paint, etc.
- Play – Read, watch a movie, dance, etc.
- Take a moment to be grateful for/in awe of life (the fact that we exist at all is really quite amazing)
They don’t ALL have to happen in a single day and they can be combined. Yoga could be my play and exercise one day, and the work that I’m proud of on another (when I finish a class I’m going to teach).
My favorite thing about templates or lists like these are that you can always add to them, and that practicing just one of these things every day can change your entire world.
Make your own list, and see if it helps you find your daily template for an optimal life. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Some Reasons Why I Love Living Out West
Recently I took a back road from Midway to Park City, Utah and the drive reminded me of many reasons why I love living “out west”. It started when I passed the sign that warned me the road may be impassable due to weather or other conditions. You don’t find these signs on your way to civilization in many parts of the country and I smiled at the opportunity to step out of bounds on the way home. These roads are one of the biggest reasons I love living here, and they tend to lead me to the others.
These narrow, poorly paved, or dirt roads traverse mountain passes, take you along the edges of cliffs, and lead you to rarely visited locales are up there on my list of reasons. You can drive at your own pace, stop along the way to breathe pristine air, and enjoy the feeling of standing in the middle of wild country without worrying about how you’re going to survive the coming snowstorm that just breached the ridge (if you’re not broken down and unprepared). Sandy roads through the desert lit by an orange moon and crowded by junipers are one of my favorites kinds. They take you to the most miraculous places.
The land is still alive here. You can feel the vitality the air and see the layers of time laid bare in the mountain and desert landscapes. Wildlife is plentiful and it’s not uncommon to spook herds of elk or deer from the road in front of you. Eagles, hawks, vultures, circle the skies above you and the carcasses you run across in desert canyons remind you of your own mortality. It’s easy to find yourself miles from anywhere with only the occasional passing plane breaking the silence (they’re an interesting reminder). Of course, the concrete amoebas and resource extraction machines are slowly sinking their tentacles in, but there is still pristine solitude left to enjoy and plenty of adventures to be had.
The Colorado Plateau is home to all sorts of unique things, like this living fossil, the Shield Shrimp, which can be found in a muddy desert vernal pools. These living fossils haven’t noticeably changed since the Triassic period. Their eggs lay dormant until floods give them a place to hatch, and then they go on a feeding and mating frenzy until they run out of energy or the puddle dries up. Old uranium mines, ruins of ancient civilizations, tunnels to nowhere, petroglyphs of crocodiles, abandoned towns, strange roadside stops, and many more things wait around the corners of the shifting desert landscape.
Want to be entertained? Sunrise, sunset, stormy weather, and the night sky all provide free wonder. Beams of light cutting through holes in the clouds, double rainbows, shooting stars, and satellites are constantly on display. Have you ever seen the Milky Way float like a cloud in the sky while coyotes howl in the distance? Get away from light pollution, set up camp for a few days, and look up.
Many of the people here reflect aspects of the things that I love. They’re wild, weird, vast, and filled with the same vital energy as the landscape. I’ve shared rum with strangers while they pan for gold in a workshop where drums and waterwheels are made(with a handgun sitting on the workbench for ambiance), danced the night away at an underground nightclub in a town of less than 300 people in southern Utah, and found a vein of everyday people that want to go further, higher, and do it all on their own terms.
These are just a few of my favorite things. Why do you love living where the wind grows tall?
Build Trust in Relationships Through Consistent Action or be Forgotten
Whether the relationship is professional or personal, you must build trust through consistent action or you’ll be forgotten. Now, more than ever, no one has time for people or brands they can’t rely on. Show up on time. Do your best. Listen first. Respond to people promptly. Be honest and helpful. Communicate a steady, clear message. Follow through on what you say you’ll do.
Do these things consistently as a brand or an individual and people will know that they can rely on you. In today’s world of short attention spans, information overload, and online personal interactions, nothing is more crucial.
Trust can evaporate at the post of a status, the opening of an email, the delay of a response, or at the sight of a misspelled word. If you’ve spent the time to build substantial relationships, you’ll be forgiven. If you haven’t, you’ll be forgotten.
Ten Lessons Learned at 2013 Salt Lake Comic Con
I decided to go to the 2013 Salt Lake Comic Con because of the potentially valuable lessons being offered in panels about being an author. It had nothing to do with wanting to discuss my angst earlier in the week caused by the portrayal of Frank Herbet’s world in the Dune Mini-Series… Or my love for masterpieces like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Series… Or my life-long affair with science fiction… I was going to learn, dammit. Parting the 40k+ strong sea of geeks taught me these lessons about attending the Con, about becoming an author of fiction, and about the community itself.
1. Con is a proper noun. e.g. The Con. Cons. Going to Cons.
2. There are countless benefits for creating stories in novel form first, but if you have something that must be a film, a comic, a graphic novel, or a video game, find a way to make it into one.
3. Getting to the Con early on a Saturday is vital. Luckily, this crowd stays up late and 9:30 was sufficient( I imagine next year will be different).
4. Choose your panels wisely and get to them early. Not all the rooms have space for everyone who waits in line. It’s also good to be in a space where you can actually see the speakers.
5. The publishing industry is in flux and many of the old rules are dissolving but the ability to jump through flaming hoops is still one of the things that will make you a successful author.
6. Expect pizza, french fries, soda, candy, and other common geek staples. If you want healthy food, eat before you get there or leave the venue for sustenance. I’m a recovering junk food addict (grew up in Hershey) who is now a Yogi. I scarfed a Galactic BLT that was mostly composed of fry sauce on my way to a panel and paid for it for hours.
7. The Con is much more than a cosplay event where you can get your picture taken with The Highlander and Hercules. It’s a networking arena for illustrators, video game developers, inkers, authors, filmmakers, special effects artists, clothing makers etc.. Think Outdoor Retailer for the fiction industry.
8. Building an audience is the most important thing an author can do to promote their work.
9. Everyone in this crowd is passionate about something, whether they’re in costume or not.
10. If you have kids, make sure you have a plan for when you are separated from them. This crowd is like slow-moving lava and there are distractions everywhere. Most of the activity over the intercom was coordinating scattered parties.
How to Change Your Career in Five Easy Steps
It’s not that simple, though you’ll find plenty of articles with similar titles to this one.
Two weeks ago I resigned from a great job as a Product Manager so that I could guide my career back towards creating content and strategies for others to do the same. While I was managing the development of content production systems, writing user stories, and seeing features come to life, it wasn’t filling something in for me.
So I made a snap decision to quit my job after reading an article about how to do it…. Said No One, Ever.
I’ve been developing relationships with other freelance creatives and clients for over a year now, saving money, experimenting with different projects, and continuing to put 100% effort into my day job. I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of going in either direction every day. Is it really worth it to pay for my own healthcare? Can I ever expect to make the salary I’m making now? Is this really what I want to do? The road goes on forever. In the end, I decided that there were more positive possibilities than negative and that if I didn’t do it now I’d always regret it. I’m just barely getting started, but I did learn some things in making the decision that may be helpful.
1. Make sure you can pay the bills. Following your heart may require some slimming down and budgeting, but there has to be a demand for the career you choose to pursue and you’ll need some savings to get started.
2. Surround yourself with people who’s skills complement your own and who have similar goals. You’re going to need support.
3. Create clear goals and expectations. You need to have x amount of work, and x amount of money saved up by x date.
4. Roll with the punches. Not everything will work out exactly as planned. In fact, almost nothing ever does.
5. Learn from every person and experience. Especially the ones that frustrate, agitate, and annoy. You can’t afford not to.
Oh, and one more. Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, get massages, go out with friends. You’ll have to work your ass off almost all the time, but it won’t be worth it if you’re not taking a break to enjoy life. Also, your eyes will burn out of your skull and you won’t be able to produce good work if you never relax.