I Rise The Moon

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Sometimes there are those unexpected consequences that you just have to own. You plan, you prepare and you have these goals. But they fall flat. Shit didn’t work out like it was supposed to. I tried, and somewhere along the way I lost sight of the real goal.

I don’t know how it happened.

Lately I was binging Bojack Horseman and perhaps that was just too much emotional turmoil to process. Seems likely. Have you ever noticed that there’s an osmosis like effect where media you consume effects you, the “film-series-book-music” equivalent of “you are what you eat”?

No surprises really, because everything has an effect on you, causing changes in that precious grey matter inside your head. Even as you’re reading this there are minute alterations going on within your brain tissue. It’s nothing to worry about – it happens whether you’re eating cheese, smoking crack or watching the Moon rise.

But was my brain, like the Moon, in its dark phase, simply waiting to rise and cast its pellucid glow upon the world? Again, perhaps it was some kind of personal eclipse due to the failure of said expectations to arrive. When I lamented that there were always unrealistic expectations springing up like weeds through the paving cracks of my mind a friend replied to my statement:

I think unrealistic expectations are a necessary creative element. All the ones that you don’t fulfil are just numbers to tick off on the way to the one you do.

I suppose we might consider the weeds more like flowers. They grow up in profusion and there isn’t necessarily time to make a bouquet – I can see how my brain works like this sometimes, like some sort of bubbling font that will suddenly latch on to an idea. When it sprays up in the air all over the place, I go into a dizzy frenzy trying to collect all the water droplets of my imagination as they sprinkle down.

If I could just collect them all….

But the bucket of daily life is sometimes riddled with little holes, like walking home from my son’s school and climbing back into bed just to warm up because I got cold. Next thing I woke up at midday; I want to feel bad that I wasted a whole morning, but sometimes it just happens.

I had been planning on getting some editing done, but then this new idea colonised my brain, carving new paths that ran deep because I didn’t forget the notions. Juices went rushing through the canyons like a flood, moving down tracts of imagination that had been etched by a previous idea. It all seemed to come together, maybe something in the vein of “YA Fiction”.

The problem is, as many people no doubt find, is the way the idea “feels” as it comes rushing in – it has a shape and a wholeness that is like a perfect bubble of inspiration, but any attempt to craft or guide it into something tangible causes it to become warped by the requirements of the material world. I am resigned to the fact that this is the challenges of being an artist: to draw from the creative source and bring it into being, a birthing process, and through the pain and suffering try and give something life.

From immaculate conception and into Samael’s imperfect reconstructed reality with flaws and all, all of it torn from the perfect womb of cosmic nirvana and thrust into the world of base desires where, with the roll of the dice, we might be all have been prince or pauper, and who is to say who the lucky one might really be? Each free in their own way, each caged by in others.

Yet where ever our feet have touched down, it can often be a challenge to stay positive at times, and we all face the challenge of turning our negativity into something useful. I know I’m lucky, even if it doesn’t feel that way some days. Everything could be worse, right? I am one of the lucky ones, halfway between the prince and the pauper. Yet even this knowledge can be hard to digest when you feel yourself on a low.

I wonder if I’m not just a little manic depressive at times. It’s probable, but I recently found some solace in a recent Facebook share. It was a video about “gratitude”. It claimed that trials had shown it to be a highly effective psychological technique to combat negative thoughts, and that journalling about the things you were grateful for just a couple of times a week could affect brain make-up.

One might suppose that this is a mirror to my remarks about “you are what you eat”. You are feeding yourself reassurance, and it works to stave off feelings of inferiority, envy and depression. It’s like talking to yourself about the good things, refocusing you on what you have, instead of what you lack.

*   *   *

As an aside – the video I was watching about gratitude made a pass at something that suggests an evolutionary selection for altruism – as a social animal it makes sense that social interactions would develop best with a reciprocal gratitude for sharing – as opposed to that “selfish gene” crap. I’ve never minced words about Richard Dawkins.

As far as I’m concerned he’s an apologist for capitalism and Social Darwinism.

Of course, I thought he was a dick years ago when he was shitting on fairy tales with no understanding of their history, meaning and importance, and the other day he mistakenly waded into a defence of eugenics (hmmm, did I say he was an apologist for Social Darwinism…..?), making claims that it can work in principle if disconnected from “ideology”.

My initial reaction was to hold up a finger and say aha! That doesn’t make sense! It is like a ship with no rudder because surely “ideology” is the guiding principle in the selection process. There has to be an idea of what is “good” before you start fucking about with designer babies.

Falling back on a conflation of eugenics with selective breeding there is an argument that we’ve been doing it for ages to domesticated animals and that worked out well. Right… go tell it to the pugs, because they look to me like a waste of a perfectly good wolf.

An appeal is then made to common sense. How could we not want to select for something as “good” as intelligence? Who wouldn’t want us all to be smarter, right?

Problem is that academic studies have highlighted the difficulty in isolating what intelligence is – is it recall and good memory, analysis and problem solving, synthesis of facts, trial and error learning etc? And which bit of the brain are we looking here? Is it just size or is it furrows? Is it nerve endings? Are they genetic and if so which genes are responsible for producing it?

In reality it appears that environmental factors have a much bigger impact on the results: diet and health, social and domestic stability, wealth and familial income, physical fitness and exercise (walking can apparently stimulate the brain as humans have been ambulatory creatures for thousands of years), access to further education and opportunities. Just stimulating the brain makes it smarter as nerve endings fire and burrow further through the grey matter.

We are, all of us, blessed with a brain that has been as clever as the time when we started making the first stone tools. Perhaps it would be best to think about the most common sense way to stimulate it?

And I have a feeling that Twitter might not be as healthy in that regard as simply enjoying a sunset…..

But like a dog with a bone, or perhaps a wolf with a side of elk haunch, let me ask again how you can have a gene that is “selfish”? A gene is a unit of data that transmits biological blue prints onto following generations. If it’s selfish then it has agency and that means we’re saying that it has some sort of plan. That means it’s acting with a purpose to arrive at a result.

It’s a common fallacy to invoke a purpose to Darwinian Evolution – that it’s trying to attain something like perfection, that it’s part of a Great Chain of Being reaching for the ultimate state.  That’s not what “hard” science says: evolution is mutation (change), and the best mutations survive the longest – there’s no hidden hand at work here.

But you know where there is a hidden hand guiding everything Richard? In theology.

*shrug*

Just to be clear, I’m not advocating for a hard science approach, because developing a spirituality that probes the meaning of existence is also a good way to stimulate the mind, just as science is a tool we can use to understand the mysteries of the cosmos.

I’m just saying that Richard chose his hill to die on.

But whatever, moving on…..

*   *   *

Positive thoughts. Positive thoughts.

There’s always something to be grateful for, right? Sure, I haven’t published a book….. yet, but I’ve written stuff and it’s reached people. Hell, this is reaching you now (well, assuming you’re still reading). So, I’ve shared ideas that resonated at some level, and that means brain matter got altered.

I can thus claim to be a mind altering substance. Now I’m not going to advocate any heroic doses here, because if you want to expand the mind its not going to happen over night, although inducing revelations can be helpful. It’s what you do with the revelation that’s important.

Sometimes you just have to go through that process of having received a perfect bubble of thought and feeling, seeing the divine through a pure experience of reality, but to translate it into course words seems to be a monumental effort.

Sadly, there is no cutting corners when it comes to the hard work of self realisation.

I mean, you can try and rush things, take a short cut and avoid the hard work. I heard that self help guru and pop psychologist Jordan Peterson recently tried this tact after getting hooked on benzos. Instead of the hard work of going through rehab and cold turkey, carefully scrutinising the errors in judgement and the devil in the details, he took himself off to Russia for rapid detox where they put him in a coma.

That’s right, they put you in coma so you can bypass the effects of cold turkey.

Sounds totally legit…..

For a man who preaches personal responsibility as a solution to the pitiful state that is your underachieving life, it all seems a bit…. irresponsible.

End result was that he got brain damage which has effected his legs and hands. His daughter then posted a statement blaming western medicine.

Okay…. take that how you will, but were talking about fucking with the brain chemistry again, and we must consider the various levels to this tampering. We should be wary of just who’s work we are engaging with, just as we should be wary of the dodgy dispensary in the side alley. Our culture is littered with back street grifters touting their wares on the internet, so we should remember that ingestion can flood our neural systems with unpleasant side effects.

Equally there is a chance to engage with new stimulants and mind altering authors who might open doors, or perhaps might close doors. Hell, there are even those that can make new doors, and if we’re gonna take a peek then we have to be ready for the results. We might oscillate between imagined realities, and it might be uncomfortable, but perhaps the time has come where we need to be a little more intrepid in our psychonautic explorations in a world that needs us more than ever to consider the possibilities….

Once we do, all this warp and weft of the mind cannot but effect the way in which we see our world. So it is no surprise that these things which either alter or suppress your brains workings have a political dimension to them. I said it recently to someone in regard to fucking with your brain chemistry: It will always be political.

Happy or sad, high or low, the old grey matter is the medium, and there are always those in authority who will seek to tell you what is, and is not, acceptable to do to your body in the name of public safety.

And all I’m saying at this point is that I want there to be public health warnings on my posts, because whether you agree or not, they’re mind altering in their own right…..

*   *   *

Politics is always a risky subject to get into, especially when you don’t know much about your readership. I recently read a post regarding what you should do when one of your favourite authors goes “full political”. If you don’t agree, do you stop reading their work? Do you burn their books? Is it death of the author all over? Then again, I’m guessing that most of us can tell what an author’s outlook might be from their content anyway.

For example, as an anthropologist I’m not entirely in agreement with HP Lovecraft’s opinions, but I’m still prepared to creep myself out reading his work. And boy, is some of that stuff a trip! The existential crises caused by unspeakable cosmic horror, the brain unable to cope and so can only retreat into madness. Who knows what unholy alterations must have occurred to my precious thinking module after reading the Call of Chthulu?

Or how about the Color Out Of Space? What will happen when I watch Lovecraft + Nic Cage? Now that might just prompt a retreat into madness!

Anyhow, if we agree that the act of reading itself alters our brain patterns, then perhaps there is more to this synthesis between stories and brains and politics. We might certainly gain an understanding of the author from their works, and perhaps we can ascertain something of the world from the stories whose authors we can no longer remember.

Fairy tales, folk lore, and myth for example. We might conclude that while it has  been subject to the deformity of changing times and cultures, there is something in these stories that still speaks to us. Stories like Jack and The Beanstalk are likely over five thousand years old, and contain all manner of secrets that should be teased out to find out more about our ancestors.

So when people like Dawkins throw all this in the garbage God only knows what he’s missed in gus ignorance! It perhaps comes from the false notion that we have reach some level of intellectual superiority in this day and age – a notion Dawkin’s reinforces by ragging on hillbilly creationists.

And a quick look at the Satan’s Dreambox (or television as some people prefer to call it) makes me wonder if we really are living in such a day and age. Anti-intellectualism is rife at the moment.

But then that might just be the social scientist in me talking, something that sometimes happens when I get animated. I heard from the same friend that I quoted earlier that in conversation I often over estimate people’s individual capacity for understanding what all these crazy words are that come popping out of my mouth like the proverbial lyrical wax.

I don’t do it on purpose, to make people feel bad. I just use this juicy lexical catalogue without thought, so in a sense I’m the one being ignorant. Like I said before, it takes time and effort to render your revelations into language, and the irony is that the language we deploy in the telling isn’t always readily accessible.

*   *   *

But I digress. I was talking about fairy tales, folk lore and myths, those hidden repositories of knowledge that in our modern ignorance we’ve failed to understand. They are as much histories of changes within culture, class and gender as they are templates for morality and behaviour. They contain rules about how the world works, and they might not be scientific, but here’s the catch – most of us know the rules.

I’m talking about those bits of story that can be found deep down in those subconscious furrows of the mind. You know them well, and in fact you’ve been given them over and over in your life because stories don’t die, they too evolve and live on. So if I ask you what colour is a witches cat? You know. If I ask you how to turn a frog into a prince or how to wake a sleeping princess? You know. If I ask you how many times you have repeat the magic phrase or and simply what the magic number is? You know.

You know it’s three.

Three: three nights of Dark Moon, three nights of Full Moon.

So let’s not pretend like the occluded secret history of our society hasn’t colonised our brains. It already has, just like the unlucky number happens to be the number of lunar months in a year, and if I ask you what happens when the twelve good fairies get invited to the birth of a princess and you don’t invite the thirteenth, well….. you know how the story goes.

I’ve been thinking about these stories recently, mainly The Boy Who Turned To Stone, but I suppose that one of the favourites I often focus on is Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, echoes of which to my mind appear in the English folk song Matty Groves with their structural elements that reflect fertility, moral behaviour, an old man and young man and a woman who is seducing someone outside of marriage. There is a universality to it that even when we cast aside the crazy magical stuff, we still connect to the moral dilemmas within the tale.

These songs and stories are the old media, and have been constantly recycled to find new forms down the centuries, on stage, screen and in books. They find a way to survive and, surprise surprise, we might find the bit where the Green Knight get decapitated and his head comes off, spraying everyone with blood isn’t a million miles away from Pulp Fiction in the back of the car.

*   *   *

As for the song Matty Groves, I’ve been practicing it for open mic. Not a hard song by any means, but a whole lot of story in itself that requires quite a bit of memory to recite. In the tale young Matty is seduced by Lady Darnell. Her husband’s “faithful servant” observing this runs off to tell his master. Lord Darnell thus comes home to find Matty in bed with his wife and so challenges him to a duel.

Here we have the similar ritual combat to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: you take your strike, and then I shall have mine. So Matty swings with the sword lent him by Lord Darnell and wounds him. Lord Donald then take his strike and “Matty struck no more”.

Having slain Matty, Lord Darnell asks his wife whom she prefers, either him or young Matty. Instead of telling her angry, sword wielding husband that he’s the only man for her, she instead gives him the two fingers up and says she’d rather a kiss from dead Matty’s lips..

No surprises: Lord Darnell loses his shit and kills his wife. These old tales don’t do happy endings much…… well, except when they’ve been Disney-fied, and I certainly won’t be doing any of that for open mic if I get around to doing a bit of story telling; it’s something to work on in the future of course, another idea and perhaps an unrealistic expectation on myself.

But then here’s this great little venue and it’s such a great potential platform for trying stuff out. It’s got to be one of the places that really tops the list of things to be grateful for. It gave me my first outlet for public performance, and it’s been great for resocialising the musical experience. As much as I love sitting at home with my headphones on listening to the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets I often feel that there’s a lack when not sharing it with someone.

I suppose you could frame events like open mic as a kind of sharing, and in a world where we can all fall into the trap of sitting at home in little isolated bubbles, lost in the domain of fear where the sour milk of 24hr news can be suckled from the cathode nipple it provides an antidote to be alone with just your brain – something that I know from experience isn’t always healthy.

Furthermore, I would contend that places like The Yard might not only run on gratitude, but actually thrive on it – the sharing and mutual support between performers, venue, volunteers and the audience creates a kind of wellness, a grateful atmosphere that makes it a healthy place to be. We’re all in it together, sharing, and that’s got to be making positive changes to the brain.

Like I said before, gratitude was good for overcoming some of those negative tendencies like envy. I’ve envied some musicians for their talent, and I’ve tried to fill a hole of feeling inadequate with GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) and falling back on the Tool Box Fallacy – you need this guitar and that effects pedal and you simply can’t play without the right equipment.

It’s bullshit, of course. I was never happier at open mic than that last time I played with just an acoustic, no amp or mic and a small audience. It was nice, and I can feel gratitude for that experience. I remind myself that I’m doing what I wanted to do. There are people who, for a myriad of reasons, can’t even do that.

So, blessings counted, even if they seem small on the scale of what the modern world keeps pushing with its need for endless satisfaction via adverts and aspirational brainwashing. It’ll only cost the earth, and it’s not likely to even make you happy.

But hey, at least we can be miserably in luxury.

And maybe things are out of our hands, and the world has gone crazier than ever, but tomorrow is another day and I got all these ideas bubbling up inside me about fairy tales and the Moon, and I kept thinking about that phrase: I Rise The Moon. It’s attached itself to more than just the story that I was talking about near the start of this post. It’s like a fever of another world, another reality, like a shadow biome hiding in plain sight but that has a totally different life to the one we experience every day.

I don’t know what it means even as I begin to sketch fragments of it, and I’m working again like I’ve crested that hump that comes around every so often. I think of it like a natural rhythm, perhaps a bit of that manic/depressive thing. You get low, you get high, you cycle around like breathing in and out. If you’re down and out of breath, think how good it’ll be when you can draw a fresh breath and start a new day.

A bit like Bojack…..

I finished binging Bojack. It ended and I was kinda lost, but just like Bojack there was going to be another day: “Life’s a bitch, and then you go on living.”

Or maybe that should be another night!

Aye! We surface as the shadows lengthen, standing in the dark against the crazed solar empire that’s burning the planet. Cool Moonlight touches our brains to make new folds with its midnight chemistry.

They say that the human body reacts differently to the onset of darkness. It’s a time and place of mystery and dreams, so I’ll rise with the Moon in a new era where the Doomsday Clock just got the closest it ever did to Midnight. It must be a sign that there’s a need for new thinking and a need for more creative experimentation, a sign to embrace dreams and fantasy and fairy tales where we change, grow tails and take wing, where perhaps we can find moralities that better suit our strange times.

So, as I rise with the Moon, I will find and master new forms as a writer, sometimes full and shining, sometime dark and absent.

And sometimes half way between the two.

DJC

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