Oct. 5th, 2011 07:38 am
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
You know, I'm agnostic-skeptic when it comes to omens and signs. I think most of the weird coincidences we see are just coincidences, and not actually that weird. It's just that we notice them, and the billions of tiny co-occurrences that don't hold any special similarity go unnoticed because there's no reason to give them any attention. "I wrote a blog post about gluten-free desserts, and then I turned on the radio... and there was a story about an embassy bombing!" ...okay? That sort of stuff happens all the time, with overwhelming frequency, yet it's always the "I was thinking about quitting my job, and a copy of the newspaper classifieds blew onto the sidewalk in front of me!" events that get all the attention. "What are the odds!" As it turns out, just what it took for the event to happen, and all the dreg is still there in your peripheral vision.

But, you know, that doesn't stop me from going after the "signs" and "omens" that do crop up in my life. It's a magical-consciousness thing.

By which I mean: in my low-key, homegrown magical practice, a big central philosophy is bricolage: "to make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)". So when I write a post about being afraid to move forward and then the next day I wake up to a Live Your Legend mailinglist email about how the biggest threat to your success is quitting, and once you get that under control, all the other risks are small potatoes, I still interpret it as basically a message from $god*.

*Here I'm using the PHP variable syntax – $variable_name – to indicate, basically, "god-of-choice". God is another thing I'm both faithful and agnostic on.

And that's because I've taught myself to glean meaning and inspiration from things. Meaning, motivation, inspiration, and direction are things I need in my life, and I know that I sometimes have to be creative in fulfilling those needs. So when I see a coincidence that I can use to feed into my motivation – in this case, it's a "sign from the universe not to give up" – the framework of my thinking goes something like this:

Something called itself to my attention. => Is there meaning I can ascribe to this? => Is the potential meaning helpful or harmful? Can I interpret it in a way that makes it helpful? => If it's helpful, DUDE! It's an OMEN! If it's harmful, whoo, look at that, it's another wacky coincidence, and I go on my way.

This is a pretty blatant logical fallacy, of course – it's the same sort of thinking that contextualizes a misfortune that happens to someone of $x_particular_faith as a "test of faith" and an identical misfortune that happens to anyone else as a sign of $god's displeasure. But I'd rather look at it as a mindhack. Yeah, it's spurious and completely arbitrary, but I'm aware of it and can watchdog it so its net effect on my life is positive and it doesn't harm anyone else. I can glean a spot of inspiration from my own coincidences, and if I ever come across an arrangement of rocks in a stream that seems to spell out KILL THEM ALL, I'll take a picture and share it on Twitter with a note about how wacky patterns in nature can be.


Oct. 3rd, 2011 02:35 pm
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
If I were to be any sort of spiritual teacher, the one I'd find most honoring would be a master on the ordeal path.

Though my definition of an ordeal is broader than the one at the article linked. A quick sketch of my definition would be: an ordeal is something that frightens or challenges you in a real, meaningful way, which you go through anyway.

This comes up in a variety of ways in my conversations: as a fiction kink, as a sacred qualia. One of the character archetypes that stays with me the most is someone who drags another person through something which the other person wouldn't have attempted or possibly made it through on their own, and that person is the better for traversing it. It resonates with me.

And there are other things that stay with me, too – like how one of the people I love told me, before I was off to do something that terrified me, I promise you, you can survive this.

But before I could even consider setting myself up as an ordeal master or an ordeal guide, I looked at myself and realized that I had better know the experience inside and out. And to do that, I've been putting myself through ordeals – and they're often little, quotidian things, unimpressive things, but they're still things that frighten me. It can be as simple as dealing with my dislike of phones and confrontation to call a place to dispute a charge or cancel an account, or as common as setting up a dental appointment and dealing with the discomfort and pain, or as nonthreatening but god, I don't want to do this right now as cleaning a room in the house. (Even writing this is an ordeal, in a way – not so much the writing but the posting and leaving for people to see.) I have boatloads of small anxieties, ranging from talking to strangers to driving on my own, and one by one, I'm working through them. And I'll keep working through them until I've mastered them and am no longer afraid or averse.

There have been a couple of times recently when I've made myself proud, too. Frex: I went to Seattle to visit my brother, in early September, and one day he had to work and I was left pretty much on my own. I can't describe how much I wanted to just stay in the house and do nothing, not have to interact with an unfamiliar city or with being on my own, but I made myself get out. I walked through unfamiliar neighborhoods to a bank to get cash for the day, and then walked to the water taxi and took it downtown. I had lunch on my own. I went on a harbor tour of Elliot Bay. And when that was over and I'd gone back to the West Seattle water taxi terminal, I took off my shoes and dipped my bare feet in the waters washing in from the Pacific.

Or there was the time this weekend when I drove myself out of the city and up to the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, and participated in a wilderness survival camping experience. I shouldered a heavy pack and kept pace with the group, all of whom were, I suspect, more in shape than I was. I helped start a fire without matches, and made my own shelter out of debris and a tarp. I slept in the cold and woke up sore and tired and helped tear down the camp and bring water up from the reservoir and douse the fire, and I shouldered my pack and kept pace out of there.

And to a lot of people, those would be little things. Not even a challenge. But years of being sick and dealing with low blood pressure and syncope have taught me not to trust my body, and a lifetime of mis-interpreting people, relationships and society (because human interactions are so often just alien to me) have taught me not to trust my ability to deal with others, and so many other things have taught me not to trust so many other aspects of myself that challenging one thing and defeating that one thing is a victory I hold close. Any scrap of confidence I can knap from the world is a trophy.

And there are some fears I've mastered – submitting short stories to market was one. (I still remember how terrified I was the first time.) There are fears I'm working on but slowly overcoming, like driving and talking to fiction editors. And there are fears that still kick my ass, like dealing with dysphoria and gender and society, or striking up conversations with people I don't know well, or managing savings and feeling capable of getting back on my feet in the event that I should lose my job.

But I'm going to face them. With work, I'm going to conquer them. Because I value strength and resilience, and I intend like hell to follow this path where it leads me.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Every once in a while I realize how idiosyncratic the shapes and conventions of my world are to their particular points in time. The visual arrangement of the walls and ceiling and doors and decorations in my room are only available as I perceive them from the posture and position in which I sit to observe them, in the time when exigencies of finances and the social freedom of being a bachelor-type (if not in all regards a bachelor) drive me toward certain arrangements of housing. In my life, the things which were familiar to me will become foreign to the welling society. As a kid, I used to be fascinated with film canisters; I used to keep small keepsakes in them or fill them with some concoction or other to pretend that they were magical potions. It struck me as I was sitting here that fewer and fewer people are going to recognize them by sight, as time goes on. Fewer people will know what I'm talking about when I mention them. Film canisters.

I spend so much time in the back of my head or off in other worlds that I don't pay much attention to the granular detail of the world around me. As a result, even details of familiar environments seem novel and surprising when I turn my attention to them. I don't consciously process the arrangement of my room. I don't consider the makeup or implication of the clutter on my floor. I don't remember the tiny truths tucked away inside my memories. Except that sometimes I do, and the world gets this cast of realness to it, and it's strange, and frightening, and heartening. And foreign, and familiar, all the same.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Because I'm curious, and because I really want to see how much of a range exists in the answers. I don't need long rambles, though I'll read them; first-thing-you-think-of answers are great, too.

Try answering without looking at anyone else's answers, first.

1) How would you define a close/deep friendship?

2) What markers do you take to indicate that you're in a close/deep friendship?

3) What would you do in order to form a close/deep friendship?

[ETA] Part of the reason I'm curious is that I imagine it's radically different for a lot of people. I was struck by a quote in this book I'm reading: "Mary is so confused by the world of emotion that she could be your best friend and never know it." And it got me thinking that how we telegraph friendship is not always obvious.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Sometimes I get things that don't belong to me.

Or maybe I should rephrase that: sometimes things come to me that have no belonging with me. It happens fairly frequently with the art I do. Sometimes with other physical objects. Sometimes with works by other people – poems or books or whathaveyou. But something will come to me, and it won't let me alone, but it won't be mine. In these cases, I'm slowly learning that my job is to wait for the lurch of SEND THIS OFF NOW or make an educated guess at where that needs to be.

Once, frex, I was idly sketching, and a dragon came out. Not the one I'd been intending to draw, but when I erased him and started over, he came out again. And again. And then I was going to send him off to a friend who worked with that sort of dragon, but I got a sense of no, not now from it, and when I made to ignore those, a series of unlikely coincidences (including forgetting the flash drive I carried with me daily) conspired to prevent me from sending it off. So he sat on my hard drive and I'd poke him occasionally and give up again until one day, out of nowhere, I got this Send this off NOW spike which wouldn't let me leave the room. So I sent him off, where he was received, so I'm told, at exactly the right, critical time.

Or there was the time after I made skullbaby that I decided to make another mask, and started in on an Anubis one. Which then fizzled out and wouldn't let me finish it, and then I started hanging out with someone who worked with Anubis as an aspect. That mask now has a home, and is semi-finished, at least, and has already been used in a production.

It's things like this.

And my sense for these things isn't perfect; that's the cost of guessing, I suppose. But there have been enough hits (and only one real catastrophe) that I keep going with it, because if I don't, I end up feeling like a cad for weeks afterward.

Speaking of which, is there anyone who feels, metaphysically, like they're missing an epic Bengali lyrical love poem from me?


magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

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