The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Non-Hollywood is Calling...

Here's an adaptation of the "Tabata" protocol to a workout circuit someone sent me. Looks kind of interesting.


I must be getting more popular, or something. I'm getting an increase in non-Hollywood people wanting to write and/or produce my books into screenplays and movies. No money or experience, but they have lots of enthusiasm. I try to be polite. Actually, I tell them to go ahead and write anything they want, so long as they don't represent themselves as having any legal rights to the project. Practice can be fun.


If corporations are people, should they be able to vote? And if they can, if I register a thousand corporations, does that mean I get a thousand votes? What fun we're going to have.


I came across this essay by a long-time Buddhist who said that after many many years of meditation, he was shattered to find out that his intellect wasn't the strongest arrow in his quiver. Considering the limitations of our minds, it would be nice if we could embrace this thought. It seems that those who are smart enough to have thought their way through much of their lives, and can see problems they see no solutions to, are among the most depressive human beings I've ever met. They really believe that the limit of the universe is the limit of their own perception and analytical capacity. No wonder things look hopeless.

The eighth step of the Hero's Journey is the "Leap of Faith." I feel terribly sorry for people who have not acquired this capacity. They operate on their own resources alone, and since we all know damned well that there are limits to our intelligence and energy, this can lead to a life of fear. And anger. Covered up with a smarmy false self-assurance, and a compulsive mastery of some small, trivial area of human endeavor. The trick is that the intellect can only crunch the data it is offered, and seems to work best in service to the ego. This is why it is so little use in helping us out of our genuine existential crises. After all, if we actually move through the leap of faith and transform our demons, we will move to the next level of our lives...and that is deadly to the ego.

What happens? Instead of leaping forward, we fall back and repeat old patterns that are comfortable to our sense of self. The trouble is that that is much like, as Puddochio (don't ask, if you're not an S. Clay Wilson fan) once said, "the second pressing of the grape." In other words, there is no creativity, no energy, no aliveness in covering the same territory. It is cutting the same grass. Chewing the same food again. And we begin to die. We all know people like this. I first noticed them about two years after graduating High School. Years after graduation, they have not changed at all. Playing the same games. Refusing to learn the lessons of life. Forming the same dysfunctional relationships, and still blaming life for their own actions.

Yesterday, in a conversation with one of my coaching clients, the subject of immature philosophy among MFA students arose. They have a lot of book larnin' and have heard they are supposed to represent life deeply in their work. But rather than actually examining the things they know in life, they try to prate wise about things they know little of. In other words, a ten year old can represent his own experience, if willing to tell the truth. Or he can tell wonderful stories that will inspire nine-year-olds. But the instant he tries to talk about being a teenager, he'd better have phenomenal insight, or his stuff will seem awfully flat. Imagine trying to write about post-puberty life if you've never had a wet dream.

And that's much the situation with people who hold frantically onto their belief that they "know" what's on the far side of their next natural life transformation. There is always fear and grief accompanying such change, but that's just the way it is. And the more you fight it, the greater the negative emotional load.

Three months ago I hit a wall, realizing that it would be lethal to continue defining myself as I had the last thirty years. It wasn't easy at all, but acceptance of the fact that I had mistaken a label for my Self was liberating.


Dan Moran said...

I am a very simple person in some ways, which has probably saved my butt over the years. A metaphor I heard many years back (could have been from you) was the car -- you could have a 400 horsepower engine, but if it was in a broken down Taurus with flat tires, the car wasn't going anywhere. I haven't been able to listen to people brag about their intellect since without picturing a sedan sitting on its rims.

Steve Perry said...

You get as many, if not more, problems when your intellect is the sharpest knife in the drawer. Living from the neck up is as bad as living from the neck down.

LaVeda H. Mason said...

This is so true... true life success involves more tools than just your intelligence.

It's like standing in front of a door with several locks on it.

Not only do you need the keys to the individual locks, you also need to unlock the locks in the proper sequence to get the door to open. [Those who know me know that I'm still working on getting keys *&* sequence together, lol!]

Nice picture, Dan!! It makes me laugh. Hopefully, you keep your engine in a well-kept body... something stealthy }:-)

Dan Moran said...

:-) I look OK in basketball shorts.

Professor Timonin said...

in re: corporations and voting - no. Corporations are sort of legally people, but they are not citizens - they have some rights, but cannot vote.

Anonymous said...

"If corporations are people, should they be able to vote?"

No, and that wasn't the point of the Supreme Court's recent ruling. Nor -- as Justice Kennedy made clear -- did that ruling authorize foreign donors' contributing to U.S. elections.

There's no lack of arguments in favor of the ruling if you'd like to read them. Here's one. And here's another.

--Erich Schwarz

Marty S said...

Dan: Your car analogy is very apt. I have seen many good ideas lying dead in the street because the individual didn't have all the non-intellectual skills to bring them to fruition. But another car analogy is in my opinion equally apt a physically fit, sexually attractive person without adequate intellect is like a Porsche with a 450 hp engine, superb transmission, and great racing tires, but no steering wheel.

Bennett said...

I had a weird experience in defining myself recently, while working on the Route 101 (I'll probably get over to the Forums there soon, and talk about it more)

I started thinking about my career in the long-term, and could actually /feel/ the shell of my ego, like a hermit crab's shell keeping it from growing. I felt the fear of growth, something that had always been abstract before.

But I thought about what you'd said, about being so much more than what my ego tells me I am.

And it occurs to me that my parents who love me, teachers who've read my work, and even other students and people who didn't even like me (even one who disliked me personally) have expressed full confidence in my future as a successful writer. Only me--or rather, only the ego shell around me--thinks that I don't have that potential.

It was kinda like having my eyes opened up for just a second and getting to look at the world as it really is.

During this mornings Maitri meditation, your image was the one that popped to mind when focusing on a spiritual teacher or other venerated figure, where I usually see a Sensei or Buddha. Dunno that your indirect influence on one random, faceless person on the internet means a whole lot to you in the big scheme of things, but you've meant a world of difference to me.

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Steven Barnes said...

thank you for the links.

All of you--thank you for today's responses. Excellent. Please support each other, bring your clearest selves forward, as you have done for years now. Keep sharing ideas and resources. I am so humbly grateful if my experiences or perspectives are helping others. That is almost as precious to me as my son's kisses.

Marty S said...

Here's a headline I just read from an article on the Huffington Post site.

Obama Still Loved By The Over-Educated

They are talking about people with postgraduate degrees. Why call them over educated rather than highly educated? Combined with some of the comments in the last two posts I'm getting very scared that an attitude that there is something wrong with being intelligent is spreading in a segment of our population. Since this segment itself seems to contain a fair number of highly intelligent people, its almost like form of self hate.

Steven Barnes said...

Read both the articles.
1) Right or wrong, I don't think money equals speech.
2) I would be PERFECTLY happy to have corporations and unions playing by the same rules in terms of contributions, or running political ads.
3) And here I need someone to do a little research. Right now, only about 8% of the worker population is Union. What is the comparison between the power of unions and the power of multinationals?
4) If we limited Unions to suggesting their members donate to X or support Y, that would be the same as Corporations being limited to telling their employees or stockholders
to do the same. I'd be in favor of that.
5) Multinational or foreign corporations can have direct influence over our political process? That feels horrendous to me. I'd be perfectly happy to control foreign unions and foreign corporations the same way.
6)I see nothing, NOTHING that this ruling does other than give massive power to a tiny group of very very wealthy people. If I'm not a member of that group, I fail to see what there is to cheer here.
7) Unless, of course, one directly equates money with speech--which I do not. If you do, then this is just one of those places where we must agree to disagree.

Pagan Topologist said...

Marty, I think you are exactly right. There is a strong element of anti-intellectualism in our nation, and some of the people involved are themselves intellectuals. I find this really troubling.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"You get as many, if not more, problems when your intellect is the sharpest knife in the drawer. Living from the neck up is as bad as living from the neck down."

We should strive for BOTH physical and mental excellence. Having said that, if forced to choose, I'd choose intellect over bod any time. My reasons, in no particular order:

X. The brain THINKS, the bod doesn't. This means a sharp intellect can spot and correct its own deficiencies, including issues that adversely impact physical performance. Further, the intellectually astute can even compensate for physical deficiencies such as slow metabolisms. The reverse isn't true. For example, the slovenly, obese Sci-Fi "geeks" discussed previously are ultimately capable of diagnosing and rehabilitating themselves physically, as many have, myself included. Once awakened emotionally and mentally, diet, discipline and exercise are all that are required to transform homeliness into comeliness. By contrast, an intellectually underachieving "jock" is incapable of the mirroring mental transformation. No diet or exercise regimen can boost brainpower in mere months; whether cognitive ability can be elevated at all is shapely contested, as the I.Q. controversy illustrates. Put simply: most physical shortcomings are easily correctable; intellectual deficiencies are arguably permanent, crippling disabilities.

Y. If knowledge is power, even more so is the ability to create, interpret and WIELD it. While those who inherit wealth and status may be smart or dumb a la Dubya, the vast majority of "self made" social climbers like Chris Gardner, Bill Gates or Steve Barnes do so by dint of their intellects. Baring the rare innately stellar super-jock, it's mental prowess that banishes poverty, be it through business, scholarship, politics, entertainment, what have you.

Z. Intellectual achievements are simply more IMPORTANT and MAGNIFICENT than physical ones. The Olympic athlete's crown may inspire a handful before it fades through tarnish or in the glare of fresh fame; the discoveries of Steven Hawking may guiding and ultimately transform our species and endure forever.