The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dying inside...

CIA guy has apparently been making the rounds defending the use of waterboarding. I want to look into it—if he’s convincing, it’s a vote on the side of torture as an efficient means of gathering info. Doesn’t make it more moral, however, but it was interesting the way Liberal radio jumped to scream “conspiracy” in the exact same way Conservative radio screamed “conspiracy” when the NIE released its “Iran has no nuke program” thingie a week ago. In other words, each side of the equation is accusing the Intelligence community of shilling for the other guys. If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funnier than hell.
Under killer pressure getting this book finished…while T is teaching college, and the holidays loom. I understand now why people go through histrionics. If you tell people point blank that you are drowning in stress, but keep your voice calm and don’t curl into a ball, no one takes you seriously. I have to remind my lovely, caring wife over and over again that I am at my limit…she keeps forgetting, and acting surprised when I occasionally snap at her. That’s pretty screwed up, as if those of us who manage our stress well are actually being penalized for the strength. Yuck.
Looking forward to “I am Legend” with Will Smith, which has been getting surprisingly strong reviews…especially for his acting. In the previous version, “The Omega Man,” Charlton Heston got laid. Any bets?
Frank made an excellent comment about personal history, and how it must be dealt with to effect personal change. Love it. Twelve years ago, I planned to move from L.A. to the Northwest for just that reason: I figured I’d never know who I was if I lived my whole life in one place. Of course, things didn’t work out as planned, but maybe they worked out as they needed to.
There is some serious stuff going on inside me. My usual symbols don’t arise during meditation. I suspect that this has to do with my interactions with Steve Muhammad this last weekend. He is in certain ways, not just the War Chief of my tribe, but a Chieftain, or supreme elder, of one entire aspect of my psyche. And he evaluated my martial motion, and found it good. And looked me in the eye, and told me so. My “pretender voices” can’t stand up to that. God, they’re trying. They’re trying to find some weasely way to discount what he said, and can’t find one. An Ally like Steve is hard to beat. And now…all the vast energy I’ve expended trying to keep myself from stepping across certain lines of responsibility in life are being directed back on my ego.

I had lunch with Cliff Stewart, another of the BKF founders, on Saturday and he made a major correction for me. I told him that, as a teenager, I’d been intimidated by the warriors of the BKF. He laughed, and said that they weren’t warriors at all. They were ATHLETES, playing warrior games. Re-read that last sentence carefully. It represents a threshold of understanding in my life. A warrior, Cliff said, is someone who has a set of principles, ethics, and lives by them. Is prepared to stand for his community. Protects the weak and provides a role model. Keeps his obligations. My God. I got it. My pretender voices, once again, keeping me from seeing myself. What I’m not is a FIGHTER. I don’t like conflict. But on the occasions that people have offered me violence, I was a completely cold customer, ready to deal death. What came out in my wasn’t my ego. It wasn’t my training. It was something realer than “Steve.” And it was deadly.

Cliff is an extraordinary man, who has achieved a level of real “awakeness”. (BTW—in addition to his 15 black belts, Cliff will be awarded his full Guru status by Maha Guru Stevan Plinck next year. Cliff is the guy Masters go to when they want to hone their skills. He moves like a Rhino on roller skates, and his manner is so incredibly mild and sweet…he is so deceptively intelligent and warm, you’d never know he was one of the deadliest men God ever let live, with practical experience gained in bodyguard work all over the world.) His native intelligence, vast training, practical application, and intrinsic capacity all collapsed into a singularity some years ago, burned a hole in his armor and let out the Light. He has achieved, in that arena of his life, an extraordinary awareness. And he looked into me three years ago and promised to set me free. But I couldn’t near it from him. So he promised that I’d have the chance to have my interaction with Steve. And made good on it. (By the way--this is a prime example of the kind of initiation that takes place in non-temporal, non-linear reality. Man to man. It is one of the reasons why an intact family is so precious: there are things that only women can teach women, and men teach men. If your mother or father isn't there, you need uncles, grandparents, cousins to supply the missing "piece." Without it...well, life can be one hell of a lot harder.)

He’s killed me. Bless him. A whole aspect of my identity, my false identity, is dying. And about damn time.


Mike R said...

Regarding the pressure thing and freaking out: it's part of being a social animal. We respond to overt visual cues and behavior a lot better than we do to words. It may not be fair that those who handle their stress well enough to say, "I am at my absolute limit of stress, please do not give me anything more" often still get more stress inducing responsibilities thrust on them than those who, instead of rationally explaining their situation, just freak out, but that's just the way we're wired. You might as well complain about how your kids do what you do rather than what you say to do. Actions are pretty much always more powerful than words. Always have been, and in my opinion always will be.

I won't take the bet that Will Smith will get any action, I've seen the pattern and now it's impossible to unsee it, but if he did I don't think you'd be very happy because in the original novella,



it is sleeping with and falling in love with the vamp that ends up getting the hero captured and executed. So if he does get any action then wouldn't the complaint be that "Black Man Has Sex In A Movie = Black Man Dies"?

Steven Barnes said...

Charlton Heston died in "Omega Man." While I wouldn't like it as much as if he got laid AND survived, I'd at least feel that he was being treated with equal respect.

Anonymous said...

And what do you think of the very popular view by a leading Israeli analyst Obadiah Shoher? He argues (here, for example, www. ) that the Bush Administration made a deal with Iran: nuclear program in exchange for curtailing the Iranian support for Iraqi terrorists. His story seems plausible, isn't it?

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Steve -- understanding that blog writing is first draft, understanding that you post frequently, and not trying to be a disrespectful asshole ...

"I understand now why people go through histrionics."

"There is some serious stuff going on inside me."

"…all the vast energy I’ve expended trying to keep myself from stepping across certain lines of responsibility in life are being directed back on my ego."

"a major correction for me."

"My God. I got it"

"A whole aspect of my identity, my false identity, is dying."

I don't change much, year to year. I'm a little wiser than I was in my 30s, a lot wiser than in my 20s, vastly wiser than in my teens ... so, decade by decade, yeah, I think I've improved, learned, gotten better. But one year to the next -- not so much. If I learn One Real Thing in a given year, I'm doing well. And frequently enough, over the years, what I've thought I knew turned out be at least partially wrong, so things I've "learned" have, more than once, turned out to be things I've had to modify, or even unlearn....

You know what would be really interesting to me, from you? Places you were wrong. Insights you thought were real, that turned out to be dead ends, or worse, paths that led somewhere real, but bad for you. Because the enlightenment racket worries me and has almost as long as I've been aware of it as a racket. I don't suspect you of the racket (any longer -- I did when I met you) -- you've worked too hard and been too honest about your own failings over the years for me to harbor those sorts of suspicions about you. But I am cautious, in trying to map out something out of your work that I can use for myself -- which, sure, I do get is not the actual purpose of your blog. Watching your very frequent leaps of insight ... is this real insight? Is it at in any part entertainment for the blog readers, insights that you think might be of use to them? Is it ever stuff that, some week or months later, you think, "Maybe not?"

I don't think I'm capable of one new insight a week, which seems to be your rough average. I don't think I'm bright enough to figure things out that fast, don't think I'm strong enough to internalize and apply new knowledge that quickly. Maybe the ability to maintain this pace of discovery is the result of decades of work on your part, or maybe you're just in a very creative, transformational spot right now. (I suspect the presence of a son in your life is triggering some of that stuff; it did for me. My father issues aren't yours, but they exist and abruptly being a father sure gave me things to work through. You've been a father a decade or so longer than I have, but sons are not daughters ...)

You don't seem to have changed that much in the nearly 20 years I've known you. Admittedly, lost track of you for a decade or so, during your northwestern soujourn, but this almost makes my point --
Let's try it like this, and I don't Require Answers from you -- but if you get around to thinking about this in the next while and feel like sharing, I'd be interesting in hearing.

What do you know today you didn't know 10, 20, 30 years ago?

What did you know 10, 20, 30 years ago that wasn't so? What led you to those wrong beliefs?

I'd really like to ask what you know today that you think might be wrong ... but that's not a fair question. If you thought you might be wrong, it wouldn't be on the list of things you know....

Josh Jasper said...

I've noticed that the characters in your books who've had a capacity for violence have always seemed to have made more of a long term impact by integration and growth in a community - they were men set apart from society, severed from it in some way, and then in order to grow, they joined a community, and worked to further it's growth.

Eventually, they became what Cliff Stewart described to you as warriors.

Steven Barnes said...

Excellent questions. I'm going to address 'em. And I don't think that what's happening to me right now is because of "smart." I think I reached a kind of critical mass of understanding, and I'm looking at a very edgy phenomenon from a variety of tasty directions, trying to find language to share it. But my dead ends? Great idea! I'm going to put some thought about that. Maybe the thing can be better described by saying "not that." Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I Am Legend is a very good to great film. It is certainly Will Smith's best performance as an actor since Six Degrees of Separation. I saw the movie two days ago at a premiere showing with my oldest (15 year old) daughter and two of her friends (they invited me. isn't that nice?) I was very impressed with the movie (for the most part)and was hoping you (Steve) had seen it as well. For some reason the movie has been on my mind a great deal, almost to distraction. I'm looking forward to your reaction, Steve.

Anonymous said...

Very tentatively offered, but are there sensory signals that tell you you're close to your limit?

If so, there might be visible signs that you could ask Tananarive to keep an eye out for.