The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

So...what's really going on?

I’ve noticed in my re-writing process that I’ve always been able to trust my subconscious, to know that it had a better idea where I was going than my conscious mind. As I head into the final stretch with “Shadow Valley” all I can tell you is that had BETTER be true, because the book still isn’t jelling…but there are excellent glimmers.

But as I dig deeper into my meditation, and tie that into the Be Breathed pattern, and push THAT harder with FlowFit, martial arts, yoga, and the 5MM…I notice something happening that I wrote about 25 years ago…that I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, and notice that my breathing pattern is kind of odd. That something is happening on a deep level, and that it isn’t quite what any ONE of my teachers talked about, but that it seems to be sort of “indicated” by what all of them implied. As if the specific disciplines were all “fingers pointing to the moon.” The could get you to the corner, but they couldn’t tell you what it looked like to your left or right.

Language fails. But let me try to put a nail in this, from where I sit right now. Please bear with me. Here are component pieces.
1) The idea of the Awakened state as a combination of the child’s mind with the scholar’s intellect.
2) My own “False Physiological Profile” concept. The idea is that if you can keep your energy where it was at 25 (or is for the average 25 year old) while continuing to learn, an odd thing happens. Imagine if you had the knowledge you now have when you were half your age. You would have been a genius, right? And if so, you would have had ideas and perceptions that were somewhat “out of the box” for ordinary folks, wouldn’t you? I think you can “fake” being a genius by keeping energy high, and learning all your life.
3) The Newborn has no sense of “Identity.” She gains it through interactions with the outside world. To my knowledge, the only things hard-wired in are pretty primary: the emotions of anger, fear, and love. Fear of falling and loud noises. The urge to suck. These and a few, few more seem to be the basic building blocks of everything that we become. As we learn, we go through genital identity, a sense of power and control (“mine!”) emotional connection, power of expression, building reality maps. A sense of what is tribally “us” (family) which is protective of the child (“stranger danger!”) but also leads to prejudice and racism. Every silver lining has a cloud, right? So you learn, marching up through the Chakras (or Maslow’s Hierarchy) until you complete your reality map, and test it thoroughly (I.D.E.A., or: what happens when you test your theories by trying to live a balanced life?) at which point you are ready for a mature spiritual perspective.
4) Once you reach the end, and glimpse Truth, you are ready to go back and throw away everything that got you to this point: sorting through the stuff that parents, society, etc. gave you to control you/help you survive (take your pick). Different people get to the “end game” faster than others due to innate or environmental factors. Me? I knew I was being lied to the day they automatically put me in the slow reading group based on race. Horrible thing for a kid to deal with in first grade. And different people can “clean up” their mess faster than others. You have to do both to prepare yourself for the next level.
5) If you’ve made it to the end AND cleaned up everything that got you there AND have enough energy left to keep going, a whole new game opens. In the martial arts, this can manefest as increasing complexity through one level of training (until, say, the second degree black belt or so?) followed by the martial artist understanding his own strengths, weaknesses and proclivities and discarding those techniques that don’t work for him, and starting to wire the ones that work in at a deeper and deeper level. Caring less about technique than means of application: timing, distance, etc. And if “sport” is left behind, then the next level would be appreciation of emotional states, both in an opponent (recognition of threat) and in self (ability to reach a Berserker “flash point” in an instant, while remaining detached and “on the rails” in terms of technique. Pretty frightening, actually). Everything becomes very simple, the progressive application in spontaneous expression of fewer and fewer ideas. It looks complicated or “magical” to an outsider, but to the martial artist, there was “nothing happening.”
6) The same thing is true in the arts. You sort through a gigantic amount of material about language, grammar, spelling, structure. Literature and it’s techniques of criticism. Unless your instructors are familiar with the psychology of Flow State Management and so forth, they simply put you in a stress funnel and have you work your ass off. Those who can roll with it and keep their sense of self have a chance to become writers. They have a chance to become Professional writers if they can also understand marketing, attract a marketer to partner with them, or have an intuitive grasp of the market. Preferably, all three. After years in the field, they have little conscious awareness of the skills they spent decades developing, and seek increased “simplicity” in their work. This is where a master writer like Ray Bradbury can screw people up. Looking at Ray’s work at his peak is looking at a killer level of simplicity. Trying to aim directly at that without having taken the intermediate steps can be lethal to a budding career.
7) If the “Hero’s Journey” as a plot structure relates to human life itself, then making it explicit rather than implicit allows the writer, or student, to move through life’s meta-cycles with every project or planning session. To the degree that this is an accurate representation of a valid view of life’s patterns, the movement of sensitivity (I.D.E.A.) from Unconscious Incompetence to Unconscious Competance COULD be greatly accelerated.
8) Leading to the ability to “throw away” conscious control. Leading to perception of the “Puppet Strings” parents, teachers and society used to help you survive long enough to learn and become autonomous. Moving from psychology to Sociology, this leads to grasping the strings of tribal control (“don’t we HAVE to consider ourselves superior to others to love or fight for our country/beliefs?”) leading to a glimpse of the Big Joke: all social rules connected to the same basic wiring programmed into infants. The parallel between individual Adulthood and social/planetary Adulthood gets spooky. Playground Games and those in Washington or the United Nations become eerie echoes of each other.
9) McKenna’s “Spiritual Autolysis” is a matter of disassembling the ego-shell one layer at a time, undoing what was done to allow us to fit into our bodies, families, society. Leaving the bare wiring of survival, the residual ego shell…and the clearest possible perception of “what is” untainted and minimally filtered. If you have the ability to get this far, you have the best chance you’ll ever have of glimpsing the same truth every damned sage has written and spoken of since the beginning of time. Good luck!
10) McKenna himself wasn’t balanced when he started the process. I’d guess him for a borderline misanthrope without meaningful emotional ties to family or friends. Also, I don’t think he was ever self-supporting. That means that the “I.D.E.A.” factor wasn’t there to help him. By approaching his Enlightenment outside the protection of any established religious pattern, unraveling his ego left him maladapted to cope with this world, leading to all manner of misadventures that might have been avoided had he balanced himself first, or performed the disassembly within a structure field-tested for a couple of thousand years. I am more convinced than ever that he’s telling the truth. I’m also convinced that it didn’t have to be as traumatic as what he experienced.
11) My fiction writing feeds off my own ego concerns—I’ve done three million words of my own version of “Spiritual Autolysis.”
12) These columns are my own way of examining what is coming up inside me: the tribal wounds, the ego damage, and so forth. Allowing others to criticize my perceptions in a kind of “Scientific Method” of experimentation and publication, applied to the psychological/spiritual arena. As I’ve said over and over, I ain’t trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m just getting it straight in my own head.
And there you pretty much have it, if you can read between the lines. The process of Awakening is composed of learning the pieces of knowledge, the attitudes and masks necessary to navigate the adult world, working it until it is instinctive, and then pausing to look at how it all fits. Possibly, for most this doesn’t kick in until they’ve had children AND watched their parents die: the ability to sit in the middle and see both ends. To actually WATCH your child develop, while being in the Parent position of providing safety and succor. Switching emotional “positions” with an aging parent. Engage on this level, and if you can’t get the joke, you never will.

This suggests that we really miss the boat by not caring for aging parents, though, doesn’t it? Doesn’t that suggest that shuttling them away to a home denies US one of the most important maturation experiences in existence? For our OWN benefit, shouldn’t we be as hands-on as possible in the raising of our children and the death of our parents? Just a thought…


Anonymous said...

I think that caring for one's own parents and one's own children is a good start, and almost certainly more profound than only caring for other people's dependents. However, I think it's even better to be exposed to those roles repeatedly and in slightly different variations. I went with my mom and my grandmother to my great-grandparent's house on weekends and then watched them care for my great-grandfather at my grandma's house. When I was in high school I was heavily involved in helping my grandmother care for my great-grandmother and recently I took care of my grandmother here in my home with my mom coming over regularly to help me.

There were some people who thought that it was too much; that it wasn't fair to my young children to put them through the experience of my grandmother's hospice care. I am so deeply grateful that I had the opportunity to share that with them. It is some of the best of who I am that I was raised around careproviding as a living art and not just some high ideal. My daughter grew in leaps and bounds as she helped care, providing love and respect, for her great-grandmother. I think we learn these lessons more deeply if we live them. As weary as it made me at times I wouldn't hesitate to do it all again.

Has it gotten me to the higher places Steve talks about? No, not with all the other baggage I'm dealing with, but it has taught me incredible lessons. Having young children gave me an easy excuse to not take on my grandmother's care. As is often the case, what could have been my excuse not to was ultimately the best reason to do the harder thing. That's all.

Steven Barnes said...


You underestimate yourself, my darling. And always have. We both know what you're dealing with, and I have NOTHING but respect for the way you carry it. You are a beautiful spirit, and it was wonderful seeing you at Loscon. I wish we lived closer.

Anonymous said...

Can't comment on the most of your post cause it went over my head.

But caring for children and ones parents in their declining years does really change and mature you in a way that all the bullshit self-help seminars in the world can't.

Though the maturation process can be exceedingly painful when you watch someone you've known and loved for the last 40 years whither away and die in a painful manner.

The loss of a loved one never goes away either.

Its just too bad that in our society we hide away our children and seniors. Its as if we are embarrased about where we come from and where we are going.


LaVeda H. Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LaVeda H. Mason said...

Answering your question (which was originally going to be a "good post!" -type comment), I wound up with a post of my own... so, here it is:...

(Sorry, I tried to make it clickable, but it didn't show up... this is my second attempt)

This post was really thought-provoking. Good questions are better than good answers, true?

Steven Barnes said...

Very nice, Weedlady. You got what I was trying to say.