Saturday, 24 January 2015

Escape Philosophy, or Fictional Healing

For some reason, I've been watching a lot of creationist reply videos lately. Where skeptics, atheists & purveyors of reason respond, critically (and often humourously) to creationist videos that badmouth atheism, evolution and science. Usually these are painfully stupid, and consist of someone blandly explaining facts to people that don't listen. However, I've found some which are genuinely enjoyable, such as those by The Armoured Skeptic, they're worth a look-in, whether you're atheist or not, I find it oddly therapeutic to listen to someone refuting idiocy with calm, astute reason. Even though he only has about a dozen videos at time of writing, they're all worth watching for his funny, intellectual and approachable counter-arguments, give him a go.
I bring this up because, within the comments section of one of these videos - which are surprisingly civilized, considering the content - someone said of the video:
  "Using the Bible to solidify your argument is ridiculous. You might as well use any fictional book, like Harry Potter."
And while I understood their position, I took issue with that. I responded jokingly and we had a good chuckle, but I've been thinking about that recently, is that a fair comparison? I mean, the majority of the Bible is fables, and while it's an absolute joke to think of it like a science textbook, the Bible is a book of fairytales, but like many fairytales, they were written to teach an Aesop of some kind, that is the purpose of fables, after all.
The Word of the Day is: 'ESCAPISM'.

Escapism /əz'kaypizəm/ n. The avoiding of reality through entertainment, imagination, etc.

Thinking about this got me thinking further than that. Just because something is fictional, that doesn't mean that it can't teach you something. Of course, you shouldn't believe it to be true or pray to it; but, stepping away from religion, just because something is fictional, that doesn't mean that it doesn't matter. I think I've used this quote twice before, but it is one of my favourites. In the (paraphrased) words of Mark Z. Danielewski:
  "It doesn't matter if it's real, what matters is how you respond to it."
[It is somewhat apt that I've been looking for the original quote, but I can't find it. I thought it was in House of Leaves, but I can't find it, even using the index. But, whether he really wrote that or not, the words still have meaning.]
In a discussion with my girlfriend, she pointed out that fictional characters can be beneficial to their creators at times, and she said that Bill Watterson (cartoonist) found some solace in his Calvin & Hobbes strips, using their laidback and irreverent style to play out his own concerns, such as in this strip where he considers his own mortality.
Also, I was reminded of this clip, of Peter Capaldi in character as the Doctor, responding to a 9-year old, autistic fan who wrote a letter to the Doctor after his grandmother died. Sure, Capaldi is a real person, but (although impromptu) this was filmed in character and it's because of the mythology behind the Doctor and the respect he had for him that allowed young Thomas to deal with his grief.
Also, on a more personal level, my girlfriend once received a message from a girl with a few medical conditions, who was in pain every day. She was told this in confidence, so Beloved refused to tell me her name, but this girl thanked Beloved, because she was a fan of her fanfiction series, and by reading it she found it easier to stop worrying so much and cope with that pain on a day to day basis.

I consider literature to be very important; moreso than others might. But, that is because I read fiction and I know the way that I react to fiction. I don't think that it should be taken lightly that people read these stories, remember them, cherish them and learn from them. It's the reason why, before writing a story - any story - I always have some kind of goal in mind.
I rarely ever write a story just for fun, because although fun is important, I want most of my stories to be fun, so that's a given. I will have a goal, like, "I want to parody the notion of 'routine'"; "I want to explore our fear of strangers"; "I want to see if I can write someone else's character" & "I want to write the next Doctor Who".
But when it comes to this, this notion of helping people . . . I guess I'm a bit worried.

Just like with facts in fiction, I worry about offering people care in my fiction, because I am no more a counsellor than I am a historian. I am an intelligent man, I'm self-assured enough to admit that, but that just means that I know a few things and I am astute enough to apply that knowledge; but that doesn't mean that I am qualified to help people. I can educate people, or at the very least allow them to consider an idea for themselves, but I'm a writer, not a doctor.

I asked my girlfriend about this, and how she felt knowing that her writing had helped someone through a tough time. She said:
"It's a blessing and a burden, but a welcome burden."
I think that, either way, the positives outweigh the negative because at the end of the day I'm not being used as a doctor, it's merely my fiction being used as a catalyst. When people - especially children - suffer a trauma which is hard for them to understand, their brain (sometimes) changes the way they see it, and reinterpets their experience in a way they can more easily understand. Avoidance is a common response to trauma, and escapism is a valid response to reality's harsh . . . well, realities. It's a natural response. If someone were to use my fiction as a method of relief, escape or refuge, then it's not me acting as a counsellor, it's them; this isn't counsel so much as a kind of metacognition. When someone turns to your fiction in their darkest hours, you are merely the catalyst for their self-help. After all, if your fiction doesn't help them, they can easily use someone else's. So, a writer is not equal to a counsellor, and while I would be honoured to help someone - even passively - to deal with trauma; if anyone does find solace in my fiction, I would be merely helping them to help themselves. That's kind of beautiful.

But, speaking of helping yourself, there is the other thing. When a writer writes fiction to create their own refuge, and their own escapism. My Beloved has admitted to me that she often uses fiction-writing as a form of escapism, and when she gets hurt in any way, she often transfers that pain to her characters, so that they can process it and she can move on.
Several writers use similar methods, be it J.K. Rowling creating the Dementors as a personification of her severe depression at her poverty before her publishing success; Terry Pratchett (supposedly) writing Nation, a book about losing faith, after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease; JRR Tolkien's dark tones in The Two Towers inspired by the fighting in WW2 and his worry for his two sons, fighting in the British military at the time or one of several dozen other examples.

Deliberately or not, writers use fiction to express themselves, and one of the consequences of that is dealing with the bad parts of themselves, their trauma, pain, hate & stress. I don't doubt that my mindset has affected my fiction. When I was single, every single couple in my fiction was a story of tragic romance; when I was depressed, I came up with characters like Messy Joe (a broken, cannibalistic, schizo-typical monster); Liam Everton (a child-abuse victim/domestic terrorist); Wilbur D. Turner (a bitter, world-weary war veteran & misanthropic school principal) & Malcolm Blackwater (a PTSD-suffering, anxious, haphephobic hermit, whom investigates the horrors of the world).
These characters are inspired by my own sadness, anger, stress & fear, and I know that in their own way, each has helped me to come to understand myself, accept my own feelings & process them to recover my peace of mind. In fact, something which people may not know is that the character of the Duke is inspired by my own depression, and the character of Anise is inspired by my own post-depression [and Ke$ha]. After all, I've moved beyond my depression to the point where I'm in a much better place, mentally. So, I'm using Anise to help the Duke move past the multitude of traumas he's endured through his pluricentenarian lifetime. By helping him, I can come to understand what it means to help myself. And perhaps even inspire others to help themselves as well.

So, you see, fiction can be more than just a way to spend an afternoon - at the very least it's a better use of your time than reading holy scripture - and it can help us in times of need. If you're genuinely sick, of course, go see a doctor. But, if you just need to take your mind off the world, if you're tired and need a moment to unwind or if you're having trouble coping, there is always the option of seeking refuge in the welcoming pages of a book.
Or, if it strikes your fancy, you might even try writing a story for yourself.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I hope you're all feeling okay and settling into the year well. If not, you could always do like I did and write a blog post about it. Or, leave me a comment. In this interconnected and increasinly globalized world, it makes no sense for anyone to feel alone.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Forgotten Rose

I was wandering the city, and about to cross the street,
When a glimpse of red did catch my eye, near the ground around my feet.
I, at first, did pay no heed, Just litter I suppose
But imagine my surprise to find a harmless, little rose.

Down upon the kerbside footpath, in a crack between the stone,
Was the pure, untainted flower, by itself and all alone;
The sight was such to startle me, I stopped, and stared, and froze.
At such a perfect, natural, beauty; and I’m the only one who knows.

Somehow the young, determined plant had flourished from its seed
Even with so little sunlight and the business suit stampede.
But, alas, it was I saw the plant was barely staying strong,
If it didn’t get some sunlight soon It wouldn’t be here long.

The leaves where slightly wilted and the red, begun to fade,
As the poor defenseless flower stood unnoticed in the shade.
Before I knew, I'd heard a noise, a beeping, strong and loud,
I found myself being swept away by a bustling city crowd,

As I continued my way home I looked back across the lane,
And thought Do not worry little rose, I will return again . . .
All that night and then next morning flew by in a daze,
Until I could return unto the rose’s hidden place.

But as my eyes a-focussed and the kerbside footpath neared,
The sight that I was given nearly broke me into tears.
It was then I found disaster, even I could not prevent
Above the path a sign which stated ‘Caution: Wet Cement’

The Rose and all the broken path and concrete was replaced,
Instead there was a large grey slab, a cold and even face.
Through its long and daring struggle, the little rose had now been beat,
Just so that three steps in a journey didn’t worry city feet,

It was just a simple flower, only petal, leaf and thorn,
And yet now that my rose is lost, I dare myself to mourn.
In this grey it was a vibrance that did embrace my soul to bleed,
But to a fastly moving city; Forgotten Rose is just a weed.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Four Seconds

You see the collision and the twisted metal before your very eyes, and you are disgusted. Bile rises in the back of your throat and the acrid acid burns your oesophagus; you want to puke. You want to turn away and throw up, but you don't. Instead you swallow back that sour taste and you stare at the carnage of twisted metal and broken people, because you can't turn away. You're fixated by the beautiful, horrifying chaos. And as the people burn, so too do your memories; forever, scorched into your mind's eye, and you'll never forget. You'll never wash that from your eyes, no matter how hard you cry.
+

I want to talk, today, about something that happened on the 11th of January, 2015. New Year, new times, new lives being lived, and everything was happy, we expected good things, even if we were a little bit anxious about the coming year. Earlier that day my Dad had left, headed for Newcastle. I woke up late that day, so I didn't see him packing, I just saw Mum saying goodbye, so I ran outside, gave him a hug and said "Try to have fun," my usual farewell. Dad was going to see family, and hopefully my Grandpa. His motorbike was in the shop, so he borrowed my mother's "roadster", a 3-wheeled motorcycle, to drive down, he drove down the driveway and was off, disappearing along the road. The Word of the Day is: 'CRASH'

Crash /krash/ v.t. 1. To fall, hit something or break into pieces noisily. 2. To force or drive with violence and noise. 3. Colloquial To come uninvited or without permission to: To crash a party. 4. To damage in a fall or by running into something: He crashed his car. 5. To break or fall to pieces noisily. 6. To make the noise of something breaking or falling. 7. To fail suddenly. 8. To move, go or hit with a crash. 9. Aviation To fall to the ground. 10. Computers To shut down because of a fault. 11. Colloquial To fall asleep when tired out. ♦n. 12. A breaking or falling to pieces with loud noise. 13. The shock of hitting something and breaking. 14. A sudden and violent falling to ruin. 15. The shutting down of a computer system because of a fault. 16. The sudden failing of a company, etc. 17. A sudden loud crashing noise. ♦adj. 18. Colloquial Using full speed and effort: A crash course.

At about 6:30 in the afternoon, I got a phone call; from the hospital. It turns out, my Dad was driving down a motorway, as you do when you travel interstate, but half-way through his journey, things took a bad turn. As he was driving 75 km/h down the road, a woman I'll call Miss Black entered the motorway with her little, blue car without looking. Most likely turning across to another road, I don't know what she was doing, all I know is that my Dad had no time to react, he couldn't even hit the brakes. So the motorcycle hit the driver's side door, crumpling on impact.
Because of the speed of the collision, my Dad was thrown off the vehicle, conservation of momentum and all of that . . . he flipped over Miss Black's car and landed headfirst, but the momentum continued and threw his body after him, making him roll forwards, somehow scraping the visor of his helmet before he landed on his back. It was all over in four seconds.
He then sat up and looked around, saw the traffic beside him driving slowly, obviously keen not to join their car to the wreckage. He glanced around, shifted his legs and attempted to stand, but the pain was too much, so he laid back down, to recover, before people started to gather, including a doctor who was passing by, a nurse and Ms Black herself.

Thankfully, my Dad survived this collision. He shouldn't have, a human body at that speed, on a crashed bike, flying through the air and hitting their head on the road - that's more than any human body can bear. But, my father was wearing head-to-toe, high-quality protective gear: An armoured jacket; kevlar-reinforced jeans (seriously); motorcycle boots, gloves &, of course, a motorcycle helmet.
Even with all that on, his body took quite a rattling, and it's not exactly a pleasant experience having your hand pressed so hard against the handlebars that you break a bone in your wrist.

Everything's alright, and my Dad is fine. The opening paragraph (in Italics) is fictional and it's nothing more than melodrama, but I write it because this incident is causing me to think more about the word crash.
It's odd, but I had been thinking about it before this incident. See, I plan my Duke Forever chapters in advance, and while at time of writing the Archive says that I have one chapter I want to write (Chapter 11: The Talladega Experiment), I actually have plans for upcoming chapters twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, eighteen & nineteen (seventeen is still up in the air) and Chapter 12 will be called Party Crashers, as usual, being a play on words, as the story will be about both 'party crashing' and 'crashing party'.

But now, afterwards, it's not really that much . . . different. You'd think something like this would be more of a life event, even if my Dad got out of it fine, surely something more should happen. I feel like maybe I should be more upset. This is quite dramatic.
I mean, if I wrote a story where a character's father got into a motorcycle accident like this, I would expect them to get upset, y'know? Shed a tear, maybe even take a quiet moment to contemplate. But, no . . . nothing, really. I'm not ungrateful, but it feels like something is missing, it was too easy. Maybe I'm growing up and this is how an adult handles an issue like this. Or, maybe I'm too immature to grasp the severity of the situation. I just don't know.

It doesn't feel like a crash. Because, as all those definitions up there say, a crash is noisy, it's a collision with noise: break into pieces noisily; fall to pieces noisily; the noise of something breaking; falling to pieces with loud noise; A sudden loud crashing noise, and yet . . . it's so quiet. And perhaps that, alone, should mean something: What does it mean to crash in silence?
But no, life isn't that dramatic. It's times like this when I'm glad I'm not a protagonist, since any writer worth his salt would've vindictively made this incident have a much worse outcome. I just don't know . . .

I guess that's what today's post is really about. This crash took four seconds. It happened, it ended, now it's in the past. If I were writing about this, it would probably mean something. The rider needs to wake up to the world around them; perhaps they're not ready for their upcoming relationship and the crash is a metaphor for the sharp, sudden derailment they're experiencing in their life. Perhaps this would lead to an epiphany or self-actualization. Or perhaps it's an incident calculated by the villain in an attempt to rid themselves of the hero.

But in life, sometimes things just happen. Meaningless things, full of sound and fury, but in the end . . . signify nothing.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I'm going to ponder this a little longer, then move on with my life. Drive safe, loyal readers; watch wear your going; always wear a seatbelt and to fellow bikies, always wear protective gear.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back - in Time!

I probably should write one of these things, shouldn't I?

I just haven't been in the mood to do a blog post yet, but it's 2015 and my next "hundred" milestone - 200 - is waiting on the horizon, but I just don't want to write. I was wondering why I was feeling so meh, until I decided to take a look at the scoreboard . . .

See, in 2013 I set myself three resolutions: write more, write better & find a girlfriend. I accomplished all of those things - score one for me. In 2014, riding high from that success, I set myself three more resolutions:
- I want a good occupation (that I enjoy doing)
- I will try to make Duke Forever more popular (on tvtropes.org)
- I am going to have my first kiss (with my girlfriend)
Unfortunately, I am still unemployed (despite all of my efforts, including a course in Hospitality); Duke Forever, while the audience seems to have grown still has no more references on TV tropes, (other than those I've added) & I'm sorry to say that I still haven't kissed my girlfriend (☹).
Let's see that scoreboard . . .
Absurd Word NerdThe Universe1

It's no wonder I'm flustered. Someone with an ego like mine can't be seen as even with reality, I need the upper-hand! Seriously, though, it does bother me. Not even one of those resolutions came to fruition. That's part of the reason I didn't keep up with the tradition.
If you do something for only two years in a row, can it be called a "tradition"? Hell, can you even call a pair of two things a "row"? Anyway, for '13 & '14, in December I wrote my New Year's Resolutions up for the year to come, but this year, I couldn't bring myself to do it.
For that reason, the Word of the Day is: 'DEVOLUTION'

Devolution /deevə'lūshən/ n. 1. The act or fact of devolving. 2. Biology Backwards evolution (opposed to evolution); degeneration. 3. The passing on or delegation of power or authority.

Indeed, it does feel like I'm devolving or somehow going backwards. I was on top of the world, now I feel kind of deflated. And I can't write either, so I'm left considering it.

Look, I dunno, I've just been struggling to write, that's all. In every sense.
For the blog, I have trouble because all of my ideas are so small. I mean, I could write about what's going on with family (since I've seen so much of them over this Christmas break) and I could talk about what's going on with my house (since we've put in a ladder to the roof cavity and we're putting down floorboards to make an attic) or I could talk about my relationship (since we're still going strong, through thick and thin, for over a year); but, I don't really want to. I'm just in a bit of a huff, to be honest.
As for my personal fiction writing, my ideas are so big. Too many of them would require a huge story just to produce them the way I want to. I would like turning that kind of stuff into blogfiction, but they're too big for blog posts. Sure, I write them down and I develop them as best I can, but I seem to be doing more ideation than creation. The other day, I spent the entire day working on a story so big it could only really work if I turned the next Halloween Countdown into some kind of novel . . . I might do that, but it will require even more planning and I really should be doing less planning and more writing because, I am working on a novel.
As for that, I'm struggling a little bit just because I'm not sure if I'm writing it right, I can't tell if I'm blocked or what, but it's all a bit of a nuisance, to be honest.

I was wondering if I should make some new resolutions, since I failed last years resolutions; maybe I could see if I could accomplish something new this year, to make up for that failure. But then I started to think about it . . .
Why have I failed?

See, these are life goals, stuff I want to accomplish and I still want to do them, that's why I'm so upset that I haven't done them yet. So, why give up? Perhaps, rather than give up on those resolutions, I can reignite them. Don't Game Over . . . Play On! Where's that fucking scoreboard!
Absurd Word NerdThe Universe1 0

Damn right; Universe ain't got nothin' on me! My Resolutions this year are the same as last year:
  1. I will look for a job (that I can keep and enjoy)
  2. I will try to make Duke Forever (more) popular
  3. I will (do everything I can to) kiss my girlfriend
PLUS one little extra . . .
  1. I will not give up (on myself [again])
That's right, history is repeating itself - full circle revolutions - and it's gonna keep on repeating itself until we get it right and make a stable time-loop of these revolutions and succeed. So what if I'm repeating myself? So long as I win in the end, everything will be alright.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and The Universe, and the Space-Time Continuum, ain't got nothin' on me! Enjoy 2015, and I hope to write to you again soon.