Why the Book Is Usually Better than the Movie

I receive e-mails from Jerry Jenkins about writing because I apparently made a mistake at some point and signed up for them. Today he hit on a triggering topic for me: the rule, “Show, don’t tell.”

To his credit he does say, “Yes, it’s a mistake to take show, don’t tell as inviolable. While summary narrative is largely frowned upon, sometimes it’s a prudent choice. If there’s no value to the plot/tension/conflict/character arc by showing some mundane but necessary information, telling is preferable.” But he spends the rest of the e-mail saying the same tired things about how a writer’s purpose is to show a story, not tell it.

Ignoring the fact that no successful writer I care about actually adheres to this rule, let’s just notice that we do indeed call it story-telling, and that we call movies “shows”. Television shows. A stage performance is a “show”. Books are not shows. Books are told, and this fact is utterly inescapable. Let’s look at one of Mr. Jenkins’s examples.

Telling: The temperature fell and the ice reflected the sun.

Showing: Bill’s nose burned in the frigid air, and he squinted against the sun reflecting off the street.

Obviously, the second sentence is better in almost any circumstance, which is the point. I get it. But this isn’t a matter of showing versus telling. The very premise of the argument is all wrong. Why are we telling the audience in the second sentence that Bill’s nose burned? Couldn’t we rather demonstrate that burning in some other way? We could. And we could demonstrate that next thing, which demonstrates the burning,  in some other way as well. Why are we telling the audience that the Sun reflected off the street? Couldn’t we demonstrate that in some other way? Instead of simply telling the reader that the Sun reflected off the street we could show it perhaps by, well, saying anything more about it than just that. We could tell the reader quite a lot about that glint of sunlight if we wanted.

Notice what I did in that last sentence.

What we call “showing” is always only just telling something in terms of other things. The second example is “showing” in relation to the simpler statement, but is itself necessarily only telling.

More, maybe the reader doesn’t need to care about the state of Bill’s nose. By all means find a more interesting sentence than the first example, but we don’t need to pretend that this is a movie. Yes, the book is better than the movie because the reader has additional powers of imagination available — they’re demanded, in fact. But the book is not better than the movie because it imitates the movie so well it somehow becomes a better movie than the movie itself. Do you see how backwards this is?

But let’s get some concrete examples here to make my point perfectly clear.

From The Hobbit:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

O.M.G. How “telly” can you get? And it practically never ends. I’ll use a bit of bibliomancy and open to a random page.

Now you can understand why Gandalf, listening to their growling and yelping, began to feel that they were in a very bad place, and had not yet escaped at all. All the same, he was not going to let them have it all their own way, though he could not do very much stuck up in a tall tree with wolves all round on the ground below.

It continues. Beautifully. Masterfully. Tolkien does not show. Tolkien, one of the most widely admired writers of our time, defies this “rule” on pretty much every page of every book he has ever written. 

And he is not an exception.

From The Jungle Book, a bit more bibliomancy:

An Indian grazing-ground is all rocks and scrub and tussocks and little ravines, among which the herds scatter and disappear. The buffaloes generally keep to the pools and muddy places, where they lie wallowing or basking in the warm mud for hours.

I literally just opened the book and started transcribing without confirming my point beforehand, so much faith I had that Rudyard Kipling — also a literary giant — most certainly would not be “showing.”

Onward and upward. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

Harry moved in front of the tank and looked intently at the snake. He wouldn’t have been surprised if it had died of boredom itself — no company except stupid people drumming their fingers on the glass trying to disturb it all day long. It was worse than having a cupboard as a bedroom, where the only visitor was Aunt Petunia hammering on the door to wake you up; at least he got to visit the rest of the house.

Let’s do one more from this book.

Harry watched the girl and her mother disappear as the train rounded the corner. Houses flashed past the window. Harry felt a great leap of excitement. He didn’t know what he was going to — but it had to be better than what he was leaving behind.

J.K. Rowling’s popularity and great success as a writer are a testament to her status as a master story-teller. Again, I’m not even cherry picking. This is still pure bibliomancy.

On to something completely different. George Orwell’s 1984:

She had had her first love affair when she was sixteen, with a Party member of sixty who later committed suicide to avoid arrest.

I knew Mr. Orwell wouldn’t let me down. Now, L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz:

Dorothy wept bitterly at the passing of her hope to get home to Kansas again; but when she thought it all over she was glad she had not gone up in a balloon. And she also felt sorry at losing Oz, and so did her companions.

I don’t need a second example from this one, do I? Onward, now, to The Lord of the Flies, which is the only book on this list I haven’t actually read:

No one said anything but the faces turned to Ralph were intent. He flourished the conch. He had learnt as a practical business that fundamental statements like this had to be said at least twice before everyone understood them. One had to sit, attracting all eyes to the conch, and drop words like heavy round stones among the little groups that crouched or squatted. He was searching his mind for simple words so that even the littluns would understand what the assembly was about. Later perhaps, practiced debaters — Jack, Maurice, Piggy — would use their whole art to twist the meeting, but now at the beginning the subject of the debate must be laid out clearly.

Admittedly, an example in this one book had required a bit of a search, but still it was readily found.

Now, Piers Anthony, Bearing an Hourglass:

Norton was growing quite curious about this. The ghost was a tough, direct sort, with quite alien values, but he was also a gentleman by his own reckoning.

Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic:

One interesting side effect of the fire in Ankh-Morpork concerns the inn-sewer-ants policy, which left the city through the ravaged roof of the Broken Drum, was wafted high into the Discworld’s atmosphere on the ensuing thermal, and came to earth several days and a few thousand miles away on an uloruaha bush in the beTrobi islands. The simple, laughing islanders subsequently worshipped it as a god, much to the amusement of their more sophisticated neighbors. Strangely enough the rainfall and harvests in the next few years were almost supernaturally abundant, and this led to a research team being dispatched to the islands by the Minor Religions faculty of Unseen University. Their verdict was that it only went to show.

I’m not letting up or slowing down. Lowis Lowry’s The Giver:

It was almost December and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. 

At first, he had only been fascinated. He had never seen an aircraft so close, for it was against the rules for Pilots to fly over the community.

The speech was much the same each year: recollection of the time of childhood and the period of preparation, the coming responsibilities of adult life, the profound importance of Assignment, the seriousness of training to come.

Mike Resnick, A Miracle of Rare Design:

His assignment this time was simple and straightforward. The nine hundred human colonists on Monticello IV had come down with a wasting disease, a virus carried by the microscopic snail-like flukes that lived and bred in their water supply…

C.S. Friedman, This Alien Shore:

For a moment he said nothing. The chemistry in the room had changed, and with a startling suddenness. The girl who looked back at him now with defiance bright in her eyes was a whole different creature than the one he had just been questioning.

Again C.S. Friedman. Black Sun Rising:

The hill was some distance from town, and not easy to climb. Which was why it was empty of tourists, despite its position overlooking the water. It took her some time to reach the top, and when at last she did she rested for a moment, trying to catch her breath.

John Brunner, The Crucible of Time:

When northern summer ceased, the weight of ice leaned hard on those gnarled rocks which fearful wanderers had named The Guardians of the Pole.

Few were the mariners who braved the channel they defined; fewer still the ones who returned to tell of a colossal valley surrounding a land-locked sea so salt that what ordinarily ought to sink there was buoyed up. It was a foul and poisoned zone, though life still endured.

Okay, I’m done now, but I could obviously keep going. The rule “show, don’t tell,” is not only logically incoherent, it is widely disregarded by the masters of this craft called story-telling. “Show, don’t tell,” is a big fat lie. If one were to try to adhere to it perfectly, she would find herself wholly immobilized, as anything she says could in some way be described in more detail, by which I mean described in terms of other things she would have to simply tell the reader without explanation. The rule “Show, don’t tell,” is subject to the problem of infinite regress because it is founded on the faulty premise that showing is distinct from telling. It is not. But far beyond the simple logic of it, using a more practical, (incoherent) limited definition of the terms, we have ample empirical evidence of extraodinarily successful writers “telling” rather than “showing.”

Bring your writing to life. Do that. Please. But please, please don’t succumb to the pressure to try to write your story as though it were a movie; it is not a movie, and good for it, too. The book is always better for a reason, and that reason lies in the differences of the two story-telling media.

Tell the damn story. Draw your reader into it. Give it some color. Breathe some life into it. Do not hamper yourself with this paralyzing mind virus.

And please kindly disregard Jerry Jenkins.

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Saturn’s Revenge

There are hidden capacities within each of us. Perhaps they are not so much hidden as unused, but so far as they are unused, unnoticed, unaddressed, they are much like superpowers manifesting for the first time when found, much like the origin story of nearly every mutant in the X-Men, much like how Superman’s powers didn’t quite show themselves until puberty. It had often been the case in comic books that superpowers either remained latent and were activated through a freak accident or were gifted to a given character. Think of Flash, Captain America, Green Lantern, Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer. Spider-man. The Inhumans. Consider, even, an untrained witch or wizard in Harry Potter like Harry before he got his letter. Often, super powers are learned and appear rather mundane. Consider Batman. Consider Iron Man. Half of Daredevil’s powers were “gifted,” the rest were the result of intense training.

And training. It is always the case that a hero doesn’t just have powers but trains to use them effectively. This is why the X-Men have the Danger Room, the Fantastic Four have their own methods, and Doctor Strange his own. Consider that Reed Richard’s technological prowess is far more valuable than his ability to stretch his body, that Spider-man often wins a fight not because of his ability to climb on walls but because he tends to crack jokes or merely jabber away, confusing his opponent. Reed and Plastic Man have the same super powers, but Plastic Man is a second-rate superhero at best while Reed sits at the very top of the list of the greatest super heroes ever to have existed such that none of his peers would question this for a second.

There are hidden capacities within each of us and they are always a part of us whether they are actively expressed or not.

I’m going to tell a little story. It will be rather personal.

September 17, 2015:
My partner was out of town as he frequently is during the school year. Before work, as I occasionally would, I decided to trim my hair and trim my beard by myself — over the summer I had kept my hair very short. Then the guard slipped. As simply and suddenly as that, a spot on my head held no hair at all. I panicked. I panicked hard. But I still managed to think fast. I had had my morning routine timed out just right so that I could make it to work on time. So was I still going to show up for work?

Obviously, I didn’t have the sorts of hairstyling talents to turn the mistake into something artsy and creative, so I did everything I could to make it look… like it wasn’t a huge mistake (It was a huge mistake). I cut all of my hair all of the way down, and for the first time in years, because I thought it would match the new look better, I shaved my face with a razor. Clean. Smooth. Thus it was that the only hair on my head was contained by my eyebrows. I was to myself nearly completely unrecognizable.

The panic didn’t go away, but I did make it to work, where I sort of tried to hide from everyone. Due to business it did turn out to be a short day for me, fortunately, and once released, I went straight home. I paced back and forth in the kitchen, wondering what I would do for lunch. I didn’t trust myself to do something as complicated as prepare any sort of meal for myself, as shaken and upset as I was — more upset than the circumstances called for. I threw a hat on and headed to the Mexican restaurant near home.

Only a block down the main road, I was faced with the general truth that if I can’t even make myself lunch out of severe anxiety, I should not then drive; I accidentally let up on the brake as cars passed in front of me. I nearly attempted what would have been a failed run through a red light. If my anxiety had been severe at the start, I don’t know what one would call my state then. I returned home and poured myself a gin and tonic and sat outside in the Sun, trying to figure out what to do, feeling like a failure, feeling like I had seriously damaged myself. Had I seriously damaged myself?

I could grill. It was a happy activity, a natural choice, or it would have been if I had been able to get the damned thing lit. I sat on the back step again, gin in hand, and then a few drops of rain, straight out of a perfectly clear blue sky, landed on my clean-shaven face. It was strange. Mostly it made me angry. Why was the Universe going out of its way to do something apparently impossible just to spite me?

Another gin and tonic and some YouTube videos. Random videos. I posted a comment on one of Mr. Nagel pertaining to philosophy of mind. I supposed I respected him, but he said something disingenuous, as I felt, so I called it out and stopped watching. Restless.

I then decided to take a walk all the way downtown, which is only about three miles. As I approached, I checked the time on my phone, and out of habit I checked my astrology app. My heart drops. Saturn was in the last degree of Scorpio, straddling the cusp of Sagittarius, its placement in my natal chart. By some definitions, this was the very beginning of my Saturn Return.

I had explained what this meant to my partner a few times, though it was always lost somewhere in translation. I had explained that Saturn’s return could be thought of as the time when Saturn returns to “speak” on the matters he had spoken on when the native had come into being as a separate entity in the world — the time of birth. The Saturn return is said to be a rough time. Challenging.

I had explained that Saturn’s return is the time either when things come to fruition or when Saturn lays the smack-down on you depending on the way in which you had fulfilled Saturn’s message at your birth, the message through which you were created. If the message had not been expressed through you, it would be expressed to you.

Do I turn around? Why would I turn around? I really felt I should turn around. But I didn’t. I didn’t. I instead just continued forward, and that was the beginning of the end. I felt that a part of this was entirely out of my hands, that I’d already set the chain of events in motion… but I’d heard the call to stop — if that’s what it was — at just the right time. The call to stop. Perhaps if I show restraint… if I show restraint…

Saturn respects restraint… My fifth house Saturn in trine aspect to Venus. In Aries.

I stopped suddenly at the restaurant in town. The one I had helped to open, but which had closed, then wouldn’t rehire me when they’d opened again. I was supposed to hold resentment against them, but just couldn’t do it (don’t worry, I got that covered now). I ordered a beer and the least unappetizing thing on the menu. The owner and one of his managers came to talk to me, to see how I had been doing. Small talk. I behaved as though I were far too happy to see them. I think I was obviously nearing drunk.

I leave an entirely too generous tip for the server. And then I leave. With no plans. Just across the street is the more popular bar in town, and the only one where I’d had any positive experience at all.

Go in alone? I’m used to doing everything alone. That is, until two years ago. Moving in with your special someone takes much of the solitary out of your life by its very nature.

I went in alone. I had another drink. Just one. Then I decided to take a walk. So I walked through campus with the notion that I’d stop by the restaurant where I work, which was actually much too far to walk, anyway — stupid idea. And then it very suddenly begins to rain. Not just any rain. This was cold, pouring rain and it immediately completely soaked me. So I hid under the nearest overhang and waited. And waited. And then gave up and headed back to the bar. I didn’t have much option.

I had made my decision not to turn around and go home. And the Universe held me to it.

The decision had been made some time prior, but this was the moment the decline really began to happen. I ordered a few — several — more drinks and made a fool of myself. But at the time I was too drunk to notice or care. I’m glossing over them, but don’t under-estimate those five words: made a fool of myself. In a very different way, fueled by ethanol rather than razor blades, I was to myself unrecognizable.

Somehow aware enough to know I must not order another drink, I headed to a different bar (whether I did or not order another drink is another matter altogether as I can’t trust my memory beyond this point). Here, I have no idea why, I tried to climb the the wall surrounding the outer enclosure, the area where people went to smoke cigarettes. It was a weird crazy stupid drunk thing to do. Some guy stopped me. He was absolutely convinced that I was trying to kill myself and that I needed Jesus in my life. Thus, the next hour was spent in debate — the kind of debate I was all too ready for.

Damnit. I got this.  This is my thing. If I weren’t so far gone, I’d have this dumbass destroyed.

But I was so far gone. I did, however, manage to work him round in rather drunk circles before pointing out that the entire conversation was based on the false notion that I had been trying to kill myself in the first place. And then he went to get another drink and then I slipped away and headed home, very wobbly, very upset, and more acutely aware of my disfigured face and so many shortcomings. I did want to kill myself. The guy was right, though his evidence for it was all wrong.

I do a number of very drunk, rather shameful things on the way home, part of which involved lying in the grass by the side of the stream in the darkest shadows I could find, watching the stars spinning overhead as the ground wobbled and rolled beneath me. I was the very picture of pathetic, dirty drunkard.

I woke up the next morning not quite sure how I had gotten into bed, as miserable as I have ever felt. Too miserable to feel anything actively. I felt simply disgusting. Ashamed. Ashamed. Ashamed.

Shame.

I took a shower. Barely. It didn’t help. I dropped back into bed. Somehow, my laptop lay just there. It’s never there.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

Priya, I’m really thinking about killing myself…

Somehow, she got a hold of my partner, who got a hold of my mom, who got a hold of my brother. Priya, my partner, my brother. I was falling to pieces, apologizing for things no one understood, insisting that “I broke it.” “I broke it,” I said. “I broke it! It’s all broken, its all broken, I am a bad wrong thing…” I definitely wasn’t making sense to anyone. “I don’t want to leave you!” “I am a bad wrong thing. I’m so sorry!”

I was, as never before, speaking as though killing myself were truly an inevitability I had no control over and didn’t want. I certainly did not want to leave the person I loved most.

“I broke it.”

Somewhere along the way, the police were called to check on me. And then the ambulance was called. And after several hours of nurses and doctors screwing around in the hospital here in town (though I really had no idea where I was), I was taken to a mental hospital in a town not very far from here.

This is where I end the story.

A rather similar thing occurred six months prior, by which I mean that I went out by myself, drank entirely too much, made a fool of myself, and felt awful for a long while. Miserable, but not so much that I fell entirely to pieces and wound up in the hospital. It was a bit of a turning point, though.

Six months prior, Saturn was stationed, about to turn retrograde, five degrees from his placement at my nativity. Was that the official start of the Saturn Return? Or when Saturn first entered Sagittarius on December 24th 2014, the day my partner visited family — without me — and I was, without a car and having not been scheduled most of the week at work, essentially forced to spend several days completely alone during a family-oriented holiday?

Saturn returned to his position in my natal chart exactly on December 18, 2015.

After I left the hospital, I was driven. I had been given access to paints while I was there and for the first week after I’d gotten out I took to painting at least a little every day, sometimes a lot. And I did paint at least a little every day. The first day out of the hospital I also committed to NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — and to learning to write code. Until summer came around, when I finally chose to take a break, I wrote at least a little every day, maybe with an odd exception here or there, and each month had seen some new project.

Eighteen months later I am still driven. Some unstoppable force is pushing me forward, some undying fire ignited. I have been writing, yes, but much more than that. I have been reading — teaching, even. I have been working my way toward creating a name for myself as a local astrologer, something I never thought I could actually do. And now a trip to Mexico with an old friend and possibly a trip to New York City with my brother is in the works. I’ve been learning to make youtube-style videos all while working more and making much more money than I normally do.

By the Hellenic definition, I believe, my Saturn Return doesn’t end until Saturn enters Capricorn. It seems both the sign and actual angular proximity signify the Return. Does this period of motivation end in a few months? So many questions. Most importantly, however, I have direct personal experience of what Saturn is about. If you don’t demonstrate having learned your lesson, your “mission” the forces collectively referred to as Saturn will come down upon you, relentlessly forcing the mission upon you, at which point you are crushed or adapt, and once those forces are wielded in accordance to their purpose you can ride them like a wave, unyieldingly pressing forward with the power of a mountain glacier — steady in a way the explosive forces of Mars are not. Determined without the draining of energies that are the result of the emotional release, the energetic expression of intense passion.

I feel as though Saturn had doused me with terragen mists, unlocked my X gene… bitten me with a radioactive hummingbird. The result, the purpose, what it all means… we shall see.

A Six Month Cycle

Last Summer and Autumn, a bunch of one-year anniversaries happened. My niece turned one year old. I hit the one year mark for having quit smoking. I hit the one year mark for having quit drinking both alcohol and coffee. And I completed a year since a major… event.

And when I hit that one year mark for that event, I realized it was also a two year mark and a three year mark and a four year mark. It was also a one-and-a-half year mark. And a two-and-a half year mark. I seemed to have identified a six-month cycle in my life. I’ll explain. The trend isn’t perfect, of course, but it clearly exists. Every six months, something… significant happens.

Let’s start with September, 2015 and work our way back.

September, 2015, involved what was easily one of the most life-changing events of my life. I won’t tell the whole story, but on the night of the 17th, as Saturn ingressed into Sagittarius, I had a major psychological meltdown, or, perhaps, “depressive episode,” which ultimately placed me in the hospital for a week. I came out on meds, which, for the first time in my life, actually seemed to “work.” With one exception I still happen to be taking them.

Six months prior to that, on March 15th, I had had a smaller “depressive episode” which in hindsight was very much like a foreshadowing of the event I just mentioned.

Six months before that, in September of 2014, I helped to open a restaurant which closed down after three weeks. A week after that, I was hired at the place where I still work. For a number of reasons that aren’t easy to explain so simply, this was a highly transformative time. The best way that I can explain this period is that it was like a time in my life, a period of a few weeks culminating on the 13th of the month, in which I lived the life of someone else entirely, like I’d briefly stepped into a parallel dimension, then stepped back into a more familiar one. It was a time removed from the normal flow of history. I still think back to it as providing a template of sorts for certain parts of my life, for certain ways of being.

In March of 2014, on the 16th, on my birthday, in fact, having bought a plane ticket to fly out to Ohio to see my old friends, I started off on a three-and-a-half hour drive to the nearest city with a major airport. My car, however, was in very poor shape; it would frequently overheat. As I prepared to leave, a horrific scene from a book I once read came to mind. The scene involved the characters of the story using their magic to force their horses to run as quickly as they could, without regard for how tired they became. The horses kept running and running until eventually they literally wore themselves out and physically couldn’t be made to move any more. That’s exactly what happened with my car. I knew it would happen. I accepted it as the necessary sacrifice for my trip to Ohio, though of course I had hoped it wouldn’t actually happen. When my car ultimately gave up just outside of the city, I gathered my bags and started walking down the road and before long some guy, under the guise of a good Christian, gave me a ride into town and helped me find a cab to the airport. I gave him my key to the car, which he said he’d drive to his house and would return to me when I came back and gave him a call. I didn’t actually expect that to happen. I imagine that car was dismantled for parts and the guy made some money off of it. I knew all of this right away and understood it as the sacrifice necessary for the trip. I never was able to get a hold of him afterward. The trip on the whole was undoubtedly a major turning point in my life, and not only because of the loss of my car. In many ways I don’t care to explain, the entire trip was a major milestone in my life to which few other events can compare.

Six months before that: September 24, 2013. I lay awake all night convinced that aliens or something of the sort were controlling my mind through my phone. I then convinced myself that I needed to drive to Des Moines for the solution. Everything about the trip was completely insane, even somewhat uncharacteristically so. I won’t go into details, but the event stands as the emergence of something I have yet to fully come to terms with.

March 04, 2013. I was emerging from a roughly three month period of far greater “insanity” than the event of the following September just mentioned. I moved in with someone and lost, perhaps “sacrificed,” half of my belongings, some of them among my most precious. Quite a lot happened here, none of which is easy to explain. This may be the most significant period of change in this personal history.

September 16, 2012. Before the major meltdown of December, mentioned two posts ago, when things were looking unusually good for me, I took a trip to Kansas City to see someone I’d met online, and had met just once — six months prior. When I arrived, this person conveniently “forgot” that I was coming to visit, despite having talked about it the day before and for some time before that. It was crushing, to say the least. About this time, I had been working my way through sorting out various ideas. I was a year past a few small steps away from the militant Atheism I’d been committed to between 2010 and 2011. Much of the philosophical framework I’d been working with had crumbled and I was left with a major epistemological crisis just waiting to break. And that crushing blow broke me. It’s not easy to explain what happened exactly, but at this time I chose to take a leap of faith of sorts, whose content was inspired in part by these videos, but also by a long lost relationship and my long-departed aunt, among other things. Events tend to be the result of a combination of factors, not just one. This event is one that can compare or even surpass the trip to Ohio in personal significance in a similar way.

March 15, 2012, I took my first trip to Kansas City to meet that particular person I’d met online about a year before. Not only that, I did it as a leap of faith the day after my brother helped me buy a used car. So, much like what happened two years later, but kind of in reverse, I drove a vehicle a very long distance under the very real possibility that it wouldn’t make it either there or back. My new used vehicle did prove itself reliable; I didn’t have the faintest hint of a problem with it though no one would have guessed by looking at it, I’m sure. Once there, my friend and I had a lovely day together, which I will not attempt to describe. It does stand in my memory as one of the most important and one of the best days of my life.

September, 2011. I don’t have an exact date, but there is a culmination around the 20th, I believe. This is really more of a time period than a single event. I had moved into a new place on my own and had begun a blog, which I used to articulate my beliefs at the time. More was going on at this time than just that, but what is interesting is that I kind of snapped in a way, which we can see is becoming a theme. It was an intense episode, though of a completely different character than the other times I “snapped”.

March, 2011. Everything in my life officially fell apart. This is when my mother drove to Ohio to bring me back to Iowa to stay with her until I could get back on my feet. I had since January 3rd lost a relationship, my job, my home, and on the 18th of March also failed to sign up for classes on time, which was something like the last straw, though how I wasn’t signed up nearly a month in advance as usual I still don’t know. And even my relationships with two of my best friends, whom I had been staying with, seemed to be rapidly crumbling. I had nothing. It was in every way as though the very city were forcibly ejecting me. And thus I left, torn, dejected, defeated.

I really can’t identify this trend much further back, mostly due to problems of memory, except for a major break in lifestyle and philosophy that occurred mid-September, 2009, and a bit of a violent end to a relationship and restarting my life on March 16, 2007.

What is most interesting about all of this, though, is that these times mark my birthdays and my half-birthdays. That is, the last portion of the Sun’s transit through Pisces and the last portion of his transit through Virgo, conjunct or opposite to my own natal Sun, Mercury cazimi. A conjunction or opposition to my Sun, of course, is also a square to my natal Mars and to my natal Uranus.

Before I go any further, I want to fill this out by going over other major life events that don’t fall into this pattern, to be sure we’re aren’t only counting the hits and not the misses.

June, 2008: ComFest, 2008 – major lifestyle change.
January, 2009: Met partner of two years.
August, 2009: Started school and moved in with partner.
January, 2011: End of two year relationship, start of events leading to leaving Ohio.
November, 2011: Met who would be my best friend immediately after.. an episode.
December, 2012: The world began to burn.
May, 2013: Met love of my life.
July, 2014: Moved to Missouri with love of my life.
November, 2015: NaNoWriMo

I would always say that the time around my birthday was usually difficult for me, but until going through it like this I didn’t understand how true that statement was.

What I notice is that every September or March brings with it either a “meltdown” or the opposite: a boost. There was nothing about March 2012 that constituted a crisis. It did, however, bring a bit of excess. The same is true for September of 2014, which involved the overshooting of a goal before turning back to it.

Of all of these dates, three involve a major, almost abrupt change in philosophical system: June, 2008, labelled ComFest, September, 2012, and December, 2012, which I’ve described as the burning of the world.

I’ll get back to this topic later. For now I want the trend to be clear. The timing also happens to coincide with this writing — tomorrow is my birthday. It just so happened also that my car’s battery died over the night — and its key won’t fit to unlock it in absence of the button, the Universe’s way of reminding me of the circumstances that led to the shift of four years ago; this very thing (plus one other contributing factor) is the reason I lost that truck.

This is clearly an astrological trend, thus a trend of meaning, like a story told in parts, as key phrases spoken by one side of the thirty-one year conversation that is my life. How had this manifested this past September and how will it manifest in this upcoming week?

Sacred Geometry: The Flower of Life

The Flower of Life is a geometrical figure often referred to as an example of Sacred Geometry. What is called “Sacred Geometry” as we tend to encounter it is traced back to the ancient Greeks, in particular Pythagoras who asserted that the whole Universe was based on number. The idea was inspired by observations of the heavens as well as observations about harmonics in musical instruments. Plato carried these ideas forward, and it seems that the influence of Pythagoreanism is the primary difference between his ideas and those of his teacher Socrates. 

What we call the Platonic Solids are five three-dimensional geometrical figures in which every side and angle have the same value.

No other figure can be constructed in this way. We have here the tetrahedron, the hexahedron, the octahedron, the dodecahedron, and the icosahedron. Often included in considerations of the Platonic solids is the sphere, though it isn’t a Platonic solid itself. The significance of these six figures is the nod to some sort of perfection inherent within them. They seem to be excellent examples of Plato’s notions of the forms and world of ideas from which all things arise.

This is the Seed of Life from which the Flower of Life arises. It is often said to be symbolic of the act of Creation and the Christian story of Creation in the Book of Genesis is used to explain it. In the beginning was only God. We’ll say Spirit. Spirit is conceived of as a point, as a point has no dimension and so if there is nothing but the point it is at once everything and nothing and in a way wholly pure in its perfection. The point then expands in all directions equally. Exactly how far is a meaningless question. The result is a circle, hence the first day, and also the beginning separation necessary for anything to exist — there is now an inside and an outside, a thing of which there is something that isn’t that thing. This concept is well expressed in Taoism. The Yin must exist in order for there to be Yang — and vice versa. Also, not only is there an inside and an outside, there are only two “places” – the center point, and the circle about it, which can be regarded as an infinity of identical points. Hence, if anything is to happen, it will happen by way of the new infinity of points, the circle, and the most natural thing to do then is to expand just as far as before, to create another circle exactly like the first – the Vesica Piscis, the Second Day.

Notice the continuation of “perfection” here. Notice also the emergence of something new: the shape within the overlapping circles, which is itself not a circle. There are many special properties of this shape and much is to be said of it, but we’ll move on.

We move on to a third circle, on to the number three, and again new shapes emerge. Much more can be said of this, and the significance of the number three is nearly impossible to ignore.

And so on, the same thing occurs until we find ourselves with seven circles – six encircling the seventh or, rather, the first. Totally naturally, this figure emerges from nothing by processes maintaining the purity of perfection – the perfection of the circle.

Contemplating this, we are left with profound mystery. We are confronted with the brute facts of existence. That this process yields a figure so whole, that the last circle constructed in this process so completely syncs up with the rest of it, and that we are left with a hexagonal figure formed only of circles. Adding a circle to each intersection, such that we find ourselves with nineteen circles — that’s three sixes plus one — yields the Flower of Life, which gives us yet more figures. 

Something new always arises. If we continue, we can find within the expanded figure what is called the Fruit of Life.

And further, upon analysis:

A figure known as “Metatron’s cube.” Upon examination we can find the projection of the Platonic solids and other interesting properties.

Symmetry. Shape. Perfection.

Yet more, we form a fractal and we form a shape whose parts are so deeply interconnected they can hardly be seen separately. What we have here is a visually poetic expression of the principle of Unity, as well as a nod to the Hermetic principle, “As above, so below.”

The Flower of Life as a symbol is a statement that we are connected, that we are all one, and underlying reality, by its very nature, by the nature of the fundamentals of Creation, is deep order.

While the Flower of Life can be found in many of the world’s ancient traditions, it has primarily been taken up by what have been branded as “New Age” ideas, to include many modern paganisms. A certain Drunvalo Melchizedek is largely responsible for its popularization, and more recently by the youtube video series by Jordan Duchnycz called “Spirit Science.” By no means are they the source of sacred geometry, nor do I expect that either of them has as profound an understanding of it as they would like you to believe.

Unity. Perfection. “As above so below.”

Contained in this is the seed of astrology, when we apply it to real-world motions of the wandering stars — the planets. And a part of this suggests the notion that number is not just for counting but contains a subjective, affective component as well, that twoness isn’t merely 1+1, but something inexplicable and deeper than mere arithmetic. We have here the union of the subjective account of the world with the objective account.

By wearing my Flower of Life pendant, I am visually announcing a piece of my identity, a part of my belief system in much the same way a Christian would wear a cross. I am announcing my belief that All is One, that we are all connected, that there is a fractal order built in to the very nature of Reality. 

I am also suggesting, though not explicitly, a belief in astrology, crystals, chakras, subtle energies, psychic phenomena, magic, the power of meditation, the law of attraction, channeling, ufo’s, numerology, religious eclecticism, divination, the powers of intuition, shamanism, neo-paganism, pantheism, autotheism, the use of psychedelics…

The list continues. It marks me as “New Age,” though any educated person knows how diverse the New Age “movement” is and that I may not hold any given belief another “New Ager” might. The Flower of Life simultaneously identifies me with the wildly irrational varities, such as those that follow Drunvalo Melchizedek, and the über-rational varieties of Eisenstein, Kastrup, and Tarnas — and Sheldrake and Radin and so on and so forth. I embrace them both in wholly different ways.

Why So Many Smart People Are Such Idiots About Philosophy

I was reminded this afternoon of an article I’d read a year ago titled “Why are so many smart people such idiots about philosophy?” By “smart people” they meant Bill Nye, but not only. The article covers Nye’s absurd, incoherent, idiotic response to a question posed by a philosophy student.
So the question. Why is Bill Nye such an idiot?

The answer is very simple. Philosophy demands that you question your own thinking and challenge your own assumptions. Philosophy takes for granted that you might be wrong about literally anything and everything. When your job is to be right all the time, as is the case with characters — “popularizers of science”– such as Nye and Tyson and Dawkins, philosophy is uncomfortable and feels useless — because you can’t be right all the time if you’re sometimes wrong, even if you only just might be wrong.

More generally, though, scientists use a set of assumptions, a philosophical system, that is already established. Their job isn’t to challenge it but to apply those assumptions, to run the sacred program of the Scientific Method, to play the Science game.

If your job is to assert the correctness of a particular worldview, if it involves assuming the correctness of that worldview, then the tools for questioning worldviews are hostile towards you. They are necessarily wielded against you.

Here’s a quote from Bernardo Kastrup that considers this problem from a slightly different angle.

Because our culture mistakenly takes technological success for evidence of a deep understanding of reality, we are all guilty, at least by omission, of allowing the neo-priesthood of science to appoint themselves arbiters of truth. This is as insane as appointing a five-year-old kid, who happens to break records playing computer games, chief architect at a major computer company. Does the kid’s game-playing prowess necessarily imply deep understanding of the underlying computer engineering? The fact that one has figured out, through expensive trial and error, how to play the game of technology does not imply any deep understanding of what’s actually going on. Our failure as a culture to truly grasp this has allowed the appointment of five-year-olds to the role of civilization’s guides.

This is how such smart people can be such idiots.