When I was 11 years old, I changed my handwriting in an effort to be cool. I wanted to be more like my friend. He wrote with far more flair than I did. His pages had words that stood out at you. They were all in in neat rows, but they looked artistic and full of purpose. His paragraphs were all in joined up writing and each word was at an angle. His pages looked like they came from someone interesting. Mine just looked like they came from a bog standard 11 year old kid.
I remember clearly deciding to write an assignment in this new style – with my new found flair. The words were all at a painful angle across the page. It took me ages to finish because I was more interested in how it looked than what was written. I put my name on it and handed it in. I felt satisfied and liberated. My new, cooler, more angular identity was emerging.
When the teacher handed our marked papers back, he stopped when he reached me. I got a poor mark. He was disappointed with me, he said. And what on earth was wrong my handwriting? He could barely read it.
I couldn’t hide my blushes as I mumbled some sort of response. I reverted back to myself the very next class.
Happy Sunday chimps. To thine own self be true!
His doubts started with his changing values. Take a look at the things he holds most dear. The opinions, the causes, the risks and the opportunities. He noticed they were not as permanent or as important as he once thought. He found out they are interchangeable. Take out one strongly held belief and swap it, like a battery or a computer chip, for the complete opposite belief. Life goes on.
In fact he is becoming convinced that he is a programmable robot, more than an organic, free, human being. He looks down at his own arms. Is there blood under this skin? Is there a mechanical, robot-arm like Arnie in the Terminator movies? And blood doesn’t count as proof of life. What is “blood” anyways? Liquid full of little micro-robots delivering chemical loads and hormones around his body to keep the robot system in balance.
What would a robot do?
Following on from my editing of Sci-Fi cerative posts – this is number two in the series so far:
Marlon kept whooping and shouting and cheering as he turned his head straight up towards the sky. He was so excited each time he threw a card, all he could do was shout like a chimp. Up above, the clouds dissolved before his eyes. The storm of the century had been neutralised by the card, as if someone threw a bucket of water on a camp fire. Looking up Marlon saw clear skies and the sight of the heavens took the scream from his mouth. Completely silent, he fell. The smuggler saw a perfect night sky. Like thick, creamy velvet he felt he could almost scoop up the blackness in between the stars. Dark galactic ice cream, Marlon felt it would probably taste like liquorice.
The Milky Way stretched out and twinkled forever. There were shooting stars blazing all around, and far to the east the rainbow colours of a nebula cloud glistened against the black space. To the North, on the horizon a faint aurora pulsated.
Marlon kept his eyes on the skies for as long as he dared, a big smile stretched on his face. He knew that if he looked for too long after throwing a card, he risked going crazy, bewitched by the beauty. He had heard stories of men wasting away to skeletons, their skulls looking up to the sky, smiling even as they starved to death just to stare at the beauty above. With effort, he pulled his head down, wiped away the water from his face and turned his eyes back to where he had been searching during the storm, at the bottom of the Tor on the plains.
With the help of the starlight, Marlon could now see close to the horizon the place he was looking for. It was a slight rise in the plains, and at the base of the rise a small fire was burning. From the top of the Tor this was nothing more than a dot of light. It looked like another tiny star on the ground, except it was noticeably green in colour and flickering on the plains. Eyes straight ahead, Marlon blew a kiss to the velvet sky above and started his descent of Nea Tor. Shooting stars rained all around him but the night remained silent. Silent that is, except for the old rain water which squelched in his boots with every step.
Marlon’s coat was a Grohl coat. Marlon felt bulletproof in his coat. He had a feeling it might outlast him and the next few Smugglers after him to wear it. Its tailoring spell meant it fit him so well it was like a warm pair of pyjamas. He could keep a week of rations in the pockets, and he never felt cold. Or wet. Or hot. Just right.
Excerpt taken from Grohl’s most holy book: The Smuggler’s Handbooke
“A coate is first and foremost for wearing on Smuggler missions. For alle seasones, a coate is needed by yeah Smugglers. Whan thy coate is made, maketh the coate of magical leather. Magical leather is only righteous for such a vital dude as a Smuggler, especially in dark times as these. The spells cast on the coate should repel water and snowe, insulate thy body from any other alien liquide. A heating spell may be needed whan thy smuggling missions take thee far North or South. Give thy coate pocket spells for storage and never let thy coate out of sight for fear of alien wear and pollution most foul.”
Grohl was known as the Godfather of Smuggling. His coats outlasted the man himself, and ironically have become part of the growing inter-galactic illicit trade. Value in drugs, guns, animals, songs and chocolate is only matched by value in Grohl’s limited edition coats. The Godfather is known to have made only thirty-three in his lifetime.
A common refrain on many of humanity’s problems is that there are simply too many people. Flora and Fauna will never be prioritized over humans, and with an ever growing pool of humans the pressure on the environment will lead to widespread catastrophe.
In many respects of course this is true and obvious. Forests are shrinking and animal species are going extinct. However, Humans don’t just extract from a fixed set of resources. We can also create new resources through invention. Check this awesome article for more info.
I think the future of wildlife is not so doomed but also not so wild. Unfortunately more like a zoo than a Serengeti, I think we are headed for a strong culture of managing land, technology and investment for flora and fauna to flourish.
Like it or not, We as a species are not going to stop taking over wild lands, but we are also not going to stop innovating.
Eventually you are going to second guess yourself. This may happen in the dreaming phase, the creative phase, the editing phase. But it will happen in the course of a project. The question is what will you do?
One interpretation of this second guessing is that it is the dreaded “creative block” or “writer’s block” at play. If so, why not copy Trenton Doyle Hancock and double down on your risk taking and move on?
There’s also a lot of comfort in the idea that the uncertain, fractured self is the true self. Let it be and have confidence that whatever decision you make will be the right one, so long as you make one!
Also important in my life is the idea that home is a comfort. When you are lost and unsure, home is often the place to look. Where do you come from? To work against this is to work against your nature.
Polly Stenham tells us that the collaborative nature of theater kills a lot of vanity in her work as a playwright. On the other hand, a quick Google search shows us that lack of confidence is a huge issue with the writing process. Somewhere in between excessive vanity and the Google search results is the right mix of confidence and humility that leads to great work and great writing (and Polly Stenham).
Maybe the secret is to do the work for something other than yourself. Work for a cause, work for a tribe. Of course, this in itself requires a story to tell others and to tell yourself to motivate the work, and to motivate others to follow your work. It also diverts attention away from the self, and towards the group you are working for. Less vanity, more confidence and purpose.
Personally, I suffer from a lack of confidence. I worry about what others think and I don’t get enough of my own work done. However, when I do create something I find myself staring at it over and over – spellbound like it is some kind of jewel or reflection in a mirror – vanity overcomes me in other words. If I am honest, I am still looking for a group to write for, and a tribe to be part of when it comes to my writing. I think it would take the pressure off of the writing process.
So I finally finished Dune – the sci-fi classic which has clearly influenced the likes of Game Of Thrones and most other popular sci-fi stories since. I had two final thoughts on why it is so impressive and resilient to this day as a gripping sci-fi story.
First – The characters are super, but the world in which they inhabit is the real star of the show. A character on its own merit, Arrakis dominates any event in the book. Just as ‘winter is coming’ in GOT, the extreme weather and awesome beauty of the desert planet is what the main characters have to come to terms with to fulfill their destiny. Though it is a completely different sort of novel, I am seeing a similar strong focus on setting and location in the book i am currently reading: “The Knowledge” By Steven Pressfield.
The impressive depth of the cultures, languages and religions created by the author in Dune are second to only Lord of The Rings in my experience. I marvel at the time this and dedication this must have taken from Frank Herbert. It gives the story authenticity and reflects back to the reader our own clan like behaviour and superstitions here on earth.
Dune is magnificent. Well worth the read and the reputation it has gathered.
In case you missed it – check out this excellent website dedicated to all of Seth Godin’s book recommendations over the last decade (hint – he makes great recommendations!)
As a Godin junkie, this is incredible. I am just getting used to my re-found Kindle too, so this is perfect timing!
I enjoy particularly the filtering options. So useful and makes the whole site more manageable.
My watch woke my whole family up at 5.45am this morning with an alarm. Is this the start of the rise of the machines? Maybe it starts with unreasonably early, unexplainable alarms to soften us up into sleepy victims. Then the computers can have their way with us and Skynet will bring us down with nukes.
I will be on the lookout for balls of lightening and naked Austrian bodybuilders for the rest of the day.