My “On” Button

Before the election, I talked with a friend one day about all the lies and cheats and deceptions. Like most people, she knew knew these tactics existed, but since she believed the lies told by the alphabet newscasters, she wasn’t aware there was another side.

I don’t often monopolize the conversation, but every once in a while, someone finds my “on” button, and I hold forth. Much of the truth of this past election was hard to find, but if one read more than an article or two, and if one read articles that went against what one happens to think at any given moment, it was a lot easier to piece things together. Also, I’ve studied such things most of my life — people often downplay the unpalatable truth with a contemptuous sneer of “conspiracy theory,” but the truth is, a conspiracy is merely something people in power do behind your back. And politics is full of back door, back room, back stabbing deals that we are not privy to, and if we do happen to stumble on the truth, well, then, they dismiss it by saying it’s just another conspiracy theory or fake news or whatever damning name they want to call it.

That particular day, however, I’d watched the news with her, watched the newscaster show a clip of an interview, then listened to her turn the person’s words upside down to prove a completely different point, then asked a second interviewee a question that would again make a mockery of the truth. The two of them talked about the horror of the event as if it had actually happened, rather than being a total fabrication.

Since I don’t watch the news, this took me aback. That they didn’t even pretend to hide their reprehensible behavior was too much for me. Did they really think we were such fools as to not hear what we originally heard?

Apparently so. Anyway, that got me started.

The friend listened agog as I explained not what we had just seen but also some of the subtle — and not so subtle — lies we’ve been told, explained how they vilified some players while beatifying others, and even explained some of the historical background leading up to this particular political mess. When I realized what I was doing, I apologized.

She said, “I like listening to you talk.” She asked me how I knew everything I did, including all the pieces that went together to make up my books. Then she said, “You must have gone to school for a long time.”

The truth is, I didn’t go to school for a long time. In fact, I have far less formal education than just about anyone I know, but I’ve spent a lifetime reading and researching, listening and thinking to make up for the lack. Even more, I almost never watch television. I didn’t grow up watching like most people of my generation did because my father wouldn’t get one. He wanted us to be independent thinkers, which kind of backfired on him. He wanted us to independently come to the same conclusions he did, and he was appalled to discover that we all turned out to think independently of him.

But that’s beside the issue. The real issue is that a lot of knowledge is hidden in books. Not school books or text books, but . . . books. All kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction. If one never reads, one never learns anything but what they are fed.

The first time I realized that tales hid truth was in grade school. For an English assignment, we had to create a newspaper. I thought it would be fun to make the news stories about various fairy tales and nursery rhymes, and in trying to find things to say about these bits of folklore, I happened to come across a book that gave the origins and meanings. And wow! What an eyeopener!

And so began my quest for the truth hidden in books.

If I have ever had a life-long passion, it’s with the truth, reading, seeing that which is hidden that we’re not supposed to know. So far, not all the truth is suppressed, and I’m not sure it can be, but it’s a lot harder to find than on a lighted screen.

I can’t say knowing the truth — at least as much of it as I do — has made me happy. It’s made me more of an outcast than anything (except during my years with Jeff — he was the only other seeker I had ever met, and together we learned a lot). But still, I’d rather know the truth — and if I don’t, I prefer searching for it — even if people don’t agree with me. Sometimes, their disagreement leads me to other paths. So far, none of these paths have set me on a totally different course, though a lot of the paths augmented the ones I was already on.

Searching for truth is like this find the hidden objects game I’ve been playing — it’s about learning patterns, seeing the truth as deviation from the pattern as well as seeing the truth in the pattern.

See what I mean about my “on” button? I had no intention of going into all that, but once I got started, I just kept going.

Luckily for you, I also have an off button.

***

My latest novel Bob, The Right Hand of God is now published!

What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? What then?

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God. Or you can buy the Kindle version by clicking here: Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

A Place Where I Can Connect With Myself And The Mystical World

It’s amazing we ever manage to communicate with each other, considering that different words mean different things to different people. We do have common ground, though, so perhaps that keeps us connected. We know basically what words mean, such as “desert,” “reading,” “writing,” but we also imbue the words with our own connotations, and that’s where it gets interesting.

For most people around where I am staying, “desert” means a place of rattlers, a place to ride dirt bikes, ATVs, and other noisemaking machines, a place to honk their dogs. (That’s what I call it anyway. They let their dogs run free and drive behind them, honking to keep the animal from straying too far.). But for me, “desert” means a place away from the bustle of everyday life, a place where i can connect with myself and the mystical world around me, a place where I get in touch with the truth inside me (the truth that resides in all of us.) Even those who do see the desert as a place away from every day life, see it as a place to run, all the while connected to an ipod or whatever is connected to those wires coming out of their ears.

For most people, “reading,” fiction, in particular, means entertainment, a way to kill a few hours, an indulgence in fantasy. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course — it makes people happy and fuels the book industry — it’s just not what reading means to me. For me, “reading” means a place away from the bustle of every day life, a place where I can connect with myself and the mystical world of books, and get in touch with the truth inside me. It came as a real shock when I discovered that’s not what reading means to others. It’s often true that people see reading as a place away from the bustle of every day life, but for most people it’s an escape from themselves, not an escape into themselves.

Writers each have their own meaning for the word “writing.” Most often it’s the same as reading — to entertain, to communicate with readers. Sometimes they don’t know what it means to them, except that it fulfills a need. Occasionally, it means a way of making money. It should come as no surprise that writing, for me, means a place away from the bustle of every day life, a place where I can connect with myself and the mystical world of my own story, and get in touch with the truth inside me. Writing bloggeries, such as this one, helps me figure out what I think, but writing fiction puts a “face” on what is inside me, creating a metaphor or a parable for my thoughts and experiences.

I’ve never been one to count words since the number of words don’t count. What counts is what the words say, what they mean. I’ve never been one to inform others of how my writing is going since the writing is for me. Once the book or bloggerie is published, however, it becomes something else, not something that was written so much as something to be read. Does that make sense? I might have walked too long in the desert this morning, and brought some of its mysticism back with me.

Stories, Cliches, and Finding the Truth

We are steeped in story. From birth to death, story forms our lives. For some people — writers, quasi-hermits, employees of the publishing, movie, and television industries — story is their life. More stories are available to us in more media than ever before in history, including the stories we share with each other and ourselves. What is a daydream if not a story of the future we tell ourselves? And at night, while sleeping, our dreams tell us other stories. No wonder we have such a hard time finding a story that is not clichéd.

But they do exist. In fact, anyone can write a non-clichéd story if he or she does the work to find the truth of the story, but all too often writers with nothing to say look to books and movies for the truth and end up with rehashed forgeries.

Stories of pattern killers (serial killers by another name) became clichéd very quickly. How many times have we heard or read that same bit about the killer being a white male between the ages of . . . Never mind. You probably know it better than I do. Because so many writers borrowed their truths from previous stories about pattern killers, the only thing new they had to add was the grisly murder pattern, each one more gruesome than the last. The way to tell a non-clichéd serial killer story is to find the truth: in a bizarre sort of way, a pattern killer story is romance between the killer and the hunter. Their relationship forms the story, not the murders. And, on a deeper level, it is the story of the hunter finding the killer within himself. Thomas Harris portrayed this brilliantly in The Red Dragon, but when he wrote Hannibal, he chose grisliness over truth. You may not agree with me about the truth of the pattern killer story, but that is my truth. It is up to you to find your own truth.

So how do we do we find the truth for our stories, not just pattern killer stories? By going small, by knowing everything possible about our characters, the streets they walk, the way they think, the places and people that make up their world. David Morrell traveled to get the feel of his settings, and he took survival courses to find out what his characters would experience in wild, but not all of us have the time, money, or inclination to travel to distant places or to take physically taxing courses. Nor is it necessary. We can find the truth in our own neighborhoods. We can walk the streets and take note of everything we see. How do those streets differ from any other we have traveled? By being true to character and place, we find the small bits of action that tell the story’s truth. We are used to thinking of action scenes as car chases, fights, and other horrifying events, but an action scene can be as subtle as a look or a touch of a hand. That is where the truth lies, in the unexpected details.

A story, when set in a particular place with a particular character, will have a truth that no other story has. If we have the patience and skill to find the story’s truth, our truth, we can tell it without reducing it to cliché.