My Brand of Fantasy Magic

…isn’t really fantasy at all. Magical realism, perhaps?

I recently re-watched Constantine (starring The Man of One Face: Keanu Reeves), where the protagonist spends his life fighting to keep the balance between heaven and hell via magical relics, know-how, and insight into traveling to hell and back. He’s dark, brooding, quippy, and so self-destructive he’s dying of lung cancer. It’s a delve into what I consider magical realism: people, many people, believe wholeheartedly that the ability exists (even if it’s only for one person) to… insert random miracle here. Be it travel through hell, talk to the dead, turn water to wine, transform into a totem-animal, talk to rocks, converse with ancestors long dead, see auras, dowse, possess another person/animal.

A lot of people don’t. And that’s cool. A lot of people pursue religion as a form of self-government, so instead of spending the time to understand themselves, they look to religion: “This is bad (according to the Book), so I won’t do it.” It also kills multiple birds by creating a community of similar-thinking people, which reinforces the feeling of “this is right.” Which is cool. That’s what certain governmental bodies do. And we’re governed by many circles, be it personal, family, friends, religion, spiritual (separate from religion), communal, work, local, federal, world. And that’s just what I pulled off the top. This is a digression and I’ll stop it now. I’m trying to show how this also holds its own forms of power: any single one of these bubbles could specify “this is bad” and a person follow it simply because, well, someone says to. Even the “personal” circle. Which in itself is a form of mind control.

I had a simple purpose when I began writing twelve years ago: have fun, connect with people, share my thoughts. It’s still the same purpose, albeit a little evolved. My thoughts developed into something a little stronger: magic is real. Some magic is real. Not all. Magic Missiles and two hundred foot orc giants with enchanted tree trunks for armor isn’t. Science keeps trying to say it has all the answers worth knowing (while people touting Science as the new religion also try to say, like a marijuana enthusiast, Science has ALL the answers), but it doesn’t. Neil deGrasse Tyson recently said, “That’s what’s so great about science. You don’t have to believe in it for it to be true. It exists without your permission.”

Mostly.

I know enough about Science to know the importance of “observable” and “human fallacy.” I’ve been reading about human beings having more than five senses. More like nine. Pressure, balance to name two. It really doesn’t matter how often Science revises what truths it accepts as fact. What matters is it’s always changing in its definition, always updating its databases.

Next, to define science into two subcategories: hard science (physics for one) and soft science (psychology for two). I know too many well-meaning Science worshippers who put it all together. Soft sciences, the stuff our thoughts are made of, the stuff of our dreaming, of our extra-sensories, of our deeper knowledge, of our abstract pattern recognitions, is very wide open and mostly unexplored, despite the 100 or so years we’ve had to study it. Why? Unobservable. Or, difficult to observe. Assumptions based on calculations and patterns of tests.

Magic is a soft science. In fact, eventually, all that “magic” will fall into some sub-sub category of either a sense or quirk of one or two chromosomes in some errant mutative family line (or, you know, something a person develops through meditation and a proven set of practices). Since our realities are subjected to the extent of our senses, there is nothing–absolutely nothing–to say I can’t dream another person’s dreams, for example. Or travel a place constructed wholly of peoples’ thoughts, over time, like a great big living world placed overtop our own. Or fight constructs of modern religion with sheer self-certainty alone.

We all give off energy. That’s a fact. We exist because of it. Byproducts of processes going in in our bodies. We can’t see it. We assume the effect of said energy release is negligible to our surroundings simply because, since we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

I find a new awakening going on, in this culture. In this society. A long, long time ago, during the time of the birthing religions (200 BC to, say, 1000 AD), the understanding exploded of a second, third, and perhaps even fourth sublayer above the Real. This is the stuff of the new old religions. It is the backbone. Now that religion is failing so many people of this time of “Scientific Certainty,” they’re turning to Science and Atheism. Which is cool. They do their thing. As long as they aren’t killing in the name of Neil deGrasse Tyson, it’s all gravy.

The New Reformation, I guess, comes. Or a Second Enlightenment. I’m only sorry I don’t get to know it fully.

So the magic I use in my writing comes from a deep place, a sub-tonal to the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the Gitas, and the Books of the Dead, and whatever else. It comes from a constructed place–a governing place similar to those I listed–where the reality is multi-faceted, science is currently too short-sighted to involve itself, and energy talks with the voice of long-dead preachers. The magic I use is energy, plain and pure, built up on the shoulder-plates of imaginative thinkers and socio-pariahs like Einstein and Twain and Jung who, in another century (or life), would be heralded as prophets or even gods.

My brand of fantasy magic comes from the coupling of intelligent thought and passionate realization, of fever dreams and deep stillness. My brand of magic is the extent of the human condition, of spirituality that exists for itself, of ripe power sieved through governing filters. And that’s just in the reality.

In my writing, it collects the results of What Ifs and runs tests until the pattern is undeniable in its repetition.

Sorry. Magic is a lot of things. For me, it must stem from reality. It must stem from science and its branches are religion. Its fruits are you and I, the readers and writers, and it’s more than simply an axe-like tool. It’s a whole undiscovered place, like a continent with slightly different rules. It’s a way of breathing. It’s a way of bleeding. It’s a way of interaction.

It’s so. Fucking. Sexy.

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Thoughts on Cloud Atlas

People don’t like it. Yet I’m not sure if I can write about it, because if I do, I’ll be dumped in the, “IQ Snobs” category (which is apparently a personality type, given how so many “average joes” use it to identify someone with a liberal arts education). It’s apparently easy to compartmentalize the Other I guess (again, using capital O-ther makes me a Snob because real people don’t do that).

They spent 100mil on the project, only grossed 10mil in the Box Office, and the majority of the reviews I’ve seen (imdb, for one) says it’s pretentious garbage.

I think people just want to hate it.

In fact, I found it so incredibly easy to follow, that was going to be my only complaint: directors created a Good character, a Bad character, and an Undecided character for each storyline, then ran with it to flesh out and develop a philosophical thesis. Near the beginning of the movie, a character says, and I paraphrase, just like Love and Fear, Belief has its own way of moving things forward.

Maybe I’ve simply spent my life too focused on understanding myself and how I fit into the world, because this is what I call a “self-aware” movie. It knows itself. It adheres to my worldview, my philosophy, and my mindset: people are God. Spirituality aside, religion aside, this movie is brilliant.

So with this movie picking up a bad overall review, I’m upset. Angered, even. The complaints range from “terrible acting” to “gratuitous violence” to “pointless boredom” and “meandering plot” and everything inbetween. Someone even complained about the stilted one-liners. I personally cried about 1/3 in to the movie due to one of those statements, because it hit so hard and from a vulnerable direction that I nearly lost my breath. It’s tough to do that to me, a seasoned critic and dedicated self-searcher.

Plot was amazing. It’s a story that surrounds several people that are reincarnated over and over throughout history, and in telling their stories, also tells the story of civilization’s struggle–a repeated battle for survival, and a violent mistake that occurs over and over again. Pieces and oddities and aspects of each story connect to the next in specific ways–as if the knowledge of the person who made it is imprinted to the piece in question, be it a diary, a series of letters, a symphony, or a broadcast–so it feels the people in each time period answer their own questions and are able to pass them forward.

Plot is complex. Behind identifying characters, which seemed one of the hardest things for the casual observer to do, the thesis this movie develops (and yes, truly, it is a work worthy of academic study) is one the average person won’t understand if he doesn’t care. It is a topic of late-night conversation between my wife and I. It is one topic of a budding movement in America and ancient in Pagan belief systems. It’s a belief that, just like in the movie, has surfaced, died, and resurfaced again and again throughout the world’s history–this world and not a scifi big-screen creation. Anyone can walk away from this storyline. Nobody can walk away from the real-world parallels that truly exist and shape this world even when we ignorant try to brush it away as UnAmerican.

The Characterization fascinated me. Every story seemed inspired. Hanks’ performance was incredible. Quick note: the final storyline, one of a distant future, Hanks’ family speaks in what one critic called “pigdin English created for the story.” It isn’t pigdin. It’s a southern dialect that’s still spoken in the deep South, with a few words added to the vocabulary. “Some demon prayin’ on you?” “Suss ‘im out.” My favorite storyline invovled New Seoul (of course) and the final story (mostly because of the Jack-esque character that plagues Hanks’ character, the “demon” everyone’s afraid of).

Makeup was incredible. The directors got a lot of heat by changing Halle Berry’s myriad characters from African to Indian to White Jewish, etc., along with every other important character to the movie. I found it refreshing and perfect for the movie, making the character’s race (and in some cases, gender) wholly unimportant to the person inside. Lana Wachowski, co-director with her brother, stated the movie was most about role and gender-bending: the individual’s skin is unimportant, and what ultimately played the role was the person inside. New Seoul’s characters’ were brilliant–evolved just enough to look nearly elfin in difference while holding onto racial identifiers. (Spoiler in the next sentence) Powerful, too, because Lana’s statement of gender unimportance is shoved home when the Replicant, a perfect human replication used in a form of slavery, sees a factory reminiscent of 1930’s pig slaughterhouses, only using–you guessed it–Replicant corpses to “feed” the living  ones. Scary scifi stuff.

People stated the violence was gratuitous. I believe the violence was exactly how violence is in the real world. When a man blows his head off, his head blows off. It doesn’t get sleepy and the eyes don’t close in a peaceful rendition of a perfect death. The violence in this movie was artfully applied, and in low doses. Unfortunately this movie deals extensively with the Human Condition, which means death, war, violence, and abuse is part of the game. Kill Bill was gratuitous violence. Jet Li’s The One was gratuitous. The Matrix was gratuitous. This was people struggling to survive.

This is a complex movie that probably requires some advanced study in philosophy, pagan religious practices, and/or, you know, a “pointless” liberal arts degree. It develops a story that bounces seemingly chaotically through several historical periods of time.

It is a humanist’s story.

Another quick note: some critic also stated the movie is “clearly anti-Christian.” Given my knowledge of Christianity and my understanding of Jesus’ message, this movie is about as Christian a movie as you can get. You won’t get Jesus Reborn reading from the book of New Mark, but that doesn’t mean it’s propaganda against the Bible or its messages. Again, this statement angers me. No. No it isn’t clearly anti-Christian. In any way, shape, form, or function. Any person who states otherwise adds his own bias to the soup. (Another quick note: one of the characters is asked, straight-up, if she believes in the afterlife, heaven, or hell, and she says as a reply, “I believe death is a door closing, and birth is another one opening.” This message falls mostly within a Buddhist or Hindu pagan belief, though it doesn’t say anything about the overall message of the movie.)

I’d absolutely love to hear others’ thoughts on the movie. It’s currently in my top two favorite movies ever made, with the top spot possibly being The Fountain.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Chris

Real Life, Spun Fantasy.

My fiancee is an incredible person. She’s dynamic, dangerous, badass. She’s powerful. Sometimes scary.

I’ve never traveled the world. Never saw the towers of London or Pisa or India. Never drank the natives’ water. She has. Seven years of it, and before, a life of complex not-quite-reality. Hers is a story that would put Peter Pan to shame, that would decimate any horror movie you’ve ever watched, and threaten to tear the very seams of your understanding of the world.

Out of respect for her, I won’t divulge details. Out of respect for her, I put my work under Fantasy, because otherwise people would heckle, hate, and disbelieve.

I write fantasy because it isn’t. Turn on the TV, watch the presidential race, and look me in the eye and tell me people don’t believe in magic. Follow the brilliance of a disassociative personality that has constructed worlds with autistic-like dedication to detail. Follow any scientific discourse to its roots–any single one–and you’ll find the breath of the unknown. Study psychology to any degree: everyone has elaborate, constructed realities that are wholly different from each other.

We traverse worlds entirely our own, in this bubble of the senses, sharing with others only in limited quantities: sights, smells, sounds, tastes. But the things that come from behind the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, inner ear are entirely our own.

From a psychological standpoint, her story is definable. Anyone dedicated to the debunk will find precedent elsewhere, play it up to her elaborate ability to follow non-verbal communication, spatially understand emotions in a way most haven’t honed, understand nuances in tone, pitch, word choice. From a psychological standpoint, my fiancee is a body-reader. From the standpoint of almost anyone meeting her, she’s a mind-reader.

She dreams of apartments before we visit them, drawing layouts and dimensions that match perfectly. She follows unseen things. She’s a walking Tarot deck. She’s the most spiritual person I’ve ever met. She is, sometimes, a conduit to God. Other cultures were absorbed by her: when she walked around in India, people would stop and thank her for helping them. She had followers without even speaking a word.

She puts fortune-tellers to shame. She sees ghosts but does not speak to them, becaues they aren’t welcome. She grounds and calms and heals from across thousands of miles. She knows when a friend is pregnant and waits for her call. She understands people on a subliminal level.

From a scientific standpoint, she’s just lucky. She feels storms as headaches, is incredibly sensitive to food, vibrations, electricity–she’s developed, created, endorsed, reinforced a complex, complicated reality through false positives that retroactively verify her notions.

She grew up in a family of salt-of-the-earth republicans: father middle management in UPS, mother a stay-at-home, both Catholic. She had two older brothers that saw the same things she did, but never spoke about it. She lived a story any person would label as urban fantasy. Anyone.

I’ve had experiences in my life. I know, without question, everyone has. Everyone. She is my inspiration. She is my verification.

She is a normal person, working a normal job, in the armpit of the United States. She does all the things other people do. She’s quiet about what she’s seen. Respectful, even, because nobody in this culture shares her religion, her spirituality.

If Jesus returned to this earth, walked into your hometown, would you celebrate him? Or would you do the same thing the Romans did two thousand years ago and martyr him a heretic, a blasphemer, a liar? The whole world knows this answer. We’d kill him, either the masses or the vigilante Christians. I’m not saying she’s Jesus, or even close. She’s prophetic, at times, and she spent a lot of time hating America–even though she’s born and bred–because of how they ostracized her. Why?

Fear, perhaps. Her life has been one long struggle; sometimes blissful, sometimes agonizing. She’s a violently passionate, incredible person. She’s met psychics and knows who truly understands and who’s playing. She touches a person, true to Stephen King’s Dead Zone, and sometimes sees their past, or their future.

She’s sometimes wrong. She’s human. She usually isn’t. I feel blessed to share her life. I feel blessed to have such a fountain of inspiration, of truth, and depth of character.

Forgive me if my books don’t fit, or if their themes are too controversial, for their cores don’t come out of another book. I’ll be returning to the unique reality, from time to time, my fiancee has. It’s too big, too fulfilling, too credible to ignore. I spent a lot of time considering whether I wanted to write this entry. I debated for a long time whether I should take ownership of the elements in my books, and I realized that if I am to respect myself, I must declare that, at least at the core, nothing I write is fantasy.

It is dreamed, it is lived, it is experienced; not in some belief system of a faraway God, but as a way of life, as a way of interacting, daily, with the world around her. In the world around me. In the world around you.

Hope I didn’t scare anyone off…

~x

 

Religious Misinformation Vitalizes My Books

I write fantasy. I write occult(ish). I write psychological and complex. I write florid. I write damning. I write heresay and blasphemy.

Demons aren’t inherently evil. Boom. Five thousand Good Christian Souls just exploded. Not only are they not inherently evil, but they’re driven the exact same way as people. In fact, if one ignores their apparent immortality and seemingly endless amount of power (and restriction by God, if we’re diving Christian), they’re people, too. (Awesome shirt idea: Demons are People Too)

The Catholic Church says demons are evil. I won’t disagree. The Catholic Church of two hundred years ago wouldn’t agree. Times change. Things change. This isn’t a blog about the complicated nuances of religious evolution. This is a blog about the awesomeness that is “occult” fantasy.

I have a dirty little secret. I absolutely love Dresden Files. At least the first five. Love. Obsessively. In fact, I even tried my hand at writing Dresden-esque fantasy. The TWO finished novels are waiting another dustoff. It’s delicious. It doesn’t fit with my writing style (see previous post on antagonists). If I were to put the top five influencial writers for my writing inspiration, I’d have to put Dresden among them. And Lovecraft. And the Bible–all of its works, even the apocryphal. And Faulkner. Maybe Jung, or Dante, or Koontz, but they’re something else entirely.

Gothic writing is making a comeback, albeit with a more sparkly exterior: vampire novels are all the rage. Everyone loves them. Harry Potter’s all the rage, with it’s quaint british stylized quirkiness. Gothic got a makeover, and it’s now mainstream. And not gothic, really, except for the premise. But it came from the gothic.

Which makes me wonder if I’m going against the grain with my incessant need to write psychologically dark books. Not horror. Not slasher. Not gratuitous drugs, violence, and sex like Mr. King. But dark. Dream-like and confusing. Complicated. I’m writing something that was all the rage in the ’60s (or never the rage at all?). I’m 50 years too late.

Or am I? Religion is alive and well. In fact, it’s becoming more alive and more well given the political turmoil and rotten economy. The extremists are coming out of the woodwork, saying they’re experts on the subject of God and what Jesus wanted and how there’s a war going on between Jesus-lovers and everyone else…

Epic, perhaps. Someone (or a lot of someones) wants an epic war. Thousands of books, written and lost, create an unfurnished box from which to draw endless inspiration, while the seeds are already planted in this community’s mind.

I want a resurgence of American Gothic. AmeriPsychiGoth. I don’t know if that even exists, but people are writing on the edge of it. Unfortunately–and this is something I’ve touched on before–I think people are afraid to write about Christianity, and moreso, people are afraid to publish people who write about it in fear of alienating too much of the populace.

But I digress. Studying Solomon’s Lesser Key or the Book of Judas or Jung’s Red Book doesn’t make me some kind of Satanist, although I’ve heard powerful arguments from Satanists that I am (in a good way. Wow. I can’t believe I just said that). I feel there’s an untapped resource here, in this environment, that would allow for a powerful writer to emerge. I’m not sure if I’m that writer–I spend too much time writing to the general population–but perhaps I should be pursuing that direction: dark and poetic, psychic and psychological,  aggressive and complicated.

I think I will.

~x

Religion Isn’t Personal.

Spirituality, on the other hand, is.

Two things I will never talk about to the average joe/acquaintance: religion and politics. Why? They’re institutions, not personal belief systems.

I know a lot (A LOT) of religious people who don’t understand spirituality. Who aren’t spiritual. Some of them are the most religious people I’ve ever met, but don’t have a lick of the “Holy Spirit” in them.

On the other hand, I know a lot of spiritual people who don’t understand religion. Who aren’t religious. Some of them are the most spiritual people I’ve ever met, but don’t have a lick of “God the Father” in them.

Now. I feel the best way to live life is a c-c-combo of both, but if one is to err, one should err on the side of spirituality. Why?

Spiritual people don’t kill people in the name of their beliefs very often. Religious people wage war in the name of their beliefs.

Spiritual people can be very religious. Religious can be very spiritual. Take my Great Aunt for one: incredible woman, nun for 25 years, high school principal for 20 years, incredibly well-read and educated, delightful to talk to. If you smoke she frowns in your general direction. If you have a negative attitude she tries to raise it up. She’s a renaissance woman: equal parts psychology, religion, academia, spiritualism, and respect. She and I share a special bond: she sends me Kalil Gibran books and I send her religious questions, from time to time.

I speak to some of my other religious friends, and they’re warmongering against the president, against “the left” or “the right” or “the Other,” basically, and judging everyone up and down as if they had the power of Christ within them.

Unfortunately the power of Christ is forgiveness, love, acceptance, and sometimes rage at the pharisees who deface the name of God through greedy, money-hungry enterprising.

I think this blog entry is excited (inflamed?) by the recent “political” debates from the GOP. Religion/Politics are interchangeable. Same with spirituality/philosophy. It’s not a matter of knowing best. It’s a matter of respecting others.

I will dive, at length, into the spirituality of a person. I will swim in the oceans of the self, and the selves of others. I will embrace the wholeness (or parts) of the individual so trusting to open up.

I will not abide a terrorist, whether sanctioned by your religion or any other form of government.

(Apologies for all the buzzwords in this post.)

I prefer Coleman Barks for Music

Spirituality is creeping into my lifestyle again. It’s always been there: creeping around, playing tricks with me, dancing at seemingly random odd times of importance while I ignorantly stare at its naked behind.

So I embrace it. I should always have embraced it, truly, but I was more caught up in the rest of the world, making ends meet, surviving, and trying to enjoy time with my fiancee. You know, diabetic stuff.

I made a dreamcatcher last week, two weeks ago, after taking a recommendation from Cygnus. She made one about three months ago, and had just recently finished. It’s a bit more difficult to make , much more time-consuming, and in the end much more rewarding than I initially thought.

First off, Hobby Lobby is my best friend. I didn’t have to, but I ended up spending over 50 bucks at the place just to get the materials I needed. You don’t need to spend that much money. You can stay under 10 dollars if you shop there. Why?

Nature is Free. I’m talking about everything nature. Shells, wood, stones, all that—free. I spent money on shells because Illinois is landlocked, though if I looked I’d find plenty of periwenkles and oysters. In fact, I bought river pearls. They’re purple and cool and I’m gluing them to the outer ring as soon as I get the opportunity. Now, if you DON’T buy these decorations, what DO you buy there?

A ring if you don’t have it—although you could use branches, scrap metal, or anything else that strikes your fancy that’s laying around—twine/rope if you don’t have it, and I decided to put an extra layer of leather around the ring to protect the twine’s fragile taut rope rings from damage.

This is a Native American tradition. I extend no deeper knowledge/spiritual insight to the religions of the Native Americans except my love for spiritual objects and my love for dreaming peacefully.

My experience in scouting comes into use with the knots I incorporate. I use a “clove hitch” for the starting/cementing knot on the ring, and over/under knots for each “loop” on the spiderwebbing outer edge. Clove hitches are best to use while cinching a rope to a round object because whether your string/rope is flat or round, it cements it strongly in place every time. Plus the hitch does a great job of minimizing movement on the ring.

After the over/under knots are finished (I made 14 around my circle), you weave the rope through the open loops left behind. Note: Make certain you have more than enough rope to spiral around around twelve times. Otherwise, you’ll be adding a bulky knot to your rope. Not a bad idea if you like that: the end result won’t look much worse. I’m just not a fan.

You grab a big glass of tea/coffee/goldschlager, and boldly embark on a three-to-six hour ordeal of listening to your favorite Sitar music and focusing on not tightening the rope too much as you spiral your way around your inner dreamcatcher. Try to meditate on cool things: stressful thinking turns this art project into a mire of wasted effort.

Add beads/trinkets to the rope as you go, if you like, or leave it blank. The dreamcatcher’s web is finished when the holes for threading your rope are too small for you to fit your rope. I tie the rope off as simply as possible—nothing special here, just make sure the knot isn’t too bulky (triple half hitch is overkill).

A second clove hitch for my 1mm thick leather rope, and I then spend another 2-5 hours spiraling the metal ring in black leather. It looks so much nicer when I’m finished.

Cygnus added feathers of birds she felt connected to along the top and sides, and shells from a previous dreamcatcher. I had pewter beads in a spiral, and the aforementioned river pearls to add. I also have a shock of driftwood I found roaming the wilds of Vermilion Lake that I’ll be incorporating to the bottom of the piece. Perhaps even some white paint.

It’s fun. Decoration possibilities are endless. There are even other ways to thread a dreamcatcher—I just don’t know of them.

It’s a fantastic meditation tool, and the end result is a wonderful decoration, if not a strong spiritual object.