365 Things

One of my New Year’s resolutions is less a resolution than an experiment. I am going to try to rid myself of one object, thing, trinket, machine, doodad, tchotchke, whatever a day for the next year.

There are not many people who would accuse me of having a cluttered house–I don’t think it’s cluttered–and yet, I still wonder what it would *feel like* to live in a house that isn’t full of what are basically useless distractions. Junk you save thinking it will “have a use someday” that sits there for years serving no purpose whatsoever, practical or aesthetic or entertainment.

The ground rules are pretty simple.

(1) The day’s discard can be one object (say, one issue of a magazine), or a group of objects (all issues of that magazine),
(2) It has to go in the recycling or be donated to a charity/or Good Will, unless it’s really truly biodegradable junk,
(3) It can’t be anything I’m getting rid of simply to replace it with a newer thing that performs the same function.
(4) It can’t be anything with a natural short life span, like fruit peels or paper towels.

So today’s Thing is

(1) a basket full of silk flowers and plants.

Original fiction project – week of 03/20/2011

1829 words this week. And given that I had to work two 12-hour days at work (8 hours the other days), I am trying to figure out how I did that without collapsing. I remind myself I clocked nearly that many words on a daily basis during NaNo, but I’m still kinda impressed with myself. Especially since my story has been less inspiring to me of late.

But see, last weekend, I took some time to try to figure out why.

The problem, I think, is that my story has gotten very prosaic in tone, like it’s hardly a fantasy story anymore and more a scientific take on fantastical concepts, like you might see on Star Trek. So this week, I’ve been brainstorming ways to bring the “sense of magic” back into the story.

It was time well spent, because even though it felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything poking around the internet reminding myself of the stories I found “magical”, or researching legends and fantastical creatures I felt had nothing to do with what I was writing about, voila, a week later, almost 2,000 words.

A lot of that, of course, is me just giving myself writing exercises that may not ever become part of the story, but that forced me to “write outside the box” I’ve shoved my story into.

And it gave me an interesting insight that is relevant to my story.

Much of the “prosaic” feel of it, I think, comes from me being conflicted about what point I’m trying to make in the story, and this goes back to a conflict in me as a person. I am one of those people who wishes every day that magic were real and that I could live a life where magic things happened. But I never see any evidence of the supernatural out in the world, and that frustrates me. I am not the sort of person who takes things on faith; it is in my nature to believe only in what can be proved, and withhold judgement on what can’t.

But more than that, there’s another part of me that doesn’t actually believe in the supernatural at all, and I guess that is the closest I get to an article of faith. I think there are plenty of things out there that cannot be explained by science, but that doesn’t mean they never will be; it just means they have a natural explanation that’s beyond our present level of scientific knowledge.

So on the one hand, I want magic to be real, and on the other hand, there is a real sense in which I don’t believe any magic could be real. And that’s where my story gets muddled. I can’t write about the supernatural and not have this urge to make it just “the natural that’s beyond our present understanding.” And that takes the “magic” out of the magic in my story.

I have no problem enjoying the supernatural in somebody else’s fiction: Buffy, Dresden Files, Harry Potter. But in my own?

I need to figure out a way to encapsulate my own conflict into my main character’s conflict, because I think that’s what I’m struggling to say in this story.

Atheism, skepticism, and agnosticism

Cleanthes’ words of wisdom over at the ATPo board:

If you don’t think there’s such a thing as a fundamentalist Atheist, and you claim to be atheist, then you are a fundamentalist atheist.

If you worship Skepticism without the slightest bit of skepticism over skepticism, then Ockham will haunt you.

As to the rest of his dialogue with Fresne, alas, I am too left-brained to follow all its intricacies.

A curse on my over-sized left brain!

I’m so glad we have these folks gracing our board.

Spiritual musings

I don’t know what it means to have a spirituality when you’re an agnostic who withholds judgement, pro or con, about things that cannot be proved by the mind or the five senses. I know I find what could be called “spiritual comfort” in the workings of nature. And not just because that’s about the only thing we can prove anything about. I just feel spiritual when I’m in nature, and that happens on the ineffable level of emotions, something very deep.

I found this poem this morning. I’m not sure if I agree with all of it, but it captured the sense of connectedness I feel to something greater than myself when I’m in nature:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blu air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
— Mary Oliver, 1986

When magic comes calling

“Life is a drag most of the time–birth, school, work, death…. I wish something magic would happen.” –Aiden, “Blood and Chocolate” by A.C. Klause

I’ll be honest. I’ve never been big on the concept of faith. Faith has always struck me as the kind of thing people want you to have when they’re trying to persuade you to do or believe something and they got nothing to back themselves up.

“Have faith.”

There’s another use of the word, as in “I’ve got faith in you”. This is usually something we say to people we know quite well. But in those cases, we’ve got lots of experience with that person to back up our trust in them, and let’s face it, we really mean “trust” in that situation, which is another concept altogether.

“I trust you.”
Well, of course you do. I’m trust-worthy.

“Faith” is that thing where we put trust in the validity of concepts we have no reason to put trust in, except perhaps we believe that the sources that tell us these concepts are real come from God or some other supernatural force we might trust, but then again… trust on what basis?

OK, so I’m not big on faith of things unseen. This doesn’t make me a hard-headed rationalist or Scully on X-Files demanding proof of everything and rejecting any so-called “proof” she can’t understand in purely physical terms. Far from it. I am Mulder. OK, a Mulder wanna-be. I want to believe.

I want the magical and the mystical and fantastic to exist. But not in legends and tabloid headlines and the word of those who claim to have experienced these things I have never seen. I want the fantastic to come knock on my door and sit down on my couch and talk to me.

I want a universe filled with magic. With wonder. With things beyond current science’s pale facts, and yet not in contradiction to a science that has wisdom.

So far, however, such things have only come to me in fictional forms. Books, movies, television. I eat all that stuff for breakfast and beg for more.

At least that’s what I say I want. What I long for.

“His world had changed. Now shadows would always take on threatening shapes.”

But what if magic did come knocking? Would I be ready for it? Would I run from it? Would I long for my normal little bland life to return? It’s a good question. I hope I wouldn’t. In the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow and Xander come face to face with the fantastic, and freak out for about a minute, then shrug their shoulders and dive right in.

Would I?