I’m always searching for bits of wisdom. Tough times right now, with Covid-19 and disruptions in our economy, optimism, and way of life.
I’ve been reading Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, and I find the insight into the reality of medical and health disruptions like a plague, to be very meaningful and spot-on in our difficult times.
You might find it relevant. You can find a free download here: https://www.amazon.com/Journal-Plague-written-citizen-continued-ebook/dp/B0084B57VO/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=Defoe+journal+of+the+plague+year&qid=1584904489&s=books&sr=1-4
You can also find the book for free at Project Gutenberg.
We can make it through.
Check out my essay on how I became a writer! Enjoy.
How I Became a Writer
Since at least the third grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer.
In third grade, I wrote my short story, called The Twisted Brothers, about two snakes that fight a lot, and then end up tangling themselves up. If I remember right, the story featured a villain that the two snakes had to defeat, and they could only defeat the villain by working together. The story, unlike some of my later work, was far less tragic. There was a degree of optimism, at the hope that people with differences could work together, work to defeat a villain and contribute to the common good.
I was very proud of this book that I made, and I ended up telling my class, including parents of other kids, that I wanted to be a writer. That was what I wanted to do.
I remember this very vividly. It was something that I have recalled, whenever I get discouraged about writing, and don’t know what to do. This moment in time was the beginning of something new, and it is a highlight in my life. I always think of it when I think about my writing, and how much in life I have progressed.
In fifth grade, I was having a really hard time, for a variety of reasons. I remember being in the car with my dad and sister, and I had some paper with me, and I just began to write a short story. Actually, even though at this point I didn’t quite know what it was, I was basically beginning to write a novel.
This was something that I wanted in this moment. I craved an outlet to express myself, and I started writing a fantasy story about a family of characters that influence me to this day, and this was important for establishing my distance from the world that I despised, with my own vibrant inner life.
I was very proud of this manuscript, even though the story itself was very incomplete and far from being finished. I wanted to show off. I wanted people to know what kind of deep intellectual that I was. And this was understandable, because at the time, my self-esteem was crushed. At this point in time, I had no self-esteem. But writing gave me an outlet, a way of conveying things that I couldn’t normally convey, and I fell in love with it.
Afterwards, beginning in seventh grade, I started writing fantasy and horror, being very much influenced by Stephen King. I was trying to complete the story that I started in fifth grade, at this point, but I was unable to, because I just couldn’t finish the manuscript. No matter how hard I tried to complete the book, I just couldn’t. I eventually lost all of that work. It wasn’t until I was nineteen, that I wrote my first completed novel, but that was still a long time coming.
My junior high school years were interesting, because I had a lot of support from teachers about my writing. At this time, I think that I was writing a lot of disturbing stories, stories that were much more unconventional and unrefined, yet, my history teacher and my English teacher both supported my writing, encouraging me to write history and horror, and it gave me hope that I myself could be the next Stephen King. I didn’t know at this time how much I needed to learn about writing, and how the subjective nature of writing would prevent me from succeeding in the future realm, but at least for now, this was good for me, for pushing myself and doing my best to write stories that people would engage with.
It wasn’t until high school, however, when my taste in literature began to expand. I discovered William Faulkner and his wonderful book The Sound and the Fury, and this book changed my ideas about where writing could be, in a positive way. I also discovered the poetry of Wallace Stevens, and I took my English classes very seriously.
I began to move from my emphasis on horror, to write things that encompassed a broader range. When I was 15, I started writing my poetry book Characters, which took eight years to complete. I loved writing this book, and it got me through some very hard times. Writers like Steinbeck, Robert Frost, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, Chaucer, Poe, and other prominent writers, influenced me at this time.
So, I continued to write, but most of what I wrote was poetry. I didn’t start to write fiction again, until I wrote my first completed novel Away from Home. I was 19 at the time, just starting college. This book allowed me to expand to science fiction and drama, though there were also elements of fantasy, and I consider this to be a very creative book, that as of now, is still not published.
But college kept me busy, and so I often wasn’t able to write, until I decided that I was just going to suck it up, and write my stories regardless, when I was about twenty-one years old. I had just had the worst year of my life, my psychosis had taken root and wreaked havoc, and to be blunt, I was in a lot of emotional and mental pain that nearly killed me. So writing became a deeper outlet for me. I started with short stories, and I just continued to write. I still don’t know what exactly happened that day, when I decided to write for good, deciding that I was going to write every day, just that I knew I needed to do it, no matter the cost. I’m really glad that I did, because it has been the best outlet for me for such a long time.
Obviously, in college, I took a lot of English classes, my goal to get a degree in English literature. I was introduced to experimental literature and the avant-garde, which really piqued my curiosity about what writing could do. I enjoyed taking a variety of classes in literature through time, as well, and one of my most memorable classes was a book on 19th century American literature. Critical theory influenced me as well, and overall, I enjoyed my classes. Eventually I discovered philosophy, and this helped expand my interests further.
But around this time, the brutality and cruelty would begin. Because the goals of experimental literature are so lofty and elitist, I never felt like I really fit in the tradition, I certainly didn’t fit in the crowd. A lot of my stuff wasn’t necessarily conventional, but it wasn’t as interested in breaking all of the rules as it was being a mechanism for me personally to express myself and to tell my stories to other people, conveying truth as I understood it, conveying my own unique point of view. I remember getting a lot of critical feedback from my teachers, and I never knew what to do with this, because sometimes it was so harsh. Also, I had been trying for a long time to have one of my short stories accepted for a magazine, yet I never really succeeded in this venture, and I finally retired this endeavor when I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere. A couple of my stories were printed for exposure, and I was stoked when Liquid Imagination accepted my short story A Sinner’s Remorse. But I learned how hard it was to get published, and it influenced how it look at the craft.
These experiences really shaped me to be more discerning about my writing, more critical, which meant that I saw my writing as the only thing that I had, yet also, my secret weapon. This was the beginning of me realizing that I was an intellectual and artistic outsider of sorts, that I may have written interesting stories, but contrary to the success I had as a junior high school student, the world of writing was harsh and brutal, and I would have to write the things that I wanted, whether anyone supported it or not. This is the way that it has been for a long time, particularly in 2016, where all of the writing that I did was literally written to keep me sane from the mental illness that was ravaging me and making me so despaired.
In 2014, I published my first book, Silent Noise, a novella about a kid who falls in love with poetry. Since then, I’ve published a multitude of books through Createspace and KDP, and it’s been a rich outlet to present my work.
Nowadays, I can say that I have written a variety of content, that there is a diversity of thought, not just in terms of content, but also in terms of style, genre, and form. I have taken the best of what I have learned and experienced, and distilled that into a sizable body of work. I hope to write for as long as I can, no matter how hard it may be sometimes. I hope to continue to express myself in new and interesting ways. It is really hard to explain what writing has done to me, but it has literally saved my life time and time again. It is just so freeing, to be able to have an outlet, where I came express my deepest thoughts and feelings, and help people feel less alone by way of my books. It hasn’t been an easy road, by any means, I have thought about quitting multiple times. But at least for now, I am very excited to continue to write my books, because in my mind, that is all that I can do. I have to write. I’m a writer. What else can I do?
Well, you know what I can do: write.
Check out my poem from my poetry book, R. Enjoy.
ideas become disconsolate
is at the expense of a crazy guy
wearing gray (gry ) hooded sweatshirts and
locking down heaven for
cries of heresy
the norm is a dis-expression
unregulation irregulation (chronic dysregulation?)
of chaos and
stores are out of hand sanitizer again::
stomach bleeds like what
the crushed spirit needs
of hunger starvation;
crazy guy syndrome, I guess,
rush red feel good for a bottle of suffocate psych pills))
I never thought
there’d be (there is) so much fear
over an unseen bug
a collapsing sun
some crazy guy in a dumb Target suit
red cart smeared vitriol .
of knowledge-made insurgent
Social distance and
your convolute Expression
saying the same things over
the fear overtakes all vision
and a chaotic eye
I cannot espy
broken tangents and
suppressed beliefs made stressed relief-ed
I can’t relay messages of
words made so unassuming and chaos
persevere for this
The path breaks down like an endless feedback loop—
Check out my essay. I hope you find it comforting in these strange times.
It is easy to panic. It is easy to feel fear. It is easy to participate in tribalism and outgroup exclusion, making everyone else the “other.” It is easy to judge and shun other people in times of great distress. It is easy to ignore the needs of another person. It is easy to not care about other people. It is easy to put your own needs first, regardless of what is going on around you.
A healthy fear is necessary. Having a tribe is very important for community and support from others. Obviously we should put our needs first, so far as it does not go into selfishness or hysteria, or rampant individualism.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the big questions, so to speak: what is the meaning of life, what is existence itself, how should we live and what should we do, what kinds of thoughts should we have, how can we construct our worldviews, what is knowledge and what is wisdom; I think about these questions all the time, and I often don’t have an easy answer, if I have an answer at all. But I think gathering knowledge and wisdom are definitely a great place to start, knowledge from the various branches fields that exist out there and knowledge that we’ve gained through life and throughout the ages, and wisdom from a variety of sources, some ancient, some modern, some from our own experience and from the experiences of others.
It is a scary time, with Covid-19. People are getting sick and dying. The hospitals are overwhelmed. People are hoarding up on supplies, because they are afraid of what is going to come. There are potential economic disruptions, as well as disruptions in how society functions. People are fearful, and they don’t necessarily know how to act, so our primal instincts and our shadow are activated, and we are far from the land of reason and rationality. Our worst tendencies are coming out in the ring.
But there are many ways that we can look at social catastrophes, and I have been thinking about those kinds of things. For one thing, I think looking after ourselves is important, but so is looking after other people. There is nothing wrong with taking precautions, but we can’t forget that other people are out there, and that they need assistance and support. Maybe this global pandemic is what it will take for people to come together and look after one another. We have seen behavior on the opposite end of the spectrum, but my hope is that more and more people can start to see the bigger picture, to see what is really around them.
In my estimation, nothing is certain. In my estimation, all of the things that I have, such as health, money, friends and community, mobility, and even my art, may not always be here. I may not always have these things. I was thinking about how, if there is going to be economic disruption, many of the things that I take for granted, many social goods, might evaporate. I don’t think that will happen, but we never know.
But there are other ways to look at these things, besides fear at what we may not have. On the one hand, I know that it is easy for me to cave into social phenomena, and become panicked, selfish, and apathetic. So it takes a certain mentality to avoid this, and I wonder if this is wisdom of some sort. I believe that wisdom can come from a variety of sources, ranging from philosophy to religion, from science to podcasts to books of poetry, and I think we should be open to things while also critiquing them and seeing how they are relevant to our lives. So I do my best to mediate my darker tendencies, I do my best to care for other people.
We have had social catastrophes before. We have had sicknesses. We have had economic disruptions. We have had hard lives, and war, and pain. There are many things that are out of our control, and it is hard to realize this in difficult moments in time. But the way that I see it, a lot of these things are historical; while they are happening, they are also being written. This implies that this is a moment in time that will not last forever. When plagues hit us, in past iterations, they only occupy one moment in time, and in an objective sense, they don’t last forever, because they are a part of history itself. We can take the bigger picture view, the macro view, and acknowledge our place in the universe, acknowledge and that the world is much bigger than we can ever know, and so is our universe.
In trying to discern mere knowledge from wisdom, I have wondered how best to talk about these things. I am a curious person by nature, and I like talking about ideas, and I wanted to write this essay to help bring some peace to the world, even if it is a small niche or corner in the world. I feel that in my mind, I don’t want to talk about Covid all the time, but I also want to address my personal concerns and the concerns of others, and share my thoughts and ideas and writings with other people who are receptive. I understand that people can panic just by seeing information (and misinformation) everywhere, and this is not good, but I also think being politically correct about difficult matters does not protect us, but rather, holds back valuable discussion.
But in my mind, Covid is not everything. There is so much more. We are always dealing with something in the world, and mortal threats are everywhere. While I believe that this pandemic could definitely shake a lot of things up for the world, hopefully it makes us wiser and more willing to work together to be able to solve local and global problems. I know that not all of my ideas are wise or even informed by knowledge. I know that I do not have the answer for most things, much less what to do with the pandemic. But I have spent a lot of time thinking about the big questions because I want to know, I want to learn, and I want to create possible solutions and new ways of looking at things.
So, I opt to take a macro perspective on things. Do I care to see the bigger picture, and can I even see this bigger picture? I believe that I can. It starts with thinking heavily about what we take for granted, and what we should do to be better people. These may not be easy things to do, but we need to do the heavy lifting.
To me, the bigger picture, as Russell Brand spoke of in a recent video, as well as Buddha and Plato in past iterations, includes realizing that reality is made up of deeper layers, and what we see is not reality in its entirety. This to me, is a very useful idea, and a little bit of wisdom, as it implies that what we are seeing is not what everything is. This is important for grounding ourselves, and realizing that we can take a step back and detach, and look at these things from a rich perspective of wisdom and knowledge, and dare to seek the truth of the matter, versus only going off the superficial and what appears to us to be so apparent, but probably is not the whole reality.
I have been afraid lately, afraid for my community, afraid for the world, afraid for my health and mental health, but I am hopeful. I believe that people can come together, and that we can care for one another. I believe that the necessary knowledge that we need to overcome these difficulties, will eventually be understood and apprehended, while we will become just a little bit wiser through the experience. Life is far from perfect, and anything can be taken from us, but that doesn’t mean that we stop persisting, that doesn’t mean that we give up. I may not always know what to do in difficult situations, but I know that I am going to do my best with all of these things that I have mentioned, and I will search for wisdom, and I will continue to explore, and I will continue to challenge myself to see the world in a fuller, richer way.
For me, it is about being grounded; when the world seems to be falling apart, I do my best to ground myself and remember that I am alive and I am breathing, and I will be okay. I have overcome many things in my life, and I know that I can continue to be strong and do difficult things. I may not always like this, but I know that I will continually do my best to push forward, to question things, to inform myself, and to really see what is going on, the deeper reality. As I always like to say, life is just getting started. There is so much life left to live, and I am going through these things in my mind, I am thinking about these things, and I think other people should as well.