Grade

The word grade is from the latin word gradiens, meaning steps or walking; advancing, going.

Last week I got into a car accident before class, so I didn’t go to class. I woke up early the next day and had a full day of  meetings that lasted late in the evening, until last call at the bar with sales colleagues. 

I got sick on Thursday and spent the weekend with a raging fever and chills and sobbing sweats. Yesterday I downed a handful of ibuprofen upon waking and felt well enough to attend nine hours of laser measurement training. Today I had a full day of meetings and, while I type, I can still feel my wellbeing recovering. 

Contentment seems so close, but also so out of reach. I can accept my circumstances, and be happy. But that doesn’t improve my circumstances.

I can reject my circumstances, and work myself into a manic state of deluded euphoria. And the thought of progressing makes me happy, the idea that this activity is causally improving my circumstances. 

However, if activity does not improve my current circumstances, I find myself in a grave situation, one of self deception, and I ask myself what other realms of self deception I’m a participant.

Sometimes I tell myself that patience is what matters most. To be patient. That you sow in the spring and reap in the fall, that the bamboo blossoms once but every thirty years. Patience and nurture. Steady care. 

But I find myself in a bleak state. I am not sure I will ever be happy. It’s a sad reality I find myself wrestling with. A reality I am tempted to sabotage and ruin in order to make manifest, and prove myself right. Or at least, not doubt if I am wrong or not. 

What do I want? 

I want to not be alone. But I’m not quite sure I can allow myself that pleasure. 

I want wealth. But the path seems so uncertain. Is the path clear, and I just lack the courage or faith to pursue? Or is the path non existent. Do I believe in possibility?

So I vex and pine. I lose sleep. I preoccupy. My intention is strong but blunt. Why do I doubt my value? Why do I sabotage? Where is my path? When can I step forward and completely disregard hesitation and doubt? Where is my faith?

This weekend, while my body was writing in pain and discomfort, my mind similarly coiled and knotted. It was hellacious turmoil for seventy two hours. Laying in bed, with the heat on full blast, shivering. I closed my eyes, wrapped in blankets, in layers of clothing, and tried to escape the mental torment. It seemed entirely linked, this bodily fever and this mental suffering. 

I closed my eyes and envisioned death. I envisioned dying. I envisioned taking my own life, the steps and moments right before I confronted death. I imagined the various reactions I would have. The moment I stepped off the rusty golden gate bridge and fell face first towards the churning waters below. I wondered how I would fall. Would I embrace the moment of death, eyes open? Would I extend my hands above my head as if to reach for deaths embrace? Would I close my eyes and let my thoughts seek comfort before they become permanently muted? Should I dive, like a swan? Does it even matter? 

I think of driving along the side of a mountain, and suddenly give in to the urge to drive off the cliff, right off the road, right through the metal guard rail. I imagine the initial jolt as my SUV smashes through the metal barrier and frees itself before falling down, tumbling over, and crashing violently. I visualize the entire sequence of events, taking note of the cracked glass exploding in my face, the feeling of my stomach rising as I fall toward the earth. I imagine being fully conscious as my body smashes against the car interior like a rag doll as it rolls down the cliff, and the airbags violently deploy with little safety effect. 

I imagine myself rising one morning from bed. Eyes snapping open. Laying there motionless, staring at the ceiling, for hours. Maybe its late, maybe its early. Either way, this is the day I decide there is nothing left of me attached to this world. I slide my legs over the side of the bed, bury my face in my hands, and rise. I retrieve my belt from my jeans crumpled on the floor, walk over to the pull-up bar in the hall, slide the belt around the bar and create a noose. I slip my head through the noose and secure it on the bar. I exhale. It’s a peaceful exhale. An exhale I imagined my childhood friends made when they hung themselves. Not an anxious exhale with reservation. A peaceful exhale with resolve. And with that I drop myself and the noose slowly begins to cradle the weight of my body. I close my eyes and the blackness turns to red as my face swells and begins to tingle with pins and needles. I go numb in my face, and then the black turns to red and suddenly there is nothing. Maybe violence, maybe pain, but I am unconscious, so the reaction is little more than a temporary torture before my body succumbs and becomes inanimate. 

These are my dreams. Or nightmares, depending if I can come up with better alternatives. 

Harsh Reality

I need to rest my mind. My head is throbbing. Aching. And its not physical pain, its psychological. There is a tightness to my existence. I can feel it extend into my chest, and restrict my breathing. 

Today is Sunday. I have a reading tomorrow for my creative writing class. 

Repetition is more important than duration for making an impression on the mind. To learn, repeat short strokes at regular intervals. Even better at irregular intervals. Exposure, bit by bit, will ripen understanding. 

The subconscious mind is the seat of all power. 

What am I doing with my life. I still don’t know. 

My Jewish roommates hums to himself for hours upon hours a day, humming songs or melodies or just making humming noises to himself. I’m not sure if he’s aware, or its a therapeutic, a coping mechanism, like an oral fixation but with humming fixation. In my room, it resembles a low chant. It robs me of silence and concentration, but its harmless enough that I do not have the courage to ask him to stop. 

What is Keyence Magic?

Identifying the driving force behind Keyence’s success

During the past ten years Keyence Corporation’s stock has increased from $67 a share to over $600 per share. Since 2014, Keyence has grown revenues from $265.01 billion to $526.85 billion, increasing sales 20% on average year over year. Keyence is listed by Forbes at #33 for the Top 100 Digital Companies and #38 for the World’s Most Innovative Companies.

I was fortunate to work for Keyence for about two and a half years selling industrial automation devices. During my time there I achieved 20% growth in an established territory year after year and earned an outstanding contribution award for acquiring product specifications at a large plant.

I was so awestruck by the collective productivity and “Keyence magic” that I witnessed that I made it a point to study the fundamentals of Keyence’s business model by learning everything about the organizational structure and sales processes and identifying the values and priorities that made them successful. Continue reading “What is Keyence Magic?”

Humanities vs Sciences

For me, the distinction between the humanities and the sciences is been one of values and methods.

The spirit of science and analytic disciplines does not come with values. It doesn’t come with a set of assumptions. It doesn’t have an agenda. There is no ideology, ideally. Logic is passionless. It is rational. It is mechanical. It must put feelings and beliefs aside and work out problems with dispassionate reason with the aim of clarity, or eliminating dissonance. It notes all it perceives, takes stock of the facts of the world, identifies areas of conflict and dissonance, and aims to rectify them through hypothesis. By essentially giving educated guesses and seeing if the logic of the given assumptions supports or denies the guess. Analytics just works with what is given. It’s methods. It’s formalized processes.

In the humanities, there is no end, no logical conclusion. Studying the human condition is a meditation. It is more about wisdom. The humanities examine the human condition through the lens of literature, through philosophy, through culture, through history. It seeks the answers to: what is man? Who is man? Why is man? What drives man? What is important? What is significant? What should be cherished? What should be protected? What is good? What is bad?

The humanities provide the moral framework to guide collective agreement toward optimal ends. The humanities synthesize human past behavior in order to develop an ethical value system. This value systems informs mankind as to what questions need to be asked, and what questions need to be answered to continue progressing.

In my mind, humanities are important for formulating the right questions. The humanities study the arc of civilization and human evolution and ask what questions are worth answering.

The humanities is an art for identifying what is universally human. It reveals the essence of humanity. It provides vision.

The sciences are primarily concerned with developing methods for answering these questions. They seek to build our problem solving power. They execute with logic and reason. They don’t let the heart get involved, they don’t let bias sway conclusions and justify self serving rationale. Science is work. It is labor. It is building experiments and testing and failing and repeating. It is execution. It is justifying methods by checking and double checking.

So the humanities ask questions.

Sciences provide the answers.

The best minds occupying both worlds have a balance.

You cannot be a great scientist without asking great questions, without understanding the significance of good questions.

You can master the methods, and become an expert calculator. But a calculator can’t solve problems without inputs. A great scientist must not only be able to solve problems, but know which problems are worth solving.

Unfortunately, I see our culture solving problems of no value. Great minds going into finance, entertainment, advertising. Developing methods for mass manipulation and control. Building Byzantine systems that take us where?

Likewise, I think the humanities can become an incoherent self gratifying vanity project. Lazy and self indulgent. Ego centric. Not aspiring to higher inconvenient truths.

It fails to add value when it fails to reach for what is universal.

So I dunno.

I think everyone should study both with equal vigor.

Arts and sciences are equally important.

I don’t want a society mindlessly working and solving problems that are unimportant for progressing mankind. Accepting whatever values are dictated by those in authority.

And I don’t want a society that’s completely consumed by feeling. And never testing the utility or veracity of these feelings and visions.

Don’t get me wrong. I think as a society we’re also doing amazing things with science and technology. More stem isn’t necessarily bad. Just not at the expense of our soul.

It’s important to know where we came from if we want a better idea of where we’re going.

Perception Quotes

A person hears only what they understand.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.
—Arthur Schopenhauer , Studies in Pessimism: The Essays

The limits of my language means the limits of my world.
—Ludwig Wittgenstein

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.
—Wayne W. Dyer

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
—Leo Tolstoy

Humans see what they want to see.
—Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)

The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.
—Robertson Davies, Tempest-Tost (Salterton Trilogy, #1)

Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.
—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

We all see only that which we are trained to see.
—Robert Anton Wilson, Masks of the Illuminati

Science is nothing but perception.
—Plato

There is no truth. There is only perception.
—Gustave Flaubert

Our understanding is correlative to our perception.
—Robert Delaunay

Comprehension follows perception.
—Philip K. Dick

Perception is reality. If you are perceived to be something, you might as well be it because that’s the truth in people’s minds.
—Steve Young

One has not only an ability to perceive the world but an ability to alter one’s perception of it; more simply, one can change things by the manner in which one looks at them.     
—Tom Robbins

People only see what they are prepared to see.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.     
—William Shakespeare

We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.
—Anais Nin

Perception is merely reality filtered through the prism of your soul.     
—Christopher A. Ray

It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.     
—Carl Jung

What we see depends mainly on what we look for.
—John Lubbock

It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive.
—C.W. Leadbeater

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
—Henry David Thoreau

All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.     
—Friedrich Nietzsche

You will always define events in a manner which will validate your agreement with reality.
Steve Maraboli

Perception believed is reality achieved.
—Andy August

Your perceptions, because they are different from everyone else’s, provide you with the ability to see things like no one else can.     
—Gerry Reiche

Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are – or, as we are conditioned to see it.     
—Stephen Covey

Okay Journal

Okay okay. I need to journal. What have I been up to? Last week was Thanksgiving. The week before I was in NYC for a National Sales Meeting. The weekend before that my parents visited. And the week before that the executive strategic general manager for our Japanese factory visited, and I was in meetings and shuttling him to major accounts all day. It’s been a busy month. 

When I got back from the national sales meeting I drove G’s and we ended up taking off on Sunday to Los Angeles to meet her mother and sister who were visited her extended family. We rented an Airbnb in Venice and spent time together and with them, going to the beach, renting Lime scooters and Uber bikes, and visiting Universal Studios Hollywood. It was neat. 

On Thanksgiving we checked out and drove up 365 to Lake Tahoe. SR 120 and 108 was closed due to a storm, so we decided to just stay the night in south lake Tahoe. 

We got back and relaxed. I feel like I’ve been taking adderall non stop. Maybe just when I was driving. It’s difficult to function without it once you begin to get behind on sleep. It’s like a deficit that keeps accumulating until you cease and end up sleeping for days on end. 

Well that’s how I feel now. Although, I just took some.

I have to read my short story for 10 minutes during class on Monday. Tonight I have an artificial intelligence class and tomorrow data science. I think I’ve missed 2 classes in a row for those classes. 

I feel behind on work. I haven’t really worked in weeks. As in, I haven’t been in my work routine. It’s been sales meetings and visitors and holidays for three weeks. Makes me feel bad. I need to get back on it. In three weeks the holidays are upon us. Our numbers are down for the business at around xx from last year. That’s not good. I’m around xx%. That’s not good. It’s paralyzing. 

All I want to do is lay around and read and do some writing. I’ve been writing this extended article on Keyence and Sales fundamentals. No idea why. Mostly for masturbation. 

Art of Living

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.

L.P. Jacks, Education through Recreation (1932)

What I Learned From My Career

During the past ten years Keyence Corporation’s stock has increased from $67 a share to over $600 per share. Since 2014, Keyence has grown revenues from $265.01 billion to $526.85 billion, increasing sales 20% on average year over year. Keyence is listed by Forbes at #33 for the Top 100 Digital Companies and #38 for the World’s Most Innovative Companies.

I was fortunate to work for Keyence for about two and a half years selling industrial automation devices. During my time there I achieved 20% growth in an established territory year after year and earned an outstanding contribution award for acquiring product specifications at a large plant. 

I was so awestruck by the collective productivity and “Keyence magic” that I witnessed that I made it a point to study the fundamentals of Keyence’s business model by learning everything about the organizational structure and sales processes and identifying the values and priorities that made them successful. 

However, as a college student prior to working for Keyence, I was a sales rep for two summers at the Southwestern Company (SWC), a 160-year old door-to-door direct sales company, and the oldest direct sales company in the world. During those two challenging summers, I was taught that the habits and skills I was learning were fundamental to any successful sales organization. 

When I arrived at Keyence I discovered that the fundamental processes and skills learned from my time at the Southwestern Company were nearly the same at Keyence, despite being in completely different industries with radically different products and customers. How could this be?

Founded in 1972, Keyence is a direct sales B2B Japanese company selling industrial automation and lab technology to engineers and scientists at manufacturing companies and research institutions.

Founded in 1855, the Southwestern Company is a direct sales B2C American company that originally sold Bibles during the civil war, but now sells educational resources such as books, study guides, and tutor services to families with children across the world.

What was almost identical was their organizational structure and sales processes which emphasized maximum efficiency and effectiveness. 

Before I get into the fundamental sales processes they share, let me provide some insight into a day in the life of each company.  Continue reading “What I Learned From My Career”

Happyning

The answer to every hard problem: What you know you should do, but don’t want to do, because it’s painful.

Work. Gym. Healthy eating. Writing. Studying. Relationships. Apologizing. Reading.

We have these psychological mechanisms that think so short term. They sabotage. They self deceive.

Pain, struggle, discomfort, sacrifice— are all deeply avoided.

The avoidance can manifest into all kinds of nasty psychological incarnations.

Mental illness. Complexes. Negative states of being. Projecting onto others.

Of course, these things— pain, struggle, discomfort, sacrifice— are illusory.

They don’t exist. We create them. They are obstacles are use to justify inaction.

To justify deeper values and beliefs about ourselves and others and the world.

Pain, struggle, discomfort, sacrifice— all subjective and relative.

There is no objectivity about them.

And yet we behave as if they are mountains, formidable obstacles there’s no way around.

Mentally and physically and avoiding as if it will kill us. As if it’s a mortal threat to our being.

The reality is, the only obstacles that exist are our limited perceptions, our near sighted vision, our failure to consider all possibilities. In short, our ego, our self possessed ideas about the way things are and should be.

The reality is, there is no “I”.

The self is an illusion.

All the ideas about the self comprising an identity are illusions that trap us, that oppressive our ability to think and engage with all that could be, because rather than being open, we close ourselves off, and clutch to these ideas, rather than being aware, and open, and allowing ideas to arrive and pass with no consequence, and embrace possibility.

Our minds are not distinct from the world. It is the world.

Mind is the world.

The world is our mind.

But we believe and act as if we are distinct and separate from the world, from all that is happening.

The reality is, we are all that is happening. Mind is all that is, all that will be.

There is no fixed self.

The mind, being, thoughts are only as fixed as our perceptions, our beliefs, attachment to ideas, values, feelings.

Dystopian Fiction

Fireflies pulsed across the cityscape, reflecting off the towering glass windows, multiplying their neon glow. The air was acrid and dry. The fading daylight produced waves of coolness with every breath of air. Along the silent street the occasional rustle and hacking cough emanated from makeshift dwellings and nylon tents which the city’s homeless population inhabited. At first glance one would think it piles of waste or garbage, but these dilapidated nests were a permanent fixture in the great city, and home to an entirely separate community, with their own culture and ways of survival.

At the top of the tallest building were two men reclining in chairs, hands folded behind their head as they gazed out the transparent windows separating them from the city beyond. They stared into the distance, at the fading daylight, watching as the last rays of sun licked at the horizon and sunk into the ocean. Below the high towers, beneath the flaming sky reflected in the tower tops, were dark empty streets, interrupted by the flicker of fireflies and the ambient lamps of the occasional patrol car.

“I need to get home” one of the men finally said, looking at his watch. “I told Angela I’d pick up Kylie.”
“But it’s almost eight o’clock?”
“I know. She’s in an after school program. Our schedules got so hectic the past year, and the program is subsidized. We just couldn’t afford to keep calling a babysitter last minute.” The man compressed an illuminated display screen into an eight inch glass cylinder and placed it on the inside of his jacket pocket.
“Hey man that’s life!” said the other man swiveling from the window to face him. “Hey John.” he said.
“Yea?”
“You’re doing well. Keep it up. Get some sleep tonight and say hi to Angela for me. I’ll catch you tomorrow.”
John paused and looked at the man and let out a half hearted smile. “Thanks, Carlos. You too.”

John exited the frosted glass doors enclosing the private corner room and walked through the spacious hall lined with glass cubicles. Every few cubicles he passed was illuminated by a digital glow. Fellow employees seated motionless, conducting work flows through the VisionField headsets they wore across their eyes. He arrived at the elevator and paused, before a sheer whiz and bing opened a set of doors. “Hello John.” An automated voice greeted him as he stepped into the pod. “Hello Siri. I need to pick up Kylie at the CadetAcademy on my way home. Will that be a problem?”
“No problem at all” the voice replied as the doors sealed.  As John approached the seat the cushions automatically adjusted its contours to fit his long frame.

A robotic harness snaked across his body and secured itself. John looked at the display in front of him. A digital picture of his face from that day shown on the screen along with a variety of metrics, including his social credits, transportation credits, food credits, labor credits, and health credits. A map populated a corner of the screen with an arrival time of 4 minutes and 38 seconds, and the total cost of credit for the ride.

With a blank expression he inspected his floating image on the screen as he thought of today’s meeting. He fastened his gaze into the eyes of his digital image, as if searching for some answers. The pod dimmed its lights and John could feel his stomach rise as the pod dropped in space and zoomed to its next destination.

Parents

My parents are getting old. I see them getting more gentler, more passive and accepting. I see their wrinkles, the gray hairs, their shrinking stature. This moves me in an inexplicable way, tugging deep at my heart, reminding me of their frailty, their mortality, the progressive physical wear as they struggle to survive this life, the same life I struggle against, that saps my own youth and vitality year after year. I see their immortal shine fade, and their imperfections multiply, and my compassion swells, filling my chest with a tender ache. Death creeps closer every day, his looming presence casting a shadow over the alacrity of their mind and movements. Soon they will be eclipsed, and soon after I too will rest in deaths shadow.

No god will save them. Not in this life, nor the after life. Can I speculate on the nature of passing on? I cannot say for sure, other than the energy inhabiting my body will cease. Whether it dissipates, or dissolves, or transfers beyond that body I do not know. It ceases, but does that vibration live on, in this world or another? What could I possible say about an other world? Nothing at all. I have only inhabited this world, imprisoned by this vessel of flesh, and the catacombs of my mind. Activity is life, and life is energy, and energy is countless the vibrations of matter, of chemical and cellular processes synchronized since our inception, vibrating in unison in utero, dancing with the vibrating bodies orbiting around us as we mature, their mass and distance influencing our life’s trajectory to varying degrees, depending on their gravity, the energy contained within them, vibrating with their own unique magnitudes of intensity.

November Update

I’m on a flight to Newark NJ for a National Sales Meeting. I have about five more hours to go. I’m seated by the window, typing on my 15 inch macbook pro, and I just finished reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s short story Morphine. It was a short little book, but moving, and disturbing, and inspiring.

My mother and father visited me in California for the first time this past weekend. The last time they visited me anywhere was in Nashville for Christmas in 2015, when I was living in my loft with Devyn located downtown, the loft that my possessions still occupy, that I rent out on Airbnb for supplemental income. And before that, my parents visited for my graduation in 2012. Of course I visit them in Florida, or wherever we vacation or holiday, but there is a sense of isolation, that my life isn’t as interesting or worth the inconvenience, which I understand, but when I consider my friends and the relationships with their parents, it becomes apparent that my mother and father are less sentimental about the nature of my life, and overall less willing to invest their time and attention which would be considered an inconvenience all things considered.

I enjoyed their company. They met Gabriela, which pleased me, though Gabriela and I have been on difficult footing recently, and our future together has become increasingly unclear as we negotiate the compromises necessary to satisfy our needs. Needs which seem unassuageable.

This past year I have reverted back to my former self, the one characterizing my college years, which is possessed with visions of achievement, and a hunger to grasp the thread of hope day to day in an effort to make something of myself, and transform the pitiful life I’ve made for myself.

This former self is preoccupied. That is to say, is not occupied with temporal distractions, visceral or corporeal, the earthly or material kind that nurture fantasies of pleasure. No, this self is consumed, possessed, with visions, ideals, with no concern for the flesh and its sentimental affections.

Relationships are difficult, because my concern it no longer appeasing my significant other in order to reciprocate affection and attention. No. My significant other is relegated to the role of a convenient companion. And so, there is a distance as my daily routines preclude their consideration. I know this is insensitive, but what’s a man to do? I have no interest in kisses, romance, and whatever other drama necessitates a lively relationship. My sole interest lies in manifesting these dreams. There is a hope, and it is all I care to nurture. It provides my life with meaning, whereas my relationships, typically, do not.

I’ve thought long and hard about why this is the case. Perhaps she is not the one? It’s very possible. But I’ve done a fair job exploring the field, and dating a wide spectrum of women without discretion in the hopes that if there was a woman, a type or personality, that suited my restless imagination, I would surely find her. But, alas. After thousands of conversations, and hundreds of dates, I find that they’re all the same, more or less. Like cake. There are endless varieties, but what my soul craves isn’t the sweetness, but the substance, and no amount of cake can provide that.

Of course I’m being harsh.

I need women who are deep, who are stimulating, who know struggle, who have cultivated a stubborn will of defiant achievement, where others have acquiesced for more palatable forms of want.

That all being said, it was good to see my parents. Gabriela spent time with them on Saturday and Sunday. My parents and I managed to avoid the religious and political contention until the very last hour, when my father began to implore about truth, and its obvious nature, and suggest that many of my pains could be remedied with god, and that spiritual community would allay my feelings of isolation, and that they know a good christian guy I’d get along with, and he’s into philosophy! so surely we’ll see eye to eye.

Most religious philosophers are mere amateurs in matters of philosophy, too terrified to explore the depths of their beliefs, and peer into the dark recesses of their minds. They cling to dogma, or skirt the edge of spiritual mysticism in an effort to stay progressive, and use “philosophy” merely to rationalize their fears, rather than venture into the darkness and challenge the monsters within themselves that they’d prefer to stay ignorant of.

I can forgive my parents for breeching the subject of religion. However, the cheery gratitude of their visit was dimmed as a consequence. Why? Because the fail to respect my capacity to think, and this discounts the value of my experience and, in turn, my humanity.

I haven’t written much of my story, The Last Dream. And why? The story is a bit fuzzy. I need to emphasize plot structure. This is a theme I plan to devote more working time to. How to construct a compelling plot.

What is a plot? There are circumstantial plots and emotional plots, and both work on each other to engage to reader, to contextualize the story and make it relatable, but more than that, they provide a causal chain of events that compels the reader to read on, to turn the page, to see what’s around the corner, and discover how it all turns out.

Without a plot, it’s all poetics. Which is fine when you’re trying to capture a feeling, and inspire some transcendental response. But prose is what appeals to the “so what?”. Who cares about the feeling if its of no consequence. Why does it matter? This is where plot comes into play. It provides scaffolding for the mind to grab hold of, to rest and move about. It provides a place at any given moment. Without plot, writing is a formless ocean that stretches in every direction with no obvious shoreline.

So, what is “plot structure” after all? There are archetypes, character archetypes, story archetypes, themes, genre’s. However, for the sake of plot, and structuring the story, I think the most useful representation is Fryetag’s Pyramid. If you were to ask me the key elements of this pyramid, I’d only be able to tell you that it begins with set and setting and characters, followed by rising action and conflict and tension, peaking at climax, and concluding with falling action or resolution, and lastly denouement.

Now, the actual pyramid is actually the following:

  • Exposition: Background information of the plot that includes characters and setting
  • Initial Incident: The very first conflict that occurs in the plot.
  • Rising action: Three major events that add suspense or tension to the plot (complications or frustrations) that lead to the climax.
  • Climax: The most suspenseful part of the plot. The turning point of the plot. The turning point of the protagonist’s character.
  • Falling Action: Three events (or less) that unravel the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist that lead to the resolution.
  • Resolution: The conflict is resolved and then we discover whether the protagonist achieves their goal or not.
  • Denouement: The “tying up the loose ends”.

I wrote two short stories with Dino last week as an exercise is plot development. We wrote for 30 minutes at a time, making up a story on the spot, and trying my best to adhere to the plot structure progression. The result was a very intentional story that did not lack creativity, but possessed an arch which was easy to read.

So, while I’m on this flight, I intend to write a short story. Perhaps 1,000 to 5,000 words. The theme is a dystopian future. My sole goal will be to illustrate these points, ensuring that they are communicated clearly, and not obscured by my desire for originality and creative which hijacks clarity.

What will the short story be about? Well, besides a dystopian future, I’m thinking American life in 10 years, perhaps an element of science fiction, as society becomes more engrained with these digital landscapes, the psychology of citizens is molded into an outrageous caricature of itself. What are the values of today, actually? Not ideally, but actually? And what would it look like if we take these to the extreme? I see the line between propaganda and news dissolve, I see echo chambers, I see advertisements, I see consumerism, I see a combination of a brave new world and 1984. I see a disconnect between simulation and reality. I see people in favor of values which manifest completely the opposite, creating an absurdity that further compounds the dissonance, and forces people cling to tribal images and symbols rather than anything concrete. Meaning ceases to exist. It’s just input and outputs, and the illusion of freedom. Consumerism and access to novelty, whatever its form, are the only barometer of civil satisfaction.

So, I’ll begin that shortly.

Trends in Industrial Automation

Do I like my job? Yes, I do. Why? Well, it’s interesting. It’s challenging. The company is very innovative, and the brand is associated with technology and quality. I possess a freedom that I can’t imagine existing very many other places. I feel as though I run my own company. If you exclude the monthly and weekly and quarterly and semi annual reports I must generate, I am not actively managed. My director comes from operations with an engineering background. He’s a great manager, in the sense that he ensures the company is functioning, and carries out the requests from senior management. However, he’s not an active manager. It doesn’t know sales, and doesn’t know how to lead. He’s relatively soft spoken. Though he’s very intelligent and thoughtful, he’s not bold, and doesn’t inspire action. All this is very fine. I’m able to maintain autonomy, and still work hard. And I have faith he know’s the pain points, and is doing what he can to come up with solutions.

I plan on applying for the role of group sales manager. The position is open is Chicago and Newark, not my location on the West Coast. However, we need leadership, and I genuinely feel that I possess the hunger, the knowledge, and the ability to inspire a culture change.

We lack leadership. What is leadership? In short, when you have people who know the way, go the way, and show the way. I take full responsibility for my success and failure, and I work around the constraints, rather than criticize them, or complain, or absolve myself of responsibility to achieving whatever necessary because of some excuse, because there is a deficit in support or product or planning. There are givens, and I accept them, and do my best to see the value in what is working, rather than worry about what’s not. And fortunately, we have a lot working for us.

I desperately need to bring in serious sales. What’s stopping me? A few things that immediately come to mind: having an effective “pitch”. Having an effective “value proposition”. Having a thorough understanding of the market, and what products fit where. Following up is a big one. I feel that I’m finding many opportunities for big potential, but I’m having trouble close the deal. Why? Perhaps there hasn’t been enough time? So far I haven’t run into issues of lead times. The biggest challenge is that the value proposition isn’t compelling. World’s smallest is one of our overarching themes. This works, but if its just a nicety, and not a necessity that adds value such as reduce cost or increase performance, then there isn’t an incentive to switch. We’re in need of some unique solutions to solve real problems that cause us to get ahead of the competition. Once we begin solving problems, and there is real value justifying the purchase, then they can begin adopting our other products, which are more or less commodity for most applications.

I could definitely use more sales meetings. Having a LinkedIn account would definitely help me gather contacts and accounts to call on. There’s plenty of companies in my area.

Calling on Biotech or Semiconductor OEM’s is a real challenge for a few reasons. Their redesigns occur every 3-6 years. If you miss a window, you need to catch it the next time around.

Also, our business model, or strategy, is a bit confused.

Our business unit is an industrial automation company. More accurately, we’re a Factory Automation company. That’s all fine. We’re apart of a industrial device division, a $2 billion that sells components more broadly, which includes board level components such as capacitors and sensors and resistors and memory and communication modules, not just factory automation components.

The Factory Automation approach works within a different paradigm. Factory’s are manufacturing consumer goods, and the OEM’s supplying automation machines to factory’s, the ones we sell to, are typically using industrial programmable logical controls, or PLCs, as well as heavy duty sensors with durable enclosures and IP ratings. These systems are relatively simple, running on 24V or analog inputs or outputs. It’s all logic. No data processing, no heavy calculations. Just raw material inputs followed by an automated manufacturing or assembly process, and final goods as outputs.

The machines automating the process are large. Space isn’t really an issue. Ease of maintenance is the biggest concern. Is it easy to troubleshoot and work on this machine? If the product changes, and the process changes, how easy is it to integrate and augment the process? This is especially true for the automotive and appliance and light manufacturing industry. These environments are rough. The processes are simple. There’s not a lot of variation among products, so the systems are relatively straightforward.

However, the Biotech (Lab Automation) or Semiconductor industry seem to be a different beast. The biggest of which is the complexity of the process, size of the final product, and the variation among that product. In both biotech and semiconductor, the size of the final products introduces more quality concerns relating to contamination, precise measurement, and static charge. As a result, the manufacturing environment is a lab setting, with cleanroom requirements.

All this complexity introduces the need for microprocessor controllers, rather than programmable logic controllers. The machines need to be capable of calculating a lot of variation from product to product and process to process. PLCs aren’t designed for this. They need a PC environment to process and transmit data. Unfortunately, PC or microprocessor controls, like Altera or even Raspberry Pi, are custom made for each application, and its a super commodity market with low margins. My company doesn’t make any PC based controls, and it doesn’t have much of an incentive to do so. Beckoff is one of the few. But many bay area engineers prefer to create their own controller, which allows them to retain intellectual property and hedge them against competition. Unfortunately, as they scale, it becomes less profitable to make all the components in house, and soon they’ll need to look for an off the shelf turn key solution.

In the semi-conductor world, manufacturing wafers for microprocessor chips is an incredibly complex process, with many steps, requiring immense tracking and traceability requirements, in a variety of environments ranging from pressurized or vacuum to heat and abrasive chemical. There is a straightforward consensus to the wafer fabrication process, but precision paramount because semiconductors are working in the nanometer scale. However, wafer fabrication is less dynamic and more mechanical in many ways, which makes it a bit more friendly.

In the lab automation world, it’s about micro-fluidics, liquid handling, cell culturing, moving and storing biological samples for diagnostics, analysis, and testing. This world is less mechanical. They don’t care about servo motion precision, or torque feedback, or presence absence. They can get away with stepper motors or linear motors. They’re concerned with moving fluids in the micro-liters, nano-liters, pico-liters. It’s more air or fluid pressure, air or fluid flow, liquid level measurement of micro-plates or test tubes or cuvettes or reagent containers, or temperature. And because we’re dealing with DNA or cells or live specimens, everything is non-contact. The sensor cannot interfere with the process in anyway.

All this presents challenges.

There are many segments within the “Biotech” industry, from microbiology which includes cell culturing and fermentation, to Hematology which involves blood diagnostics, to DNA production to analysis, and these segments penetrate other industries, from pharmaceutical drug discovery to agriculture biology to tissue engineering to immunotherapy. The biotech end users can specialize in a specific process or product for a specific industry. Unless they’re a billion dollar multinational Biotech company, they typically buy third party OEM machines.

For Biotech OEM’s, there are two primary areas of automation. One is Lab Automation instruments, and the other is Lab Automation systems.

Lab Automated Instruments are typically stand alone devices that fit into a typical lab. Sometimes they are large enough to occupy their own space on the floor, but more often than not they fit on a lab bench. These perform instruments perform precise and complex processes at high speed and large volumes that would otherwise be done by a lab technician, which would be slow and prone to human error. The instruments can be moving fluids from one microplate or test tube or container to another, analyzing the specimens, checking the quality of the process like a microplate volumetric scanner, or processing it in some way, such as plate or tube centrifuge. The other thing is that because these instruments are self-contained and sit on a lab bench, size is crucial. This is where my company does well, but not well enough. We produce the world’s smallest sensors, but we’re approaching it from the factory automation paradigm, where IP rating and enclosures are important. The engineers designing biotech instruments are using board level components and sensors, with 3.3 or 5 volts. They need very very small. Small enough to fit into an instrument that fits on a table top, where space is a precious resource. And they need cheap. As an OEM, they’re concerned with margins. These machines are their product, and they need to be competitive. Often all the bells and whistles for factory automation devices are unnecessary and just add cost, so they’ll settle for a less superior but functional sensor at $10-20 rather than $50-150.

Lab Automation Systems are typically larger, and connect multiple instruments together. As a result, the controls systems are processing complex workflow recipes, requiring microprocessor or PC based controllers. The motion aspect is just positioning, so stepper motors suffice for 99% of applications. Often these lab automation systems will incorporate third party instruments, which in a sense takes the automation a step further, and removes the lab technician that would typically move the specimens from instrument to instrument. These systems are designed to be completely automated, with no human intervention. Only the largest Biotech companies such as Roche, Abbott, Hamilton, Seimens Healthineers, and the like design home grown lab automation systems with in house instruments.

So, I say all this to illustrate some challenges.

My company’s current form factor needs to change. There’s a kind of hybridization occurring between factory automation and lab automation that demands a different form factor. One that’s smaller, one that was designed for board level applications and PC controls.

Because we are historically a factory automation company, we don’t have any controls solution, only PLC’s. It may not be worth it to invest or create a microprocessor controls solution. But it also may be an innovative approach to get an edge on the competition. Can we create a microprocessor controller that’s low cost and modular, allowing engineers the flexibility to design their process without building a controller solution from scratch?

We don’t have a motion solution, largely because stepper motors are commodity, low margin items. And they’re replacing servo motors for high speed and positioning applications because of new absolute encoder technology. Do we want to compete in that field? I’m not sure. It’s pretty saturated, and pricing it a race to the bottom.

We do excel at sensors, and we have the technology, we just need to design sensors that fit the lab automation needs. We need to think of fluid processing.

Know Thyself

It’s rare to Know Thyself. Not because people can’t, but because people won’t, because it’s work or painful or means accepting hard truths about yourself or others or the world, and sometimes it’s more comforting to live in denial, even if it means things never change.

But there’s a point or at least a process of confronting certain struggles and asking yourself if you want to deny they exist, or look them in the eye in an effort to overcome them, to be something not because of them, but in spite of them.

Sometimes this leads to great things. Sometimes it can destroy you, so it’s hard to really say what’s best. Nietzsche said “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.”

I believe that evolution is necessary for progress, and change is how we measure evolution. You live once. We can live possessed by a single set of ideas and beliefs and identity, or we can fight to change them, and in turn change ourselves, and even the world. I think the pain of change, and the risk of losing yourself, is worth it. There’s honor in that fight. There’s nothing honorable about subsisting day to day and clutching onto superficial ideas that never change, while the world changes all around you.

The creators make the world— the visionaries, the artists, the divine eyes that beholds not what is, but what could be, despite the world’s rejections, their skepticism, their mockery. In short, their fear. The creators shape the minds of men through the process of learning to shape their own mind, to be master of their own world. He who wishes to master the world must first master himself.

Fiction 2: plot structure exercise

The air is dry and the sun is hot. Waves of heat sweep over the cityscape. There is a lazy tenor vibrating through the air: the sound of summer.

Three men are seated at a bar, knuckling each other in the ribs as they joke and throw back drink after drink. They’re dressed in business attire, hair ruffled, ties loosened, though it was midday, and one would think they should be at work.

A bell rings as the door creaks open and footsteps echo throughout the bar. The three men pause their jovial activities and take note of the two bodies floating past them.

Walking tall are two beautiful women, prim and proper, and looking to kill: femme fatale. They seat at the far end of the bar.

The guys all look at each other and smile, before unseating and approaching the women.

They surround the women, breathing down at them in cool gesture.

“What does a guy got to do to get a girl like you?” one of the men asked.

The girls looked at one another. One of them looked at each of the men in the eyes, and then said “Seeing how there’s three of you, two of you need to kill the other.”

One of the men shot back. “What the fuck? Are you kidding me? What kind of sick joke is that?”

The two other men looked each other in the eye, then at the man who just spoke.

In the next moment they pull out large caliber handguns and cock the trigger in the direction of the third man. “What the fuck?”

Before he could say another word they simultaneously pull the trigger.

There was a bang and silence. All the patrons in the bar opened the eyes as their muffled ears rang out. A cloud of blood hovered in the air before the body collapsed on the floor.

The two men returned their large handguns to their waist pocked and offered a hand to the women, who smiled and gracefully grabbed hold. They walked passed the bleeding body, gurgling and twitching as the blood pooled beneath him, and they exited the door.

Fiction

I could see their faces glibly eyeing each other from across the bar. It was midnight on broadway, and the college boys were out in droves, patrolling the downtown streets in search of stray felines to seduce for a night. I participated because of a higher virtue, because this is what college boys do, though I mostly resented the banality of it all. I had downed about five beers at the pregame, a group of what seemed like a dozen guys and girls smashed into a dorm room, country music blaring to muffle the gagging and laughter as we pulled on the bourbon. I can still smell the spilt beer wafting from my clothes.

The neon lights buzzed and their soft light illuminates the hazy humid air. School seemed like it had just began, but at the same time, felt like I was trapped in this purgatory, where every year is like the last, the booze, the music, the studying, the cramming, the girls, and the amphetamines to make it all work in harmony.

“ID.” the man at the podium asked, looking up from behind his glasses. He had a buzz cut, a high and tight, like a marine cut, and looked about fifty years of age, with big jowls that drooped below his chin, and deep circles under his eyes, though not dark. He wore raw pastel denim overalls that looked like they were freshly pressed, and a raggedy marines t-shirt underneath. I reached into my back pocket to retrieve my wallet and handed him my ID, making sure to maintain eye contact with my dead eyes that said I wasn’t here to fuck around. He pursed his lips and inspected it. He was morbidly obese. He eyed my picture then back at me and handed me the ID and stamped my hand.

I surveyed the room. It was full of drunk college girls and douchey college boys. The girls wore pig tails and cowboy boots and flowing sun dresses that revealed lots of leg, and the boys wore some variation of boat shoes, khaki shorts and polos, or a ratty t-shirt emblazoned with greek letters. Their hair was usually unkempt and wild, too busy to give a care.

“Holy shit it’s loud!” my buddy yelled into my ear. I winced.

“Yea,” I said “it usually is.”

“There are so many hotties!” he yelled back.

There was an old cadillac parked inside the bar that served as part decor and part table, and astroturf that gave the appearance of grass, but emanated the stench of spoiled beer from years of exposure. There was a live band playing loud country rock to the left of the room, and a long bar further back, with tables on the right. In front of the band was a writhing mass of bodies, gyrating to the music, eyes rolled up into their heads, one arm in the air while the other gripped their drink.

That’s when I saw her.

Doe eyes, with a coy smirk that danced with the music. She was totally present amongst the crowd, swaying her hips, waiting for something, someone to catch her attention. And that’s when our eyes met.

Her eyes squinted like pursed lips, beckoning me to chase. Time slowed as she moved her hips slowly to the beat which seemed to match the rhythm of my heart.

“Boom.” I say out loud. My buddy turns to me and then looks into the crowd and spots the shining ray of light. He smiles.

“Oh shit! You’re in love!”

“I’m not in love, but I’m going to make love.” I say, cracking a smile at my own cleverness, and the fantasy that was beginning to unfold. He smacks me on the back as if to say “Go get’em sport!” and I maneuver through the crowd with deft confidence until we’re standing just inches apart.

She looked up at me with a blank expression, as if to ask “And who do you think you are?” But she knows who I am, so the expression immediately melts into a smile, and her eyes light up. I smile back, my eyes locking onto hers as they whisper through the noisy bar, “I want you.”

We reach out and touch each other, allowing our hands to feel the outlines of the others body, and a place to pull each other closer.

An hour later we’re moving in full embrace on the dance floor, tongues tasting the salt from each others skin. I ask her if she’s ready to go. She nods softly, happily, dreamily. I ask if she’d like to come to my place. She produces the same happy nod.

I grab her hand and find a pledge, one of the newest fraternity recruits that’s essentially a slave until initiation, always sober and on call to drive or do whatever necessary errand the brothers demand.

“I’m getting out of here” I tell the kid. “Who’s car do you have tonight?”

“Uh, Cam’s.” He says. He’s 19, but he has a fake. All the pledges have fake ID’s. They drive the brothers to the bars, and wait alone in the corner, waiting to be called upon to take them back to campus.

We go home.

We kiss. We get naked. I try to fuck her.

I sense she is drunk, much drunker than I realized. Because of my relative sobriety, I sense the faintest sense of hesitation on her part, as if she’s not sure she wants this to happen.

In that moment I’m left with two options: show her how much I want it, how much I care, how enraptured I am with her essence, her body, her scent, her seduction. Or, ask myself if she’s in the right state of mind to want me, if she even wants to be here, or if she’s just suspended reason for the night.

I take a moment to reflect on these two options as I gaze into her angelic visage. Her eyes are half opened, and smiling. Because she’s happy? Or because she’s drunk? There is a vulnerability to her. Her mouth is parted, and her breathing is barely audible. Her lush lips, freshly moistened by our kisses, reflect the moonlight from my window.

I dismount her petite body, and collapse next to her. We lay there for what feels like an hour, though it could be moments, before she rolls over and reaches her arm across my body, and lays her head in the nook of my chest.

“Thank you.” she says.

We proceed to talk about life, about her mother who passed away when she was a small child, about her father, a Vietnam Vet who struggles with health issues due to Agent Orange, and can’t get the veterans healthcare her deserves. He’s dying too, and his only child, his sweet daughter, is at college, away from him for the first time. She is barely 19.

I reflect on that night.

 

Mi Amor

I’m waiting for my replacement work PC to arrive. I’ve been checking UPS tracking all morning. There’s an accident at the end of my street that’s been cordoned off while they tow the vehicles away.

I’m seated at my desk, thumbing through work emails, responding to colleagues text messages, awaiting to leave to pick up pizza for my 12pm sales presentation at a major Bay Area integrator.

My thoughts are with Gabriela. I love Gabriela. I love her sweet gentle nature. I love the way she holds me tight, the way the worries for me, even though I literally hate that she worries. I love her passion, her defiance. I love her fragility. I love her strength. She is striking and soft.

I worry about her heart. I worry about her tender heart, wrapped in layers of hardened ache. I worry about making that tender heart any more hard.

I want to love her endlessly, and pour my affection onto her. So why don’t I?

Well, this is what I’m trying to work through. At the center of it all is my desire to be free. I don’t want to be the object her of attention. I don’t want to be responsible or feel obligated to take care of her, to make her happy. I want these things to come naturally from me. Maybe another man would look past her demands, and concede to loving her in spite of the drama. Maybe he would see the tenderness inside, and bow to serve her regardless of the struggle to please her, knowing he’s serving a higher purpose, of love.

But I find myself wanting freedom. I want space to act on my own volition. I want to please when it suits me, in ways that supplement my being. I don’t want loving to be a job, something that I show up to, regardless of how I feel about it, regardless of my own health. What freedom is that?

Is it freedom I want? Yes, I think so. I have obligations. I like to choose obligations and exercise my own autonomy.

I love Gabriela, because I see her weakness, I am comfortable with her vulnerability… though I ask myself, am I really? Are her frantic efforts to hold and squeeze and control apart of this vulnerable nature? A nature which I inspire, out of the love she has for me? But I ask myself if her love is true, or if it is false, in the sense that rather than embracing vulnerability, she runs from it, and rather than experiencing true love, she experiences the shadow of love which is a symptom of fear.

I’m not sure. But when I think about how much I care for her, my throat swells and begins to close, and my heart beats louder, and my face turns red, and I can feel my tear ducts squeezing.

She is so fragile. Just those words makes me bite my lips and furrow my brow and eyes tear.

She is so fragile. Her father an abusive alcoholic. She had no father. She was given the amazing opportunity to dance ballet in the states, and so she left her family at 15, returning briefly until she gained status as a professional ballet dancer. She has always been alone, dancing her heart out. She lives a simple life. She strives for perfection daily, from her rigorous routine physical exercises and the copious physiotherapy she commits herself to, to the hours in the studio, attending every optional class, practicing her technique in every free moment.

And for what? She is alone, and she strives for this higher ideal, an ideal worshipped by society, but enjoyed by the few with the means to attend and support such a high art.

She eats, lives, breaths ballet. She has her 3 pound Chihuahua, Kity, and her 375 sq foot studio apartment situated on the edge of the filthiest neighborhood in all of San Francisco, the Tenderloin, filled with drug addicts and homeless and thieves. She walks the five blocks to class every day and back, sometimes taking a Lyft or Uber when her feet are too swollen to march back up the hill to her apartment.

She is alone, separated by thousands of miles from her parents, her three brothers, her youngest sister, her every adoring mother, and her alcoholic father who will forever battle with his own demons at the expense of everyone around him.

I have been her sole source of companionship, not including Kity. And before her, Dallas, her previous boyfriend of five her whom she said she never loved, and could never love, and before him Marc, whom she loved, but he broke her heart when he cheated, a relationship that lasted six years. But she loves me, she says.

What is my obligation to this love of hers? I love her? But when is love give, and when is love take? Where is the balance?

 

Ajournal

How do I feel? I say this with an exasperated exhale. I’m anxious, tense… in a word, manic.

Whenever I think or hear the word maniac, I imagine a cartoon character bouncing around, or a 1950’s domesticated housewife with prim hair held together with bobby pins and fitted clothes with bloodshot eyes vacuuming and cleaning endlessly with a loud smile pasted to her face anxiously awaiting her husbands return home from a long day of work so he can ask her what she did with her empty life today, and she can half convince herself that all the frenetic activities characterizing her existence are worth something, rather than the biting reality of nothing.

Or I think about Youtube videos I’ve watched of patients interviewed in clinics, laughing hysterically, explaining to the camera some convoluted justification for their urgent need to act irrationally.

I think of mania in the context of bipolar disorder, the swinging sine wave of feeling oscillating with varying and often unpredictable frequency, but with the all consuming magnitude of giant stars on the verge of implosion. When you’re manic, there is no subtle mood change comparable to the happy sunshine interrupted by grey clouds which temporarily dampen the day, only to pass and reveal more of that endless radiant warmth. No, mania is a sort of endless possession. You are along for the ride.

I never think of myself as manic, or mentally ill for that matter, though I feel that way. Depressed? I ask myself. Am I depressed? What is depressed? I cue my reality distortion field. Life is nothing more and nothing less than how you see it, how you make it to be. You can flex your genius and conjure whatever reality you want, whenever you want.

Moods? Bad mood? Where ever the attention goes, the energy flows. Thus, I can manipulate myself ad infinitum. Whatever the situation demands, I can manifest a waking reality and greet those that appear on stage. Method acting.

There are no moods. There are states of being. There is soul crushing emptiness, and there is soul gushing fulfillment.

I feel manic. Why? Because transition. Because, I am nothing. Because, I chase, and chase for that hit of dopamine, desperately reaching for that floating dream to grab hold of, the one that will take me to Neverland and allow me to float on, forever entranced and elated by existence.

But of course I wake up in a pit of filth, and the dream vaporizes, or rather, condenses into hard reality.

What is the point of life? Aye, whatever you want it to be, my conscience reminds me. My conscience has a conscience, and so on and so forth. Somewhere, there is a subconscious spirit operating my motivations and moods, evading all my philosophical efforts to probe into his deceptive depths and gain the passenger seat. But that spirit is too damn cunning. And so, I’m a victim to myself, this spirit.

Who are you? they ask, the throngs of people I meet. I’m a nobody, quite honestly. I have a name, and a variety of roles and responsibilities and titles attached to it. But I am a nobody.

Well, who is a somebody? that spirit inside me asks, flicking me in the forehead.

A somebody is someone who matters to others. Aye, the spirit says, go on.

A somebody is someone who contributes to the greater good.

I ask myself if I really mean this. No. I think someone who matters is surrounded by crowds of people fawning for their blessing. They have money, they have influence, they have status and, most of all, they have purpose. Of course, you can draw a circle around this person to denote the magnitude of all these things, and try to measure their worth. I see these people with large circles. How do they get so large? I ask myself. More education? They must be smart. They must have a supportive family. They must have been born with money. Or maybe, they were born with a great attitude, and maybe they don’t have to compete with the mania that perpetually dislocates any sense of self, and any semblance of balance.

I think I broke up with my girlfriend yesterday. I might be in denial. I can feel the sense of loss, of being alone on a damp island surrounded by impenetrable darkness, with only the lapping sound of cold dark ocean to keep me company, along with my thoughts. My thoughts. These are not my thoughts. I’m running on habit. I’m running on the amalgam of a lifetime of responses to perceived necessity, dealt to me by my parents, my teachers, my peers, my culture. With each utterance they proclaim value this. And my attention is guided, and habit is reinforced. And all the while walking in a labyrinth, a circle round and round, getting nowhere, but passing time all the same, and occasionally throwing a party to celebrate this idea of progress.

I’m empty.

I broke up with my girlfriend because I was unhappy in her presence. I can care and love her, but she makes me feel… I pause, because I don’t know what words follow. Miserable? Anxious? She makes me feel like I have a purpose, and that sole purpose is keeping her happy, is solving the innumerable dramas that unfold from moment to moment, problems that I apparently am responsible for, and capable of, solving.

I’ve been popping Adderall recently, fueling my mania with tunnels of pleasant euphoria lasting hours. The highs are higher, as I spend days riding waves laced with amphetamine salts, and the lows are lower, as I eject and become a catatonic corpse, pantomiming meaningful charades until I decide to catch the next salty wave.

Melatonin helps my circadian rhythm find itself again, allowing me to sleep without the aid of alcohol, which further compounds my corpselike behavior the following day. The amphetamines don’t solve for anything. They’re more of a distraction. A pleasant distraction. I’m not quite sure if I’m more productive, but the pleasant tunnel eliminates noise and distraction that instigates the natural course of mania that would otherwise take place. But with amphetamines, I can control the highs and the lows. I’m not a victim to the throws of my listless imagination which suddenly decides to wade into dark horrifying landscapes, at worst. Or at best, dive into blissful abstract fantasies contained in new books or creating new works of art or engineering little projects, none of which reinforce the purpose that I coined and promised myself I would commit to.

Of Ants and Men, and Aliens

“if we pass by ants without a second thought, do aliens with advanced travel pass right by us?”

Mankind is just in love with itself— We think any remotely intelligent lifeform would give a rats ass about discovering us?

It’s all about self-preservation, self absorption.

I can’t fathom a reason why any intelligent alien would need anything to do with us if they found us. If intelligent life was able to bend the laws of physics, and travel faster than the speed of light, literally instantaneously port through time and space, I can’t imagine what we could possible teach them, what we have to offer.

Resources? Uh. If they can travel faster than the speed of light, they can literally manipulate matter, and form whatever they want. They can take pure energy and manipulate it to their will. I have to believe they solves resource problems long ago.

Like, if any alien life found us, the things they would have to overcome to do so would be so monumental, that they would have already solved any remote physical challenges that could possible remain.

Apes. We are.

Our greatest obstacle as a species is learning how to manipulate energy, to understand its true nature, because energy is everything. It is the substance that imbues all matter, it informs all dynamics of the universe.

Once we learn to take pure energy, and form elemental particles, to create something from nothing— we’ve achieved something stupendous. We can then escape the constraints of time and space.

Maybe.

Or not.

the eternal recurrence

the eternal return

everything is just cycles

seasons

civilizations rise and fall

Literary Themes

A major symbolic theme is that fear of darkness or evil or death is not necessarily bad. In fact, it is our fear of these things that make them so.

Satan, the devil, darkness— these are necessary. We must not run away from them. We must confront them, even accept them. In this, transformation occurs.

The things we’re taught to fear, the unknown, darkness, evil— they’re not necessarily bad. Our fear of them is.

They are entirely necessary for growth, for our evolution and metamorphoses.

That’s a quality I try to seek out in others. I respect others that acknowledge conventional fears and limits, within them or society, but choose to march onward, to act and live in spite of them. Try new things, be something new, different. Explore the unknown, the unfamiliar. There are no limits. It’s all in your imagination.

The world exists as a projection of the accumulated stories we tell ourselves, that we learn from others, society, family. These stories are nothing more than that: stories. Fictional narratives. Amendable, fluid.

That’s the aim of art: to guide humanity to higher truths— universal truths, incommunicable truths, that must be experienced. Art is a metaphor for truth. There is no higher truth than metaphor.

Archetypes grasp these transcendental truths, these metaphors of man.

god is within

The fact that we have an infinite consciousness, a consciousness that allows us to perceive anything in the imagination, is quite fucking incredible, and special.

What is the flame that lights the interiors of the mind, that shines awake moments of conscious awareness?

What is god? fuck if i know. But there is a fire inside living things, and it burns especially bright in humans. We transpose something from nothing. Ideas materialize from the recesses of our imagination, spring into the world as if spoken by god. We do that. We create.

As far as I’m concerned, god is within each man, that which cannot be spoken, that which illuminates the darkness, that which gives rise to life.

The flame is there, and it unites all men who kindle it within themselves, who acknowledge it in others.

But it doesn’t always shine bright, and its often obscured by apish impulse.

Forever Fools

Forever suspended in this little void of the universe,
this valley in space separated by abysmal folds of darkness,
floating on this mote of dirt,
this churning orb of atmosphere and magma,
sprinkled with crystallizations of moving matter,
dustings called life,
confined to the prism of our meaty mind,
forever condemned to wrestle with the infinite gaze of consciousness,
and the finite fixation of our permanent place as frail fools.

The Master and Margarita by Mikail Bulgkov Chapter 3: The Seventh Proof

I found this to be a brilliant scene/ chapter. The first chapter begins with an introduction into the scene and setting, and the two main characters, literary editor Berlioz and homeless poet Ivan Ponyrev. Homeless Poet has submitted a piece on the trial of Jesus Christ, and editor Berlioz is chastising him on the story, and why Jesus is not real, and why he needs to alter the story to ensure that Jesus is portrayed correctly.

There are some foreboding or foretelling elements and mentions that are easy to miss at first read. The main characters are trying to sort out this fellow they just met, the Professor, who is making wild and outlandish remarks and surreal claims, and so they initially write him off as a crazy person. This makes sense, and as a reader, you try to reconcile what’s real and what’s perceived, and what’s magic or some other mystical phenomenon.

Chapter two is a sudden departure from the main plot with a story told by the main antagonist, the Professor (the devil), detailing his encounters with Jesus (he claims to know Jesus, to have been there during his trial with Pontius Pilot). Not coincidentally, this scene could and might very well in fact be the very scene written by the poet Homeless for a submission that editor Berlioz is lecturing him on.

Chapter three resumes the plot, in which the primary characters suspicions continue to rise. It’s not until the very end of chapter three when Berlioz dies a gruesome and sudden death do you realize that there is more to this story. The antagonist is not just a regular person, nor is he crazy. His nonsensical remarks are transformed from lunacy to prophecy and powerful prediction.

Up until this point, the main characters act as any reasonable person would when meeting a strange fellow who makes bold and outlandish claims. The narration proceeds with them trying to sort out who this fellow is, and humor him. As the professors remarks become more and more eerie and uncomfortable, Berlioz does what most concerned citizens would do, and decides to head to the police and report this man.

What is most fascinating is that there are these slightest elements that shed light on the actual situation.

The main characters are debating the veracity of Jesus Christ. Homeless Poet Ivan wrote a piece on Jesus that was satirical, and the editor Berlioz was critiquing him, lecturing him on how Jesus never existed, that he wasn’t the son of god, and so on, and Homeless listened intently.

What’s most interesting (in hindsight) is that the author made special mention that Berlioz has some type of psychotic episode just as they sat down on a bench (though its not immediately apparent the nature of the episode, just that its powerful and leaves Berlioz feeling very, very strange), right before he resumed his lecture on story of Jesus. It was right after this mention that an apparition appeared in the form of the antagonist, who the author would call the devil.

While speaking with Ivan and Berlioz, the professor/devil makes mention that the poet Homeless has been institutionalized for schizophrenia. It’s a small but important mention that is critical for the plot.

We don’t know the narrator, or where he got his facts from, but after Berlioz dies, and the poet is the only remaining protagonist, we must ask ourselves whether Berlioz actually saw the strange/professor/devil/antagonist, or whether this episode was all imagined in the poet Homeless’s schizophrenic imagination, and if in fact he was having a schizophrenic episode provoked by Berlioz’s adamant lecture on the falsity of the character Jesus.

I’m only a third of the way through the book, but the complexity of the narrative, and the psychological threading of these themes and subtle plot elements, is quite incredible. There are so many symbolic messages sprinkled throughout.

What happens when a man rejects the idea of Jesus, when he dismisses the veracity of Christianity, which has served as the entire foundation of western civilization, and provided a sociological structure in which humanity hangs and balances an individual’s psychology, allowing a proper and moral orientation of conscious experience?

I find it bold and brilliant that the author uses Berlioz to illustrate this point, and his death to symbolize the ramifications of rejecting societies religion, which can be argued serves as the fundamental basis of sanity, and maintaining a stable socio-psychological disposition.

I can’t say enough how awe inspired I am by the author (Mikhail Bulakov).

PC culture is killing truth

Also— holy shit. My creative writing class has been eye opening. The biggest eye opener is how fuckin PC our culture is.

It may just be the Bay Area, but my god. We spend half the class reading student workshop submissions

Everyone is so PC. “Those stereotypes are offensive and won’t work”

“You should consider sending it to a PC editor when you’ve completed it to ensure you’re not offending anyone and you’re respecting everyone’s cultural sensitivities.”

It’s like… tense.

The class is “turning personal narratives into fiction”

I’m like. Back off! It’s their story! Stop being so sensitive!

It’s crazy… I feel uncomfortable at how tense it can get when people point out things that they are offended by

“There’s too much gender stereotyping happening in this piece.”

I feel like such a douche, a white privileged enemy of the people, being lashed by their suspicious eyes as I try to provide a contrasting opinion, and tell the author that the stereotypes worked, that the humor relies on stereotypes, that you can leverage stereotypes to illustrate how inaccurate they are…

Haven’t been near a classroom in 5 years, and the last one I was in was in the Bible Belt as a fairly conservative school, when you compare to other schools on the west or northeast coasts

Has been eye opening. It’s ironic, because it leads to censorship. It’s weird. Bizarre.

You can’t say that.

You can’t think that.

That’s offensive.

It’s not okay.

No matter if it’s how you feel or what you think. Repress it and make it PC. Truth? We don’t want truth if it hurts, if it’s offensive. Make every word and thought and feeling conform to vanilla diarrhea so we can all enjoy it without convulsing in oversensitive horror.

And in some cases, we read a work of professional/ published fiction, and the author intentionally makes it a bit graphic and explicit, for effect. Maybe there is some hyper sexualization happening, maybe some aggressive characterizations about the female form, but it’s for literary effect! It’s not even… what’s the word… gratuitous. It’s artistic. I read the passage and I’m like.. ah. Yea. I feel that. Or I cringe. It makes me feel.

And then the other classmates are like… “omg. Next time you assign this reading I need a heads up, because I need a trigger warning. It made me sick, and it was very uncomfortable. I almost couldn’t get through it.”

And I’m just blank faced, slack jawed in awe that someone could personalize literature in this way, and feel trauma that could make them physically ill.

I’m super sympathetic, but my god people. Have you lived? Do you live under a rock? Is your life a padded room plastered with messages that simply reaffirm what you want to hear?

How dreadful.

Get uncomfortable. You ain’t living if you ain’t uncomfortable. Get used to it, then get over it.

We are in a simulation

Consciousness is, quite literally, a simulation.

Your conscious experience is not reflective of an actual reality, just a simulation manufactured by your neurons, pulsing energy in rhythmic patterns. What you think is reality, or truth, is simply a subjective perception. We perceive things, and these perceptions exist in our mind, not in the world.

They exist in the minds of the collective imagination, as a social simulation. Rather than a silicon simulation, we live in an organic simulation, made of meat rather than metal.

There is no objective reality. There is no absolute truth. Truth is whatever we collectively agree upon. It’s a sociological fabrication by consensus.

Everything happening outside us, our mind, beyond the narrow sliver of senses, is a soup of empty space and vibrations, much like a computer is simply 1’s and 0’s and analog wave forms.

Everything is relative. Hardness, softness, redness, blueness, pain and pleasure, good and bad.

It’s all relative to how it suits this fleshy vehicle in its quest for survival, of self preservation and procreation, via collaboration with other fleshy vehicles.

Everything is energy, distributed in varying concentrations throughout the universe, with each knotted ball of energy-strings vibrating to specific wavelengths, allowing it to knot with complementary knots of vibrating energy, which accumulate into increasingly larger bits of unique particles, which eventually comprise larger bits, gaining even more mass, until the vibrating field surrounding this ball of energy is so resonate in its synchronous vibrations, that it produces a force that gives the appearance of substance, of elemental matter.

So you ask: are we living in a simulation? I think we’re living in a simulation. Read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

But it’s not a simulation we can escape. Just one we have to accept as illusory. And I think through the acceptance lies the portal into the true nature of reality.

The art of writing

Having a strong story/ plot allows a quicker story to develop. The leaps are more continuous and connected, and the writers mind just seems to weave it together, because the story is a whole, and not pieces. So describing the whole isn’t hard, because every word is about and relates to every other in a cohesive way

When the story/plot is weaker, things progress slowly, at times. Or it can anyway. Because the writer seems to be making it up and connecting the dots as they go

I truly believe that the best stories are whole and complete stories.

Perhaps that means a ton of retreading and refinement.

Or, the writer knows the story, the contours of the message, and the writing process is about adding decor, color and depth

There is no “correct” writing process.

Sometimes the writer knows exactly what he wants to say, and writes accordingly.

Sometimes the writer doesn’t know what he wants to say, and the writing process pulls it out slowly, piece by piece.

The art of good writing is polishing the story so it’s a cohesive whole, so it resonates from word to word, and every detail has its place in the universe of the narrative. Visualization is a crucial method for constructing a believable world, believable characters, and believable stories.

They say writers live life twice.