Blog – one step at a time

Judging a book by its cover

A quickie blog with a very book oriented focus.

Been rejigging my book covers. Already?! Well…

It’s been on my mind for a while. As much as I was happy with the newer covers I created in April, my building concern was that in looking forward through the next 24 books of the Kiyron series, and paying more attention to how books are marketed in some aspects, the series still lacked something more relatable in the titling.

So! Having considered this for a bit, newer covers, with a new, extra layer of subtitling. Not sure that this will necessarily increase book sales (though hopefully it helps a lot!!), but it may at the very least help individualise each book within the series at least. And each title lends itself to a key theme within that book, which is generally the idea I’m sure!

Now I’ve no doubt some of you may say “The cover could do with more captivating graphics.” That may be true. I’ve certainly explored that since the very beginning. I’ll admit I’ve been torn on the subject, partly because of the financial outlay in trying to find cover art I feel will accurately represent the story. Partly also, I suppose, because I’ve struggled in seeing how I can then run a particular theme across the whole series through the covers, especially if they’re all different.

…oh! wait!!…

I suddenly found myself distracted for a day or so exploring cover art. Again! After having already reworked cover art myself, where each book essentially looked the same, have been reworking each cover with some art courtesy of 123rf.com.

Part of my brain has managed to click itself out of the “with cost comes stress” mindset and take the relatively minor financial plunge to select some cover art. I say ‘relatively minor’, but when money is as tight as it is at present, it doesn’t feel quite so minor.

ANWAY!! Onward and upward as they say!

I also had to allow part of my brain to recognise that what I might personally want is not necessarily what a potential reader might be looking for when glancing through book covers and attempting to pick something to read. Whether what I’m choosing will make a difference…I don’t know. But for now at least I need to recognise the fact that, unlike the pulling power that a recognised author will have in their name alone, I need to draw on other tools at my disposal (and within my budget), to try and make those customers come forth and purchase.

And so, in the most imminent future, there will be:

  • a more relatable subtitle to each book
  • more visually arresting cover art for each book.

I can only hope it all helps.

A question of rights

The creative urges will sometimes come when they will.

Sometimes, like this morning, it’s at an ungodly hour (approximately 1.30am), with an insistent push that jolted me awake, a recurring thought/idea twirling through my mind determined to be heard.

This morning’s incident was relating to Talyësaarthien’s Declaration of Sentient Rights: a set of ideas I’ve been working on since first introducing them in Volume 1 – Book 1. I’ve bounced the concept around a little since then, unsure what to do with it, unclear on how to solidify it. I had the vaguest of ideas, drawing on memories of a List of Rights I’d received in a course decades ago, which has long since been lost somewhere. I have since found a few lists of a similar nature. Then there is of course the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Whilst I had begun merging all these together many months ago, the last few weeks has seen the concept become a more persistent matter, demanding more of my attention. I think perhaps because of my growing focus on global politics, observing the increasing divergence of opposing forces, especially in the USA and the UK, but in many other countries also.

Strangely enough, I’m a lot less clear on Australian politics and what’s going on. Is that because it’s in some ways more personal?

Perhaps.

I’m still undecided, though I do find myself continuously ambivalent concerning both major parties here, as well as the more peripheral entities/parties. The reason for that could be my own dismissiveness, as I find local politics less globally significant. Don’t say it! I know!! Not a good enough excuse! Grass roots and local is just as important!!!

But! As much as Australian politicians appear to revel in big-noting themselves and their importance in regional affairs, I’m inclined to consider our country a rather small fish (ignoring our landmass) in a rather large pond. We are, after all, surrounded by nations with far greater populations and superior economic clout. Yet our sense of self-worth, at least in the political arena, draws on our connections with our big brother, the USA, and our big sister, the UK, in a similar way to how a younger sibling might rely on the protection of much older siblings in a schoolyard. We don’t fully stand on our own two feet, because we don’t really know who we are without them. And dare I say, we lack the required humility that being truly independent might demand of us in dealing with our more immediate neighbours.

But I am digressing from my primary subject matter. And it is not my wish to make this post a long one, or a political one. Perhaps the larger political digression requires its own post someday. But not today.

So back to the Declaration of Sentient Rights.

The Rights, and my efforts to fine tune them, tie rather neatly with my own quest for understanding of what is fair to expect for all individuals across the globe, what I would consider fair to receive from everyone else, and what I should give of myself to others within any exchange.

It has been interesting reading the UN interpretation of this. I find myself not in agreement with all of it. Perhaps in days gone by I may have agreed a great deal more. Now, I look at them and find them a little more…socialist…in some of their leanings than I consider healthy for a more robust, and less authority dependent society. There are aspects to those Rights which require government intervention. As I interpret the document, there is no exception to this in certain cases.

And yet my mind looks back to older cultures, pre-industrialisation, or even contemporary tribal cultures, where the support structures were inbuilt to the fabric of the culture: for the elderly, for the disabled, for the disadvantaged, be that disadvantage temporary or permanent. Families, villages, communities, it seems to me, were far more likely to look after their own than we would necessarily consider doing nowadays. Society in many ways has become a great deal more selfish, more self-centred, more transactional than ever before. Especially in western cultures. We’ve witnessed the disintegration of the family unit, the absolving of responsibility toward the older generations, the focus on what we think is best for ourselves, often at the expense of others around us.

Were the outcomes at times more brutal in the past? Undoubtedly! The nature of existence back then was vastly different on many fronts. Decisions were more focused upon survival than is necessary today. Scarcity was a greater threat back then than we could ever expect to face in our modern world.

But is our modern abundance of resources making us more compassionate? Or more selfish?

Is it compassionate or selfish to maintain someone’s life on life-support?

Is it compassionate or selfish to expect our elders to live out their final days separated from family and friends in a nursing home?

Is it compassionate or selfish for governments to control so many aspects of our lives, from education, to work opportunities, to how we live, how we are permitted to express ourselves?

Is it compassionate or selfish for governments to create the opportunity for dependence upon social welfare structures by a growing number of individuals?

Having had a brother with profound and multiple disabilities, both physical and mental, I’ve explored both sides of this issue to some extent already. There were times I felt it was cruel that he should be supported to stay alive and be subjected to the will of others, be their intentions for good or ill, in residential care homes, with no way to exert his own will upon his life and what he experienced. Seeing him in an open ward arrangement during one stage of his life, which was so impersonal, where he experienced injuries and more through no fault of his own, there were times I thought he’d be better off dead. To me, that simply wasn’t living!

Yet, moving beyond that perspective, I was also able to see, at a deeper level, how his presence in our lives was an opportunity for us all to learn how to be more compassionate for the more vulnerable, and overcome our own selfish attitudes and behaviours for the sake of what might benefit those unable to even be selfish.

Modern life, with its somewhat socialist inclusions, derived from taxations and the welfare state, have provided support structures which may not have existed otherwise. Yet they’ve also made it easier for families to relinquish participation and responsibility for their own families, be they offspring, siblings or parents. I’ve seen that aspect of our modern world also. I’ve even seen it in my own thoughts and behaviours!

I do think something has been lost in our society since the advent of industrialisation, even if that loss has been gradual. It is a loss that has crept up on us in the guise of a supportive benefactor, yet has somehow dehumanised us in the subtlest of ways.

Cultures still rooted in older traditions have a greater sense of responsibility I feel, a greater connection to family, a greater desire to support, especially in times of need, than the more modern western civilisation I’m more familiar with and which increasingly permeates many parts of the globe. A large part of that stems, I believe, from faith and religion, though not from the perspective of dogma. I would suggest it is more from the perspective of morals and values that people of faith are more inclined to display.

With all these thoughts, all these considerations, for what is essentially a small aspect within a fictional work, I feel I may have produced more questions for myself than answers. Perhaps there are no specifically right or wrong answers to this process, at least not as regards my fictional work.

And perhaps I am simply lacking the courage to commit to the answers that feel right to me, to express my conclusions more emphatically out loud.

I have, I think, linked myself back to a previous blog referencing personal convictions and a fear of criticism or conflict. An interesting consideration. Learning is a circular process after all, where repetition helps deepen one’s understanding of the lesson(s) involved.

In the meantime, if it’s of interest, my own fictional Rights-in-progress can be found on the page below, with the UN declaration in the link below that.

https://www.kiyron.com/history

https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

When my ego gets the better of me

Funk v depression.

If all words are nothing more nor less than symbols open to subjective interpretation, does word choice matter?

I guess for me it does, hence I’ve chosen the word funk in this instance. I’m applying the word funk here because, as a term, it’s less harsh, less extreme than more modern connotations and assumptions I feel now surround the word depression. Not that I’m attempting to minimise the potential harm depression can cause or lead to. Certainly not. But I remember a time when the word, at least in my own mind, didn’t feel so much like a code red. Admittedly, that was a time when the code red options were often not identified until the situation was at a more critical level, or worse still, when it was too late. That does of course, still occur with way too much frequency.

I don’t have to look too far beyond my own doorstep to witness the struggle that others face every day and how it can become more than just a little overwhelming, stealing over one’s life incrementally until there appears to be no way to reach beyond it. There are enough reports online and off making it all too clear where these kinds of struggles can end up. Getting lost in that darkest of nights is not a state I’ve ever come close to, but I can imagine how few steps it might take to find oneself there. I’ve no doubt that for some individuals gripped by such a state of mind, where any and all efforts feel like too much, death can appear to have a most preferable allure to the task of finding a way through the quagmire of other options. Death can be the quiet exclamation that releases all the challenges, whilst life can be a procession of question marks with no end in sight.

Now, I’m writing this without any statistics to hand, so yes, I’m writing with a large degree of ignorance on the matter. I don’t know, for instance, whether depression is on the increase (though I assume it is) in real terms, whether the severity of depression is on the increase, or whether there is an over-diagnosis of it as a health issue. But I’m not here to disseminate statistical data, or critique the implications, accuracy or otherwise of such data. That’s not why I’m writing this.

My reason is a smidgen more self-focused than that. It’s no more, and no less, than me mapping out some of my journey in this life, divulging some of my experiences, and the thoughts that are springing from them.

So, for me, at least up to this point in life, I’ve never reached such a critical level, I’ve never been pulled into the depths of what I would consider to be a code red. Nor an amber for that matter. At least, not that I’ve noticed. Up to this point, my path hasn’t ever veered in that direction. For that I’m certainly grateful.

Life has gone on regardless of any internal struggle. I’ve still been able to bounce through each part of my day that has involved intermingling with others. My general routines have continued as normal. Any variations tend to be outwardly invisible, save for a perhaps more sombre tone when interacting with some people, a level of banter lacking the more standard pep, or, if you were to witness me at home, more prolonged staring at the computer screen without actually ‘doing’ anything, breaths more frequently interspaced with sighs.

There have been more dramatic moments over the years. There have been some very melodramatic moments as well. You know, those kind of moments akin to when your first crush dumps you, or you perhaps have a flood of self-pity at the notion that no one truly understands you. Totally soul-destroying in the moment. Generally more comic in retrospect.

Standing on the other side of such a moment always presents a better perspective.

I may have in the past week had a moment, yet it was no more and no less than that. A moment. But in the throws of such a moment, how to handle it? When that most conniving little ego – my ego – grabbed a hold, with its own devious mission to throw me off course, to wrest any semblance of control I might momentarily have believed I had over the multifarious aspects of myself, away from me, what could I do?!

Get centred in a sanctuary of inner peacefulness, love and grace?

“Sod that my friend! None of that for you!!”

At least, that’s how it expressed on an experiential level. Instead of any inner peace, there was a wall that I careened all too quickly into, a wall that appeared to curve around in one relentless sweep, like the walls at the bottom of some all too stark and dry well. What was in front was beside and behind. Looking up for the exit, it seemed all too far and out of focus. The switchboard controlling my emotional stability had been unexpectedly nabbed from my grasp, the switches flickering in unpredictable fashion.

Frustration. Anger. Confusion. Loneliness. All were jockeying for a good position, all keen on top spot, but happy enough in their own perverse manner to share the limelight, even if none of those states were externally visible.

Fortunately for me, I recognise there are distractions I have at my disposal which help to redirect my energy toward more positive streams, like movies, reading, my local cafe, the internet and more. In turn, not all my options are distractions. Some are reminders of what can be, redirections that help me realise that, at a deeper level, a more inspired level, none of these outward concerns are as real as the inner peace that comes from a reconnection to Source.

In this particular case I needed to simply be still. Still on the inside. Still on the outside. I needed to allow myself to be a human who was simply being, rather than a human doing, or a human striving to do. I had to put all the persistent thoughts, the to-do lists, the expectations, the criticisms, the hopes and fears aside. I had to relinquish all my beliefs that all this stuff, all this outward life-stuff, actually matters. All of that and more. Put it ALL aside. And simply be.

Now I’m not suggesting that I needed to relinquish any notion that I myself matter. Far from it. At a certain level I matter very much. Just not the ‘I’ that is tied to material things, to worldly things, to egoic things. The ‘I’ that matters is the level of my self that I only find in the stillness, the level of my self that knows what is best for me at a level where the outer me could never really know. Whether you choose to consider that level of self the Higher Self, the Holy Spirit, God, Source, or perhaps Divine Intelligence, I guess that’s up to you.

I don’t consider myself a religious person. The dogma attached to religion and the adherence to so many archaic perspectives borne from the need for structures and guidelines suited to a time long past, or the political manipulations of a time long gone, whilst fascinating, doesn’t sit well for me. That said, there is merit in some of what is written. And I do believe there is more to myself, to us all, than what we can perceive with our physical senses.

When I allow myself to reside in that stillness within, the guidance from that source comes through. Peace comes through. Happiness returns. Grace abides within. The darkness induced by ego recedes. And I am grateful. I can again see my life as a journey. One where I peel away the layers of negativity and confusion, of doubt and fear, of distraction and self-deception. One in which, by seeing passed all my own layers of deception, I can more easily see passed all of yours, and in so doing see the light that shines within.

We may all be shrouded by varying layers of darkness, some of which might lead to a funk, some to deeper depression, or any number of other challenges particular to our human condition, but we all have a purer light at our core. It’s not a light that comes decorated with sparkling distractions, nor strobe effects, nor sirens and trumpets, nor even effusive gaiety. It’s the warm glow of connection, the first rays of light breeching the darkness of a distant horizon on a still day, the feeling of being exactly where we belong.

And once again, for this moment in time at least, and hopefully for many more, I feel like I’m exactly where I belong.

Get Writing!

Get writing! A simple enough command. One I say to myself often. And in essence, it’s a relatively straightforward process. You would think so…but…

…hours then tick by. Days. Weeks. Maybe even months.

For whatever reason, I have analysed myself, my writing, and more importantly perhaps, my writing process, into paralysis. There is an overabundance of questions to which I don’t have the answers. Or at least not answers I feel are adequate.

What exactly am I going to write about?

How much of myself do I wish to reveal/expose in this?

Will anyone even read it?

IF someone reads it, what will they think?

Do I care?

What if someone I know reads it?

What will they think of me then?

Do I want to go down that path?

Whilst I might be a fan of opinions and the debate that can result from having opinions, even if there is a difference of opinions that never reaches a clear conclusion or any agreement, I struggle with the potential for conflict. Whether that’s simply a personality glitch, a survival mechanism, upbringing, something else…I don’t know.

Certainly, when it came to growing up, the rule of the house, and especially my father, was that parents were right and kids did what they were told, no questions, even if the particular parent was wrong. I’m sure you all know the old saying: “Mother/Father knows best.” Disagreeing was talking back. Even saying no to a question was sometimes talking back, regardless of the truth in the response. My father once summed up both a key aspect of his own personality, and a core aspect of this entire topic with his response to a disagreement we once had when I was a teenager. “I’m your father. I’m always right. Even when I’m wrong.”

Whilst that response, and no doubt many others I can no longer remember, may have instilled a slight dislike and distrust of authority figures, it also, somehow, instilled a disinclination to argue, to be angry, to challenge in any meaningful way, and to feel that my own particular voice necessarily held any value, even if I was right on a given occasion. Those particular outcomes explain a great deal about my life that I won’t go into now, but they also hold significance for this particular blog.

When I compare myself to others out in the world, be they people I know, or people I don’t, I almost envy those of them who appear to have a single-minded sense of who they are and what their purpose in this life is. They pursue it with what appears to be a relative ease when compared with myself (and so many others). Me? I feel like I toil at every turn, confronted with one form of adversity or another, even if it’s simply the lack of support from those closest to me. At other times I feel like I do little more than stare blankly at the canvas of my life. Is that canvas waiting for nothing more than my first efforts at perhaps the broadest brushstrokes of colour to enliven it?

Perhaps such an appearance of ease within some of those more successful individuals is deceiving. Perhaps they are not nearly as clear within their mind as they’re able to project out to the world. But then, perhaps that is simply who they are. Life may have in fact dealt those individuals a particular hand, that, for whatever reason, enables them to walk, dance or charge through their life with a passion, a conviction, a self-assuredness, a steadfastness, and a consistency, that simply will not be swayed by the desires or intentions of others, be those others family, friends, partners, or some other form of authority figure.

Now, one may endeavour to attribute that to upbringing, education, karma, numerology, astrology, genes, some god or divine force. Take your pick. We each have our own interpretation of how forces both subtle and obvious impact our lives. We have all drawn our own particular conclusions as to what factors have the greatest influence on our own lives and the lives of others we encounter.

I personally consider them all to have some level of contribution, great or small, with it all woven together like some vast tapestry that represents, in its wholeness, an image of who we are and what we do. And I believe we come to this particular life we are in with all those aspects predetermined. Established. For a reason. For me, there is no good or bad about it. No punishment or reward.

To quote the great bard himself: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts…”. It is for me, a more inspired approach, one that combines well with a perspective found within A Course In Miracles, which, at least in my own interpretation of the work, guides one to be more focused on how one perceives their experience, than upon attempting to directly change their experience.

Not that change cannot be made. Not at all. More that the change made is perhaps made best when the guidance for it comes through you, from a higher/deeper source, rather than from you at your more reflexive, ego driven level. After all, how can any of us truly know what lies before us, what we are destined to experience at any given moment, what this script we call life has in store for us actors within our given parts? Better to pay more attention to the ‘director’ of this particular experience no? They’ve undoubtedly read the entire script and all the potential rewrites, so they’re bound to be in a better position for knowing what lies ahead. Better for us to not think that this life is who we are. Better instead to recognise who we are at our core, separate from the character we presently inhabit, as we fumble our way from one scene to the next in this unpredictable film we call life.

However, philosophising aside, none of that changes the fundamental appearance of some amongst us appearing far more adept at seizing the reins of life and harnessing whatever is presented them to suit their personal desires, as well as their expression in the world and upon the world. 

Am I one of those? No. I can’t say that I have ever felt that sense of control over my life. I have never felt like the master of my fate, no matter how much I look at it from a multitude of perspectives. Whilst I may never be more or less than the subjective observer of my experience, that experience has never appeared as one I have been able to steer in the direction I would prefer it to go. My own life has, in its own particular way, felt like a faltering but determined process of stepping away from subconscious layerings of victimhood, from feeling and believing that life is being done TO me, rather than being lived and, more significantly perhaps, controlled, from moment to moment, BY me. 

Which of course leads me inexorably back to my preceding comments. Maybe this is simply the path I walk, perhaps the path I MUST walk, to reach some particular outcome that I fail yet to see. I don’t always know what I’m doing. Hell, when I look really hard at my particular journey through this life, I almost NEVER know what I’m doing. I might sometimes make a relatively accurate guess. My choices might generate a generally acceptable progress in a particular direction for however long, offering a modicum of happiness, pleasant distraction, or agreeable focus.

I can also look back upon my life thus far and see that there have been, in a winding, twisty sort of way, progressive steps forward. No step has ever appeared like some great leap forward. Some steps have in fact appeared as steps backward. I have been as a blind man dropped within the middle of a forest, not knowing which way leads home.

Yet, if I’m not being too harsh on myself for just a moment, it is possible to see the progress. I am not the same person I was when I was growing up, when I moved out of home, when I ventured overseas. Not even the same person I was a year ago. The changes may not be externally visible, they may even be quite minor internally, but they are there nonetheless.

And they have all led me to this moment. They have all brought me to this particular blog I am now writing, where I question how much of myself I invest in this process, how much of my ‘character’ in this life I expose to the world, how vulnerable I allow myself to be in order that I might be able to take the next few steps. Will opening myself more fully to the potential scrutiny of others assist me in other aspects of this particular journey? Maybe it will. I really don’t know. Perhaps I need to apply a little faith in that part of me that is deeper/higher than my ego infused shell. Perhaps it is simply waiting for me to take this next step. I really don’t know.

‘Get writing!’ may seem like an easy enough demand. But it’s deciding how much of myself is in what I write that can be most difficult next step.

And step.

Kindness & the direction of my projection

Starting.

It’s one of the challenges of any new enterprise, I suppose, generally speaking. Stepping forward. Even if it is little more than one first, tentative step. Even if the direction isn’t clearly defined. At some point you still need to take a step.

So here I am. Stepping forward. And it’s a step that feels very tentative indeed. It’s not that there isn’t an abundance of ideas floating around in the ol’ grey matter for directions to take. My challenge is rooted more firmly in the question of whether any of those ideas will actually be of any value, either to myself or anyone else who may chance upon the words I put forth.

Perhaps the process of writing them down, of expressing them beyond  my internal world, is more important than anyone actually reading them. Part of my thought process on this has certainly been that I simply need to devote more time to writing and communicating through media beyond my novels.

Vlogging doesn’t appeal, the thought of having to present myself in visual format on a regular basis even less appealing than the chore of having to take the occasional selfie. Anonymity has a most distinct appeal.

Tweeting? It’s not that I don’t have an account, and very occasionally post something. But there is something unlikeable about the extent to which people express their attitudes, particularly the enthusiasm so many have for denigrating others, or proclaiming their opinion on a matter with such vitriolic passion.

I only have to look at the direction that mainstream media, alternate media, twitter, facebook and all the other communication platforms have gone, to feel a troubling level of apprehension about my own interaction with all of that. So much of it appears to be increasingly black or white, us v them, with us or against us, right or wrong, and so on and so forth. Argument has become more appealing than discussion. Logic is being abandoned for point scoring and reinforcing a given perspective, whether that perspective has any basis in truth or not. It no longer seems to matter so much, as long as the individual/group wins the argument. And there is the increasing notion that if a point is said often enough then that must somehow make it true.

So it seems entirely possible, or more likely probable, that at some point I may well express an opinion, or a perspective, that someone out there will disagree with. That notion in itself isn’t an issue. Human nature involves having unique perspectives evolved from personal experience, with interpretation of that experience filtered through the kaleidoscopic influence of multitudinous conditionings, from family, geographic location, religious and political structures, through to race, ethnicity, sex/gender and everything else besides.

What’s more concerning for me, in moving forward, is how aggressive responses are becoming, whether that’s outright attacks without any apparent deeper consideration of the subject and the person, or whether that’s even the censorship that is more blatantly expressing itself through the likes of google, facebook, twitter and more.

There appears to be a genuine lack of kindness and consideration in how so many people throughout the communications (social media, news media, etc.) sphere are interacting with each other, in how they are responding to subjects that they have an opinion on, and especially that they feel passionate about. Now I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to agree with each other. That’s simply not how we function as a species. That’s not how we evolve. And I don’t believe that’s how we ultimately improve. Friction, even if it’s the result of differing opinions and perspectives, creates the opportunity for discourse, which hopefully creates the opportunity for exploration, for proving or disproving the validity of the ideas at hand. Yet if there’s no kindness attached to the process, no respect for the other member(s) of the discourse, then how can there ever be any improvement?

So what is the point I’m attempting to make here? Is there a point? Is there a purpose to any of this?

Well, all of this is about how I intend to approach my own involvement in this process of communicating. I’m not perfect. I’m sure I’ll fail along the way. I’ve no doubt that others  may find fault in my perspective and my efforts. Yet my intent is to share whatever I may happen to share with as much kindness as I can possibly manage. I’ve no plan to limit myself on subject matter too much, as my focus is more about whatever topics feel important in any given period. But still!! If I can inject as much positivity and consideration into WHAT I share, and HOW I share it, then perhaps this entire exercise might yet have some merit. It may, as a result, prove an excellent conduit for me to learn more about myself. And maybe, if I’m very fortunate, it may be of some small benefit to someone else.

Ah! The pressure!

What good is a site without posts?

This is NOT a post…sort of. More of a space filler so that you at least know that there will be posts coming…and that this is a work in progress that is not being neglected by yours truly. At least, not yet.

But how awful does a blog post look if there’s not at least SOMETHING there?!

So this is a something, which is a fraction above a nothing, with more substantial somethings to follow. Hmmm…