My Previously-Posted Aphorisms

At the beginning of August 2019, I decided to try writing aphorisms. It might not work for me. But that’s OK. I’ve failed in lots of endeavors before. And, in fact, I believe that failure is a very, very good thing.

It helps steer you in the direction you should be going.

There may be nothing more unfortunate than succeeding at things you don’t truly love, or perhaps even dislike, intensely. Because if you persist, you end up wasting much of your life.

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An aphorism is a single thought or observation that is stated in as few words as possible. A well-known example is Nietzsche’s, “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

Many, many writers over the centuries have used this aphoristic style. Some claim Francis Bacon, 1561-1626, was the best at it. Others disagree. And there are also a number of greats who preceded Bacon. Burchard of Worms and Juan Manuel are two excellent examples.

My favourite aphorists, however, are Nietzsche and Leonardo da Vinci.

And it’s quite liberating for me that Leonardo says in Volume 1 of his Notebooks that he’s just going to write down his thoughts as they occur to him, in no particular order, but perhaps later on he might try to arrange them by subject.

And he further adds that he’s not going to worry about repeating himself or contradicting himself. That’s inevitable over time, he says.

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So here’s my first:

190809 – Our Unconscious Self

What if Nietzsche is right when he says that almost all of who you are is located deep down in your unconscious mind? And that the activities of that Self, your true Self, are unfelt, and unknown, and unknowable?

And what if he’s right when he says that who you think you are, at the conscious level, has been carefully determined by your socialization?

That you’ve been brought up to accept and to internalize the values of the herd?

And what if who you are at the conscious level is not even close to who you really are deep down in your unconscious?

What then? Is there any way to reconcile those two selves, to get them more in sync with each other?

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

And my second:

190816 – The Zone

What if there is no clear-cut line dividing my unconscious mind from my conscious mind? What if there’s a continuum, instead, that runs from my purely unconscious to my purely conscious? Would that mean that there’s an overlap zone?

And if there is, . . ..

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

And my third:

190823 – The Little Kid

And if there is an overlap zone, and if my true Self really does live deep down in my unconscious, wouldn’t it make sense for me to live in that zone as much as possible? As close to my true Self as much as possible?

And what if my most precious ideas and inspirations come from that Self, not from a spirit such as a daimonion, or a genie, or a muse, as the ancients thought?

If so, then I need to spend more time being still, and quietening my conscious mind, and waiting.

Think of it this way:

A little kid comes running up out of my unconscious with a note for me. But he doesn’t see me, and he’s come as far as he dares.

Finally, he turns and goes back.

I was reading, perhaps, or visiting with someone, or listening to music, or working on my budget for the month. I was mostly in my conscious mind.

If I had been in the overlap zone, though, he could have given me that note.

But I failed him. And I failed myself.

My job, as I see it, if I’m going to bring my conscious self and my unconscious Self closer together, is to spend less time around noisy distractions: malls, traffic, newspapers, magazines, emails, the radio, the television, most music, my iPhone, and on and on, ad infinitum.

Otherwise, if I’m never in that overlap zone, quiet, and waiting, I’ll end up missing the little kid with all his notes. And eventually, he’ll give up on me. And eventually, I’ll forget that I ever knew anything about him or about my true Self. And I’ll be reduced to nothing but a mindless member of the herd leading what Aristotle describes as a bovine existence.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

And my, etc:

190830 – Bonhoeffer

What if Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian who was hanged by Hitler, is saying the same thing when he says that we cannot go to God with our prayers? 

We cannot initiate the exchange, he says. 

But God, through grace, can speak to us.

Mostly, however, God only does that when we are quietly meditating on something such as a single verse of Scripture, which is what Bonhoeffer had his students do. 

In other words, what if Bonhoeffer had his students prepare themselves to hear God speak by becoming still, and by quietening their conscious minds, and by waiting? 

Waiting in that overlap zone, perhaps, as close to the unconscious as possible? 

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

190906 – Pure Energy

What if you were able to go deep, deep down into your unconscious mind, and you found that that is where mystical oneness lies?

And what if, when you got to the very end of your unconscious mind, you found that there is no end?

What if you found, instead, an infinite, pure energy, which some call God? And others, the white light of the universe? And others, the zero-point energy field?

And if you did find an energy like that, would it help you understand what Luke meant when he said that the kingdom of God is within you (17:21)?

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(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Being Rained Out Is OK

The Dock Area in the Waterton Townsite

Some people might enjoy photographing in the rain. But I’m not one of them.

I enjoy looking at the little splashes the rain makes on the water, but I don’t want any of those little splashes on my lens or camera.

Or me.

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I only got a few shots last Tuesday because of the rain. This is one of the few I like.

A mushroom, or something, in bison poop
I’m going to show discretion and not add a comment.

It rained ninety percent of the time, and I have a thing about getting rain on my glasses and on my camera equipment. I know it’s easy to dry my glasses, and my camera system is impervious to rain. I know that. So it’s not a physical thing I’m talking about here.

But it’s not a psychological thing either, Kowalski.

Besides, when I do get rained out like I did last Tuesday, it doesn’t bother me in the least, even though I may have driven over three hundred kilometers.

With the sound system in the car turned off, as usual, I simply drift into that magical zone where my little friend is waiting for me, that zone where my conscious mind and my unconscious mind overlap. I’ve talked about that little kid in earlier posts. Right?

In fact, the notes that kid brings me are far, far more important to me than my photos, although I certainly do love it when I hit that sweet spot with my camera and totally nail a shot.

And, of course, I always have my iPod’s voice recorder primed and ready for those notes.

Here’s one of the notes, for example, that the kid brought me on Tuesday, which I’ll definitely be able to use in my novel.

Sometimes I think of Socrates who says he is the wisest man in all of Athens because he is the only man in all of Athens who knows he knows nothing.

And Stephen Hawking says the same thing in A Brief History of Time. Hawking says today’s best science is nothing more than today’s best guess. And any of those guesses might have to change as early as tomorrow morning.

So when people believe they know the answers to some of life’s important questions, I smile. Because I know Socrates is smiling, and I know Stephen Hawking is smiling.

But when people believe they know the answers to a lot of life’s important questions, I become somewhat concerned.

Those people don’t realize there are no answers to life’s big questions. Just bigger questions.

In fact, the wiser and more knowledgeable they think they are, the more the opposite is true.

And some of those people might be the very ones who strap on explosive devices and sneak into malls or train stations somehow thinking that proves they’re right.

That note is a perfect fit for Charlie, one of the main characters in my novel. He’s not too keen on people who believe they are wise and that they have most of the answers. He much prefers people who wonder, people who keep asking, What if? What if? What if?

Charlie’s big on philosophy and science, and philosophers and scientists see a world of difference between believing and knowing.

In addition, both philosophers and scientists believe we know very, very little. Lots of paradigms and hypotheses and theories, but very little knowledge.

So getting rained out on Tuesday segued into at least four plusses.

First, that little kid was able to find me and bring me that note, as well as others, from my unconscious.

Second, I didn’t have to dry my glasses or my camera.

Third, since I didn’t get out of the car and walk around in the grass, I didn’t have to worry about being tick-infested.

And fourth, I did get a couple photo out the window of the car, with the foot of my telephoto lens resting a piece of foam, which I think might be keepers once I learn more about processing them properly.

See the raindrops on the water? That’s the townsite on Upper Waterton Lake.

Or am I simply rationalizing when I say it’s OK to be rained out? Am I simply trying to justify my tendency toward laziness? In his dialogues, Socrates also refers to the Delphic maxim, “Know thyself.” Is it possible I used the excuse of a light rain to ride around in the car all day, comfy and warm, and do nothing?

Too heavy. That’s a way too heavy. I’ll save those questions for another day.

Right now, it’s time for a nap.

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Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow.

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.

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(© 2017 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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How I Ready Myself

Waiting in the zone.

Waiting in the overlap zone.

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I mentioned in Post 3b, How I Suspect My Writing Takes Care of Itself, that I try to spend as much of my day as possible in that zone where my conscious mind and my unconscious mind overlap. That zone is where my most precious ideas come to me.

And those ideas often appear suddenly, when I’m on the treadmill, for example, or lifting weights, or out driving, or just sitting quietly and looking out at our trees moving in concert with the high winds that sometimes come to us from the mountains.

But I have to be ready for those ideas. That’s my job. I like to think of it this way:

A little kid comes running up out of my unconscious with a note for me. But he doesn’t see me, and he’s come as far as he dares.

Finally, he turns and goes back.

I was reading, perhaps, or visiting with someone, or listening to music, or working on my budget for the month. I was mostly in my conscious mind.

If I had been in the overlap zone, though, he could have given me that note.

But I failed him. And I failed myself.

Before I go any further, however, let me say really clearly that I’m describing what helps keep me ready to write. I am not suggesting what I do would work for anyone else. I only know that it works for me.

OK. Here’s how I try to stay in that magical zone. I base everything I do on two quotations, which I keep before me at all times. Nietzsche says it is absolutely essential, if you wish to lead a worthwhile life, that you fully commit to one thing and to one thing only. Not two. Just one.

And Tolstoy says exactly the same thing. In Anna Karenina, he has Constantine say that a worthwhile life consists in choosing only one of the innumerable possibilities that life offers and then committing, wholeheartedly, to that one choice.

Yes to the one. No to the many. Always. And for me that means no newspapers, no magazines, no radio, no television, no music, no vacations, and no leaving the house, if possible, other than Tuesdays when I head out somewhere to photograph – with the sound system in the car turned off.

Involvement with any of these distractions immediately rips me out of that overlap zone where I want to be and where I need to be. Because if I’m not there, waiting, I end up missing that little kid with all his notes.

So throughout the day I always have my fountain pen and my trusty red Moleskine right beside me, just in case. And when I’m out driving I have Voice Notes on my iPod cued up and ready to go, just in case.

I even have a waterproof notebook stuck to the wall of the shower, just in case.

“The readiness is all.”

I truly do believe my unconscious mind is most of who I am. And by far the most important part. And if I ever begin to disconnect from my unconscious mind, I believe I would begin that horrific slide into what Viktor Frankl calls the existential vacuum.

All of this readiness, this commitment to one thing and to one thing only, is especially crucial, of course, in the two hours between my getting out of bed in the morning and my sitting down to write. And also during my three to four hours of writing.

I’m very protective of that time. I would never consider opening my emails, or answering the phone, or responding to a knock at the door.

But my evenings are quite different. My wife and I have a wonderful Blue Ray DVD player, a humongous Samsung screen, wireless Sennheiser headphones, and a few shelves of classic movies. And in the evenings, when we’re not playing cribbage, we sometimes fire up one of those movies.

But even then, I still have my red Moleskine on the floor right beside me.

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How I Suspect My Writing Takes Care of Itself

This Is a -31° C Sunrise

It’s good to be back indoors. It was -31° C this morning when I took this photo.

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In my first post, Getting Started, I talked about the prohibitive cost, for me, of hiring an editor. But I have an even greater concern about editors than the cost.

My concern ties in with Chandler’s notion that writers only need to ready themselves, then wait, and the magic of writing will begin to happen on its own.

I think he may be saying what many, if not most, writers have been saying for centuries. Ideas come to them from somewhere. Creative writing, they say, is not primarily a conscious, lockstep process.

The ancient Greek and Roman writers, for example, believed their creativity came from divine spirits, which they called Daemons, or Geniuses, or Muses. Those guardian spirits guided them as they wrote. Sometimes they understood the spirits as an inner voice, sometimes as an outer voice, and sometime as both.

Today we realize the ancients were speaking metaphorically. They had no choice. They were trying to explain the inexplicable.

And writers ever since have been speaking metaphorically, as well. They still have no choice. They still don’t understand exactly where their ideas come from. But the ideas do come, nonetheless.

It is not surprising today when writers say their characters often create themselves, in part at least, and then often take on a life of their own. And when their characters do that, they can take their novel in directions the writers had not anticipated.

When that happens, they say their job is to stay out of the way, and to quietly and unobtrusively observe the interactions of their characters while writing everything down, almost as if they were taking dictation. Back to the Greeks and Romans, right?

And back to Chandler: That magic will happen, if you’re ready.

But how does that happen? Where do the ideas come from?

There are probably as many answers to those questions as there are writers. But I believe my ideas come from my unconscious. I also believe my unconscious is most of who I am. My conscious mind is only the proverbial tip, a very small tip, and it has no idea what the rest of me, down below the surface, is doing.

Nietzsche, my main hero, says that by far the greatest part of our spirit’s activity remains unconscious and unfelt. And the thinking that does rise to the conscious level is only the smallest part of that activity.

I agree. I don’t even think today’s social neuroscientists with their fMRIs could find me down there, although they might spot the odd footprint in the sand and maybe even a discarded apple core.

Many of the scientists I’ve been reading lately, who study how our minds work, no longer accept the Freudian or Jungian assertions that the unconscious contains the things we’ve forgotten, as well as all the bad things that have happened to us and all the things we’re afraid of that we’ve buried there.

Nor do they believe, as Freud and Jung did, that we can access that unconscious realm through some form of willing, or meditation, or therapy.

But they still do believe everything that happens at the conscious level has its roots in the unconscious.

I like all that. I also like the notion that there is no hard line separating the conscious from the unconscious. Instead, there’s a zone, sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, where the two overlap. And I believe my most precious ideas come to me only when I am in that zone.

In my next post, What Could Happen If I Let Someone Else Edit My Novel, I’m going to explain why I’m concerned about what might happen to those gifts from my unconscious if I hire a professional editor. And in Post 5b, How I Ready Myself, I’m going to share with you how I try to keep myself in that overlap zone for as much of my day as possible.

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