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•January 31, 2019 • Leave a Comment

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The Lethe Cycle Blog 1: Monomyth and Moue

•December 27, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Storytelling is a specifically human process in which we effect the singularity of our existence into a universality that might be cultivated and reciprocated by other human beings. American literature professor and Mythologist Joseph Campbell espoused the concept of a monomyth in the mid twentieth century. The monomyth is specific in elucidating normalities in the narrative mode – that is to say, pointing out that there is a pattern to how we tell stories. Incuriously recondite, many that do know of Dr. Campbell’s work know of him only through his influence on George Lucas’s Star Wars.

One of the more poignant (and critical) moments in my pedagogy was an October morning in 2003. It was Alabama warm in my senior English class. Puberty inflicted us with a certain moue, our eyes groused with PT exhaustion. We were reading Hamlet, and there was a certain point at which my teacher slammed his book on the desk in frustration to a missed allusion. “If you speak and read English, and are ignorant of the Bible, you don’t know how to speak or read English.” His injunction was, of course related to Shakespeare’s prolific use of Biblical typology in his works.

My teacher, was of course, correct. While one might disagree with the Bible, there is no disagreeing with the enormity of its impact on our culture. But storytelling preceded the Bible – story-telling preceded the written word.  Story-telling preceded the Jaynesian Bicameralism that purported humanity’s self-awareness, and saw man first reflect on his own face and own actions in the still, mirrored waters of his own mind. This is the heart of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth.

This is the story of a universality that contends and coexists with the self. (One should be feeling specifically Jungian right now.) In the grand scheme of cosmic physics, we are drawn to storytelling for a specifically few number of reasons.  Personally, I am inclined that all these reasons and peculiarities distill to one entity: to be human, is to need to believe in something. Whether that need to believe manifests itself in the subtle beauty of mathematics, the harmonic sorrow of music, the magnificent panorama of art, the hopeful beauty of faith, the otorhinolaryngological phenomenon of writing – or anything else, it is there as surely as the trillion synapses of chemical lightning within our minds.

As a writer I am specifically interested in this second to last phenomenon. I say phenomenon, for that is what writing is. Writing is a specifically unique medium, in which the normalities of the senses are engaged by little squiggles and scratches on paper. (To say little of those anointed with specific powers of blending, such as is experienced in synesthetes.)  Moreover, as a writer who is endeavoring to tell a story, I am profoundly interested in it as it relates to the human experience.

In a finite chemical system, collision increases in proportion to molecular density. Dr. Campbell’s monomyth is precisely a monomyth because of this self-determined chaos: we tell and retell stories of the same strain because we inhabit a shared system. Our minds are little molecules interacting with other molecules. My senior English teacher’s molecule bumped into mine – and mine into Dr. Campbell’s, and through a profoundly unforeseen set of reactions has resulted in a story that will encompass three entire novels at the very least.

The story is, of course, about people and their relationships. It is set in the future (so you may call it science fiction), it draws from mythologies, (so you may call it fantasy), is written to instruct (you could call it educational), and is written in observation of a great many contemporary things (a commentary). In the coming weeks I intend to extrapolate on this latter piece through further blog entries.

I have no broad goal in mind for this series so much as a specific set of articles I desire to discuss. There will be articles about my personal influences, about the fleeting but entirely necessary micro-moments of hyper self-awareness that allows me to exist in two worlds: to place one foot inside my characters as well as towards my mailbox simultaneously, but most importantly, I want to discuss why I’m writing this story.

I want to be able to answer: how did the story start out as two, independent stories? How did a series of philosophical dialogues and a painter in Imperialist Russia become something else entirely? What do I expect out of this? What am I learning from this. Ultimately, why now? (that, perhaps, is the least problematic and most intuitive of the entries that can be written, but as it is the most specific it might prove qualitatively difficult to write.)

I did not set out writing this entry with the intention of taking Campbell steps through an Alabama classroom of Hamlet and exposition, but I arrived here anyway. The story, like my life, has been much the same.

As Tolkien opined in the writer’s specific omniscience and complete ignorance: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

See you next time.

The Long Run

•November 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

There is a certain solipsism to the long run. Ask any serious runner what day of the week their life revolves around, and much like many Americans the answer is almost unanimous – Saturday.

But it’s for a different reason. The Long Run.  There’s more to it than the name, though. There’s an almost mystical appreciation of its effect on a runner’s life – so much so that many runners approach it ritualistically, eschewing a late night Friday life in favor of winding down early in eager anticipation of an early morning.

The alarm goes off, half a sandwich, a few light muffins, or a bagel with peanut butter are devoured– and the communion proceeds apace. (Don’t worry, Baptists, only some runners carry alcohol with them.) Some runners run in groups, others solicit the magnanimous solitude of their own minds – using the time to think critically about events on hand, perhaps solve a few problems the week had them too stressed to figure out. (Ask me not how something as intentionally torturous as running for 3 hours engenders critical thinking, but that’s part of the magic.)  Many people use it as a chance to escape from life. Like a sudden road trip that leaves the family perplexed by a sudden and unanticipated event. “You’re going WHERE?!”

Of course to non-runner’s the response is, universally, “You’re running HOW far?”

Really, runners don’t tend to think in miles any more than the road tripper. It’s not the destination, per say (one always ends up back at home. There is a philosophical one of course, but I digress), but the experience.

The only thing I really think runners tend to think about before and during the long run is: “How hot will it be/what’s the humidity, where are my water stations, and how many carbohydrates do I need to carry with me?”

Not slices of bread. Though, if we can figure out how to distill german rye down to gu plasma and add cinnamon swirls, I’m in.

Someone create a kickstarter.

Perhaps the long run is a bit munchausen.  Many runners appreciate and respect their long run like some vague, irrevocable illness. Of course, it’s a hobby, but to many it’s a hobby that is, well, abnormal. After all, who makes a habit out of giving up Friday night, getting up in the pre-dawn darkness of glorious Saturday, and running for hours on end? (Did I mention you tend to want to spend the rest of the Saturday plastered to the couch, almost questioning one’s ritualized addiction to an activity that always ends in exhaustion and discomfort as your spoon deracinates a helpless jar of peanut butter?)

To me, the long run is a quasi-spiritual ekdysis. Hence the communion imagery. It’s a great way of getting away. Not from people, sure that’s part of it, but from my own mind. That math problem that was eating away at you? Probably solved. Grand unified theory? Probably not, but it was considered somewhere after the third water stop as hypoglycemia was setting in.

After all, you have to be somewhat mental to do what we do.

At this point I’ve rambled on enough.  My own ritual is beginning: water and gu are packed in the car. My route is (somewhat) planned, and my alarm is set for an unlawful hour.

In a few hours I’ll be unconscious, and as soon as that alarm goes off I’ll amble to my altar of sweat and figure out things from there.

 
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