Sunday, November 25, 2012

Deeper Into The Narrative

It's taken a long time, but I've finally digested some of the advice I got from an editor on how to improve this story, Aurora's Dreams. I have been afraid of revealing too much character. I was trying to establish archetypes without describing the lives of these characters in much detail. I've changed my mind. I was afraid of becoming too autobiographical, but story is what readers come for, and I know I must give it to them. It's surprising though. The deeper I go into the narrative the more difficult (read, painful) it gets. I guess that's good on some level.

So here is the first part of a newly written scene that reveals a bit more about the life of Sunny, the Fat Whore of Babylon.

The jangling ring of the telephone woke her with a start and blindly, she reached for the handset. It was “Stormy” the famous madam Sunny sometimes worked for. Stormy had a light, yet cajoling way about her that was very hard to refuse.  “Sunny, how are you darling? Keeping busy?” Sunny’s head felt heavy, her thoughts crawled like thick honey soaking through stodgy pudding, her eyes refused to open. “Mmm, I’m fine, thank God. How about yourself Stormy?” “You know me, never a dull moment, but I can’t complain… Listen, how would you like to do a little job for me? It would mean a lot, you see it’s a very special client and you’re the only one I trust with my special ones. OK?”

Sunny was feeling too tired to negotiate the terms. She didn’t realise that she’d agreed to anything when Stormy said, “Fine, he’s at a place across town and he’s waiting, and I haven’t got a driver so call a cab, get yourself in the shower and get over there. I’ll tell him you’re on your way, OK honey? That’s my Sunny!” Sunny was sitting up by now and only as she wrote down the address did she realise what she had agreed to do. The client was a new guy, and judging by his hotel, an out of towner. She fought to push down the fears that were rising in her stomach. She called the cab and stumbled towards the shower. It was only ten o’clock in the morning for God’s sake!

The cab ride seemed to take forever. It was almost eleven when she knocked on the door. She roused a smile and hoped for the best. The door was opened by a tall, skinny, weathered man in his late fifties wearing work shorts, an old fashioned cotton short sleeved shirt and dark socks. A farmer from the country. His wiry arms and deeply lined face had the look of a dry river bed. His pale eyes darted one way and another, squinting as the sunlight entered the room. That was the last time she saw his eyes. 

Sunny introduced herself, he didn’t reply, instead he headed to the bed and lay down on top of the covers. “How are you today?” she said as she moved toward the desk. “You’re late. I’ve been waiting since ten o’clock! I’ve got things to do today!” he complained. Momentarily taken off guard Sunny apologised, “I’m sorry, I came as quickly as I could. There was no driver and the taxi took ages to find my place…” He cut her off, “I’ve got a good mind not to pay for this kind of service, get on with it!”

She felt a lump in her throat and her mouth went dry. It was hard to speak but she had to bring up the money.

“Did Stormy say how much it was?”

“Yeah, $60, the money’s on the table. Should be half price at this rate…”

Sunny saw the cash as she got down to her underwear as quickly as she could and placed her clothes on the back of the chair. He was still lying on his back with his clothes on and his eyes closed. She was afraid that if he didn’t pay her she’d have paid the taxi and would still have to pay Stormy. She had to calm him down and make sure he got what he wanted.

She would dream of going to America, not to find her father, he could rot in hell for all she cared; she would be taken away from all this dirt and desperation by a wonderful man who would adore her and take pity on her.

She lived for music and so she sought out the music of America, jazz, as a wistful traveller might read about far away places. America sang a siren song that reached out to her through the unmistakable voice of Billy Holliday. Those sad songs struck a chord deep within her even if she couldn’t understand every word. She drank in every drop of pain, cried every tear and then, slowly, wiping her eyes and brushing back her hair, lifted up her head in defiance.

I haven't written the conclusion to that scene. I have to work up the nerve. Maybe next week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Leaving the Village Behind

Have you ever felt alone in a crowd, isolated though you are the centre of attention? Have you longed for social success, fame, status, only to be disillusioned when you found yourself obliged to subscribe to a club whose members didn't really know you? Have you experienced joy while still searching for truth? Worldboy feels like this. He needs to replenish his spirit, unfortunately he doesn't get the nourishment he needs from those around him. He needs to escape to the country. He's going crazy at this party, it's too loud, it's too late, there are too many people needing his attention, too many people shaking his hand, placing their hands on his shoulder demanding that he smile back.

The misty, quiet, dark forest is calling him.

The story of Worldboy is a long traveller’s tale about escapism. He is not really going anywhere in particular; rather he is running away. He is an astronaut, the ultimate runaway. The classic runaway story always ends in Hollywood and Worldboy knows he’s a star. Sadly, this story often ends in loneliness and ruin too.

Why is he running away? Essentially, because as a child, his boundaries were violated. He was manipulated, stripped of his right to essential privacy and respect. His parents didn’t give him the space to grow into his own person, unmolested, unpunished, confident and yet still open. So he disappeared into a black hole in his mind only to emerge much later as a remote, unreachable star.

He is beautiful and talented but he is more the magician than the artist because he is afraid of his own original gifts and would rather play with perceptions and manipulate reality than put his true self under the spotlight. Sadly this myth making leaves him suffering a sense of unreality, that no one really knows him. All the applause and appreciation is valueless because he knows that he has cleverly manipulated his audience with mirrors, showing them only a brilliant reflection of themselves. He is not really the star skipping down the yellow brick road; he is the shy, fearful man behind the curtain, manipulating the machinery.

Nobody knows him, though they might think they do, and he feels he’s lost touch with himself. He feels as though he’s in an endless orbit, his feet never touch the ground. He’s been everywhere but he’s going nowhere. His endless travelling and vast knowledge of the world have inspired him and filled his heart with beauty and his mind with wonder, which he longs to share with someone but is too afraid to. His being so out of reach has become a trap. Having once had his privacy violated, he has locked the door and thrown away the key. He hates to be pinned down, to commit to someone. He is shy of obligations, careless and distrustful. He’ll make you wait, he’ll make excuses, he’ll be delightful but evasive. He is an actor and to him, you are mere scenery. He perceives other people as weak and needy so he tears away their clutching hands and shrugs off their embraces. You will soon find he has discarded you like old clothes. He is numb; to you he seems cold or selfish. He is vain but self-conscious. Beauty and luxury are the fuels that keep him going. He loves beautiful things, spends a lot but saves little. He values what is superficial because he hates his need for love. In space no one can hear you scream. Joy that is only ever experienced alone dissolves into bitter tears and poisons the soul.

If The Defender, The Hollow Man, is a narcissist, then grandiose is perhaps a word that would apply to The Star. He doesn’t mean to be cruel but eventually he drifts away or people drift away from him. Escapism is the theme; isolation and a sense of unreality are his main complaints. He voraciously consumes experiences and excitement to feel something. He has trouble respecting your boundaries, yet he is nervous of being touched. He has a body image that is unrelated to the state of his body at any given moment and his weight and level of fitness has varied markedly over time. Mostly he feels detached from his body and wishes he were somebody else. He will fail at tasks ordinary folk find quite easy, since they respect routines and deadlines. To earn his affection you will have to pass many tests of your patience and forgiveness, he doesn’t believe you when you compliment him. He is always aware of all your faults and imperfections and will subtly remind you of them. On the other hand, if you work for him and you do exactly as he asks, devoting yourself tirelessly to achieving the best in what you do, he will adore you. He likes nothing better than top class service and is very appreciative when you have done a great job. Let him down, though, and he will never forget it. He doesn’t like to be second-guessed and hates surprises. Kindness surprises and embarrasses him. If he allows himself any introspection he will admit to feeling frozen. He has emotional stage fright. He is afraid of allowing you to really know him because he believes he has nothing to offer, (and he will be abused or abandoned again), so he prefers to act as though nobody is good enough for him.

Having suffered emotional manipulation and violation of his boundaries as a child The Star must make a commitment to pass beyond his obvious limitations. Escape is taking you away from mindfulness. It is delaying your progress. You need effective strategies to ask for what you need rather than manipulating other people, for saying no rather than lying or misleading other people, and for coping with interpersonal conflict while maintaining suitable personal boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others.

“Share the Joy” means find what you truly value in the world, and what is original and good in yourself and offer it to others without expecting anything in return, but just for the simple pleasure of openness and joyous intimacy. Use the technique of mindfulness to examine how you feel and what you truly value. (Recognise your needs and boundaries). This will take you in the opposite direction from everywhere you’ve ever been before, so it will be difficult and uncomfortable for you. Your mindfulness may last only for a second or two. You will try to escape again. Persist and you will be able to gradually tolerate longer periods of mindfulness before you are defeated by the pain. The commitment you must make is to know your boundaries and develop the self-confidence to commit to yourself and commit yourself to others rather than letting your fears control you and isolating yourself from others.”

The Moon’s lesson for us is:

Value what is real. Don’t be superficial. Vanity, envy and escape are self-defeating. Gain by sharing your true inner beauty and true genius with those who can appreciate it. Use your creativity for genuine good. You are truly original, so develop the sensitivity to inspire and manage others in a way that elevates them and brings honour to yourself. Don’t be condescending, seek out the gifts others have to offer. Stand for truth; leave liars alone. Develop genuine attachments. Value your gifts; they came from the Sun. Your joy will make you beautiful. Those who share in it will honour you.

You may be surprised to find that your gifts are not what you thought they were. You may have to apologize for your dishonesty and jealousy. If you have learned from The Defender to be authentic, you will find it easier to know what is of value in your life and experience. You will need skills to help you distinguish what is genuinely valuable in yourself and your life from what is a deception or a distraction. You will also need to apply these skills to others so that you are not wasting your efforts in trying to appeal to, or accommodate, those who don’t value your gifts and your originality. You do not need to be ashamed of what makes you different and unique. Conformity is not a virtue. Practice visualizing yourself how you would like to be. Begin by abandoning the things that have become obstacles to your achieving this vision. Perhaps you have invested too much commitment in the negative beliefs you hold for yourself and others. Changing your belief system is the first step towards changing your life. Become open to new possibilities. Commit to doing things differently. It’s what you do that counts.

It is a risk to hoist your flag and declare your commitment to something or someone. Risk it. Stand for once, naked in the spotlight without your tricks and special effects, and if need be, suffer the slings and arrows. Then don’t be afraid to reach for the ring, climb to the higher ground, don’t be content to be a crowd pleaser, stake a claim on something and risk it all. If you hear the sound of applause, even if it’s just one person, know that you deserve it. You are unique; give that gift to someone. With confidence you can be open; be vulnerable, (since you have established your boundaries), and you will be beautiful. The most beautiful thing you can do is to humbly place yourself before another and honour them with the gift of all your life experience, giving them the appreciation you had only ever given to all the beautiful objects you found throughout your journeying. Standing there, unadorned, let them touch you, for if they find you beautiful, they will take you in their arms, silently, without a word of flattery and you will not run away.

Yet the forest still calls you. To ascend to the next level, to become The Adventurer, Endymion, the hunter, the Moon's favourite, you must choose freely to leave the village and take the road into the forest, not to escape, but on a quest of discovery, not to return to the castle at the centre of the village until you have acquired the spiritual gifts hidden within the forest. The strength and wisdom you will need will be bestowed upon you by Selene, The Moon.

You will become Moonchild, Endymion, The Moon's cherished lover and a shepherd, an immortal reader of the stars, a nocturnal child of the heavens. This is your next adventure.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Golden Calf

Last weekend Marco, The Hollow Man indulged himself at an expensive spa retreat after an arduous year of work. He enjoyed the gourmet meals and fond attentions of his hosts. By Sunday morning, after a sauna, he was sufficiently relaxed to plunge into the swimming pool and emerge refreshed and happy.

Drying himself beside the pool which overlooked the city sprawled out below, an object caught his eye. It was something he'd not seen before. A metal sculpture of a deer stood at the water's edge looking back at him. A chill flowed through him. It reminded him of a recurring dream featuring idolatrous statues of golden calves. In the dream the animals were set upon by a rioting crowd.

Marco asked himself, what was the meaning of this icon? Guilt, was his first emotion, then he thought some more. Had he committed a sin? He thought not. The Golden Calf and similar sculptures represent the false Gods of riches and indulgence. They also have another meaning, one that is more subtle and more threatening to the good of one's soul. Unlike Marco, Worldboy is sophisticated and wise enough not to put much of his trust in worldly possessions. He views them as means to an end. Yet he is still quite vulnerable to the hidden temptations of the Golden Calves.

His brother in spirit, Marco, is more cynical, and would trade a friend for the chance to escape with a few pieces of silver or gold. It's not so much that he loves money, he needs money to support the artificial world he lives in. He respects the power of wealth. Sadly he doesn't believe himself to be worthy of the same respect and so he desires to cloak himself in the attributes of success to trade on the respect of others.

This attitude leads us to the hidden, and more dangerous temptation symbolised by the Golden Calves. This is the temptation of class. The Hollow Man, and even Worldboy are particularly susceptible to this enticement. This is Marco's greatest weakness. He longs to infiltrate the highest levels of society where he might enjoy approval, praise, generosity and comfort in a world far above his station. He will do whatever is required to conform to the expectations of his superiors, but not having their breeding or training he will eventually fail and be found out as a fraud. His downfall will be swift and tragic.

On the other hand, as Worldboy he can skate across this thin ice with relative ease because he does not believe in deep relationships and using his brilliant mind and humour; he can keep his audience enchanted, while in this superficial thrall they are kept at bay. He will not face a challenge that might unmask him - until he violates their trust.

At this moment he will feel that it was he himself who was betrayed. He will be angry and yet fearful of rebuke and banishment. This will signal the pain and torment of a higher spirit, The Princess, but without her powers, he will succumb to his failure and it's punishment.

The temptation of the Golden Calf is Marco's desire for money and this path is a dangerous one for him. Yet should he be successful, he will transform himself into Worldboy, defeating this temptation, the longing for status and privilege that is at the core of his character. Depending on how he manages this crisis, he will be reborn or he will be banished and will have to work his way back into society as The Hollow Man.

Do not fear the Golden Calf. It is not something to be avoided. Indeed it represents a gateway to the next level in your development. You must view it as a test. If you learn it's lessons you will be safe and you will advance to the next level; you will assume the power of the next spirit. If you fail, you will be banished from this life of privilege and revert to a lower spiritual plane, where you will struggle once more to learn the lessons and overcome the challenge presented to you at that level. Those who are not ready to pass this test will not pass through the gateway. Those who are ready will earn respect and assume a new life at a higher plane. In either case, the right choice will have been made.

When faced with the splendor of the Golden Calf, do not resile from it, approach it as a gift, with humility. You will be welcomed with open arms by those people who truly have earned their success, who exemplify the values of a higher class. By becoming authentic, honest, humble yet forthright, you will achieve a position of respect in their world. Never sabotage your position by lying, cheating or betraying their trust. You will face this challenge repeatedly, even daily, so remember, the Golden Calf represents the vanity of these false gods, so the lesson you must learn is integrity, authenticity, humility and self-discipline. This is a challenge that can not be avoided if one is to progress to the next level.

I would wake from my recurring nightmare of the Golden Calves in a cold sweat with a sickening feeling in my stomach. Last weekend beside the pool that feeling returned, but now I know not to be afraid or ashamed. I understand the challenge ahead of me and I see through the veil of vanity.

The Greek Gods

The Moon is Aurora's inspiration throughout her story of reawakening. Until now I have not given her a name, I have just called her The Moon. The Greeks had a name for the moon. She was a goddess who fell in love with a mortal earthling, naturally. Her name was Selene, the name of my best friend when I was young. So from now on I shall use that name in the story of Aurora.

In Aurora's tale the boy most beloved of The Moon, Selene, I simply called Moonchild. He was indeed her favourite, her nocturnal spiritualist who wandered in the woods and forests, who was at one with the animals and who was tragically misunderstood and abused by his parents and the rest of humankind. He was so lonely that he looked to her for protection and guidance. He bathed in her soft light and divined her inspired direction as guidance for his progress. I may have failed to mention that Moonchild was always to remain a boy. He will never grow up, so he is immortal.

This was a gift from Selene. The name given to Moonchild by the Greeks was Endymion. He was a beautiful boy who was both a hunter and a shepherd. He spent his nights guarding the sheep and watching the sky. These days we might describe him as an astronomer, such was his interest in and knowledge of the heavens. He was the first person to describe the phases of the moon. He is rumoured to have seduced his object of desire by laying on a white sheep skin that he cast upon a grassy slope one clear night. Selene was drawn to the white glow of the sheepskin and finding the beautiful, naked Endymion reclining there, she fell in love.

Endymion loved her so much that he never wanted to be parted from the silvery Selene, so he asked her to grant him one wish. He asked for eternal youth and immortality, though he would live the rest of his life asleep, communing with her only at night when his nocturnal world came alive beneath her soft rays.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sunny's Imperative

The character I have called Sunny, The Sinner, is the first of Aurora's spirits. She is first because her primary imperative is repentance, contrition, confession. Repenting means dealing with shame. Her pathway, her life story is nothing if not a course of uncovering shame. Without dealing with shame, no progress can be made.

Here is an interesting blog by Frank Chimero about the rising consciousness of shame.

It always feels like there’s a comedian willing to address contemporary concerns with insight and honesty for each moment in time. All the greats had their focus: Richard Pryor and Chris Rock had race, George Carlin had absurdity, and I think Louis has hit on some sort of subterranean undercurrent of emotion that I didn’t realize might be swelling until I listened more closely: shame.

Laughter is a way of uncovering shame, but really dealing with the cause of shame is necessarily painful. Like peeling a dressing off a wound, uncovering shame will hurt, but this is the way to a cure.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Hollow Man writes to Leo

Today I had a meal at a restaurant at the summit of a hill high above Whale Beach, one of Sydney's picturesque northern beaches. The morning sunlight reflected brilliant white off the broad expanse of the Pacific. Frothy waves licked the sand far below reminding me of the view from 36 floors above Surfers Paradise that I shared with Leo.

After a sumptuous breakfast I flicked my phone and found an email I had written to Leo after he'd returned to Argentina.

I had the apartment cleaned today. I'm sure the agent will be happy with it. Today I was very busy because it was my last day at work and I had to get my remaining customers' paperwork completed before the end of the day. In the end I was pleased with the number of sales I made here in the Gold Coast. My boss wanted me to stay longer but couldn't get it approved. But now I am glad to be leaving. It's not the same for me now.
When I came home I cooked turkey breasts with potato and peas. I thought of you and our delicious dinners together. I miss you like hell! It's surprising. I look at the surf, I play with your orange "Smiley Face", I hear music, I clean the oven, I wash your sheets and towels, I see your keys on the table, I want to text you through the day, I watch the sky at night, and especially the moon, and I want to turn around and see you. In the morning it seems so strange to boil the water for my coffee and know that you can't hear it and know that when I look towards the study I see the stupid blue sofa and not the curve of your sleeping back. I'm surprised by the way this makes me feel a tightness in my guts.
I realise that I lived a long time without having a friend like you. I now know how empty such a life would be without a friend. I thought I didn't need to care. But I do. You made me care, and respect and listen and learn and enjoy and share. Thank you.
I remember telling you that I could afford to live in the apartment alone, but I wanted to share it because living with someone was more "human". Perhaps I didn't notice at the time, but you made me more human.
I wish you happiness, safety, freedom, creativity and love.

I felt I'd just been slapped on both sides of my face, once by Marco's neediness and once by his generous love. His feelings seem more real than my own right now.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Worldboy at Home - a Temporary Eden

This is the global paradise, the tainted garden of eden, where worldboy makes his temporary home. Click on the images for full panoramas from the video "The Feast of Trimalchio" by Russian video artists AES+F.

Search for the video "The Feast of Trimalchio" in 3 parts on YouTube. The piece premiered at the 2009 Venice Biennale and is now showing in Australia.