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Feel like crap for no good reason today. Trying to grind through because there's a lot of stuff I want to get done and there will always be things trying to prevent me from doing them, so when those things are my own internal bad wiring I can at least say "no" to that.

Through a roundabout path I recently happened upon Gretchen Rubin's concept of "four tendencies" and discovered that, true to form, I have the rarest and most problematic tendency, that of "rebel." The tendencies are based on how you respond to expectations, whether internal or external.

  • Upholders respond strongly to both internal and external expectations. They tend to be sticklers for the rules, but also self-motivated and with a moral code that can override the outer laws and traditions of the world around them. Hermione Granger is listed as an archetypal upholder; I'm not sure if I actually know any personally.

  • Questioners respond strongly to internal expectations, but not so much to external ones. They always want a satisfactory explanation for anything– if they don't think there's a valid reason to follow a rule or complete a project, they won't. [personal profile] laurierobey falls into this category. I suspect Sirfox is as well, but it's harder to tell.

  • Obligers respond strongly to external expectations, but not so much to internal ones. These are people who can stick to an exercise regimen if they've got a buddy or a class, but will immediately stop as soon as nobody's "checking up" on them. Sandy Rathbun was in this group, and I suspect so was Mammallamadevil.

  • Rebels do not respond well to external or internal expectations. They can be summarized as "You can't tell me what to do– and I can't tell me what to do either." Once they decide they want to do something, there's no stopping them, but until they want to do something, you can expect them to resist with all they've got. That includes things they decided a month ago that they wanted to do, but that they don't want to do right now, which can lead them to be just as frustrating to themselves as they are to the people around them. Like I say, I am a rebel. So is Hantamouse, which is simultaneously why the two of us get along and why the two of us fight.

There's a lot more to the framework than just this, and it's also just a tool, not some magical solution to figuring out personality quirks and interactions and things. But within the framework, I think there's some interesting insights.

I was at a presentation by Ms. Rubin, and I tried to ask (but didn't get called on), "If a rebel instinctively says 'no' to any expectation, even their own, how are they supposed to keep from eventually sliding into a Bartleby-esque catatonic state of just never wanting to do anything?" I hoped that her book might have an answer for that question, but I have since discovered that... no, not really. The book had very simplistic reverse-psychology suggestions along the lines of "I bet you can't lose 20 pounds in ten weeks!" Seriously? What am I, seven?

But this is a problem that I have found myself facing over the past few years since being effectively self-employed. I used to hate my day job fiercely, and come home to work on my writing/art/etc. with the zeal of a workaholic because it was what I wanted to do. Now, the writing/art/etc. is my day job, but instead of being energized and excited and kicking ass, I am now fighting with the constant desire to sleep all day or play video games or whatever else instead.

A devotee of the four tendencies would say that's my rebel nature, and it may very well be. But that just puts a label on it, it doesn't actually give me any tools to combat the problem.

I have contemplated going back to a day job just to give me something to channel my resentment back into other than my own work. But as I get older, I don't have the endurance I used to. That Starbucks job I had in late 2015 was only part time and still left me feeling dead most of the time. I can only imagine how wrecked I would be trying to go back to 40 hours of writing code or something similar at 6 am in the friggin' morning. I can't deny the pay would be better, but if it left me too tired to do my real work, it would be literally selling my soul.

I know that I am motivated by desire. Everything I've accomplished was because there was something I wanted to happen. I created Suburban Jungle because I wanted there to be a comic like Suburban Jungle for me to read. I wrote Sky Pirates of Calypsitania because I wanted to read a book like Sky Pirates of Calypsitania. But right now I'm in a mental and emotional spot where desire is hard to come by. Grief has damaged my ability to feel enthusiasm. Frustration has damaged my ability to feel hope.

So right now, I am operating on almost 100% pure stubbornness. Which is frankly exhausting. So I guess on reflection it's not quite so random a blugh, nor quite a case of feeling like crap for no good reason. I'm fatigued.

-The Gneech
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I spent the morning grinding my gears on this stupid question of the test in SF, and eventually looked at it this way:

BEST CASE SCENARIO: I ace the test, they call me to fly out to SF again in a couple of weeks for interview, and if I get hired we start frantically moving, for a civil service job which while it would pay the bills is unlikely to be exactly thrilling or remunerative in one of the top three highest-rent places on the meta-flipping PLANET, causing me to probably be job hunting again in six months.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: I run up more debt on the credit card, don't get the job, have to cope with another discouraging rejection, and am still grinding away on the job hunt.

DETERMINING FACTORS: Who knows? I might be their star candidate and the test is a formality, they're just not allowed to say so. Or like I said before, they might have a chosen candidate already and are just forced to go through the "we tested other candidates" dance. Without at least having a phone interview first, I'm going in completely blind.

So all of it was a roll of the dice, and historically, dice are not kind to me. It's a recurring joke in my gaming circles, actually, that I create these crazy twinked-out powergaming characters, only to be constantly foiled by my inability roll higher than 33% of the desired result. I've long ago given up betting on anything but the most stacked-in-my-favor odds, and even then I prefer the sure thing if it's available.

But the worst part of it all, honestly, was the feeling of desperation. Being so set on the idea of some job, any job, out in CA, that I'd be willing to hop on a plane blind to the outcome, is just inviting the bad wolf to come and bite me in the neck. So I e-mailed the job contact asking if they had any options for remote testing. She replied that they didn't, so I thanked her for the opportunity and withdrew my application.

She said, "I'm sorry to hear this," which is the most information I've received about it one way or the other, but I also note that she's not sorry enough to try to change my mind, either. And I also didn't get the information until it was too late for it to be useful, so... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Identifying that feeling of desperation was the clinching factor me, tho. Frankly? I'm tired of chasing things. Whether it's a job, or a book sale, or trying to get someone I like to hang out with me, whatever it is. The never-ending pursuit of ______, sometimes to the point of going down crazy mental rabbit-holes, has got to stop.

Universe, you can start chasing me, instead.

I still want to go to California, but I'm not going to tie myself into knots to do it. I'm going to keep applying to jobs that will get me there in style, but I'm not going to enslave myself to the idea in the meantime. If it's just a matter of paying the bills, I can find work around here (or work that does not require an office at all) that will do that in the meantime.

It's kinda what I was getting at a while back about "How would California Gneech actually be different?" There's no point in setting myself up to be living a life of quiet desperation on the left coast instead of the right coast. At the end of the day, the externalities of where I am have less to do with my development and state of mind than the internalities of who I am. Until I can find and maintain my own core without worrying about what's going on around me, moving to California is like changing the cosmic desktop wallpaper. It is prettier, but it doesn't actually make things better.

-The Gneech
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The devs working on my life have apparently gotten stuck on what's supposed to happen next, because I've been stuck grinding this same level for a year now.

It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say that no progress is being made: I'll soon have another issue of the comic out the door, and a new project officially launches on Monday. I am back down below 300 lbs and continuing to improve on that front. But the "waiting for _______ to get here" theme that has been a defining element of my life for way too much forever, is still there, and I am honestly pretty sick of it.

After conferring with all affected parties, California is waiting on the appearance of a job. To that end, I've been sending off applications, an average of 4-6 a week, and I have had some interviews, but the net result keeps being "We want someone with more formal experience." A story that I had thought was sold came back when the anthology it was sold to got cancelled; I immediately sent it off to another another anthology, but it was declined. I have received polite no-thank-you's from almost all the agents I sent the Sky Pirates book to, and the remaining ones I don't expect to hear from, meaning that to carry that any further, I'm going to have to go back to square one and find a whole new batch of agents to send it to... or write another book.

In LoA circles, the general advice is to act as if you've already got what you want, and life will arrange itself accordingly. So I've been trying to figure out: okay, if I could snap my fingers and just have the life I wanted today, what would actually be different? How would Fully Actualized Gneech in California look and act differently from Grinding Gneech in Maryland? What is it that I picture being different?

Unfortunately, the answer all seems to be in externalities. Sunnier days, being closer to the beach and being more active outside generally, more of my friends in one localized area, that kind of thing. But when I think about what's actually bugging me right now, it's mostly concerns about finances, worry about the piss-poor state of the country and the broken climate, and feeling isolated. The finances and the isolation I could theoretically fix here by finding a local job (and/or selling some friggin' books) and using to find some clubs or a gaming group or something. The country and the climate are larger, long-term problems that are going to be problems anywhere. I have been avoiding digging in locally because I don't want to have to dig back out whenever the theoretical California job appears... but that leaves me floating in limbo.

Honestly, if I could get around the money problem, the rest would fall naturally into place. Drawing comics and writing books are things I naturally do, those are my "vocation." Turning them into a source of comfortable income is the place where I always run into trouble. It was fine when [personal profile] laurie_robey was bringing in sufficient income for the both of us, but that isn't the case any more and we have to deal with that.

I think I need to go back and do a refresher on what I actually want my life to be like, the proverbial "ideal day" exercise, and do a little compare/contrast to figure out how it's different from my actual not-so-ideal life and why. Then I can refocus on concrete ways to move from the one, to the other.

-The Gneech
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From the Metaquotes LiveJournal Community...

"Why are you writing to your elected representative instead of seeking to overthrow a foreign government from your living room" is a question that I feel answers itself.

-The Gneech
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I woke up in the midst of a fierce mental debate, which I can only assume my brain was already having with itself while I was asleep, on the topic of how a society inoculates itself against memetic viruses. In particular, I'm thinking of the current kerfluffle in the furry community about quasi-fascist furry groups. [1]

Fascist ideas are best compared to a virus that infects tolerant societies. The same way an actual virus uses your own body's mechanisms to invade and destroy, fascist ideas use the mechanisms by which oppressed or disenfranchised groups in a tolerant society claim their civic liberties, to co-opt, overtake, and destroy those liberties for everyone else.

A story I recently encountered (now lost to the vagaries of the internet, because there's been so much churn) illustrated this perfectly. Someone who was a bouncer in London bars back in the '80s and '90s was explaining why they had a blanket "no skinheads" policy, and it boiled down to this: one or two skinheads would come into a bar, buy their drinks, and just sit quietly. Fine. Then a couple more would come in and sit with them. Then a few more. And as long as they didn't get kicked out, they'd keep coming in until there were eight or ten or more, and then they would start harassing the other bar patrons, spewing racial epithets and other hate, and from there it was either a fight or a police raid. So the bar would kick them all out and refuse to serve them.

Then it would be quiet for a while.

Then one day, one or two skinheads would show up and say, "Look man, I don't want trouble, I just want a drink." And, in a tolerant society, the inclination is naturally to say, "Yeah, that's reasonable, okay."

But then a couple more will come in and sit down...

And so it goes. So it has gone through pretty much all of recorded history. This is why so many people have a blanket policy of "Always punch nazis." Because you can punch nazis when there are a few of them, or punch nazis when there are a lot of them, but eventually, you will have to punch nazis.

So much for the tolerant left! WHAM

There are legit problems with this stance. It's too easy to just call everyone you don't like "nazi," just for starters. One reason I've always taken people to task for throwing terms like "fascist" and "nazi" around over the past decades is that the words lose their meaning. So in 2016, when we had actual, real, not theoretical fascists marching into power, people like me who objected to this were told again and again that we were overreacting. (SPOILER: We weren't.)

But the biggest legit problem with the "always punch nazis" stance (or "always ban skinheads" or whatever variant you employ), is a matter of logical consistency. On what basis can you say that it is not just all right but is in fact a moral imperative to ostracize fascism, that can't be then turned around and made into a tool of fascism?

I call this the Cake Conundrum. I.e., if I refuse to bake a nazi-flag cake, do I have a case to be upset when someone refuses to bake a cake for a gay wedding?

The answer here is yes, and I have a reason for that answer, but it is such a super-fine line of distinction that it's very hard to make work on a societal level, because it's all about context.

A gay couple getting married are, by definition, making a commitment on how they will conduct their own behavior, and live their own lives. Their choice does not threaten anyone else.

Fascism is built on the foundational idea of exalting one chosen group at the expense of all the rest. That is inherently a threat to the rights of everyone who is not a member of that group.

In a tolerant society, the former, even if it squicks you out, doesn't hurt other people, and therefore is legit. The latter, even if it gives you perks, hurts others, and therefore is not. [2]

This is why the term "hate speech" was coined, to give a name to this distinction between "things that are socially divergent but don't actually do harm" and "things that actually harm others." On a societal level, whether you prefer to snuggle guys or gals is no different from whether you prefer stuffing or potatoes. But if you want to ostracize, enslave, or kill other people? That is different.

It is a weird contradiction that the argument boils down to "It's okay to ostracize ostracizers." And I don't think it will ever stop seeming weird. But I don't see how you can have a functional and still free society without it.

Once again, it's like the virus model. Being intolerant of intolerance is the vaccination that prevents the virus of fascism from being able to invade and destroy.

-The Gneech

(Note: Comments closed because I have better things to do than listen to the usual trolls coming out of the woodwork and trying to distract, deflect, and distort. If you want to have an honest discussion on the topic, I can be reached through private channels.)

[1] Yes, there really are such things, as bonkers as it sounds. Forgetting for a moment the extreme cognitive dissonance of "I love fluffy adorable animals, and genocide!" I don't think I'll ever understand how "I've been ostracized and it feels bad..." translates into "And now I want to do it to everyone else!"

[2] There are people, and mind you I know 'em, who are like, "Eh, fascists aren't that bad..." These people are generally white, straight, and (almost always) male. In other words, "it's not a problem for me, therefore it's not a problem." This is the definition of privilege, and it really pisses them off when you say so. But it really pisses me off when I see it, so.
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The other day [personal profile] inkblitz posted a little thing about seasonal depression, which prompted a thought in my mind that I wanted to observe.

I've known Blitzy for something like five years now. We were thrown together by our online RP group but pretty much immediately clicked. And while the RP group is not the focus of either of our lives any more, the friendship has endured. By the standards of, say, high school or college friendships, we're practically blood brothers. But the thing is, we met as adults– in my case, as a middle-aged adult in particular. So for me, a period of five years, while nothing to sneeze at, still counts as being "recent developments."

When we met, I was still in the darkest parts of grief, and quite often depressed; during one of my conversations with Blitzy at the time, I said that having met me after my friends and family started dying left and right, so constantly mired in grief, in many ways he hadn't met "the real me."

But when did I stop being "the real me"? How long can an extended period of grief last before that is "normal"? My father died in 2011 after a long and stressful decline; Kerry died in 2013. I met Inkblitzer somewhere between those two events, and they've cast a long shadow ever since– as have the deaths of Sandy, FrostDemn, Buddha, my aunt Iris, and my mom, and the loss of our house and jobs of 15+ years, all in the same cluster. It's not like my grief was unwarranted. ¬.¬

But recently, something has shifted in me. I'm not sure exactly how, why, or when, although I did comment on it a little while back. I have started being myself again. I still miss everyone that I've lost, and it's not like I'm feeling peachy-keen about all the crap currently going on in the world, but there's an important internal difference.

I'm fine in the moment. I'm thinking about where I am and what I'm doing, instead of thinking about how much pain I'm in or what I've lost. The emotional wounds, as it were, seem to have scarred over. This manifests mostly in a better mood, a sunnier outlook, and a lighter, more playful approach to just about everything. I'm back to treating life like a party or an adventure, rather a slog that I have to just keep pushing through. When I think of "the real me," that's what I think of, the guy who wants to make everything more awesome, not the guy who is stubbornly refusing to give in and just sink to the bottom.

I mentioned to Blitzy that I was finally the real me again; he said, "I think I met the real you enough. At least at conventions. But yeah, I'm seeing more of convention you in general."

So I wonder. Maybe "the real me" isn't a fixed point, so much as an aggregation, and the me that was fighting through all that crap was "really" me too, me bearing the weight of what I was going through. But it still feels like being a different person.

-The Gneech
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How I Changed My Life by Remembering Who I Was Before the Pain

If you have a hard time believing in yourself, remember who you were before the world taught you to doubt yourself. Don’t see yourself through the eyes of those who didn’t see value in you. Know your worth even if they didn’t. All you need is already within you. You just have to dig deep and find it.

You are beautiful and worthy, and you are one decision away from creating the life you’ve always dreamed of living.

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My insurance has been consistently screwed up over the past year; that's still a vast improvement over the non-ACA options I had, which is to say, "No insurance so don't get sick, sucker."

In a fit of optimism, I arranged for a checkup, only to have the doctor's office inform me that the insurance I thought I had, I didn't, and therefore the blood test would be out-of-pocket (but reasonably affordable) and the doctor would quietly slip giving me my results via Laurie's checkup instead, since her insurance was not screwed up. (Thanks, doc! ^.^)

The results of the blood test were overall very good, except for one random elevated potassium result. According to what I've found online, the most common cause of elevated potassium is red blood cells bursting on the test slide– i.e., a false reading. Correspondingly, the doc wants to do a followup test... next month, after my insurance is (hopefully) fixed. The cause of real elevated potassium is kidney failure... but as all my other numbers are fine, that seems extremely unlikely.

Unfortunately, this isn't something I can just ignore, as elevated potassium levels are associated with heart arrhythmia (ding ding ding), and unchecked can lead to cardiac arrest. Since heart issues run in my family, and I've already had ablation surgery, I'm going to keep an eye on this.

The I's Have It

I had a followup with my counselor yesterday about inositol, which I've been taking to help with anxiety. (Short version: I think it has been, but mainly in as much as it's given me the oomph to do all that better-diet-and-exercise-and-get-things-done stuff, which itself relieves anxiety.) During the discussion, I randomly mentioned when Kimmie said I had an indigo aura.

My counselor got very excited about that. XD She asked me if I knew what "being an indigo" meant, and I told her that what I'd looked up online basically said, "Lead by example." She replied that was kind of a watered down version of it. Indigos, she sayeth, don't just lead by example, but come into the world to clear away old systems and old ways of thinking that no longer serve humanity, and to point the world in new directions. Thus, indigos tend to be artists, "big thinkers," or spiritual leaders. In short, we are akin to spiritual bulldozers.

That's a lot to lay on a guy who just wants to draw his silly animal comics and get some D&D in from time to time. XD

Counselor added that "there are a lot of indigo children being born right now" because we're going through a period of massive change. Not sure if this is backed up by polling data or what, but okay. But the thing that amused me the most is that she told me that there are "Indigo aura support groups."

Well, I mean, sure, of course there are, and more power to 'em. But I just had visions of people sitting in a circle saying, "Hi, I'm John, and I'm an indigo..." or purple-blue bumper stickers that say "My aura is not a choice!" Such things tickle me. But it also led me to wonder about the logistics of it all. If there are enough people out there to gather in groups, how did they all become aware of their status as indigos? Are they self-assessed? Did they all have random encounters with psychics? If you don't see auras, how do you know what your aura is?

I'unno. But it's fun to play with.

-The Gneech
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I have a lot to be grateful for today, and I want to make a note of it.

I am grateful...
  • ...for the opportunity to apply for a job at a company where a friend works and might be able to put in a good word for me.

  • ...for hearing back on a different job that is considering me for a position.

  • ...for unexpected money in the mail.

  • ...for all the help, love, and support I get from [personal profile] laurie_robey.

  • ...for all the help, love, and support I get from friends and fans.

  • have friends I love, respect, and admire in return.

  • have been alive and witnessed the Obama administration.

  • ...for new people coming to my stream, and returning people I haven't seen in years.

  • have ideas, plans, energy, and the skill to carry out my new business ventures in 2017.

  • ...for being healthy, even as my insurance keeps being messed up.

  • have had and enjoyed a rare treat (for me) for breakfast, and another for lunch, and still ended the day under points. ;)

  • ...for computers, a workspace, and art materials that enable me to create work that I and others enjoy.

  • ...for my adorable cats.

There's more, like lots more, but I'm getting sleepy and want to go to bed. I just... felt like I should acknowledge all this stuff. It's kinda like one of my "three things" posts, except as you can see, it's way more than three things.

Thanks, universe. <3 Good night, and have an awesome tomorrow.

-The Gneech
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There's a story floating around the zeitgeist, commonly attributed to a Cherokee storyteller (but I don't know the actual source), generally referred to as "two wolves," which goes something like:

A Cherokee elder was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me… it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, hatefulness, and lies. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, humbleness, kindness, friendship, generosity, faith, and truth. This same fight is going on inside of you, and inside every other person, too."

The children thought about it for a minute. Then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The Cherokee elder replied, "The one you feed."

Thing of it is, this is applicable to so much more than a simplistic "good vs. evil" parable. It can apply to anything! Like, say, social media. "Don't feed the trolls" is a mantra that's been around since the '80s at least. In more recent times, I've seen a pattern where some prominent person on Twitter (for example) gets pinged by an asshole and, instead of muting the asshole and moving on with their life, the person either retweets with what they feel is a smackdown, or otherwise engages.

Result? All the assholes start coming out of the woodwork, and suddenly prominent person is flooded with obnoxious messages, all of them looking for attention. The prominent person may feel like they were "shining a light in dark corners" or turning up a log to reveal all the bugs crawling around in the muck or whatever, but all they really did? Was feed the bad wolf. They now get to spend hours/days/the rest of their life wrestling in the digital mud with these idiots. It sucks, yes, but the prominent person invited them in.

This doesn't apply to people who are harassed by assholes merely for being themselves– "Internetting While Female" does not count as feeding the bad wolf, for instance. That's another discussion all together. But people like Wil Wheaton engaging in snark fights, and then having to spend the rest of the day far away from the internet because they effectively cast Summon Asshole? That counts.

This topic is fresh in my mind currently because this year is going to be about broadening my reach and impact in the world artistically and (for lack of a better term) commercially, and I'm already having to be very careful about what (and who) I respond to and where I engage, because I can clearly see the ripples of different types of energy trying to get in. Some are positive, and many are amazing... but more than a few are not.

One of the problems with the bad wolf is that, being bad, it often tries to disguise its true nature because it knows anyone with a modicum of awareness and self-esteem will reject it. What starts off as a seemingly fun and innocent or even benevolent interaction can sour quickly, and it's important to pay attention when that happens. What you thought was a pleasant chat with the good wolf can turn out to have been the bad wolf trying to finagle an invitation the whole time.

If you get fooled by this, it's not a failure on your part– it's the bad wolf being bad. The old saw should go: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you again and stop it, you jerk." But when you realize that it's the bad wolf at work, you need to shut it down quickly and decisively. In my own case, that means even calling out or disengaging with people who are my own fans, if they try to turn my work into something dark or mean. You can be funny without being mean, and you can be smart without being snide or toxic.

What you invite into your life, you will get more of. That's just how the universe works. So make sure you're inviting the good stuff in. :)

-The Gneech
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This is sort of a continuation/expansion of my 2016 Report, based on some things I've noticed and/or thought about over the past few days.

There seem to be two basic ways people are approaching 2017 in their minds.

Version One:
"I'm gonna kick 2016 in the balls, shove it down the stairs, and run over its corpse with a bulldozer. Then 2017 will be the most AWESOME YEAR EVAR!!!!1!"

Version Two:
Everyone: "2016 was the worst year ever. It couldn't possibly be worse!"
2017: "Hold my beer."

It seems to me that both of these approaches have the same core problem, which is deciding beforehand what the result is going to be. And honestly, the former strikes me as being an overcompensatory attempt to preclude the latter– that is, people are afraid it's just gonna suck even worse, so they are shouting "LA LA LA IT'S GOING TO BE AWESOME" to counter it. The problem with that, of course, is that if it does suck, you're going to be all the more disappointed, whereas if you assume it's going to suck, you at least have the cold comfort of having been right.


I don't advocate either of these views. 2017, just like 2016 before it, is an arbitrary unit– a creation of our own minds, mutually agreed on. The universe doesn't care if our calendar ticks off another round or not, it just keeps on doing what it does without start or end. A new year only has as much meaning as we assign to it. If we weren't tracking the passage of years, we wouldn't know that "2016 sucked," all we would know is that a bunch of shit happened.

We don't know what tomorrow (or any other measurement of time) will bring. Even the best, most informed prognosticators can only make educated guesses. Humans have an amazing knack of convincing themselves that if yesterday was sunny, and the day before was sunny, then it must mean that every day will always be sunny forever and that we're going to have a never-ending beach party before we all die of thirst.

The future will have flying cars and jetpacks. Why would you want a camera on your phone anyway?

I don't know what 2017 will be like, and my friend, you don't either. Blanket statements of "fact" that 2017 will be the awesomest, or even worse, say more about your beliefs and intent than they do about anything that manifestly exists in the "real" world.

There is certainly reason for hope: the general historical trend is for the world to get better over time. But that's not a guarantee, it's just a trend. There are lots of different ways the future could play out, and if we allow things to go to crap we could very well end up in the darkest timeline.

But that's where intention and action come in. If you want things to be better, you need to help shove the boulder of the world in a better direction– in whatever form that takes. Assuming that the result is predestined, for good or ill, shouldn't be allowed to be an excuse for inaction. In the words of Gandalf, "Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself?"

Or to put it another way, if you don't take a hand in bringing about the awesome future you're hoping for, how is it supposed to get here?

The future will be better because we will fight to make it so.

-The Gneech
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Okay. So, we all know. Let's get it out of the way.

John Oliver blows up 2016

Yeah, 2016 pretty much blew chunks in a lot of ways. Thing is, it started out so well! I thought 2014 was the worst things were going to get, 2015 was the beginning of an upward climb, and that 2016 was going to be awesome. Then everything went pear-shaped, starting with our moving plans. Then Buddha died... and from there it was a nearly-unrelenting sea of crap that culminated in the Worst Possible Result in the election. I used to joke about not wanting to live in 1930s Germany. I don't joke about that any more.

For the record, some good things DID happen in 2016, and there's evidence that 2017 will be better. So even though things have been rough, just wallowing in it isn’t going to help. Since the end of November, I have been making a concerted effort to wedge positivity back into my life by any means possible, and it is working, even if there is a lot of resistance from a world determined to set itself on fire. But more on that in the Goals for 2017 part of the post. For now, let's review the goals I set at the beginning of the year.

  1. Issues Four and Five, Plus the First Collection. Partial success. Issue four is out and issue five is running currently, after moving and story development heck. This will be finished in early 2017, assuming all goes well.

  2. Publish That Book! Still working on it. I've received a fair amount of positive feedback from the various agents etc. I've shopped it around to, but so far it hasn't found a home. I'm going to keep at it until it sells or I run out of potential markets. If it gets to that point, I'll look at self-publishing.

  3. Finish Another Book! Didn't happen. Had to punt mid-NaNoWriMo, but I'll get back to it in 2017.

  4. Get the Money Sitch Fixed. Didn't happen. Despite being a very strong candidate, [ profile] lythandra went to trainings and applied for jobs and talked to headhunters and out of all that got a few tiny nibbles and only one offer– which was immediately cancelled a few days later due to the contract being disputed. I hung out my shingle as a freelance/tech writer but so far have spent most of my time on that front turning down such lucrative offers as "Write ten full length novels for us to sell without giving you any residuals or credit for $35,000/year." So, still living on savings and what income the comics and art bring in, but we have plans in motion. (See below.)

  5. Move. Um. Happened, yes. But not the way we wanted. It needs fixing still/again.

  6. Get Back to Conventions! Eh... sort of. AC and MFF happened again. We also went to a steampunk meet in PA, but we had to punt on FurTheMore and Dragon*Con for financial and/or scheduling reasons. I expect 2017 to be different, however.

  7. Stronger faster slimmer better. Big setbacks here. Depression, stress, and a host of other factors meant that in six months I regained all the weight it had taken me two years to get rid of. :P I am not happy about this. The good news is that at the end of November I rejoined Weight Watchers and I have recovered 11 pounds' worth of progress since then, despite the best efforts of convention food and holidays. More significantly I have figured out how to live comfortably on a 35-ish point diet– basically the allocation for someone my age weighing 220 lbs. At my current rate of weight loss, I will hit that in six months, which would suit me just fine.

  8. No More Afib. Success! Heart ablation surgery was a complete success. Since March, I have only experienced afib twice, both of which were in December and seem to have been triggered by salt. As long as I continue to limit my salt intake, I should be set.

  9. Bernie Sanders 2016. Ugh. Don't get me started.

Now the review post from last year had unexpected things achieved in 2015. Alas, 2016 didn't really have a lot in the way of such things. However, it wasn't entirely bleak. Zootopia was really good, for instance. Also, I got into Overwatch and a fan very kindly built me a terrific computer to run it on, which prompted me to create the Learning Not to Suck at Overwatch series. It didn't exactly set YouTube on fire, but the videos were fun to make and I got to test my mettle in a competitive environment, something which I've never done a lot of. Overwatch also provided my single longest running batch of art commissions, in the form of "Play of the Game" badges. My Overwatchery has been thin since Halloween– other priorities eating my time– but I hope to get back into it in January.

So that leads me to my goals for 2017...

  1. Issues Five and Six, Plus the First Collection. Five and collection should be done well before AnthroCon. Issue Six, we'll see. I’m thinking of taking the comic in a slightly new direction based on the ending of Issue Five, but that's still in the very half-baked stage so I can't really go into detail yet.

  2. Publish That Book! Like I said, still working on this.

  3. Finish Another Book! I am looking at creating a series specifically for self-pub. More on that as the development fills out some more.

  4. Start a Company. This is a big one that Laurie and I have been messing with off and on again all year, but which is really starting to take shape now. Again, I don't want to talk about it in too much detail before everything is set in motion, all the T's are dotted and I's are crossed, etc., but it's a cool, exciting project designed to put the making of money back into our hands, since getting hired by other people doesn't seem to be a thing that really happens to anyone any more.

  5. Move to California. Okay. So. I thought this was going to happen last year, but for various reasons I kept fairly quiet about it at the time, and then it fell through anyway. It's back on the plan now, and I am not keeping it a secret any more. The exact details are still being hashed out, so you can expect to hear more on this as the year goes on. But part of the reason for the Start a Company item, is to enable living where we want, and since Fed jobs are going to all be utter crap for the next four years or more as the assholes-elect try to burn down the country, there's not a whole lot of point in staying around here for the job market anyway. Our families and some of our friends are here, of course, but we only see them a few times a year as it is– Facetime/Google Hangouts and plane tickets will probably take care of that problem. California is not necessarily the only candidate, we're also looking at some spots around New England for instance, but it is by far the strongest candidate and my top choice unless there is a strongly compelling reason to go elsewhere.

  6. Stronger faster slimmer better. 220 lbs by end of September is the plan. 220 lbs by end of June is the stretch goal.

  7. Bring the Awesome! I was just getting through my grief about my parents when Buddha died, kicking it all off again. I spent most of 2016 in a depression deeper than anything I’ve been through since 2001, although instead of manifesting as "feeling bad," it was more like an emotional dead zone, making it hard to enjoy anything and leaving me in a constant state of "peeved and grouchy for no good reason." That shit's got to go. As I said, since the end of November I've been focusing on positivity, and I'm just going to build on that and do more in 2017.

  8. Edit Myself Less. This one is kind of hard to explain without context and it's more a note to myself than anything. There are aspects of myself that I have simply made a point of not talking about for one reason or another; opinions, feelings, or wishes I have kept to myself when it would have been appropriate to share them, and so on. But honestly? It's not doing myself or the people who care about me any favors. I've had people tell me "I thought I knew you..." before for just this reason. And while I'm a lot more myself now than I used to be, I still get into that self-censorship habit when I’m depressed or afraid. This is something I need to work on. Shoving every thought in your head into other people's faces isn't a good idea– but shutting yourself down just to please other people isn't a healthy choice either. I'm not about to start drawing porn or anything like that, but I am going to be loosening up.

  9. Reverse course and mitigate/repair damage to the country. Grassroots action FTW. They're not going to burn down the country while I have anything to say about it. More on this in some other post.

[ profile] jamesbarrett's sister Kimmie said that 2016 was the end of a 9-year cycle, which is why there were so many deaths and endings and so much loss, but that also meant that 2017 would be a year of new beginnings. [1] While astrology and numerology are not my particular flavor of crackpottery, I can’t deny that 2016 sure has felt like everything was crumbling around my ears. Not going to California when we originally planned to, which pushed us into the Maryland move, and the death of Buddha all hit me hard. Seeing the end of the first administration in my life that I actually liked the President was going to be tough; seeing him replaced by somebody so obviously The Worst Possible Candidate For the Job just hurts.

But these things all happened and can't be undone. I've had my disappointment and my grief and my rage. While there may be emotional aftershocks, the end of November made a sea change in Laurie and me, and I am excited and ready for the things we’ve got coming up in the year ahead. If 2017 is indeed the year of new beginnings, let's make it the beginning of something amazing.

-The Gneech

[1] This is based on numerology: 2016 breaks down to 2 + 0 + 1 + 6 = 9. 2017 will be 2 + 0 + 1 + 7 = 10, 1 + 0 = 1. Thus 2016 is the end of the current cycle and 2017 is the beginning of the next one.
the_gneech: (Doctor Titles 2010)
So I had this idea a little while back, but it came into sharp focus last night. (And I'm sure I can't have been the first person to think of this, but I've never heard anyone else express it before.)

When you combine reincarnation with vibration theory/LoA, there’s an interesting implication. There are future life progressions of a post-apoc Earth, but there are also future life progressions of harmony and kumbaya et al. And according to LoA, reality lines itself up to match your own vibration, right? So maybe there are divergent timelines, the infinite universe model basically, all vibrating at different wavelengths, and your own personal vibration determines which future “you” go to. If your vibration matches a “dying Earth” future, that’s the one you end up in. If your vibration matches a “things getting better” future, you go to that one instead.

There are all kinds of weird wrinkles to this notion, not the least of which is, if “you” go to one future, who the heck is that in all those others? Aren’t they also “you”? Is it like a cosmic Github, with trunks and branches? Are there an infinite number of “instances” of me– just this current incarnation me, not the big-picture me? And if so, are there an infinite number of instances of all my other incarnations?


Brain-breaking as this concept is, it also has one huge implication: if you can match your personal vibration to a good future, that will send you there. All those platitudes about keeping your chin up, looking on the bright side, etc? That’s really what they’re all pointing at. The faith that moves mountains, as they say, boils down to matching your own vibration to that of a future in which the mountain has moved– as opposed to all those other futures in which the mountain just sat there.

This is a strangely empowering idea, but also one that will mess with your head. Because you can’t just “wish real hard” and have it happen. In fact, “wishing real hard” usually comes from fear that the outcome you want won’t happen and that’s where your vibration goes. Indeed, the most effective approach, from a LoA standpoint, is to take it as read that good things will happen, move forward and take action based on that belief, and let the Universe handle the details.

Where have I heard that before? XD

When you boil it down, LoA is the same basic stuff as pretty much any religion, just with a different skin. Insert “God” for “the Universe” and “prayer” for “affirmations” and you’ve got the same practices that the human race has followed for thousands of years. It depersonalizes the deity, and turns the action of prayer into working on your own psyche instead of a phone call with God, but the actions you are actually taking are almost exactly the same. Does it work? Some people swear by it (like, literally), and for other people, not so much. But it’s very interesting (at least to me) how the same core things keep reinventing themselves over and over.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (It's a Lion)
So this is going to be a weird post, rooted in the more out there aspects of the maze of mirrors that is my psychology. Just sayin'.

If you hang around in spirituality circles you will eventually come upon the idea of synchronicity– i.e., when a bunch of things happen at once and seem to be related, even if there's no clear connection. Now human beings are hard-wired for pattern recognition, it's a survival mechanism rooted deep in the ol' lizard brain, and most of the time it works very well, but it's also easy to flag with false positives. Have you ever seen someone lurking in your bedroom in the dark and turned on the light only to discover it was your sweater hanging on the back of the door? That's pattern recognition at work.

Given that, it's no wonder that synchronicity is a thing. Humans find patterns in everything, whether the pattern's actually there or not. But we're also talking psychology here– whether the pattern really exists is not as important for this discussion as to how your psyche reacts to it. It's like a cosmic Rorschach test.

The reason for all this preamble is that over the past few days I have had a moment of synchronicity with a very specific image, to wit: the planet Earth, rendered uninhabitable and devoid of life. It first popped up in an environmental documentary on a passing TV, in which a researcher claimed that methane being released by the melting of the ice caps would flood the atmosphere and kill every living thing by the year 2030. [1]

In the time since then, I happened upon the image again on a blog about reincarnation. Although the idea of past-life regression is fairly well known, there is (at least in theory) also the possibility of future-life progression, and a notable number of the futures reported are apocalyptic hellscapes in which Earth is blasted and empty, with living things, if there are any at all, being in tiny enclaves, or surviving in space stations, etc. [2]

The image came up again somewhere that I've forgotten in the intervening time; I think it was an RPG forum post or something similar. But what I do remember is my reaction to it, which was, "Okay, three times is enemy action." Or that is to say, there's a pattern. There's synchronicity. The Universe is talking to me.

A widely-accepted idea in reincarnation studies (as much as there are such things) is that between lives, you are the architect of your own life. Your "higher self" (or soul, or whatever you want to call that transcendent aspect) comes up with an agenda for your mortal self, you're born, and you give it your best shot. If you get through the agenda, well done! New goals for the next time around! If you don't, no worries, you can try again for the rest of forever.

Your mortal self does this pretty much on autopilot. However, the theory goes, that if you want to check in with your higher self, or your higher self wants to check in with you, it's possible to communicate. This usually happens in frustratingly vague "Give me a sign!" ways, but as your higher self is part of you (and/or vice versa), direct communication can also be done with practice and focused thought. Higher self is always listening.

So that brings me around to the point of this post, which is really a memo to my higher self, which is: I am not interested in these apocalyptic visions and I'm not going there. We make the world around us, and the world I will make is a vibrant, happy, and healthy one full of awesomeness, joy, and love. [3] I'm willing to accept that I have lessons to learn about grief and loss, the past decade has made that amply clear, but I'm not going to sink into nihilism or despair. As they say on the internet, I'm going to keep calm and bugger on.

So higher self, just release those visions and stop sending them my way; send me great things instead, please. You've sent me plenty of awesomeness in the past, I know you can do it. :)

Thanks. :)

-The Gneech

[1] With the disclaimer that I am not a scientist, I find this dubious. The Earth's climate has been considerably warmer than it is now, and life flourished in those periods. If melted ice caps were a straight-up killer, wouldn't that have already happened?

[2] How a future life progression could reveal a future in which there is no life to progress to, is a mental exercise I leave to others. It's also worth noting that these are not the only futures people have reported. Assuming there's anything to future life progression at all, that would suggest there are diverging timelines and something causes you to go into one or another.

[3] I'll get into vibration theory in some other post, but my point here is, I will rise to higher levels. Those empty and dead futures may well be there for souls who need that. I do not, and will go to different futures instead.
the_gneech: (Liberty)
I found these very interesting and think they nail the issue right on the head, and I'm leaving them here for others who might be interested as well. I'm also disabling comments because beyond spreading the word of their existence, I don't particularly want to talk about them.

Hypocricy [sic] and "SJW." - Elf M. Sternberg "SJW" isn't sarcastic; it's merely mocking. It doesn't matter whether the target is engaged in mere performative allyship or has actually gotten the beat-down for asserting the human worth of others; the speaker means to use it as an epithet. People who use "SJW" won't allow themselves to be questioned.

What ‘SJW’ really means If it were sarcasm, the scorn would be directed at the “SJWs” for being only so-called “SJWs” — for posing as SJWs while actually failing to be the true, genuine article, the steadfast advocates for social justice that we all agree we all ought to strive to be. But there is no such shared framework. And that is not the target toward which the scorn here is directed. What is being scorned, rather, is the very idea and standards of that framework — the idea that “social justice” is, in fact, a Good Thing. Their attempted mockery of “SJWs” is an attempt to mock the very idea of social justice itself.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Legolas silhouette)
If by some strange quirk you pay attention to such things, you have noticed that I haven't posted any reincarnation meditation reports lately. That's because, for the most part, I haven't attempted many. I've been too tired most of the time, due to moving and stressors and bad sleep and a bajillion other things, so if I do sit still for 20 minutes, all I do is fall asleep.

However, I have made a few attempts, and indeed I made such an attempt tonight, as I actually got enough sleep for a few nights in a row and felt up to giving it a shot. Alas, as has been often been the case, I didn't get very far. I did get a few fragmentary memories and fleeting images, but most were disjointed and I couldn't tell you if they were anything but random neuron firings in my brain. There also seemed to be a certain amount of actual psychosomatic resistance– at once point I started getting the itchies, for instance, and scratching an itch in one place would just make one pop up somewhere else.

I asked myself, in my semi-hypnotic state, "What's happening here? Why is there resistance?" and the only response I got was, "No, just no." So for whatever reason, that gate is closed at the moment. Not even a hint as to why, just a flat shut down.

So I guess whatever part of my psyche is connected to all that reincarnation stuff wants me to let it be and concentrate on my current life for now. Which is fine, it's not like I don't have plenty going on. But it's a little frustrating, because I'm still curious. Once you start digging into the notion that what is "you" consists of something much larger than your current trip around the merry-go-round, there is a strong desire (at least in me) to reconnect with the rest. On the other hand, assuming reincarnation is true, then presumably the memory wipe happens for a reason and I'll understand it better once the current trip is done.

However, I'm going on the record as saying now, that I resent you (me) keeping secrets from my (your) self. And I want to remember that part, on the other side.

All of which said, next time I do an "on topic" meditation [1], it'll be about things in my current life.

-The Gneech

[1] There are different kinds of meditation. The classic "quiet your mind" meditation is generally considered the most useful and provides the most health benefits (physical and mental). However, there's also "meditating on" something, which is getting into that quiet meditative state and letting your subconscious and semi-conscious brain chew on a problem. You just sorta pose the problem to yourself at the start, like releasing a ball at the top of a hill, and let go. It's quite different from actively thinking about something, but honestly, tends to also be much more effective. [2]

[2] See also the "have some pie" scene in Men In Black III.
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
Stressy, flaily, and S.A.D.-ey all week, which is not a healthy place for my mind to be. So today I made it a priority to meditate in some form. Since that's built right into the Weiss past life regression video, I figured that was a good way to go.

This session's healing color was straight up sunlight, particularly yellow-white and warm southern California sunlight. Gee, I can't imagine why.

The childhood memory that came up was sitting at the dining room table, c. 1981 or so, watching The Adventures of Robin Hood on the portable 6" TV while eating spaghetti. This swirled and mixed with memories of one night that we (Mom, Dad, Brother and self) went through something like five Celeste pizzas at the same dinner table, just cooking one right after the other. (This was back when Celeste still made full-size pizzas.) I have no particular reason why this memory should come up other than association– [ profile] lythandra and I recently watched Robin Hood on TCM.

The prompt for in utero memories prompted the usual sort of generic gurgling noises and sensation of being upside down, although the suggestion to remember my birth did prompt a mental image of my parents and siblings as they would have appeared when I was a newborn, with my mom holding a baby that was presumably "me" (seen from third person). I have no idea if this is associated with a real memory from the hospital, or it's a composite based on photos I've seen of my family from that era.

When prompted to imagine myself in a garden, I found myself in a cliffside park overlooking a beach much like the one we visited in Capitola with [ profile] sirfox and Candy, with steps leading down to the water. Instead of my usual human self, I was actually Muse this time, which somewhat surprised me, sitting on a bench and simply looking around calmly. Instead of visualizing a door, the path to reach a previous life was to go down the steps, and I started to do that, but unfortunately Laurie started walking around upstairs, which distracted me for a moment and threw me off from that.

The distraction quickly passed, but by then the video had moved on to the "imagine the end of that life" portion, which quickly and decisively appeared as a return to the coastal cottage of the seaman from December. I was back to being my human self instead of being Muse as I observed the scene; this time I got to see more of the house, an exterior view of it as a two-story white Victorian, definitely on some kind of coastline. Judging strictly by the look, it could be California, it could be Maine, it could be Wales, even.

But I'm pretty sure in this case it was California, because when prompted to consider "Why this memory? What is it telling you?" I received the very clear answer, "Because Laurie, Buddha, and Inkblitzer are all important, and they were all part of that life. It's also why you've felt so strongly called to go there. You want to go home!" So... maybe? But I notice that none of those three are in California at the moment, whereas [ profile] sirfox, who prominently is in California, was not mentioned. Maybe he's adding a new wrinkle to a scenario that's being replayed? Reincarnation is weird.

In any case, then it was time to move on from that life and look for a spiritual guide or guardian, I quickly found one, which took on the form of a massive pillar of yellow-white light, maybe 4'5' across and a good three to five stories tall, which occasionally had plasma-like cascades run up or down its length. Every once in a while a large kite-shaped bit of this plasma would extend away from the body, flitting back and forth, reminding me somewhat of Raava from Avatar: Legend of Korra, but yellow instead of blue and without all the curlicue designs.

Looking for Raava

I didn't know (and still don't) any details on who or what this entity was, other than an instinctual connection, and we greeted each other as old friends.

Me: "Oh! ...Hi."
Entity: "Hi." (Telepathically? I don't remember a voice.)
(Video: "Are there any messages for you?")
Me: *looks to entity*
Entity: "I love you."
Me: "Aww! I love you, too."
(Video: "What do you need to know?")
Me: *looks to entity*
Entity: "Just keep going."
Me: "Really? Are you sure? It feels like everything's a gigantic mess right now."
Entity: "That doesn't matter. It'll be fixed by the end."
Me: "Um... hmm."
Entity: "I know it's scary. But remember, there's more going on than just what's happening right now."
(Whatever that means!)
Me: "I'm worried about Buddha."
Entity: "Buddha will be fine."
Me: "In this life or a future one?"
Entity: "Either way."
Me: "...'k."

...And that was pretty much the end of the session.

So what does it mean? I have no idea. Keep in mind, these reports are just laying out what happens in my head as I go through these things, so they are somewhere in the no-man's-land between memory, imagination, stream-of-consciousness, and dreamscape. I make no claims to have actual knowledge or evidence of anything. I'm just letting my mind do what it wants and writing down the result.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Blank)
In my thoughts about reincarnation/past lives topics, I keep coming back to this story from Ian Stevenson:

"When I first went to India, I met with a swami there, a member of a monastic order. I told him about my work and how I thought it would be important if reincarnation could be proven, because it may help people to lead more moral lives if they knew they would come back after death. There was a long silence, a terrible silence, and finally he said, 'Well, that's very good, but here, reincarnation is a fact, and we have just as many scoundrels and thieves as you do in the West.' I'm afraid that rather deflated my missionary zeal."

I was thinking particularly about the difference in how one might approach their life in a "this is all you get" (or "traditional western") mode vs. a "this is just your current spin of the wheel" (or "eastern") one. [1] I mean, at the end of the day, particularly given the power of rationalization, people are pretty much going to do what they're going to do.

Take "chasing a lifelong dream" for instance. In theory, if you believe you only live once [2], that should inspire you to go for the gusto! ...Unless you are so fearful of screwing up your one chance that you get paralyzed by indecision.

On the other hand, if you believe you will go around again and again until you get it right, that should inspire you to take risks and go big because failure is an illusion! ...Unless you get distracted or just putter around forever because there's nothing pushing you to strive forward.

In the end, we (being humanity writ large) don't really know (although I suspect most individuals have pretty solid views on the subject). Regardless of how the game actually plays out, what people do still boils down to individual character. A saint is going to be awesome to/for everybody because that's what they want to do, regardless of whether heaven is waiting for them or not; an asshole is going to be an asshole whether they're just plain dead at the end or they'll have a karmic debt on the next go-around.

So, yeah. As strange as it seems, it looks to me like the afterlife and worldly morals/ethics have surprisingly little to do with each other, regardless of what the preachers say.

-The Gneech

[1] I have read (but don't know how true it is) that early Christianity embraced the concept of multiple lives, but that it was basically "edited out" by church leaders in favor of the "heaven/hell forever" model in order to make it easier to control their followers. It was a totally fatuous thing to do, if so, but given the way humans are sometimes, it also wouldn't surprise me.

[2] Either because you get one shot at life and go to heaven/hell, or because we're all bags of electrochemical reactions that are effectively self-programmed robots who just think we have a consciousness because we've evolved to tell ourselves so. Pick your existential horror of choice.
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
So [ profile] lythandra and I have been watching an anime on Netflix called The Seven Deadly Sins, in which the main character (a pretty standard anime Gary Stu) is beloved by everybody despite being a massive creep. Although it's clearly intended to be for laughs, he is forever groping the female lead, putting her into revealing "uniforms" for his own titillation, periodically stealing her underwear (while she's still wearing it) and so forth. You know, just your basic good old fashioned misogyny straight out of the Rat Pack era. Those darn boys will be boys.

In concert with this, a female supporting character has a crush on our "hero" (because Gary Stu) but normally can't interact with him much because she's a giant. When magical hijinks shrink her down to normal human size, she gets all excited because finally it means he'll be all lechy at her, too ("Dehumanize me, Sempai!"). Except he totally doesn't, because what fun is it to grope a woman who clearly wants to be groped? Obviously it's not the actual groping that he cares about: it's the violation of boundaries that gets his motor running.

I relate this not to talk about the specific show, but to talk about the psychology at work. Because it's a theme I have seen popping up in my own work. Drezzer Wolf, for instance, was prey to this exact same mindset, except his target of choice was Conrad. I always tried to paint this as a flaw in Drezzer's character and something that had hurt both his career and his personal life when he went overboard with it. However, I had more than a few readers for whom this was one of Drezzer's charming features, and it's a theme that comes up again and again in people wanting to commission art.

But the thing is, the more you think about it, the creepier it gets. When does "teasing" go from a friendly nudge into a bullying grab? The fundamental, underlying belief of someone who gets off on pushing boundaries is "How I feel about your boundaries is more important than how you do." This is not a relationship of one peer to another. This is an exercise in power over someone else.

Of course, when pushed back by someone who's had enough of their boundaries being trampled, the would-be pusher gets very defensive, using such tried-and-true bullshit responses as "I was just playing!" or "Can't you take a joke?" In the case of Drezzer, I did make an effort to have him own up to it when confronted, because overall I wanted Drezzer to be a positive character. But I wonder sometimes if I didn't make it too easy on him. He's lucky that Conrad didn't end up giving him a sock to the jaw, and I guess it's not really in Conrad's nature to do that anyway, but from a storytelling standpoint I'm not sure it wouldn't have been better if he had. (Of course it's also a topic on which I have stronger feelings now than I did when I was creating the original SJ, so I don't know how I would approach it these days.)

Anyway, this is just something that struck me as I was working on one of my "overheard at the Watering Hole" type commissions, because it's been a recurring theme of one or two commissioners and it's something I've come to the conclusion that I don't want to draw any more. I'm going to finish this set, as I've committed to doing it, but no more after that. It's not fun, and it's not funny.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Kero Power Tie)
Fortunately, most of the "war on Christmas" noise you hear is just that, noise. But there's a good reason for businesses and civic organizations to use the non-denominational notion of "happy holidays," which is, that not everybody celebrates Christmas, but anyone of good will should want people to be happy anyway.

I think most people get that. :) But where it gets a little trickier is where individual wishes are concerned. If I, raised in a theoretically protestant but actually pretty much just sort of "American pop Christianity" household [1], wish my Jewish friend "Merry Christmas!" am I being inclusive or being a jerk? Society hasn't entirely worked it out yet.

For myself, I feel like we should err on the side of goodwill. Certainly if said Jewish friend wished me a Happy Hanukkah I would not feel anything but gratitude. The fact that I don't observe Hanukkah is actually irrelevant to the discussion! My friend is engaging in a religious observance and is wishing me well. What could possibly be wrong with that?

"But Gneech!" I hear some theoretical strawman objecting. "He's othering you! He's making a point of bringing up the difference between you, implying that he is part of the group and that you are not."

Well that's the thing, I did establish that this is a friend we're talking about here, and when in doubt, I believe in working from the assumption that people mean well. If someone offers me well wishes and my response is to read snobbery into it, that says more about me than it does them.

"But Gneech!" says the strawman again. "It's easy for you to say that! You are in the position of privilege here, Mr. White Pseudo-Christian Dude. When someone is othering you, you barely feel it. For somebody who's already on the receiving end of social stigma, it hurts much worse."

Well... it's a good point, strawman. And I don't have a compelling argument against it, so I won't make one. That's why I try to make a point, when broadcasting generalized holiday wishes, to emphasize that I mean "Merry Christmas" in a very personal way. It's a day that brings me a lot of happiness and warmth, and I want you to have happiness and warmth too, whatever you want to call it. Love Everybody Day is just as good a name! [2]

Merry Love Everybody Day to all, and to all a good night!

-The Gneech

[1] Honestly? In beliefs and practices I'm closer to Hindu than anything else as far as I can tell. But I still put up a Christmas tree and find a lot to love about the season. My spiritual life is peculiar.

[2] I don't care about "keeping Christ in Christmas," seeing as how He's a Johnny-Come-Lately to the holiday anyhow. But that's a big and thorny post for another day and I don't know it merits all that much. If it's important to you, by all means be as denominational as you like and enjoy it.

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