Monthly Archives: March 2013

“As Above, So Below!” — A Description of Spiritual Alchemy

The Alchemist; after Breugel

The Alchemist; after Breugel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I tell people I’m an Alchemist, the first thing they usually ask me is what that means exactly. “So, you’re, like, trying to turn metal into gold?” they say, incredulously. “What, like Harry Potter?”

No. Not like Harry Bloody Potter! I am a spiritual alchemist. For me, then, alchemy can best be described as the “chemistry of the soul”. I am a metallurgist of deeper meanings, seeking to transmute my soul, not base metals.

Believe me, I am not alone in this respect. From alchemy’s very first inception there has existed two camps within its ranks. On the one side were those literally intent on finding the secret of changing lead into gold. These alchemists are known disparagingly as “puffers”, due to the bellows they fire their alembics with. And the other camp sought the more spiritual goal of releasing their spirit (or pneuma) from the dross that makes up this imperfect physical existence.

It took the genius of Carl Jung to reinterpret the great alchemical tracts of the past as being symbolic representations of the process of becoming psychologically whole, something he called individuation.

And it is some kind of cross between Jung’s psychological approach to alchemy and the work of the earlier spiritually-minded (often Gnostic) alchemists that I feel my own Work is most-closely aligned to.

So what is it that I actually do, then, as an alchemist, if I am not trying to discover the philosopher’s stone and turn other less-precious metals into gold?

Simply put, I turn my dreams into reality.

Mostly, I’m talking about those actual dreams I remember having dreamt upon waking. Yes, those kinds of crazy, disjointed amoral psychodramas that flood our minds while we sleep. I take those and try and bring them to life. And I do this by living symbolically.

A mundane example might be that I have had (as I did last night) a dream of going ice-skating, a past-time I don’t normally partake of. And so, when I wake up, I try and find a way of incorporating the idea of skating somewhere into my daily activities.

But don’t think it’s as literal as all that. It’s not like I race off to the closest ice-rink and start skating figure-eights for the next eight hours. Trust me, I have just as many responsibilities and time constraints as you yourself.

No, I try and “distil the essence” (an alchemical reference) of the dream down to its most basic components. For instance, what did it feel like to be skating in my dream? Well, I felt powerful and my legs felt supremely muscular as I carved up the ice under my skates. It surprised me, in fact. It surprised me to feel how physically adept I was at something I have never really spent any time trying to master.

Okay, to me, then, the dream seemed to be about the joy and feeling of strength to be found in physical movement. And, you know, it took me all day to “real-ise” this feeling. But I did it, when I raced my child in the park today. Instead of sitting behind a computer for once, I suddenly “found myself” being propelled across the ground by the legs I’d almost forgotten I have. Not a moment of Olympic glory, to be sure, but a peak experience of sorts in the life of a spiritual alchemist…

And that’s enough for me. Because it’s not about going for gold, as far as I’m concerned. It’s about listening to the whispers of the soul, while chasing your dreams. And in the process, who knows what you might discover about yourself? I discovered I could write a novel, fashion handmade jewellery and create digital artwork, like the image below:

01 Citrinitas (behance)

The 3rd Stage of Spiritual Alchemy — (Citrinitas). Original artwork by Lorem Ipsum

“I’m Yours!” — The Top 10 Reasons Why I Will Follow Your Blog

  1. Team Follow BackYou’re so funny! If you can make me laugh in the first 30 seconds, I’m yours! NB I don’t mean fake, FaceBook lol funny, but rather witty, cleverly sarcastic or can tell a rude joke without resorting to potty humor.
  2. You’re so cute/hot! Hey, I’m only human, what?! Seriously, if your profile photo makes my eyes water “coz you ugly!”, sorry sister/brother I ain’t following you, no how! 😉
  3. You’re so talented! Look, everyone with a blog thinks they are the next Oscar Wilde/Orson Welles/Dorothy Parker/Tom Wolfe/Groucho Marx/Anais Nin. But let me tell you something: you’re just not! If, however, you have a unique and quirky writing style and something new and original to say…guess what, I’m yours!
  4. You’re Somebody High Up in the Biz! I’m a writer, see; so if I think you might be a big player in the print/publishing racket, I’ll suck up to you in the hope of finally getting my big break. Go ahead, take your percentage, I’m yours!
  5. Your Blog Got Freshly Pressed! I hate you already, how did you manage it? Maybe if I like and comment, like crazy, all over your blog I can share some increased popularity too? Nah, I know, that’ll never happen, so I’ll just follow you instead. I’m yours! (till tomorrow anyway…)
  6. You Followed My Blog First! I am the absolute Boss at #teamfollowback, believe me! Go on, let me prove it to you, follow my blog and you’ll see I’m not speaking with no forked tongue here: I’m yours!
  7. You Have Lots of Top 10 Lists Posted! Yup, you guessed it, I am just another one of the legion of fans of the good old Top 10 list. Heck, they’re easy to digest and don’t add more than an inch to the waistline. Post a Top 5 list and I’m not so excited, make it a Top 10 list and I’m yours!
  8. You Can Write a Catchy Headline! Just so you know, The Seasonal Habits of Ecuadorian Bed Bug Farmers is not what I consider to be an example of a catchy headline. But if you do manage to hook me with a couple of good headlines on your blog, it’s a fair bet I’ll soon be saying, “I’m yours!”.
  9. You Posted a Comment Somewhere I Liked! Truth be told, my following you is going to be about a 1,000 times more likely if the comment of yours I liked was left somewhere on my blog. Because, chances are that’s when I’m more likely to respond by telling you, “I’m yours!”
  10. You Just Plain Got Lucky, Punk! Hey, I hit the wrong button and somehow ended up at your blog?! Well, whaddaya know, I kinda agree with whatever it is you stand for? What a fluke, huh? You know what, punk, it’s your lucky day, because, guess what, I’m yours!Keep Calm

“Come Up and Tweet Me Some Time” — The Internet Dating Game

You’re a writer, artist, photographer, avant garde jewellery-maker, part-time fashionista or whatever, and you want to court a following through the social media so as to “spread the word” about your product, yeah?

Well, ok, so let me break it down for you all…

Here are the 3 Stages of Internet Dating (within the context of wooing readers/followers/fans etc):

  1. Twitter: is for “chasing birds” — (flirting with your readers).
  2. FaceBook: is for forming more committed relationships — (foreplay/fooling around/possible fondling).
  3. WordPress: is for when you’re old and married and now wear your socks to bed together— (in other words, f*#king over each other).

Don’t believe me? Think about it. If you’re reading this WordPress blog at all, you’re only going to give me another 30 seconds or so to reach my point, before you switch off and start thinking about whether anyone has favorited your last tweet yet or whether you shouldn’t be updating your FaceBook status or whether a google search for free porn wouldn’t be a better option.

Go on, admit it! I’m not going to judge you. Just “Like” my FaceBook page before you leave for your dirty, little cyberspace stop-overs. Or better yet: why don’t you instead just “come up and tweet me some time”…@missingzero666Twiiter wink

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

OMG! Who knew #teamjesus would fight so damn DIRTY!

imageNow, listen, I don’t claim to have ever known Jesus Christ, personally, but he strikes me as the kinda guy who would’ve been able to take a joke, right?

Okay. Here’s the thing. I’m a writer and have just self-published a novel called Missing Zero. It is a work of satirical fiction, which — among other things — tells of the supposed final redemption of the Antichrist.

And so, again, just let me point out, once more, that my novel is a work of FICTION.

Anyways, as part of getting word of my novel out there, I started a Missing Zero FaceBook page (please Like, if you would be so kind). And on this page I post somewhat “challenging” images and ideas pertaining to accepted Christian dogma. However, I do not actually explicitly endorse any particular stance whatsoever, whether it be atheism or Catholicism or fundamentalist Scientology etc. My sole aim is to generate debate and thereby generate interest more generally around the central themes of my novel.

Really, the most contentious proposition that my novel asks its readers to consider is whether it might be possible for someone as supposedly evil as the Antichrist to find absolution and forgiveness in the Lord’s eyes. God being, in theory, after all, all-loving.

Still, nothing prepared me for the kind of outrage I have encountered from certain Christian visitors to my FaceBook page. Let me share a fairly typical exchange with you, here:

Sarah ThunderBird: Fuck illumanti. YalL can suck my dick.

January 22 at 2:34pm via mobile · Like · 2

Sarah ThunderBird: Bitch please u must have a mental disease
January 22 at 3:08pm via mobile · Like

Firstly, I’ll just explain that, within the social media more generally, the word illuminati has apparently become pretty much interchangeable with the word Satanists, from what I gather. Either way, after ignoring Sarah’s original taunt, I responded to her second comment by quoting back at her the next line from the Eminem song she herself had referenced by posting Bitch please etc. After which, she responded by writing:

Sarah ThunderBird: Eminem can suck a choad along wit all yall wana be fake ass devil worshiping people.

January 22 at 3:28pm via mobile · Like · 2

Fair enough, I suppose. Although I don’t suppose I really want to know what a “choad” is, given the context of Sarah’s caustic comeback. Trying a different tack, to clear the air, I responded with some lyrics from a completely different song, thus:

Missing Zero:
You make friends with the Devil, you have fun with the Devil
You make vows with the Devil, now who you think gon’ win?
You make love to the Devil, definitely have fun with the Devil
You never fights with the Devil
You get right with the Devil
Now who you think gon’ win?

January 22 at 3:29pm · Like

To which, Sarah replied

Sarah ThunderBird Fuck the devil he can smd so can u.
January 22 at 3:30pm via mobile · Like · 3

But wait, now she had an ally in the form of Jesse Watt. And here’s what he next said:

January 23 at 9:15am · Edited · Like · 1

Jesse Watt: Tell’em Sarah Thunderbird.. I don’t vote either & WILL NEVER VOTE FOR THERE PUNCK ASS MF!!
January 23 at 9:18am · Like · 1

And my response?

Missing Zero: Can’t be sure, but didn’t you perceive a hint of a penis in absolutely every one of Ms ThunderBird’s previous comments?

Which conveniently brings me to the point of today’s blog. Namely, when did #teamjesus stop being all cuddly and Christian? I mean, they all fight so dirty now. Whatever happened to good Christian humility and forgiveness? I’m not a prude, but I have to admit I’m shocked! What would Jesus say?

If I might be so bold, I’d like to therefore finish now by leaving you all to ruminate on this strange turn of events, while also offering you this passage from the bible to reflect on in the meantime:

Jhn 8:7 he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

Happy Easter, Everyone!

“Fancy a Quickie?” — Zen and the Art of Bonsai Blogging

Day 008

Day 008 (Photo credit: merrick_monroe)

I can only surmise that the world’s various educational systems are to blame. Hell, I mean, everybody is too damn literate! Absolutely everybody now can write like they went to journalism school, whether they ever actually attended any such institution or not!

What the f#$k?!

You don’t believe me? Then check out any of the squintillion or so other blogs being posted somewhere around the planet at this very second.

Sobering, huh?

Which is why I am here today advocating the gentle (and very Zen) art of Bonsai blogging. This I believe being the only answer to the very real risk we all face of being swamped by a veritable tsunami of well-written words.

So keep it short and pithy, people, when blogging. Prune and condense your prose. Make your new thought-piece about myopic biopic producers bring to mind the awe and wonder that a miniature, 1000-year-old Japanese maple tree might provoke.

But how? How is this to be achieved? I hear you demand to know.

Well, here’s my sole tip: Come to the point quickly, or get your hand off it!

Explanation: Believe me, I’m in no way endorsing the literary equivalent of premature ejaculation per se. But simply pointing out that a “good” quickie quite often beats (hands down) a whole lot of writerly intellectual foreplay that hasn’t any actual real grunt or thrust behind it.

So, what do you say? Because I still haven’t heard your answer to my titular question…

PS. If you’re a dude, my question remains largely rhetorical, okay.

A Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Kiyo-hime') b...

A Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Kiyo-hime’) bonsai on display at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the United States National Arboretum. According to the tree’s display placard, it has been in training since 1946. It was donated by Akiko Matsudaira. This is the “back” of the planting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy.”

― Anaïs NinDelta of Venus

Flash Fiction — “A-ah, It’ll Save Every One of Us!”

Flash Gordon (film)

Flash Gordon (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hate to be the one to break the news to you, people, but the novel is dead!

No? What’s that you say? You beg to differ?

Well, then, in return, I say to you, “So go and buy a copy of my reasonably priced eBook, Missing Zero! Go on, prove to me people still want to buy novels…”

Uh-huh. Now, here’s where you’re gonna start to make up lame excuses about your having a ton of other things to read currently and how you’re suffering another one of your infamous cluster-fuck headaches and how your pet hamster’s got her period, right?

Yeah, right! Just admit it. You haven’t read anything longer than this blog since those navy seals supposedly shot Bin Laden dead and then mysteriously dumped him overboard.

Not that I’m suggesting the two things are in any way connected; trust me, I’m just simply pointing out to you the extreme length of your novel-reading abstinence in a (slightly) overly-sensationalized way.

Sorted. Ok, so we’re agreed the novel is at the very least flat-lining as we speak (metaphorically speaking, that is).

So what the hell are we writerly-types going to do about it? Become poets? No, not bloody likely, let me tell you! I flatly refuse to smoke hand-rolled cigarettes, for one thing. And for another, I don’t own a single hand-knitted woollen vest. Sorry!

Anyway, poets are to Literature what wanky-poseur jazz musicians are to good music.

Which again leads us back to the question, “Quo vadis (trans. whither goest thou), Sweet Wordsmith?”

Well, if I might be so bold, I think I might just have the answer: Flash fiction – (cue singing, “A-ah, Saviour of the Universe!”).

Let me apologise. As you’ve probably, no doubt, already noticed, I can’t hear the word “flash” and then not be compelled to imitate Freddie Mercury belting out the theme song from Queen’s soundtrack to the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon. Don’t worry, it probably isn’t all that contagious.

But I digress. On a more serious note, let me say that I didn’t really have any experience with micro-fiction/flash fiction (what have you) — “A-ah, It’s a Miracle!” – until about a week ago.

In one of my previous blog posts, I recently detailed some of the experiences I have had since joining Helium, a professional blog-writing community. But what I didn’t mention at that stage is that I also had a go, for the first time, at writing some 400-word flash fiction pieces, as part of a creative-writing competition Helium runs over there each fortnight.

In short, from my brief foray into the condensed format flash fiction offers, I would say it may well end up driving the final nail into the coffin of the whole moribund novel-writing caper. Just sayin’?!

Some guy called David Gaffney wrote a good introductory article for the Guardian back in May, 2012 about this new-ish phenomenon, which should whet your appetite enough, if you haven’t given flash fiction a go already. See the link below:

Stories in your pocket: how to write flash fiction

And should you wish to check out my own first attempt at a short-short story (written under the pen name of Hadiran Brand), please follow the link here!

Pathetic Earthlings…who can save you now?

Open the Podcast-Bay Doors, Hal!

Hal 9000 C - Chrome

Hal 9000 C – Chrome (Photo credit: K!T)

“I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Ah, is there a more chilling exchange in sci fi cinema than the one between stranded astronaut David Bowman (in the film 2001 – see below) and Hal 9000, his spacecraft’s recalcitrant on-board computer? I would argue no; no, there is not.

In fact, the AFI (American Film Institute) listed HAL as the 13th-greatest film villain in its 100 Years… 100 Heroes and Villains list.

On Wikipedia it describes how “HAL speaks in a soft, calm voice and a conversational manner.” A fact that I would again argue only serves to make Hal’s descent into a murderous psychosis seem all the more creepy.

Which really brings me to the point of today’s blog. Namely the unrivalled power of the human voice to convey character and drama.

I mean, think of all the greatest characters you’ve ever seen on the screen, and I’ll guarantee you it was something unique or remarkable about the actor’s voice which made their particular role so memorable.

I’m talking now about James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, for instance, or Russell Crowe in Gladiator. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s guttural “I’ll be baaak…” stands as a testament to this phenomenon.

All of which is why I recently starting looking at turning my self-published novel, Missing Zero, into an audiobook. You see, I figure the power of the spoken word is the one thing I haven’t yet explored as an avenue for generating increased book sales.

And so, to this end, I next checked out, where I learnt you can host podcasts of your audiobook in a serialized form.

Awesome! But wait, now I needed to somehow convert the written word of my novel into recorded speech. Shit. All the big names I could think of as being suitable for the job of narrating the 330-odd pages of my book, I decided, were already quite busy, evidently. Names like Sean Connery, Stephen Fry and possibly even Sir Anthony Hopkins immediately came to mind.

I’m pretty sure the great character actor James Mason is already dead, but he also would have topped my wish list. Of course, Orson Welles would have fit the bill just as perfectly, if not for the obvious fact he too has long since bought the farm.

Well, anyhow, in the end, the one person I decided I would most love to hear reading my work is the English actor Jeremy Irons.

Coincidentally, as it happens, I see from searching the Internet that Irons has already previously recorded some audiobooks, a version of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist being just one such title. Snap! It’s clearly meant to be!

In case you are not familiar with Mr Irons oeuvre his most recent film roles include a starring role in The Words, also starring Bradley Cooper and Dennis Quaid.

Whatever. Jeremy Irons is the man for the job! He comes from an English theatre background, don’t you know, and his voice sounds like how an ice cube might if it were reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets as it slowly dissolved at the bottom of a crystal tumbler that was filled to the brim with the very finest and smoothest of 100-year-old Scotch whiskeys.

But alas, this is just a dream. I might as well tweet Angelia Jolie and ask her for a date on Friday. Because really I’ve got about an equal chance of either of these literary/literal wet dreams coming true.

So instead I’ve begun the daunting task of recording my audiobook by myself. Yup, the whole entire production consists of simply just me, my novel and a microphone. Hmm. Have you ever listened to your normal speaking voice on a recording before? Doesn’t sound too normal does it?

Nope. And neither does mine. Somehow my reading voice sounds to me like I’ve swallowed a gerbil; well, that’s what I hear whenever I can actually steel myself to listen back to what I’ve recorded so far.

Yet press on I must.

Whereupon I now once again press the record button of my recording software and repeat my command into the waiting microphone, saying : “I repeat, Open the Podcast-Bay Doors, Hal!”

2001: A Space Odyssey

Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Dave Bowman: What’s the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Dave Bowman: I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.
HAL: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen…