Murdering the world

By Xoic · Apr 30, 2023 · ·
  1. [​IMG]
    It's an amazingly beautiful day out, and I decided to take the bus up to Subway to get dinner. Walking across the parking lot on the way back, at first I was just thinking to myself in words and ignoring my surroundings, but I happened to glance down. In one sense, it's just a standard parking lot, but if you shut off the wordstream (essentially go into meditation) and allow yourself to experience the moment more purely, it's a vast expanse of incredible textures and colors (the picture above fails utterly to do it justice). Old blacktop patches, cracks, gravel, weeds growing through here and there, little oval islands of concrete with utility poles sprouting from them. There's also trash, which you could dismiss contemptuously as trash, or notice the plethora of incredible colors and surfaces.

    I do this a lot, drop into what's known as a walking meditation. Stop the mostly pointless flow of words and become like a wide-eyed child, awash in all the sensory details. They're there all the time, all around us, but most of the time we just pay them no mind, ignore them and think think think. The mind can do one or the other, it can't do both at the same time, unless you train it to be aware of sensory detail all the time, and then you actually do a lot less thinking in words. It's like the difference between a movie that's all talk, where everything is done through dialogue, and one with lengthy wordless passages of great cinematic beauty.

    I think this is one of the main differences, what separates a 'visual' person from a non-visual, or a verbal person. They're two different ways of seeing the world, or conceiving of it. You either shut up and pay attention, or you re-create the world in words from memory. When you do that there's none of the intense, sometimes shocking detail, visual and otherwise. A parking lot is a parking lot. Though if you walk across a few of them on a summer afternoon as the heat waves shimmer and dance, especially if you're a child at the time, you know they're not the same. They're all unique, and each one has various parts. That upper corner where it's overgrown with weeds and nobody has parked since the store there was abandoned ten years ago is not at all the same as down here. But if you're in the verbal mind they're all just parking lots, no more description needed.

    I guess what I'm saying is, I'm not sure the difference is inherent or genetic. To some extent anyway, it's a choice we make every day. You can talk a pale ghost of the world into being without noticing anything about it, or you can live in the real world, experience it, and realize how filled it is with wonder and beauty. Before I decided to go into meditation mode I was just crossing a parking lot, but suddenly everything dropped into glorious 4k resolution and Technicolor.

    I suppose some of us have this capability built in to a greater extent than others. Some people could stop talking, look down at the ground, and not notice anything special. But I suspect most of them are still resisting seeing it, hearing it, feeling it etc. I think even when they shut off verbal thinking they remain trapped in it, just with no words. Or they don't allow themselves to see the magic.

    And I can't help but notice how often I used words like see, as if it's strictly a visual thing. It isn't, it's all the senses. It's called being a visual person though, and there's no changing the name of it, but I know it's all the senses, and I think of it as vivid rather than visual.

    The world is achingly beautiful—everywhere, all the time. Whenever I let myself fall into that nonverbal mode I'm utterly entranced by it all. This is why when I write I feel the need to show so much detail, because it's how I experience the world. It's how the world IS. Everything is. Everything is beautiful. Knowing this, it would be a crime to reduce it all to cold gray facts.

    A murder.
    Seven Crowns likes this.


  1. Xoic
    Actually I murder the dazzling sensory detail of the world in my writing all the time—whenever I tell. It only lives and breathes when I show. And I tell a lot more than I show of course, that's how writing works. You can't use all juicy detail all the time, it would be overload. Just as your mind filters out the vast majority of that detail all the time so you're not overwhelmed by it, you need to do the same in writing, so a story can take shape and progress. Otherwise you'd be just writing some kind of tone poetry and nothing would be happening.

    It was a long moment that I allowed myself to experience the richness of the sensory world today—maybe five or ten minutes, until the bus showed up, and then I had to get back to the day's wordstream. You can't abandon it for too long, unless you're a guru or a Buddhist monk or something, and can live in pure meditation all the time. But just dipping into that rich sea of detail is enough to fill you for the rest of the day, and maybe well into the next. And the same is true in writing. A good strong showing scene sets the reader's mind to dreaming (if they're the kind of people who are prone to that), and then you have to wake them up and get back to the business of progressing the plot. But even in telling, a strong descriptive word or phrase here or there will stir the embers a bit and keep it alive, until you're ready to fan it back to life in your next showing scene.

    On the flip side of the coin, you do some telling in your showing scenes too. It's a Yin/Yang thing—you know how each has a little 'eye' of the opposite color in it? That's how it works. Your two modes of thinking, visual vivid and verbal, interpenetrate each other to some degree, so you don't completely stop the story from progressing in your showing scenes, and so you don't have to let all vividness die out completely in the telling.

    You murder the world, and then you resurrect it. Again and again.
      Seven Crowns likes this.
  2. Seven Crowns
    Your story reminds me of the story of Dostoevsky being marched to the firing squad. On the way there he noticed every detail that he would have otherwise dismissed. And he realized that he wanted to be a part of the world and all its small unseen aspects, because everything, all of it, mattered.

    Of course they didn't shoot him. He was pardoned at the last second and sent to Siberia instead, I believe. One of the guys with him went mad though. The shock of it all was too much for him.
      Xoic likes this.
  3. Xoic
    "Your story reminds me of the story of Dostoevsky being marched to the firing squad. On the way there he noticed every detail that he would have otherwise dismissed. And he realized that he wanted to be a part of the world and all its small unseen aspects, because everything, all of it, mattered."

    This plus part of the John Updike interview you posted recently have made me realize a couple of things about my own writing. Specifically the part where Updike said something to the effect of "You have to love the world and the people in it, be able to see things from their perspective." That reminds me of my own idea that you have to love all your characters in order to write a good story (or at least that's how it seems to work for me).

    I have a very deep sense of gratitude for the natural world and the people in it that make it all so fascinating. This is really a spiritual or religious attitude. It never occurred to me that it affects my writing the way I'm starting to think it does.

    I think my insistence on details of the natural world in my writing, which I always just thought of as showing, is more like a trancelike devotion, a prayerful immersion in nature where I lose myself and become a receptacle for divine love. And maybe I do something similar with characters, at least the ones I can find that love for.
  4. Xoic
    "... because everything, all of it, mattered."

    Hah! Not only Everything Is, but Everything Matters!
  5. Xoic
    Next wave of thoughts on it—I don't know why I said "The natural world." I love the world, including the man-made parts. Wait, no, I do know why I said the natural world. It's a bit of an inversion though. I love the man-made parts of the world just as much as the fields and the woods (as my parking-lot excursion above illustrates, inluding the beautiful trash). It's that I drop into the natural mind.

    There are a lot of abandoned buildings now in my town, that a few years ago were thriving businesses. Some of them are burned partially to the ground. They're marvels of beauty to me, from a strictly aesthetic perspective. Not from the highly judgemental social mind though. As a social being I see abandoned stores and restaurants as a blight, something terrible. A cancer on my formerly beautiful little city that's spreading. But when I shut off the inner babble and drop entirely into the unconscious, the social mind dissipates and I see only shapes, forms, textures, colors, shimmering sunlight, etc. This is what I mean by the natural mind—you see things the way an animal does. Well I don't know how they see things, but I mean you shut off all judgement and all higher-level cognition, shut off the words, and begin to see things as expressions of absolute beauty. It's a trancelike state, where everything instantly becomes pure beauty, almost too intense to take in. But you bask in it anyway.

    Then as soon as you allow the social mind, the judgemental mind (what I believe is the left hemisphere), to come back online, you go back to the social viewpoint again, and those ruined buildings are a terrible eyesore that should be razed and something new put in their place.

    It's not the animal mind, it's the child mind. The way I saw things as a youngster, when I was brimming over with innocence and love. That's still inside me, and I can access it in an instant.
  6. Xoic
    Unexpected Beauty

    Now I want to discuss a somewhat related topic—beauty that many people don't see because they've been trained to think it's 'bad'. Like a rainy or stormy day for instance. Some people are like "Oh no, not another dark dingy day! When will the sun come back?" But if you've developed an aesthetic appreciation for photography or paintings or movies, then you realize these are also beautiful situations, just of a different kind. Often that instant anti-aesthetic judgement is coming from the social mind, or what Jung would call the mass man, a creature of the crowd who wants to please the crowd. If you're in that mindset you don't see aesthetics at all, you see social situations and you judge them according to the value system of the crowd. Sun is good, therefore anything that means less sun must be bad, right? That's not an aesthetic idea, it's an equation. They're not really looking at it while witholding social or non-aesthetic judgement.

    If you love movies, and especially the ones with excellent cinematography, you've seen how gorgeous storms can be. Or hard pounding rain if you watch Kurasawa films. It's moody and atmospheric. The same is true of fog and mist in old B&W horror movies. Yeah, sure, it's not great to drive in (though I love driving through that low street fog after it rains hard on a hot night). But it sure does look great!!

    Becoming a visual artist you develop a love for these kinds of images, and similar kinds of sounds as well. A gentle rain against the roof and windows for instance. I mean yeah, rain bad, right? For some people anyway, if they're not gardeners or farmers. Rain is bad if you wanted to play baseball with the rest of the kids on the street that day, or if your game on television got rained out. But none of these are aesthetic judgements.

    If you're an avid reader of gothic horror, or a writer of it, you love creaky old houses filled with cobwebs and dust. Maybe you wouldn't care to live in one, especially if you have asthma. But they set just the right atmosphere and mood for certain kinds of scenes, and you can learn to love them purely for that reason.

    Skulls and bones also have an aesthetic beauty to them, especially if you're stydying anatomy or making certain kinds of movies or photographs. But most people wouldn't be very happy suddenly seeing a half-decayed animal carcass. Not only do they tend to be stinky and filled with maggots, but they also make you think about death and mortality. A whole cocktail of reasons to have a severe negative reaction. Lol, and no, I'm not going to say I find decaying carcasses beautiful, but bones are a different matter.

    I once ran across the severed head of a buck out in the woods. I think somebody shot it for meat and butchered it in the woods and just left the head. The antlers were small and had been broken in a few places where they had started to grow back, so not exactly a prize specimen. And it still had decaying flesh and skin on it. The stench was unbearable! But I immediately felt a reverence toward it. I've always loved seeing deer. I felt like I was charged with the task of cleaning up this skull and giving it a place to stay where it wouldn't get chewed up by scavengers, so I carried it by the tip of one antler all the way home (gagging the whole way) and went online and learned how to boil animal bones to remove the flesh. That skull is mounted on my wall now like a shrine.
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