My Soul Mate Superstition

This was going to be a far more in depth post than what’s actually going to result at the end of this entry, but there was no need. What I have to say is simple:

I’m ditching the quest to find my “soul mate”.

Born out of the end of my last relationship, this soul mate ideal got me through that long, slippery climb back up to worthiness and validation. It powered an entire novel in the process, and acted as a lifeboat, a bit of solace whenever I felt low: that there was someone out there for me, made just for me, perfect, just for me.

Obviously, I was bound to run into trouble sooner or later.

Ever wonder how the online activists never seem to run out of actual things to get offended by? How your buddy can buy a new Hyundai that you’d never heard of, but you’re suddenly seeing it every time you stop at a red? Have you ever had a song caught in your head that was so annoying that you wanted to punch someone in the face, but everywhere you went, it seemed to be playing from somewhere?

That’s a function of your filter. Some would say it’s the Reticular Activating System (RAS) in your brain that helps you recognize patterns in the data you receive from the outside world. Others would argue it’s Law of Attraction, and there’s some merit to that, I’m sure.

But for the most part, what’s true of the world is that there is every variety of love, hatred, injustice, abundance, beauty, and ugliness out there, and we can calibrate our lenses to see more or less of any of them in our experiences.

Properly calibrate the lens through which you see the world, and you’ll see what you want to see, something real and actually there, and nothing else.

love goggles.jpg

So…you’d think my Soul Mate Lens would help me see a soul mate, then, right?  Nuh-uh!

In fact, my soul-mate superstition has caused nothing but damage. My image of a perfect partner is so perfect that it actually has the opposite effect: instead of seeing the person who I want magically appear out of a crowd, I look at women right in front of me who actually exist, who truly love me, and see everything that they aren’t.

That’s right. Presented with the possibility – no, certainty – of true love, I nonetheless reject anyone who doesn’t match the contours of my Soul Mate Lens as I have defined it. Then I go back to my hoping and wishing: “She’s really out there, guys!”

My soul mate superstition is wrecking my love life. It’s keeping me from taking risks in love. It’s already damaged one relationship, and if left intact, it would ruin the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that.

There’s a cliche floating around the meme-verse on Facebook and Tumblr: “love means seeing an imperfect person perfectly”. That’s exactly what I am now committing to doing.

In order to do that, I’m tearing down the altar to this soul mate superstition that I’ve laboured on for years. It will be a hard habit to break, to stop comparing real and beautiful flesh-and-blood human beings to an idea, but now’s the second best time to start retraining my brain. The actual best time was six years and six months ago.

I just hope it’s not too little, too late.


Natural Resistance

Brace yourselves: I’m about to save you thousands of dollars that you would have spent on self-help seminars. Here’s how personal transformation happens, in a few short paragraphs.

You’re a being with a body that obeys a brain made up of “animal” and “human” components.


The animal parts of the brain, being older on the evolutionary scale, are more closely connected with the body than the newer human parts. The animal parts are the ones closely associated with emotion and instinct, the “fight, flight, or freeze” threat responses, and so on.

The more human parts of the brain tend to involve higher functions: reason, imagination, visualization, socialization, and so on. They’re the source of conscious control over the body, though they, too, can be overridden by the animal brain parts.

Usually, all components of the brain work well together…until you try to do something completely new and exciting: say, launch a business, enter a bodybuilding contest, run for office, go back to school, write a book, become an actor, etc.. That’s when the system starts to wobble.

Even though your higher human brain systems are super-excited at the prospect of becoming, doing, and/or having the New Thing, your animal brain parts simultaneously go to DEFCON 1.  “This is scary!”, they shout, “this is dangerous! It’s outside our usual habits and routines! STOP IT NOW!”

And your modern human brain parts, with no ability to tell the difference between imagination and reality, start inventing all sorts of stories and imaginary threats that stop you in your tracks.

This is the Natural Resistance, and it happens almost every time you try to step out of your comfort zone. Most people get beaten back by the discomfort and anxiety and go right back to their routines, living out lives of quiet desperation and “meh”, such is the power of Natural Resistance.

Fortunately, Natural Resistance is pretty simple to beat: just acknowledge it for what it is – a natural, neurological and biological reaction to new possibilities – and then keep going for that New Thing. Stay in action. Eventually, the animal brain parts calm down, and you win.

There. Variations of this theme exist in nearly every personal growth course you can find on the market. So go ahead. You can fire your life coach now. (Well, actually, keep them around: you’ll definitely need some help dealing with the Natural Resistance).

Natural Resistance has a lot of names, almost all of them trademarked and coined by whatever personal growth company or guru came up with them (and I suppose, given that I’ve just capitalized both words, you can now add me to that list). However, they all describe the same thing: an animal-brain-created reaction to something new.

What’s more, the more transformational the goal, the correspondingly powerful the Natural Resistance becomes.


It’s even something you can see on both individual and collective stages. Is it a coincidence you see a mass awareness of LGBT and Trans rights in the U.S. at the same time Donald Trump and his reactionary ilk are leading in the polls? Here are two disparate, polar-opposite sides, one based in love, the other in fear, and there’s very little overlap between the two. On a national scale, the Natural Resistance within the collective consciousness of the United States plays itself out live on CNN and our Twitter feeds.

Multiple factors play into what’s happening with those two phenomena, to be sure, but my tinfoil hat theory is that if you follow the veins and tributaries back to the source, you’ll come across millions of individuals allowing the animal parts of their brains to run the show, at least in the fear-based scene. A physical representation of the battle that goes on inside the mind of every human being at some point in life.

I digress. Natural Resistance gets a lot of fuel from pre-existing habits and deeply-ingrained beliefs, the grooves in the records that play inside our comfort zones. And a big area of life that feels the impact of NR is in our relationships, especially our romantic ones, where they tend to fuck us up the most…more on that later.

Seed-Planting and Patience in Entrepreneurship

It’s springtime in the northern hemisphere, and thanks to a wondrous alignment of SEO and some actual experiences in my recent entrepreneurial activities, I wanted to share an insight into having patience and playing a slower, longer game in creative enterprise than what’s currently popular.

Spring is a season for preparing the soil and sowing seeds. If you’re still new in your business, the metaphor holds that you’ve got quite some time left before you can start tearing those plants out of the ground. The problem is that too many of us, especially the younger ones, are doing just that, and then complaining that the sprouts do not nourish.

IMG_20120503_125611The Myth of the Quick Buck

People aren’t just going to hand you lots of money just because you’re awesome.

I work in the writing and publishing field, and I’ve learned the hard way that this isn’t a transactional field of service. Sure, you may be tired of hearing that it’s “all about relationships”, but in the pursuit of the quick buck, it’s easy to forget it. It takes time to develop trust with your prospects. This is especially true if your product or service is something that’s a four-or-five figure investment on the part of your clients.

If you’re starting up, I’m sure there’s a temptation to skip over this part and get straight to closing these “whales”, but there isn’t. In publishing and writing especially, this is a gradual process of building trust, rapport, and credibility. The same applies to many other creative fields.

“Without Integrity, Nothing Works” (a.k.a. “Get Your Shit Together”)

est founder Werner Erhard was right on the money. Integrity isn’t morality: it’s the state of being whole and complete. What integrity looks like in an entrepreneurial or freelance context is that you not only have the basic functioning components of your business in place – for example, a website, a business number, a working computer, etc.. – but that you yourself are also keeping up with your health and well-being, your bills, and your commitments.

And how about those bills? Too many of us – and I’m guilty of this as well, so don’t think I’m casting the first stone – go into entrepreneurship because we think it’ll get us that quick buck. I talked about this notion of “burning your boats” in order to “take the Island”.

However, what often happens is that you end up trying to milk money out of your start-up way too quickly. There’s no energetic capital yet, your following is tenuous and not nearly as devoted as you are, and people don’t yet trust you. As such, no cash is flowing in. That’s when the gimmickry comes into play: the “one day special”, the overly high discount on high-value products or services. You compromise your value, and surprise-surprise, no one buys.

Meanwhile, because you quit your job or have no other source of income because that’s how you interpreted “burn the boats”, your bills keep piling up, and so does your desperation to pull something, anything, out of the seedlings you’ve just planted in the ground.

Stop Flailing!

This is why you see many self-employed people occasionally flail about, offering anything and everything to get someone to buy their stuff. But flailing is a huge gumption drain, and you’ll have nothing left before too long to do anything.

This is why I now tell every young person who’s eager to take the leap to take their time. Get that job slinging lattes at Starbucks if you have to, or stay working full-time and devote three hours a night and parts of your weekends to nourish your business. Get your shit together, get your bills paid, and keep some left over to invest in your enterprise. It’ll stop you from flailing about when the floor falls out from under you.

Gary Vaynerchuk says, over and over again, that patience is among the biggest deficits among new entrepreneurs today. This is coming from someone, by the way, who already had experience building businesses and is now one of the more prosperous and influential entrepreneurs around today. In Vaynerchuk’s words, the payoff is coming. “Stop crying, and keep hustling”.

And if that quote’s not enough, if you’re still balking about having to work a j-o-b for a while, consider this rhetorical question from Mr. Les Brown: “do you know the quickest way for you to get back on your feet is to miss two car payments?”

Enjoy the Growing Season

I’ve never farmed, but I know it’s a lot of hard work. You’d never see a farmer plant fall-harvest crops in May and then try to reap them in June, so why would you expect your start-up business to pay your bills right away?sunsetcaledon

Entrepreneurship is among the most exciting, frightening, joy-filled, and heartbreaking things anyone can do, and I’ve only been at it for less than a year, but I’m putting in the work to make sure that my business grows well, even if some of that work involves doing something else to pay my dues.

My enterprise is still growing, and I’ve stopped flailing about trying to harvest what hasn’t yet grown. I am allowing time and attentive care to do their things. Summer sun is coming and I plan on enjoying every day out in the fields, sunny and rainy alike, knowing that the harvest will be bountiful.

Will you do the same?

Freelance Hell: Three Tips To Avoid Burnout

What I want most in the world is to be transparent, everywhere and at all times.

It’s that desire that every creative shares, whether they’re working at their craft for dollars and cents or if they’re creating for creation’s sake: to be seen for who we really are.

The number one reason we don’t share, those of us who are part of that first group, is that we don’t want to get in trouble with our clients. We don’t want to get fired. We don’t want to get a bad reputation in business. We don’t want to lose a referral. We don’t want to offend.

But sometimes, for an artist, expression needs to come before those considerations. And I must express my present truth, even if it gets me in trouble, because I will have a complete mental breakdown if I don’t get this out, and then I won’t be any good for anyone.

Outside of titles and roles, who I really am is someone who is overwhelmed most days, and have been not for simply days or weeks, but months. Months now. I am in Freelance Hell, and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

What is Freelance Hell? Simply, it’s when a self-employed individual has too much work than they can handle, too much work that ONLY they can handle, and not enough money coming in to pay their bills.

Getting out of here is simple, though certainly not easy: I need to finish what I agreed to finish. That’s part of what makes it hell. There is no quick fix: because there’s no liquid money floating around my account, I can’t pay someone to help me out of it. The only way out is to work what I’ve got.

As a cautionary tale, however, I share with you the three decisions I made that led here, and offer you three tips that I strongly suggest you follow if you’re to avoid your own personal Freelance Hell.

1. Underpricing My Services

Fish are mostly unaware of the water in which they swim. Similarly, many new freelances are blind to the true value of their services. I was no different in the beginning, and as a result, I priced myself as much as 50% below the market worth of my ghostwriting and editing services, according to the Writer’s Market Guide of the year. I employed “Wal-Mart” thinking in my pricing: I needed clients fast and decided to beat my competitors on price, rather than quality.

As such, rather than taking on one or two higher paying clients, I took on multiple lower paying ones.

What I didn’t count on was the labour-intensive nature of the work I was hired to do. This is why freelances charge the equivalent of a monthly salary of a 9 to 5 professional job: they’re often devoting the same types of hours in a given week to fulfilling one project as they would if they were driving into an office gig from Monday to Friday. In ghostwriting especially, the time pressure can impact the quality and timeliness of the work involved. And when I took on multiple such projects, the time requirements multiplied.

By underpricing myself, I’ve essentially turned myself into a slave to my one-on-one clients, who expect – and rightly deserve – top quality work, on time, and in full.


Re-read the last three words. Burn them into your unconscious. Surrender to it, no matter what anyone else says.

Price yourself according to your worth and needs. Refer to indexes like the Writer’s Market (available in most bookstores in the Reference section) to find out what the average price for your service is currently, and decide where you stand in relation to the average. Understand what your monthly expenses are, and factor them into your price, plus an extra amount for profit so you’re not just “getting by”.

Afterwards, stick to your guns. Don’t be afraid to turn down leads who balk at your price: if they don’t see the value, then you don’t want to work with them anyway, because their doubts will dog your process at every step until completion.

2. No Alternate Source of Consistent Income

The reason I needed clients quickly was that I decided to, as Tony Robbins put it, “burn the boats”: I quit my day job to take the leap into full-time ghostwriting and editing. I did not save up much of an emergency fund, and as such, I had to get work fast.

Because I was running against the clock, it simply increased the pressure on me to find new work. That caused me to take on more for less.


I cannot stress this enough. If you do need the time freed up to do quality work, go work part-time somewhere, and do this before the work piles up to such a degree that you won’t have the hours free to work part-time. It will relieve the pressure, even if it’s minimum wage: at least you’ll have something coming in.

And I get it: right now, there’s some poor schmuck reading this who’s no longer content to be an drone for some shitty company, and all he or she wants to do is follow bliss towards this lifestyle.

Worse than being a 9 to 5 drone is no longer loving what you do some days because you’re not able to pay your electric bill with it. Meditate on that for a moment.

Stay where you are, take on one client, and devote 2-4 hours outside of your day job to give them the best possible work that you can muster. Then, if you love what you do and got great reviews from your early clients, keep working until you’ve replaced all of your office wages with freelance wages. Then, and only then, do you leave your job.

3. Lack of Clarity and Patience

Before making this leap into full-time freelancing, I did not develop a business plan. I did not assess my needs and wants. I didn’t even test it out on one project to see if it was something I truly wanted to do. Instead, I just went for it. The result…well, you get the picture.

In truth, I’ve discovered, in actually doing it, that as a full-time, singular profession, book ghostwriting is not for me. Editing isn’t even completely for me, though there are aspects about it I love. What I love about my field is making the connections, helping other writers and editors find work. I love developing ideas and building a team to fulfill on a project. I love coaching authors to succeed. I love the creative and people aspect of writing and publishing, not the labour. Whatever that work is worth, I will gladly accept those dollars and cents.

What I’m clear on now is that I would prefer personal rather than paid blogging and creative writing. Now my mission, rather than simply finishing what I’ve started, is to disentangle and liberate my writing from the awful, heavy responsibility of paying my bills. If I write a bestselling book that sells millions of copies, so be it.

By mid-2016, my goal is to return to the creative writing that I started with, the creative writing that I miss so dearly.


Are you sure you want to make a living doing this thing that you love? Are you sure you want to evolve your hobby into a profession? If so, create a business plan. Talk to people who know this arena better than you do if you’re not sure. Find other freelance professionals who have made it and interview them, find out how their journeys have been.

And get really clear: what do you value? Do you want easy money? If so, freelancing is not the way to go. Are you more motivated to get away from a shitty job rather than moving towards freelancing? If so, reconsider taking the leap until you can truly become “pro” freelance and not “anti” job.

You don’t need to become a saint or attain nirvana before you make your move, but before you burn your boats, you should put a little thought into whether or not this is an island worth taking.

Follow Tip 3, and you’ll avoid Freelance Hell altogether.

Do not mistake what I am saying, boys and girls. I am responsible for my choices that led me here. I’m not blaming any external seminar, motivational video, coach, or other source for my decision to “follow my bliss”. Nor am I blaming myself too much, either, however: we’ve got too many mixed messages out there for creatives that love to tell them to take the leap, but say precious little about what happens afterwards. Use both your heart and your brain when mapping out a creative living.

And if you’re already in Freelance Hell, seeing yourself in what I’ve described, you have my empathy. Feel free to reach out to me at with your story. Let’s support each other, because the way out of hell is one step, one day, at a time. I know I will get out of here, and that you will, too.

And on that note, I must go back to work.

Why I’ll (Likely) Never Go Full Tinfoil Hat


Two months into 2016, and I’m experiencing a spiritual awakening, more intense and subtle than any other growth spurt in my life.

Tracking my old journal and blog entries going back numerous years, I see that “ambling up the mountainside”, an image I’ve used in the past to describe my personal development, is a very apt description. Growth manifests for me in rapid and powerful bursts, like the stages of a moonshot rocket dropping away in quick succession. The past nine years has been such a trajectory, one that’s taken a sharper, upward angle in the past six months alone.

For the past month, I’ve been attuned to energies. Rather than just an intellectual concept, or a nice insight that makes me look good with the in-crowd at personal development cocktail parties, I’m experiencing the vibrational reality of my world. Like older Han Solo, I can declare of these direct experiences, “it’s real, all of it.”

So why haven’t I shed my store-bought clothes for a hemp-rope toga, changed my name to Jody “Togananda” Aberdeen, and started walking barefoot around the suburban wilderness, shaking a tambourine and proclaiming to anyone who would listen the evils of the Illuminati and its control over the weather?

I’m not saying that Togananda won’t ever become a real thing – look through the archives of this blog alone, and you’ll see skepticism about a lot of things I’ve since embraced – but there’s something just plain…well, inauthentic about going full tinfoil hat simply because I’m excited about a new experience without knowing what it is.

When confronted by a challenge to one’s existing definitions of reality, it’s important to test them yourself, and to do so according to one’s own standards of satisfaction, before embracing it

Historian James Burke once said, maybe overly broadly, of Aristotle that “if you rejected one bit of Aristotle, you rejected it all, because his was a package deal”. I feel a similar sentiment with this idea of holistic knowledge. If you accept a new paradigm as true, you must also accept it within the context of what we already know to be true. That means using your left brain, logic, your rational faculties, maybe even your identity and ego.

In short, if your stated aim is total knowledge, then you can’t completely throw out what you already know simply because something new presents itself.

Energy healing, for example, may supplant cognitive therapy in a few individual cases. Those people may get the breakthroughs they need from a Reiki session, or a guided meditation.

However, that doesn’t mean that we take an activist stand against psychotherapy, because that modality undoubtedly helps millions of people around the world every day.

Similarly, I’m pretty well versed on conspiracy theories of the day – 9/11, UFO coverups, chemtrails, the Lunar Landing one which, frankly, annoys the crap out of me to no end, etc.. – and I definitely don’t doubt that there are hidden, shadowy forces at play in the ruling courts and boardrooms of the planet today.

However, I’ve also stood in line at the MTO to get my plate stickers renewed, went through a divorce proceeding that took years, and even worked for a government agency and watched the molasses-like funding approval process for non-profits in action (which could just as easily be spelled “inaction”).

I find it hard to believe, from a common sense standpoint alone, that the same type of institutional government that takes six months to fill a pothole can somehow employ millions of people to pull off a wide-scale conspiracy without a single credible leak making the evening news.

But just try telling that to a True Believer.boycotteverything

The people who go Full Tinfoil Hat find some type of deep connection to something just outside of our accepted reality, which is fine, but they lose it when they throw out their own reason and common sense, which in turn causes them to throw out other things that they already know to work.

Why they do this is simple: the false belief somehow connected with them on a deep personal level, and they hinged their reputations and entire worldviews on it, as part of their own version of everyone’s desire to find meaning in the inherently meaningless lives we all lead. That’s why, having accepted the initial data, they then shut the door on further updates to that same information, even if the updates show that the original data was false. This makes them virtually no different in their thinking to religious fundamentalists.

We can’t completely abandon reason in the domains of life where reason works. Science, and the scientific method, may be reaching its limits in terms of what it can do for us, and it’s true that it was never designed to teach us spiritual principles. It was designed for the empirical world, and in that capacity, it has manifested wonders. It’s our own irrational economic and cultural behaviours that have created the environmental and social messes we now find ourselves in, not science itself.

All of this is a digression, in any case. Speaking personally, I will never abandon reason, but I won’t be dominated by it, either. It’s possible to have multiple conflicting realities overlapping. That’s not a failure of intellect: that is life. It’s simply a matter of integrating them into a worldview that works.

For this reason, I will never be fully “woo woo” spiritual, nor will I be a staunch rationalist skeptic. The clincher for any paradigm shift will always be, for me, direct experience of that new paradigm: that’s how I know energetic healing is real, that the Universe responds to intentions and aligned actions; that medicines and therapies and meditation all work to heal us.

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten a strong impression that my mission in life is to help birth the next great ideas that will transform the world and speed along this evolutionary shift that’s happening. That means remaining credible, looking at the Shift the way those who haven’t done any of this work will see it.

This is something that I’ve done naturally, which devotees to movements I’ve dabbled in have mistaken as a lack of commitment to the cause. That’s not what it is. Rather, it’s a commitment to a larger mission of reconciling the old and new, and making the paradox work for us.

Because, in the final analysis, if our commitment is to total awareness and knowledge, then it’s a package deal: we use all of our faculties, or none at all.

(Plus, tinfoil is expensive in large quantities, anyway).

2016: Function and Thrive

For 2016, I see seven visions, and from 2015, I’m carrying over three lessons, all about self-care.

New Year’s resolutions and goals are all well and good. Recapitulations of the past year, also not bad, though a little boring to read if you’re not personally involved in them.  Sometimes, though, there’s no need for expository, or explanation. The answer to the question of “how” to get any goal is simple: make a plan, then work the plan. This entry is about neither: the planning and work will happen offline, out of sight, unless I choose to share them.

No, for now, this is simply what I see, and what the achy, vulnerable feeling inside my chest tells me is the point on the horizon I need to tread towards next. The resources to manifest these visions – financial, infrastructural, creative, and human – will all appear only as a consequence of planning the work behind the vision well, and then working it with integrity.


Seven visions, to whit, for 2016, either achieved or in progress by this day a year from now:

  • Moving back to the Greater Hamilton Area
  • To rescue and adopt a canine companion for Bella
  • A nutritious diet that is consistent with compassion for animals
  • A completed second fiction novel
  • A thriving, profitable referral network (Menagerie, which you’ll be hearing more about soon…)
  • A work-life context that balances service with the personal space I need to function and thrive.
  • A week long trip away to Paris

The three lessons in self-care that I’m bringing with me from 2015 are:

Mental Self-Care:  Late in the fall, I got depressed and moody for absolutely no reason. I hid it well….for a while, but when it grew in intensity and started to impact my work and relationships with other people – and when nothing in my immediate circumstances could explain why – I went to my doctor. Symptoms of a mood disorder, he told me. I’m awaiting the appointment for my psych referral, and in the meantime, I have sat with counselors and have brought back strategies that have helped me stay chill in the past. I meditate daily once again, I journal, I practice gratitude. Some days, the symptoms return, despite these efforts, and it’s just a matter of riding them out. Embracing my introversion and keeping to myself has proven effective (even if it’s made me slightly unpopular). Until I get a formal medical diagnosis, I’m drawing no other conclusions, just that this is a thing I now have to monitor, on par with my weight, diet, and exercise.

I have supported mental health initiatives such as Bell’s “Let’s Talk” to take the stigma out of mental illness through public conversation, and now that I may have one myself – indeed, it’s possible I’ve had this for a long time, but didn’t recognize it for what it was – I will walk my own talk and share in the hopes of helping others coming to the same realization. That starts, I suppose, with this open disclosure.

Physical Self-Care:  I’m now 45 pounds over my optimal weight, according to my last physical at the start of September. What started out as foot pain from wearing bad slippers and shoes led to me stopping going to the gym on a regular basis. It happened so fast that I didn’t even see it. With better shoes and a new gym membership that lets me exercise 24/7, I will be making regular workouts a priority on par with client work.

Creative Self-Care: I am now five years overdue on “Overlife”. The book’s undergone so many revisions and reboots that every time I work on it, a part of me is waiting for that reset button to click off yet again. This time, I have the elements in place, but I’m noticing that I am out of practice with my artistry, and there is a spillover effect into my ghostwriting and editing. Similar to my physical health, I let a small week-long lapse from my story turn into a months-long absence. Moving forward, I am making time in my regular schedule for storytelling.

2015 was supposed to have been my year. It did not disappoint, but it was just the beginning. There’s so much more to come in 2016.  Even so, the whole point of celebrating this arbitrary holiday, for many people, is the reminder that we start again, no matter where we are, no matter how final our circumstances may be. If you’re around to witness the holiday, it’s not the end.  If you haven’t gotten or created everything you wanted to get or create, it’s not the end. If you screwed up somehow in 2015, it’s not the end.  As the saying goes, “every saint has a past; every sinner a future”. As long as there is life, there is possibility, and thus, always another turn at the game.

Remember that today and tomorrow, when, from all of our different walks of life, we all start again.



There was once a wild thing that was lost….

I last saw him in the fall, some early blazing sunset of crimson when my legs still carried the skin memory of classroom carpets and little plastic trucks.  The world was much more magical then.  There was a magic in the uncertainty of not knowing what was so, or how things worked.  Without answers, all questioners are left to create.

Notice that I said “create”, not “hypothesize”, for hypothesis is the offspring of science, and science is about finding answers. Nor is that to make science wrong and magic right. Science carries its wonder in the form of the answers; magic in its wondering questions. Two different flavours, depending on your appetite.

And magical thinking…it’s an eternal preserve of youth, of those wild creatures we used to have and be before we civilized ourselves with adulthood, and set aside our childish things.


The trigger for this latest ramble? I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust” in all of its glorious melody. And I found I had to switch my entire way of being to get into it, to pick a time and a place when I knew I would have no other distractions. The short attention spans and busy times of adulthood have a cost in our appreciation of formidable language. At best, we can skip off the surface like a fast-moving schooner or a hapless meteorite, but by gods, once you’ve broken through, the letters and images and feelings just flow around you like an ocean of warm honey.

If you haven’t read “Stardust”, do so, and I won’t spoil anything major, but the notion, just the whole premise of the back of the book, stirs old feelings. A star falls from the sky, and a young man embarks on a journey to retrieve it for his young lover. But to get it, Tristan must cross into the land of Faerie, a parallel world where the star is a beautiful woman, now separated from her thousands of brothers and sisters who wander the night for eternity.

Yvaine, the Star, can never go back to them – “stars fall. They don’t go back up again”, she remarks – and so no matter the outcome, she is assured to live forever on Earth in the Faerie world, looking up from great distances. Tristan, for his part, leaves behind his family – a father, mother, and sister – who love him dearly, and whom he loves in return, but not as much as the adventure on the other side of the wall.

It’s a world of transfiguration and magical objects, of sky galleons and unicorns, nothing in and of itself unique to Gaiman by any stretch, nor is it simply the meter and flourish of his words that’s gripped me. Too much analysis becomes dissection, and kills the thing it aims to study in the process. This is the sum total process of the experience that I’m talking about.


That experience took me somewhere beyond the book and the story, to something close to infant memory. I remember a thick quilt of deep blue, like twilight sky, painted with big yellow stars and crescent moons with smiling, sleepy faces on them.  And I remember as a child being taken out at night to look up at whatever faint stars managed to pierce the light shield of our cities. I remember not being sure of what they were, but looking at them and thinking about the images on the quilt.

Not long after – maybe a little too early – my mom, who worked as a library clerk, brought home a kid’s book on space. I learned that science had found the stars to be giant burning balls of hydrogen that were billions of miles away, and that they were, in fact, not “diamonds in the sky’, but more massive than hundreds of Earths put together. This, I learned, was what the stars really were. Armed with this knowledge, I shared with my classmates, only to be ridiculed. “That’s dumb,” said one kid named Ryan. “Stars are pieces of planets. My dad told me so!”

And I never forgot that, because it meant I was so much smarter than that kid. I had read the book!  I knew what he didn’t, thanks to my Mom. In the time afterwards, anytime I’d see that quilt, I’d notice the smiling star-faces and crescent moons, and the pleasant, comfortable feeling that came from seeing those familiar forms, and then remember “Oh, that’s not what stars actually are”, and the feeling would go away. An early victim of the Curse of Knowledge.


What if stars were people? An absurd question, but in Faerie they are and, thus, valid to ask. On this side of Wall, the town in the ordinary world that borders the other land, they’re just elements, no spirits, no consciousness. In the real world – our world – everything is just something that happens, with no meaning or significance. A star falls out of the sky and it’s just a rock smoldering inside a crater, if it even makes it to earth.

Faerie is where so many of our wild selves went, one day, long ago, the parts of us that came up with their own answers to our questions about what the world was. The parts of us that invented the universe in our own image.

One night, when we were all too young, not long after fact replaced story, they stole out of our homes, like jealous and heartbroken cats that run away after the arrival of a new baby. They crept through the village, past the guards, and bolted through the hole in the wall into the wild, leaving us to discover their departure only too late, to wonder at their adventures and worry about their survival. And we’re left to wonder about it for so long afterwards, well into the conventional drab routine of adulthood. That may be an accidental reason why so many of “Stardust”s pages just sigh with longing.

But what a wild thing I used to have, and be, that primal quality of a five year old living his life in ignorance, coloring his pages with crayons and getting lost in his own limbic imaginings.  And after all these long years of adulthood concerns, of money and entrepreneurship, of services to render and bills to pay, I had wondered where he had gone.

“Stardust” helped me see that that part of me is still alive and well, roving out there in the forests, the mountains, and the skies of that other world, of Faerie.