What’s left of me

(Avantasia again, but now taken from The Mystery of Time, an epic of an album in scope and confusion.)

We’re coming to the end of another year. This one has been rough. Maybe not quite as bad as 2020, but it’s pretty close. We still dwell within the dystopia of a false pandemic, now with the added bonus of the powers that be attempting to force a harmful, useless, and potentially deadly drug down our throats. (Or, if you prefer, into our arms.) Tennessee has begun to stand as a small beacon of hope in a darkened world, which might be the only positive thing going at the moment.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality, specifically my own. It’s not that I’m old (38 isn’t even middle-aged, is it?) or that I’m scared of the bioweapon that kills 1 out of every 1000 or so. I don’t fear for my life. I just don’t see it lasting too much longer.

It looks as though I have everything arrayed against me. Although this state has taken a tentative step forward in barring public functions and private businesses from requiring the so-called vaccine, there’s nothing stopping them from reneging on that pledge of liberty. Add in an economy spiraling down, indeed put into a nosedive by those in control, and the stress of working a job that relies on cars being, you know, a thing, and I don’t see a lot of wiggle room. Literally everything has to go right for me to even have a chance to tread water. Advancing just doesn’t seem possible from where I sit.

Part of that is mental, I know. Depression colors my thoughts at all times now, but a rational breakdown of those thoughts will show that not all of them can be attributed to the darkness clouding my mind. Our world really is in bad shape. We’re beset by demons, though of the metaphorical sort—you can’t make me believe the literal ones exist.

My worldview relies on that rationality. It relies on the notion that a person’s value is proportional to that which they create in humanity as a whole, that creators are inherently more beneficial for our species than destroyers, and that they will be rewarded as such. Most of all, it takes as axiomatic the idea that the single most human act is the creation of another.

If I can’t do that, I might as well not even live, because what am I contributing?

This is not a suicide note. It is a simple statement of fact, of my sincere beliefs. I don’t intend those beliefs to cover anyone but myself. This is how I view my continued existence, rather than a general judgment. I would hope that others recognize the value of it and see it in a positive light, finding ways to incorporate the essence of it into their own system of the world, but I am content to hold it in isolation if necessary.

I accept my position and its consequences. To that end, I now view the coming year, 2022, as a final chance to put certain things in order. Most importantly, I want to take those twelve months to create…something big. Many things, rather, things that will outlive me. If my lineage will not survive, maybe my legacy can.

One legacy may come from employment. The project I’ve been working on these past two months has the potential to become a viral sensation. Even if it doesn’t, it will most likely provide a strong base for future projects in the same vein, and a platform that can endure. Although I have not once thought I was worthy of bringing it to market, I would be happy to put my name on the finished product.

The second is far more personal. I want to take time in 2022 to develop my philosophy of “technetism” for two reasons. First, I do believe it is beneficial as a whole, and will inspire others to think of the world and themselves in a better light. Second, I hope it can do the same for me. Spiritualism in any sense has never worked for me, despite decades of trying, so I don’t see many other options. As always, the only course I feel is open to me is going it alone.

The third on the list comes from a longtime hobby of mine. As I’ve repeatedly stated on PPC, I got into fantasy writing in part because of my hobby of language construction. In the 20+ years I’ve been tinkering with my own linguistic creations, I’ve expanded into related fields, and I want to do something big in that vein. I’m not sure what that is just yet, but I have a few ideas I’m going to explore in December. If I come up with anything, I’ll be sure to let my readers (do I even have readers?) know.

The writing itself comes in fourth on the list. I regret that I probably won’t be able to finish Orphans of the Stars, Otherworld, The Hidden Hills, The Occupation Trilogy, Endless Forms, or even Modern Minds. Honestly, I doubt I could finish them all even if I lived forever. But I would like to leave enough behind that others are inspired, and maybe a talented author could complete what I left incomplete.

These are the things I want to do. Not all of them, mind you. Many goals I would like to reach are no longer possible. Many avenues have been closed off. Thus, I take what I can get and ask for no more, because no amount of asking, begging, or pleading has ever gotten me anywhere. The items I listed are, to me, the bare minimum that I feel I need to complete before calling my life well-lived.

Those four hopes are, in a sense, all that’s left of me.

The things we believe in

(Title is a song by Orden Ogan, a great band that doesn’t get nearly enough love even in metal circles.)

In another timeline, this was the day I proposed. No, really. A few months ago, when I was still riding the high of getting a job, I let myself believe that. I planned for it. Today would be the day I drove 100 miles to the home of my beloved, got down on one knee, and asked her to be mine forever.

In this timeline, things went a little differently. I haven’t talked to her in over a month, and the reason is quite simple: I don’t feel deserving. Of her, of a relationship, of happiness itself. I haven’t for a long time, but the past few weeks have made that feeling (or lack of feeling, I suppose) grow by leaps and bounds.

I don’t believe in myself. That’s just a fact. Not only do I not, but I can only question those who do. Why? What have I done that would give you the impression that I’m worthy of that? Why would you think I have an upside? Because I certainly don’t see one.

The question I’ve been reflecting on lately, then, is a natural extension. Since I don’t believe in my own abilities or worth, what do I believe in?

I’m not a religious man. I think I’ve stated that often enough. I grew up in a very evangelical family, and that experience turned me off organized religion, although I still subscribe to a kind of “cultural Christianity”, as it is known. Growing up as an inquisitive, rational thinker, I studied faiths of various sorts, looking for the inspiration so many have claimed to find. What I’ve determined is that the metaphysical is not something that can be studied. It can’t be explained by reason or scientific methods, only personal revelation. As I’ve never had any of those, I consider myself an agnostic in the literal sense of the word: one who does not know.

I also call myself a humanist (in that same literal sense) because I truly have faith in humanity as a whole, in progress and the ability for us to overcome obstacles set by the environment or our fellow human beings. The past two years have shaken that faith to its very core, as I have seen more than half the population of this country, including some of my closest friends and relatives, abandon the notion of cooperation and the Enlightenment ideals I hold dear, replacing them with divisive hatred and prejudice. I continue to believe that we can be better if we all work together toward the common goals of liberty, equality, and prosperity. I am fast becoming a believer in the idea that we unfortunately won’t get to that point without a lot of bloodshed.

I strongly believe that knowledge is power. Learning opens doors. Hiding information harms us all. My brother and I often argue over that tired old thought experiment: What if we discovered aliens? Should the discoverers keep that a secret? He says yes, that the potential for mass panic is too great. I counter by arguing that the knowledge itself is worth it, that the benefits of understanding that we are not alone in the universe outweigh any possible negatives. Ignorance, in my opinion, is not bliss. It is a prison.

I wholeheartedly believe in the necessity and indivisibility of the family. I come from a broken home, and I long ago vowed never to create one of my own. Today, even this has become political, as the very idea of the family unit is under attack, so I must side with the political movement that supports healthy families over single mothers with a string of divorces, or hormone replacements, or eugenic sterilization. If that makes you think of me a bad person, so be it. I admit that some of my allies on this issue hold views I find repugnant. Politics, after all, makes strange bedfellows.

The last point I want to make here is related, and it is, in a sense, the belief I hold most dear. While I don’t believe in any divine purpose to human life (see above for my reasoning), I absolutely believe that we are born with one natural purpose above all: reproduction. Our first goal, as per Darwinian evolution, is the survival of the species and our genetic lineage. If we do that, we are successful biological organisms. If we don’t, we’ve failed. It’s that simple.

Maybe it’s too reductionist, but it does have its advantages. Cries of overpopulation have no effect on me, because I know that this planet is nowhere near its carrying capacity, and progress can only increase that limit. I see through the transparent attempts at population control via the “climate crisis”, the “pandemic”, and other nonsensical notions. Anti-family propaganda merely makes the belief more entrenched.

Belief is nothing unless you act on it, unless you are willing to accept its consequences. Thus, I must accept the logical conclusions to which my beliefs lead. I will not sign an NDA or attempt to gain a security clearance, because I believe knowledge should be available to all, not hidden away for only the eyes of the supposed elite. I will not do contract work for a public school that teaches the harmful ideology of critical race theory. While I support the legality of abortion, I would not consent to it in the case of a woman I impregnated unless she was in mortal danger. I would not accept or pursue a no-fault divorce, especially if children were involved. Finally, if I ever reach the point of knowing with absolute certainty that I am no longer able to fulfill my most natural purpose of fathering a child, I will commit to take steps to ensure I am not a drain on humanity’s collective resources—if absolutely necessary, that would include preparing to end my life by whatever means are available.

The ultimate expression of one’s beliefs is the willingness to die in service of them. Martyrs, crusaders, war heroes, and ideologues the world over have done it for lesser causes. Maybe I’m not yet ready to go that far, but I have been thinking about it. I have been wondering what, if anything, is worth risking my life. Freedom, certainly. Knowledge, most likely. But what else? What else do I consider that valuable?

Inner turbulence

(Title mostly from Dream Theater’s Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, probably one of the most personally meaningful albums I’ve ever listened to.)

Someone posted this just as I sat down to get a few things out of my head, and it struck me, because it was very closely related to what I was going to write here anyway.

Yes, the possibilities for anyone are nearly infinite. That’s the beauty of free will: we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we do know we are not bound by some cosmic force pushing us onto a predetermined path. Our choices are our own, although our opportunities are not.

The problem lies not in the paths available to us, but the very real possibility that none of those many paths lead us to what we seek. When no road takes you forward, what then? Theists have no answer but to tell us to keep trying, that it’ll all somehow work out in the end. Nihilists can’t even offer that much. Neither extreme is fulfilling in any real sense. If we have no purpose, why bother continuing on? And if our purpose has already been set, why bother playing along? In both cases, we are not the masters of our own destiny, so can we say our lives truly belong to us?

I have been on that road to nowhere for a very long time now. Unlike the creator of the above picture, I don’t see infinitely many paths ahead of me. Rather, I see them, but I can find no way to change my lane to get to them. Those paths, as far as I can tell, are for other people, stronger people, people who haven’t been beaten into surrender and submission by the world around them.

Acceptance is the final stage of the grieving process, we’re told. I now wonder if it is the final stage of depression itself. Should I accept that I’ll never stand at the altar beside my beloved, that I’ll never have the chance to hold in my arms the child I fathered? Do I accept that I’ve failed in my attempts at building a life for myself, and try to create something of the wreckage that is left?

None of those paths look very promising, if you ask me. Yet I can’t help but think all the good ones are already closed off to me.

Love letter

To all who love me,

I am sorry. I have caused pain. I shared my misery with you, caring little for the effect it had on you. I have, through my actions and inaction, been a burden to you. For that, I offer my sincerest apologies and ask your forgiveness.

Perhaps I don’t deserve that. It may be that the problems I created are too great, my transgressions against you too numerous, to ever be forgiven. The magnitude of my failure is not something I can measure, so I must place all of you in the position to judge as you see fit. In this, I ask nothing more than a fair trial, no matter the ultimate verdict.

In my defense, I will say that, at every faltering step of this journey, I chose what I thought to be the safest path for us all. The path of least resistance, sometimes, but always the path I believed held the least pain for everyone involved. My error, then, was one of measurement. What I thought to be hurtful instead proved a chance to learn, to grow, to experience, and I turned away. I hid from the pain like a child, rather than facing the opportunity like a man. I never claimed to be perfect, and this is one of my greatest imperfections. To err is human, as the saying goes, and I am only human.

You who love me do something that I feel I am no longer capable of doing. Time has worn me down. My thoughts have darkened, my world turned black. I accept this only because I know of no other way to live. All my attempts at changing, at rising from the hole in which I find myself, have ended in failure. If a future exists for me, a path that will lead me to at least a modicum of victory or indeed joy, I cannot find it alone. I need to be pointed in the right direction, spurred into motion, and probably even carried halfway. Otherwise, I would lack the strength and conviction, and this, above all, is my deepest shame.

I had dreams of brighter days, fantastic visions I wished to make real. Though I have caused you great pain, greater still is that which I have caused myself by letting those dreams die. If you still believe they can be resurrected, I beg your help in reviving them.

That, I would say, is my true purpose tonight. I have spoken and asked. Now, I beg and plead, as a humble penitent seeking some measure of absolution. My desire was always to give hope to the world. Yet, in so doing, I have kept none for myself, and I am now in need.

Some love me in the manner of family: as a brother, a son, a nephew, a cousin. For all of you, I am sorry that I have burdened you, that I have neglected to honor you and our family as you deserve.

Others love me as a friend, though never as many as I would have liked. For you, I am sorry that the bonds of friendship have, for too long, bound in only one direction.

One loves me in the romantic sense. For you, words are not enough to convey my apologies, and yet words are all we have. I could write a book whose pages were filled only with “I’m sorry” repeated ad nauseam, but that still would never be enough to cover all the mistakes I have made.

For everyone, I know what I have done. I recognize the negative factor I have become. My first, and thus far only, reaction to that recognition has been to retreat ever further. That is my one defense, my only escape. I realize how much pain it causes. I always have, but I also thought it was a lesser pain, that staying close would be worse for all of us. While one man cannot bear all these burdens, I felt that sharing them would drag us all under rather than give me the strength to overcome them.

I was wrong. I wish I had understood that sooner. Now, I fear it may be too late, so all I can do is reiterate my request. Forgive me, please, for all I have done.

Yours forever,

Bad at love

(Title is the Smith & Myers song, because every word of it is me. And because that album is better than the last 3 Shinedown albums combined.)

I’ve done a lot of writing over the past decade, and one of the hardest parts, I’ve found, is writing about relationships. Specifically, the beginning of one. Why? It’s simple, really: until about three years ago, I’d never experienced one for myself. “Write what you know,” the mantra goes, but characters getting together is such a natural part of a story—just as people getting together is a natural part of life—that even I couldn’t get away from it.

Partly due to this lack of experience, I’ve fallen into a bit of a pattern. The shy, smart, and often self-deprecating male character finds a woman who can look past, if not ignore entirely, the flaws he perceives. She loves him for who he is, not who he thinks himself to be, and his character growth follows a trajectory of being lifted out of his “down” mental state as he learns to accept her feelings. I did it with Alex and Aare in Otherworld, Asho and Deena in Hidden Hills, Lucas and Elyssa in the “Fallen” novella, and Anit and Lia in Shadows Before the Sun. Four times I’ve gone to that well, and it’s because that’s a trope that resonates very strongly with me.

There was supposed to be a fifth, however, a final iteration that would become the culmination, bringing the fantasy to the next level. A storybook moment for a character who had too long been without. That fifth pairing was to be Michael and Leslie.

I don’t think I’ve ever named her here before. I usually refer to her as “the woman I love” or some phrasing to that effect. And I’m breaking that habit this time not because I don’t love her anymore—I most certainly do—but simply out of authorial necessity. Writing something, even on a computer, makes it real. Publishing it, whether on a blog or in a book, fixes it in both the writer’s mind and the collective knowledge of society. I need that reality, that immutability, at this moment.

A few months ago, not long after I started my job, I was making plans again, plans for us. I hadn’t done that in nearly a year, for reasons that should be obvious. But things were looking up, and I believed they would keep going in that direction. I’d get my life back on track, the world would cooperate and regain some rationality, and we’d live happily ever after. I had planned to propose about a month from now, my head full of dreams about bringing my fiancĂ©e home to meet my family at Thanksgiving. Not long into next year would be the ultimate step, I had hoped.

That didn’t pan out. Instead, the world has slid deeper into tyranny while I’ve slid deeper into the most severe depression of my life. I’m not thinking about engagement rings or finding a place for us to live. I’m barely thinking about “us” at all. My days are filled with wondering just how much worse things are going to get, how many more places will bar me from entering for the crime of not wanting to be part of a genetic experiment, and how much more I can take before I finally reach the breaking point.

There are still things I want to accomplish in this life, and there remains within me a faint glimmer of hope that enough people will realize the truth before it’s too late.

I’d like to finish at least the Otherworld series, as well as Orphans of the Stars; the first is for my own peace of mind, while the second is the only story of mine that has actual fans. The rest of my bibliography I’m content with leaving behind, except that I really, really want to edit and release Heirs of Divinity. I’ve promised that one for years. But Nocturne doesn’t need a sequel. Hidden Hills was more of a thought experiment gone awry. The Occupation Trilogy? Why write it when I’m practically living it?

I also want to get my nonfiction book, The Prison of Ignorance, into publication. That’s only the first part of a larger scheme, though. It’s intended to be the introduction of technetism, my attempt at merging humanist philosophy with self-sufficiency, patriotism, and a love of knowledge. A kind of echo of the Enlightenment, in my opinion, and it really is something that no one else can do. Technetism, in my vision, has its own website, podcast, and social circle, among other things. It’s intended to be one pillar in the support structure I never had. If I can give that to the world—and, more importantly, if the world accepts such a gift—I’ll consider it a job well done.

Those are the only true goals I have left, and I calculate that I have about two years to complete them. That figure comes about from many factors. I’m not in the best physical shape, of course, and the next Chinese bioweapon might be something more dangerous than a bad flu with a 99.8% survival rate. Mentally, I’m very…unstable, to say the least. I’m a social outcast in a region where socializing largely comes in particular places I tend to shun.

Most of all, though, I’m not sure I can live with the shame of being a 40-year-old bachelor. Especially since being single at that point would be my own fault. I had it all, and I squandered every bit of it. I wasted my chances, my opportunities. At every turn, my own self-destructive behaviors stood in the way of happiness and a shot at a bright future in this darkening world.

Sometimes I wish I understood the minds of people who have faith, and now is one of those times. I come from a family of devout Christians, all of whom would tell me that no one is beyond forgiveness. But I don’t feel like I deserve to be forgiven for what I’ve done, for the shell of a man I’ve become and the effect that transformation has had on the people I love most.

“Falling down like he always does,” this post’s title song says. Indeed I am. And every time I fall, it’s a little harder to get back up.