Treating Writing as an Art

Sometimes art should be released the way the artist intended, without going through the whitewashing and scrubbing that can happen in commercialization.

Independent films can be horrible, but then so can mainstream films. But some independent movies are really hidden gems, and can bring you something unexpected, and actually new. Clearly Hollywood knows how to market, and how to draw crowds, but many movies are just rehashed old themes with predictable plots.

I get it, some things are meant to be entertainment, and therefore it makes sense to get experts to make it as entertaining as possible for the largest number of people. But other times, we might just want to let art be art.

Writing is a form of art. When a book is released, it should certainly have the proper grammar and punctuation, but there is something to be said for leaving a novel in the original form intended by the author.

That’s what is so great about self publishing. While it may be harder to reach a larger audience, self publishing allows the author to be remain an artist, instead of becoming an entertainer. And unlike movie makers, writers now have access to platforms that allow self publishing for practically free.

I am pleased to say that my second work of fiction will be published next week. It is called Flight Grounded, and it is a novella about a man named Jake who finds himself accused of a terrorist attack after witnessing something on a plane that had not yet taken off.

flight grounded

As he flees the authorities, trying to figure out who the real terrorists are, and why he is being blamed, Jake runs into two men who want to help him escape. But what they tell him about the world is unbelievable. Unfortunately, Jake does not have time to think while being pursued. He needs to make decisions on who to trust, with no possible way of judging what is the truth of the situation, or indeed the world.

My aim in writing Flight Grounded is to open up the mind of readers to critical thought about the society we live in. How much information or “truth” that you know can you actually verify? At some level we are all just trusting others for facts about the society we live in. But where did they get their information?

I hope this novella will spur readers to consider other perspectives of the world, and become more open minded in considering that perhaps all we have been taught is not the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Flight Grounded is on Amazon in paperback and e-book! Like the Facebook Page for updates!

Is Existence Linear, as Time Suggests?

Time is an interesting thing. It more or less exists in our understanding of it, yet it still seems mostly like a human construction that gives order to our surroundings, so we can better understand what is going on. Sparked by ideas drawn from Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, I started thinking about the possibility that the universe, from beginning to end, happens simultaneously all at once, and that linear time is simply one way to view it.

In the novel, aliens–Tralfamadorians–that may or may not be all in the main character’s head regularly abduct him. These aliens teach the World War II veteran that the entire universe already happened from beginning to end, and that the course of a human life does not have to be viewed linearly. The main character “time travels” throughout the book to various times in his life. The aliens know how the universe will end, and cannot change it, because it has already happened, they simply inhabit a place or “time” that still exists.

I think of the issue like this: imagine your life to be a large, detailed, intricate, complex painting. Perhaps it spans a whole wall in a museum, with layers of colors, activities, people, places, scenes, foreground, background, etc. As soon as the painting is finished, it will exist for eternity as a whole. And sometimes we will stand from a distance and take in the entire painting. Some of the detail will be lost, but we will see the whole picture.

Other times we might focus on one little section of the painting, and marvel at that section’s beauty for some time. But perhaps the lives in which we are currently living, are designed to view the painting piece by piece, in an order which comes together as a story. We start from the first brushstroke the artist made, and follow it all the way through until the last detail was added.

Now I can see how from our perspective, it would appear the painting is being worked on as we look, which may well be the case. But saying we are viewing an already finished painting is not the same as saying we had nothing to do with how the painting would turn out. It is just that we use “time” to focus on different points and pieces of the art, while perhaps in reality, all those decisions have already been made. It was still us that made those decisions, its just right now we are viewing them in an order which makes sense to the human body, but that is not necessarily accurate at a higher level.

And in regards to what “we” or “us” may be that made the decisions… Well you’ll just have to wait for the next post.

Fun fact: the hilarious and insightful cartoon Rick and Morty makes reference to the alien race Tralfamadorians from Vonnegut’s novel in an episode called “A Rickle in Time” where Rick accidentally breaks time and splits the universe into multiple timelines.

4 Books to Read This Summer!

I always love to share a good book. Here’s a couple suggestions if you’re looking for that book to curl up with in a thunderstorm, or lay out with on the beach!

Science: interested in the way the brain works, and how the field of neuroscience is progressing?

Check out “The Future of the Mind” by Michio Kaku. This non-fiction about “The scientific quest to understand, enhance, and empower the mind,” inspired a post about dreaming, making me wonder if our brains are actually some sort of antenna or connection to another dimension or a higher plane.

But the science in the book is real, and you will learn all about technological advances in controlling things with the mind, artificial intelligence, enhancing our own intelligence, and much more! I’m a thinker, so what I loved about this book is the fact that I had to keep pausing to think over a point made–not because it was too complicated to understand, rather because it spawns multiple pathways of new connections, much like the seemingly (but not) random neural connections in our own brains.

Punk Rock Meets Science: Greg Graffin of Bad Religion weaves punk rock with the science of evolution.

From “Anarchy Evolution” by Greg Graffin, I learned a lot about evolution, and a lot about punk rock. Just when I started to get a little bored by the science, Graffin would delve into an anecdote about the punk rock scene he helped create in California in the 80’s. Then, the punk rock story would get tied back into his scientific point! He draws parallels between the chaos of a mosh pit, and the chaos of life. I love his naturalist worldview, his love of nature, and his distrust of authority.

In addition to being a punk rock frontman for over three decades, Graffin is also a Professor of evolutionary biology at Cornell. I was turned onto the book after being a fan of Bad Religion for years; I even saw them at the House of Blues a few years back in Boston.

Classic Fiction: if you never got around to reading Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, do it.

This summer I will be releasing a series of essays on JoeJarvis.me about “Lord of the Rings”, the classic trilogy by JRR Tolkien. Everywhere throughout the novels I saw references to power, the corruption it brings, and comments on the impossibility of wielding the power of force for positive ends.

The books are also significantly different from the movies. Tom Bombadil is an apparently immortal guardian of the forest, who has a chapter or two in the “Fellowship of the Ring”. And after Sauron is defeated and the Ring destroyed, there is another whole segment that takes place in the Shire, where Saruman and Worm-tongue have installed a Mafia-style government.

Also, the detail when the company visits the elven land of Lothlorien was not at all captured in the movies. The area is much more magical and mythical in the books.

How could you say no to this classic? It has so much to offer! Except for a couple Frodo/Sam chapters in “The Two Towers”, the novels are gripping from start to finish.

New Fiction: like new ideas, interesting philosophies, futuristic stories, or just me and my writing?

Can’t miss the opportunity to plug my own book, “Anarchy in New England”! I am getting the first round of feedback, and people appear to be pleased. No, not just my family and friends! Feedback from people on social media that I don’t know seems to suggest it is an interesting, exciting read. I make it a habit not to ask people if they liked it, so that I don’t put them on the spot or dig for compliments. But I have received texts from out of the blue from friends and acquaintances, perhaps surprised, praising the quality of writing and attention to detail in creating the fictitious world of New England 100 years in the future, with no government!

From an Amazon review:

In the author’s debut novel, readers can find all the excitement of a thriller novel while still getting an idea of how an anarchist society could function — and it’s not the chaos with which anarchy is often equated. While the book is for entertainment at its core, the third-person descriptions of private security companies, magnet tunnels and advertisement-funded apartments help inspire the reader to see what could be in store if government gets out of the way.

…With a healthy blend of action — think hit men, fires, even combat — and quieter scenes, the novel will keep you on your toes but has substance beyond its climactic scenes.

Anarchy in New England, a novel by Joe Jarvis

It’s been a little slow around this blog lately, and I am sorry for the lull, but that should change! It is so exciting that fewer than six months into 2015, which I dubbed the year of writing, my first fiction novel is being published, Anarchy in New England.

Anarchy in New England Cover (FINAL)

The story is a thought experiment, in many ways, and offers an interesting perspective. The novel takes place in a stateless society, but not a lawless world. A hundred years in the future, New England has rebounded from a global meltdown, and leads the world in technology. There are still rules, there are still consequences for your actions, and for all intents and purposes, “authority”. But the rules are not centrally mandated, but instead worked out through the market.

But the CEO of one of the largest security companies in New England has an idea to revive the old system. With no government, he can’t get a bailout for his fading security company, so Mr. Drake decides to try to form a new government, which he would run.

Reporter Molly Metis is onto him though. Despite attempts to stop her, she continues to dig deeper into recent events surrounding Drake and his associates. She is sure she can expose the dark plot, but will anybody care? And what will be the cost?

It should be an interesting read that gets you to consider topics you may never have though about, much like I try to do with this blog. How would certain things play-out in a society without government? Anarchy usually is taken to mean chaos, but could order rise without centralized control?

Anyway, that is what I have been up to, as well as working on a prequel, that goes into more detail about the actual collapse in the 2020’s. I’m excited to get out there and promote, and at the same time I know the process will give me plenty of material for JoeJarvisExplainsItAll.

I’m going through the process of trying to live my dreams, and I feel like I am settling into a nice trajectory. I am at the very beginning of my journey still, and there will surely be countless more ups and downs. But the ride is what it is all about, and as long as I use the downs to gain momentum, they can’t be considered all that negative.

This is a scary point to be at in following your dreams, because the book is only going to start being read in the next couple of days. I am braced for the first wave of feedback, including someone with a popular podcast who is currently reading Anarchy in New England, to see if it is good enough for him to have me on his show. So naturally, the left brain and right brain are having it out, trying to balance the optimism with the pessimism. In reality, I just need to wait and see what happens, since at this point, I can not affect the outcome.

But since going into things with a generally positive, energetic attitude seems to work out, that is what I plan to do! The first phase of promotion is going to be focused on New England, because of the name of the novel and because that is where I live. If anyone wants to suggest events, media, or even a book club for me to visit with, I am open for all the possibilities!

Get in touch with me here, by contacting me through my other blog JoeJarvis.me.

Click here to order the novel on Amazon!

Letting the Spring Weather Set the Tone for Positive Energy and Good Vibes!

Weather Induced Positivity

Finally, there is warm weather in Massachusetts as spring arrives, and with it comes long awaited hope. All my worries and doubts seem to have melted away with the snow, and now it feels like nothing can hold me back. The winter is behind me, and if all goes to plan, it will have been my last full winter in New England.

The winter definitely makes me appreciate warm weather, but I think the same appreciation would be felt from a week of bad weather, versus six months. And the appreciation doesn’t seem to last much longer. You will NEVER hear me complaining about the heat up here, but others seem to quickly forget what we just went through!

I wanted to capture this optimism before I go out to spend the entire day outside. It is so much easier to do the Pollyanna thing, and play the glad game, when you can just get outside, and run through the fields like Julie Andrews. (Yea I know, different movies.)

Left Brain Right Brain Skirmishes

I’ll be making an announcement soon about a book I’ve been working on for over a year. I am the type to over-think things, so naturally, my brain is back and forth between pessimism and optimism about the prospects of this next project. But something about warm weather and sunshine just burns away the negatives! I find my confidence solidifying as I put more days between me and the winter of despair.

The Future of the Mind, by Michio Kaku actually has some insight into the balance in our brains of pessimism versus optimism. Obviously it is great to be optimistic, but unbridled optimism could spell disaster if it makes you take risks that put you in danger. On the other hand, uncontrollable pessimism can paralyze you with fear or apathy since, “everything always goes wrong anyway”.

In order to run proper simulations of our future, which is basically all our brains do, pessimism and optimism need to be balanced. They say the left brain tends to be more analytical, and the right brain more creative. The tendency is that the left brain brings optimism, and the right brain pessimism. I thought this was interesting, as it conjured up images of troubled artists and writers like Picasso, Hemingway, and Poe. On the other hand we don’t tend to think of Einstein as emotional, and the image of a scientist is that they are giddy with excitement about their analytical feats.

Balance

So I don’t want to go into this next endeavor with blind optimism as it may be a huge letdown, especially if the optimism stops me from taking steps to increase the chances of success. But if I start with too much pessimism, the defeatist attitude will invade with the, “why even bother” thoughts.

Yes, success is going to be hard fought, certain things might be disappointing, and not everything is going to go exactly according to plan. No, my book doesn’t suck, people will buy it, and there will be plenty of opportunities for promotion.

I need to balance the positive and negative energy, making sure to keep the negatives in check. There is no point in letting the “what if’s” dominate; just consider the most likely scenarios.

Can I do anything about it? No? Stop dwelling on it. Yes? Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

As for the positive feelings, let them run wild! But make sure you know the brain is throwing in more than a couple grains of salt. Will I be nationally recognized by August? Probably not. But as long as I know that it is a long shot, why not dream, and set a high goal to strive for?

They say that the people who imagine themselves successful, and daydream about achieving accomplishments and reaching goals are more likely to realize those dreams. Now if I had never written a book, being a famous author would simply not come to fruition, no matter how much I planned and dreamed. But I have written a book, and it is just the first of many.

Happy springtime! Let the sunshine guide your energy.

How Many Sociopaths Do We Interact With?

Yesterday I posted an article on Vigilant Vote called Sociopaths Among Us. Part of me wanted to also share it here, but it was too political, and I don’t want to scare any of my followers away. But I think it is an important subject to understand. Even though I am not one for fear mongering, there are legitimate dangers that must be realized in order to be avoided.

I just finished reading A Clockwork Orange. Clearly the main character and narrator, Alex, is a sociopath. He has no conscience, and feels no remorse or guilt for the brutal assaults, rapes, and murders that he carries out. In discussing the book’s relation to politics, I mentioned how Alex’s friends joined in on these crimes, but were not caught, and therefore not punished. When Alex gets out of prison after a controversial treatment, he finds a former friend and a former enemy, both horrible thugs, have become police officers. The point being that sociopaths are drawn to positions of power, and therefore we must have the right mechanisms in place as a society to thwart that power when used unjustly against the innocent.

Really I was just using A Clockwork Orange as an example, while I had found another book, non-fiction, called The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout. I have not yet read it, but a review was helpful to explain that we do in fact live amongst sociopaths who are not murderers and rapists; not because they don’t want to be, but because getting caught would bring consequences that interfere with their desired lifestyle.

The fact is, we all almost certainly know at least one or more sociopaths already. Part of the urgency in reading The Sociopath Next Door is the moment when we suddenly recognize that someone we know—someone we worked for, or were involved with, or voted for—is a sociopath. But what do we do with that knowledge? To arm us against the sociopath, Dr. Stout teaches us to question authority, suspect flattery, and beware the pity play. Above all, she writes, when a sociopath is beckoning, do not join the game.

Now in the political realm, questioning authority is probably most important. But in day to day lives, being suspect of the pity play is more applicable.

(The only reason I haven’t focused much on suspecting flattery is because that one seems more obvious to me. If someone if throwing compliments your way they might be a sociopath, or they might have ulterior motives, or they might just be nice. I think however, that we are used to suspecting flattery: “What are you trying to get?”).

In A Clockwork Orange, Alex and his gang use the appeal to pity on multiple occasions to find victims. In the beginning their standard operating procedure is for Alex to knock on a door and innocently ask for help for his “sick friend who has passed out in the street”. One woman told him she did not have a telephone, but goes to get him some water after he continues his charade. When she fails to lock the dead bolt, he wriggles the chain lock undone, and barges in with his droogs to rape and beat the unsuspecting husband and wife. Of course if she had been less inclined to help someone in need, she may not have been victimized. Unfortunately this means only the most decent people are victimized, because a more selfish person would not fall prey, simply because they would not care about the fake victim.

The next victim of the thugs, an old woman with many cats, suspected that Alex was up to no good, and tells him to go away. Now while they do still break into her house, the old baboochka has time to call the police. This leads to Alex’s arrest and punishment for his crimes. While she was still victimized, the assailant suffered the consequences only when his victim did not fall for the pity play. The night before, Alex got away scott free (and guilt free since he is a sociopath) because his victims did not suspect he was playing on their pity to take advantage of their generosity and charity.

Now believe me, I am not saying you should abandon all charity for your fellow man. Many in need are sincere, and not trying to trick anyone. But beware the pity play. For example, my parents told me a story of how a man came to their Priest’s church claiming he did not have any money to fill his oil tank for winter. For whatever reason, the priest was suspect of this man’s story, but wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt, he decided to offer the man some help without putting himself out on a limb. He said that if the man wanted to earn some money he would be happy to pay him to rake some leaves. Well the man started to rake, but about 15 minutes later he was on his phone, and in another 15 minutes he was gone. That Priest’s charity will be better spent on someone who needs it, versus this apparent conman.

So it is not always a matter of blind trust or outright denial. There are ways to help people without putting yourself or your coffer in harm’s way: like giving the homeless man a sandwich instead of money that could go towards drugs. But often we should trust our instincts in situations that could become dangerous for us. Unfortunately it is not safe to give a random stranger a ride somewhere. There may be someone innocent who actually needs your help, but they should understand a stranger’s unease about helping another stranger, when that help puts them at the mercy of their passenger. A sociopath does not care for his victim, and therefore will exploit their good intentions. A normal person would understand your reservations about giving a ride to a stranger.

And of course it is not always just strangers that victimize. Some sociopaths among us you may already know, or even consider friends. We still must be suspect of the pity play. There is a difference between helping a friend in need, and being a doormat for people to wipe their feet on. Again, I think the best strategy is to offer help on your own terms, and the honest man will understand your reservations.

We have a tendency to fear being rude. But there are real dangers out there; as many as 12 million sociopaths could be amongst us in America alone. Sometimes if something doesn’t feel right, it is better to be thought rude, than to be victimized.