Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Philosophy

A Reader’s Bridge To Their True Self . . .


Did you know the best-selling book genre is “Self-Help”?

Do you know the roots of the genre?

Think it’s Psychology?

Eastern Mystics?

Philosophers?

The Prophets of Religion?

I’ll leave the True Beginning of Self-Help as an exploration for your inner self to appreciate…

What I give you today is the latest best-seller in the genre: Jessica Lamb-Shapiro’s Promise Land.

First a very curious bit of a review of the book:

“Jessica Lamb-Shapiro has an unusual relationship to the self-help industry: her father is a child psychologist who has authored numerous books on the subject. Lamb-Shapiro’s inherent ambivalence is at the heart of Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture, in which the author immerses herself in the world of seminars, mantras, and self-improvement, all the while exploring the nation’s enduring fascination with perfection. By turns funny and sad, the book is, ultimately, a deeply personal story—and a really good read.”
ParisReview.org

Apparently, her father’s books of self-help never sold well.

The NPR site has an interview with Jessica—audio and written. Here are a few excerpts:

“Lamb-Shapiro writes that even though she ‘had recoiled from self-help’ her entire life, she wanted to know ‘why people liked self-help so much, what it meant to them, whether it worked; and if it didn’t work, why people still craved it.’ It’s a funny and observant book that takes an emotional turn when she starts writing about a tragedy in her own family.”

Jessica: “You know, there’s a way in which philosophy tells us how to live our lives and self-help books tell us how to live our lives. So, you know, we tend to think of philosophy as this really lofty territory and self-help books as this ridiculous low-brow territory and I think that the language that they use and some of the ideas reflect that. There’s some base level where they’re trying to do the same thing, which is why something like ancient Greek philosophy can be sold in the self-help section.”

“People seem to be interested in self-improvement and so much of self-help is about buying things, so it makes sense that infomercials and reality shows, which tend to sell things, are part of that. And I think that that’s one of the ways that it just seeps into our lives. Because you can be exposed to an infomercial in passing or watch a reality TV show and you might not think that you’re engaging in self-help but you’re still being exposed to a lot of the ideas and values of it.”

So, where did self-help begin?

Reading the Words of a Prophet.

Reading what the Philosophers borrowed from the Prophets?

Reading what the Psychologists borrowed from the Philosophers?

Reading what the Self-Help Gurus borrowed from the Psychologists?

And, perhaps most importantly, why do you think Self-Help is the World’s Best-Selling Genre?
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Setting A Few Things Straight About The Universe . . .


Writers do all kinds of research; especially, for their characters, plot, theme, and setting.

Some even create alternate universes so they can craft special situations.

But, what if we’re stuck in this universe?

I’ve always tried to keep up with scientific findings but, over the last 15 years, I’ve taken the time to study an alternative approach to understanding our universe that bids fair to completely overturn the standard theories of mainstream science.

How would something like this affect me if all I wanted to do was write a love story, or a thrilling mystery?

One would think that if I stayed away from hard science, this new knowledge wouldn’t much matter.

The thing is that my study of this new field of human understanding is also overturning most of what passes for knowledge about the vast treasure of Mythology.

So, if I’m writing something that goes deep into human motivation and I want it to strike the right chords in the reader, I should consider the new Paradigm

Ultimately, because psychology shows that the deepest, not-conscious information and motivation have profound effects on conscious action, the closer I can get to the Truth about the Universe and my place in it, the better I should be able to write works that relate well with my readers.

Naturally, there are writers who skim the surface of life, write about it, and sell thousands of books to readers who gobble up the result

I ain’t built that way.

Also, I feel the most sensitive writers have already been tapping into this new Mythological, Scientific Paradigm.

Psychological sensitivity has a way of reaching deep into the soil of human understanding and bringing up what appears to others as amazingly powerful insights.

So, there could well be folks reading this post who don’t need the rest of the information I want to share………

Apparently, humanity has three Main Stories:

First is the rich heritage of Myth which has powered some of the most profound philosophy and psychology.

Then came the Story that Science attempts to tell.

The Third Story is just now being written—a Story with More Honest Science which incorporates New Appreciations of Myth—a Story for Humanity’s Future

Let’s be imaginative for a moment:

If you truly believed the Earth was the center of the Universe, the stories you wrote couldn’t help but somehow reflect that belief, right?

By the way, some writers are still crafting stories in that universe

I want to give you two resources to explore that might change your mind and feelings in profoundly deep ways.

The first is a Synopsis of the New Paradigm of Our Universe. It begins with a quote from H. P. Lovecraft:

“The most merciful thing in the world … is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents… The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but someday the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality… That we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

Believe me, that quote was clearly used for Effect. The information at that link has little chance of driving you mad or back to a personal dark age :-)

The second resource is the following video.

Even if you think you have little stomach for science (or even mythology), if you’re a serious writer, I urge you to watch it.


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This Post Is A Setup . . .


This post’s “message” will be a series of statements and questions designed to massage various parts of your mind and heart; but, first, just a bit of explanation:

I keep a list of possible blog posts.

I was just looking that list over.

I realized that most of the posts would need a lot of explaining before I could get to the meat of the matter.

I agree with the “experts” who say blog posts should generally be on the short side of long

So, I want to use this post to get my regular readers ready for a series of posts. I’ll also use it as a reference-link in certain posts for folks new to the blog.

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All of us use words but most of us don’t stop to consider how they were created.

Most of us do most of our thinking with words.

Without words, human communication would be a rather bleak endeavor :-)

There are words that point to emotions–like “hate”–and then there are words that convey emotions–like, “She drove the knife deep into his groin.”

Emotions can either cloud the meaning of words or add color and light

Many people feel thoughts and emotions are usually antagonistic.

Some people think emotions are the source, or at least the goad, of thought.

The rational mind (with the sometimes aid of its cousin, the emotional mind) is the creator of every object surrounding you, including the words you just read

Some words (and the thoughts they summon) refer to states and forces that can never be directly sensed. One example: you can define “integrity” and you can say things like, “John, in spite of his feelings and in the face of terrible risk to his life, continued to publish what he saw as the truth.”, but can you actually see, smell, or taste integrity?

Where do words exist when they’re not on the page?

Where do emotions happen?

Why does so much of what’s important in life seem to resist simple definition?

Is the metaphysical realm a fantasy or can there be metaphysical realities?

Are there entities and forces that exist beyond human sensation?

Does any of this matter in reading, writing, and publishing??

O.K., that was the setup—look in the left side-bar for the free essay, What Are Words?—it’s what the setup was about :-)
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Mind/Reality & Writers


Yesterday I posed a number of questions about mind and reality and got some fascinating comments from a group of writers.

I promised a follow-up post and feel very good that I didn’t have to weave it out of thin air :-)

The thin air my mind is in now is a rarified state of reality I like to call metaphysical funk.

The comments from yesterday began to fill that mental reality with urges and pokes that are helping me turn the funk into a faith that I can make the walking woundedness of pervasive grief over the death of a friend an experience rich with fertile futurity.

If that last sentence made some sense to you, we could probably enjoy a chat in some groovy coffee house :-)

I decided the best I could do, right now, to indicate how helpful all the comments were is to put the urges and pokes here, hoping they prod my readers to check back with yesterday’s post and read all the comments

Shalon said:

“My take on this, Alexander, is that we can’t know what’s real or what’s not real, and that the blind commitment to one form of reality is a type of zombie-hood that sucks your brain out of your mind and eats it….

“I also feel that since reality is unknowable, the smartest thing to do is give it the benefit of the doubt….

“…I’m not saying that there isn’t a real ‘reality’ out there, but that despite the possibility of a ‘true’ and ‘real’ reality, there still exists a choice. I believe that this requirement to choose one reality over another means, to me, that reality is unknowable.”

Karla said:

“The brain is an elegant and amazing organ, constantly gathering input from our environment and processing it according to ever evolving life lessons. I don’t see why we feel the need to attribute reality to anything more than that.”

Simone said:

“Well, a couple of children’s stories come to mind. One is The Emperor’s New Clothes. The other is about the blind men and the elephant.”

John said:

“The questions on the floor, of course, are so elephantine (speaking of “the blind men and the elephant”) that I doubt I could make much more than a stab in the direction of actually unraveling the questions of “mind” and “reality” enough to even approach an answer or two concerning either….

“Personally, reality appears to be what it is to me; the minute I must related this reality to someone else, voilà! There are difficulties which simply do not exist in the singular; when it comes to the plural of humanity, then, of course, we run into a problem of justice and equity, which is an entirely different kettle of fish, and whole new elephant to examine.”

Cassy said:

“There is an inseparable symbiotic relationship between our senses and the reality that is created within our mind….

“Metacognition helps us to evaluate our minds reality as shaped by our sensual experiences….

“So, in short, I would say that the weave of reality and mind is so tight, it would be difficult to identify which is the chicken and which is the egg (though I am writing this before 8am and have only had one cup of coffee – no telling what my reality will be an hour from now :)”

Your Thoughts/Feelings??
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