I'm a writer from New Jersey, now living in Chicago. Journalist/production manager for a news site, aspiring to become an author of fantasy novels. In the meantime, I'm blogging.

I like nature, black metal, the occult, cats, and good wine.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Everything is changing for the better

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve put anything new on here, hasn’t it?

My life has changed in several ways, all of them good. I’m now happily taken; I have an amazing girlfriend, Dina (Shelley on Facebook), who really cares, and we have this very awesome connection. Literally when she came fully into my life, my depression went out the window, and I actually felt like there was someone in this world who was (and is) there for me. I never saw this coming, but I’m glad it did.

I'm also feeling motivated to, as I said in one of my own videos, be the best version of myself. I’m feeling this renewal of energy and this return to, I suppose, my old self. And I don’t mean “old self” as in I’m regressing to how I once was. What I mean is that I’ve felt this hole inside me, and this lack of direction, for years. I’m not sure when it started, or what caused it, but I feel like that’s fading away now. Instead, I’m in a generally great mood and I feel a definite sense of purpose.

Oh, you’ve heard of this thing called winter, right? Yeah, it’s fucking here, guys. It’s cold and windy outside, something that everyone knows I hate. I mean, I’m actually making progress, because I don’t actually mind when it’s chilly anymore. Like, I can take the autumn, that’s fine. But when it starts snowing and there’s ice on the sidewalks, I’m not going to be thrilled, I can tell you that.

But back to the topic of change: I’m also getting ahead with writing my book, where before I had serious writer’s block (part of the reason I didn’t update this site for so long). I always like to write chronologically. In other words, I don’t skip ahead like some authors and write different parts of the book, and then go back and write parts that came before those, etc. I like to go chapter by chapter, front to back. But I have become okay with skipping a couple of chapters ahead. So, if I’m struggling with Chapter 11, I can skip to Chapter 12 and just write that, and it doesn’t throw me off. I’ve learned to do that, and then just come back to the chapter I was having trouble with.

I’m also losing weight. I talk pretty often about changing up my diet, but it never quite sticks. It’s something that I sort of wish I was more into doing, but when it comes down to it, I’m way too comfortable with what I normally eat. But what I’ve done now is not so much change the types of food that I eat - just the amount. I’ve cut out snacks, because it’s just shitty food and it’s empty calories, and I didn’t even enjoy eating snacks, it was just a habit. And I just have smaller meals now. I’ve been able to get away with keeping energy drinks (though I have cut back on them), and alcohol (which I love, and haven’t cut back on at all). But yeah. Two weeks ago I was 179. Now, as of today, I’m 165. Maybe that doesn’t seem like much to some people, but to me, that’s cool.
I actually really like how I look, but I also have no problem recognizing flaws in myself, or just areas that I would like to improve. I wanted to drop a little weight, so that’s what I’m doing.

I’ve seen a couple of new movies. Doctor Strange was pretty cool. And I saw Bad Santa 2 with my girlfriend. Good movie, but the first one was way better. If you’re into trashy, asshole comedy that’s actually funny, I recommend seeing that. It’s definitely a better holiday movie than most of the shit I see. 

I’m not really looking forward to that new Star Wars movie, Rogue One. If you don’t know, it’s a spinoff of the main series; a prequel to the original trilogy. It involves the rebels who stole the plans to the Death Star. It seems like kind of a dull storyline to center a film around, and I would be more interested if they actually did an original story. Plus, I’m not a hardcore Star Wars fan. I definitely like it, but not to the point where it’s going to bother me if I don’t see this one.

So despite all this progress, I actually haven’t done much of anything today! I kind of just sat around. I mean, I went out to the store, so that’s something! But other than that...I’ve mostly just been talking to Dina, which I really like doing anyway (obviously). Oh, and I’ve written this blog post, so that must count for something, too.

Back in Black Blake
What are my plans for tonight? Video chatting with my girlfriend, drinking (peach vodka, then beer), maybe listening to music at some point. That’s about it. Just trying to make the weekend stretch and to enjoy it. I’ve talked a lot about living my life to the fullest - well, now I’m actually doing it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An outsider's guide to the occult

For a long time now, my social media posts and video uploads have indicated that I have a strong interest in Left-Hand Path occult activities - something that most who know me in person understand to be true. I would describe myself as a student of black magick - someone who is still learning, gathering information and resources, and finding a specific blend of varied esoteric philosophies that best suit me. Based on what I know, practice, and have experienced, I decided to create a guide for those who may not fully comprehend or understand my beliefs. Bear in mind that I will personally bear the burden of proof for any and all of the following claims that I make, most of which are not backed up by current science (and are, thus, ‘preternatural’). That being said, skeptics and materialists/anti-spiritualists need not read any further if the subject of this blog post offends their delicate, clinical, ‘rationalist’ sensibilities.

What is magick?
My definition of magick is as follows: “The conduit through which one may affect things by means that could not be achieved through normal, natural, or materialistic means.” That may sound like an interpretive generalization, but if you take a minute to discern the meaning behind the explanation, it’s actually quite clear. There are various theories as to what “the conduit” I call magick would consist of, but I postulate that it is energy. In agreement with the Septenary tradition upheld by the Order of Nine Angles, or the Chaos-Gnostic branch of Satanism espoused by organizations like the Temple of the Black Light, I believe this energy to be the acausal - that which is based on the random and chaotic, and according to Jungian psychology, defined by meaning rather than causation (hence the association of magick with ritual, symbolism, and numerology). Acausal energy is also, by that very definition, thus not defined by time or our laws of physics, and is derived from another plane of existence apart from our material universe.

What is the point?
“Why bother with all this magick claptrap anyway?” some might ask. First of all, studying the occult is a pursuit recommended only for those seeking knowledge and wisdom, and if you don’t care about either of those things, you might as well turn back now. It takes years of study to effect material transmogrification - that is, to alter the material by way of the spiritual - on a level that is noticeable to human perception. As to why you should ‘bother’ with it, if you seek that aforementioned knowledge - in a context outside of how the rest of society pursues it - that alone is an excellent reason to begin your slow, arduous walk down that Left-Hand Path (as for the wisdom, well, you can’t simply seek that out - you will only acquire that through your experiences). Other benefits include altered perception, inner tranquility, power, and apotheosis (the exaltation of oneself above the mundane and the nondescript).

Where do I begin?
The best answer to this kind of question must be in the form of another question: What is it you are trying to experience or achieve? And therein lay one more query: What is the driving emotion behind your desire to be involved in black magick? Is it vengeance or retribution? Then curses/malediction and blood magick may work best for you. Is it an interest in death? I recommend necromancy, necrology/thanatology, and grave theurgy. Are you interested in the demonic and/or hold beliefs in demonolatry or Satanism? In that case, welcome to the deepist pits of black magick... And so on and so forth.

You can see how it is not so simple a thing just to ask, “Where do I begin?” Depending on what your desires and interests are narrowed down to, I and others would recommend different books, different systems of magick, different organizations and orders, even different branches of Satanism and/or Luciferianism. Here’s my advice: Based on your pursuits, begin researching - seriously researching - those ancient texts that will help inform your interests, then acquire them, read them, study them. And don’t half-ass it; don’t try and cheat or take the easy way out of anything related to your studies, and be sure the road you have chosen is truly the one you want to take before actually getting hands-on and trying to do something, even if that something involves a seemingly innocuous item like a Ouija board. Treat everything as if it were a dangerous explosive - handle with care. 

And finally, don’t get your information from armchair occultists lurking in online forums or supposedly “magickal” Facebook groups; or from poorly slapped-together websites that don’t cite sources; or from charlatans who are looking to sell you a bill of goods with little to no proof that anything about them or what they do is authentic.

What is the Left-Hand Path?
The Left- and Right-Hand Path are terms that refer to a dichotomy between two opposite approaches to spirituality. We can separate the two in many ways, first and foremost by their characteristics. The Left-Hand Path encourages individuality and eccentricity over herd mentality/groupthink/conformity; exclusivity and (in some cases) asociality; iconoclasm when necessary; pride and ego; and liberation of mind, body, and spirit/psyche and the pursuit of carnal desires.

The Right-Hand Path is often defined by placing emphasis on collective/social action - especially in a struggle or reach for a goal perceived as being ‘greater than oneself’; conformity and compliance; concepts that take away from or are derived from a sacrifice or lessening of oneself - such as altruism and martyrdom; adherence to an often-puritanical moral code; and fear of judgment or punishment for acts perceived to be sinful.

The Left-Hand Path includes religions such as Satanism, Luciferianism, Demonolatry, some forms of Paganism, Thelema, some forms of Chaos-Gnosticism, and Zos Kia Cultus. The Right-Hand Path includes most major religions (often referred to by Left-Handers as ‘white-light religions’), including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and yes, even alternative religions like Wicca and Scientology. The Left-Hand Path is associated with black magick, whereas the Right-Hand Path is linked to, of course, white magick. I also personally believe in Green Magick, which can be practiced by those who walk either path.

And finally, some sources
I hope this post cleared a few things up. I may write a followup post if this proves interesting to people, but my guess is that just a few readers will peruse this; either way, I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it. I’ll conclude this entry with some literary sources you can check out, based on different areas of interest.

Chaos-Magick, Chaos-Gnosticism, the Septenary System of Satanism, Sinister Satanism, Anti-Cosmic Satanism:
NAOS: A Practical Guide to Modern Magick and Additional Satanic Texts, by Thorhold West, Order of Nine Angles
The Black Book of Satan, by Order of Nine Angles
Hostia: Secret Teachings, by Order of Nine Angles
Acosmic Satanism: A Manual of Its Basic Concepts and Practices, by Frater Ikkoris
Liber Falxifer: The Book of the Left-Handed Reaper, by the Temple of the Black Light
Liber Falxifer II: The Book of Anamlaqayin, by the Temple of the Black Light (focuses more on necrosophy)
The Book of Sitra Achra, by the Temple of the Black Light
Liber Azerate, by Frater Nemidial, Temple of the Black Light
The Grimoire of Asha’Shedim, by Asha Shedim

Necromancy, Thanatology, Grave Theurgy, Necrosophy, the Maergzjiran tradition:
Charnel Whispers: Mastery of Necromancy, Death, and Undeath, by Somnus Dreadwood
Gravelording, by Var Von Brennos
Spiritus Libro Mortifero: The Cabal Grimoire of Death Magick, by Somnus Dreadwood
Autem Libris Iratusque Mortis: The Compleat Works of Atrophy, by Somnus Dreadwood
Necromantic Sacraments, by S. Connolly
The Language of the Corpse, by Cody Dickerson (historical work, not a grimoire - but informative nonetheless)
Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer’s Manual of the 15th Century, by Richard Kieckhefer

Blood Magick:
Keys of Ocat: A Grimoire of Daemonolatry Nygromancye, by S. Connolly
Liber Hirudo: The Book of the Leech, by Var Von Brennos

Green Magick, herbal grimoires, occult pharmacology:
Veneficium: Magic, Witchcraft, and the Poison Path, by Daniel A. Schulke
Pharmako/Poeia: Plant Powers, Poisons, and Herbcraft, by Dale Pendell
Herbs in Black Magick, by Magister Hagur, Sinister Pathway Triangle Order
Thirteen Pathways of Occult Herbalism, by Daniel A. Schulke

The Catechism of Lucifer, by Johannes Nefastos
Wisdom of Eosphoros: The Luciferian Philosophy, by Michael W. Ford
The Bible of the Adversary, by Michael W. Ford
Beginning Luciferian Magick, by Michael W. Ford
Exegesis of Lucifer, by Richard K. Page

The Book of the Witch Moon, by Michael W. Ford
Hands of Apostasy: Essays on Traditional Witchcraft, by various authors
Children of Cain: A Study of Modern Traditional Witches, by Michael Howard
Idolatry Restor’d: Witchcraft and the Imaging of Power, by Daniel A. Schulke
Conjuration of Devils and Spirits, by Reginald Scot
Azoetia: A Grimoire of the Sabbatic Craft, by Andrew D. Chumbley
The Key of Hell: An 18th Century Manual on Black Magic, by Anonymous
Galdrabók, by Anonymous

Demonolatry, Demonology, Demonurgy:
The Lesser Key of Solomon (also known as Clavicula Salamonis Regis and includes the Ars Goetia), by Anonymous
[note: the above book contains the traditional pantheon of 72 demons most commonly used by traditional demonolators]
Grimorium Verum, by Anonymous
Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, by Johann Weyer
The Grand Grimoire, by Antonio Venitiana del Rabina
Dictionnaire Infernal, by Collin de Plancy
The Complete Book of Demonolatry Magic, by J. Thorp
Demonolatry Rites, by S. Connolly
A Book of the Offices of Spirits, by John Porter
The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts, by Arthur Edward Waite
Histoires des Spectres, by Pierre Le Loyer
The Bible of Demonology and Witchcraft, by Jean Bodin

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Grimace, and the whole world grimaces with you

Why can’t people just smile and be happy? This is a question I increasingly find myself asking as I walk through the neighborhood in which I live, and as I travel through other parts of the city. I don’t notice this as much, say, on the far North Side of Chicago, but I do see it almost everywhere else: a frown, a grimace, a glower, a dirty look. There’s one expression in particular that I call “the constipated look,” where the person’s face just kind of looks inflated with this maladjusted, permanent visage of outrage over nothing in particular. And then there’s the unmistakable venomous glance passersby will throw at you for no specific reason, as though you shit in their corn flakes.

What is wrong with people? I’ve been to plenty of other cities, even - at this point - another country - and I haven’t encountered this bizarre behavior anywhere else. It’s like everyone is miserable and wants the whole world to know about it. When I go to a grocery store and say, “Hello, how are you?” the response I get from the cashier is a blank stare with a mouth hanging open. You know, the kind of look you’d get if you walked into the store wearing a purple pinstripe suit, a bowtie, and a clown nose. But with my appearance looking decidedly un-clownlike, I had to wonder: Why am I getting these strange looks from everyone? Is there something on my face? But no. It’s not me. Everyone glares at one another, too, or else looks at one another as if they’re aliens. Perhaps they’ve gotten so accustomed to staring into their phones that it’s an actual surprise to see other real human beings walking around? But again, no. People aren’t like this in other cities.

While it’s a sad conclusion to arrive at, I have arrived at this one, nevertheless: People are just unhappy. And you know what? Part of me understands. Working low wage jobs, having to worry about gun violence (which is more common in Chicago than other cities), having to deal with shitty weather, etc. There are myriad problems that could affix a large frown to someone’s face. But to be miserable, angry, and confrontational all the time? That is not healthy. Not one bit.

I hear and see so many people around here, arguing in the streets, swearing and threatening one another, over literally nothing. Someone bumps into someone on a bus; a screaming match ensues. Someone accidentally cuts someone off in a line at the store; that person is threatened and cursed out (often in a crude, loud manner for everyone else - children included - to hear). Domestic disputes spill out of apartments and into the street, and the funny thing is, nothing is actually being said! I honestly hear people bellowing the same words over and over again at one another, as if they’re both deaf and not hearing what the other person is saying. Whatever happened to civilized working out of personal problems - or, at the very least, raised-voice arguments that are actually composed of intelligible sentences or points of debate?

Everyone is just so filled with anger, and hate, and disgust for one another. As someone who is a metalhead, an anti-Christian, and a major introvert (even if I do a good job at making it seem otherwise), even I care about other people, and always try and be friendly and personable. I’ve had struggles in my life that some people can’t imagine - homelessness, poverty, being shunned by my family for my beliefs - but despite all of that, and even during all of it, I always find/found happiness, somewhere, somehow. When I truly did not have a dollar to my name, and had to rely on a shelter and a soup kitchen for food, I found happiness with my friends, and from the woods/nature that I enjoyed. Now, as I’m stuck in a city (which is not my best environment) and sometimes feel buried beneath personal responsibilities, I could very easily give in to frustration and dissatisfaction - sometimes I do. But I still try to smile, and be decent to people, and help people. It’s not that hard. And after years of experience with people who seem deliberately nasty, sneering, and unpleasant, I’ve come to realize that it takes more work to exhibit negative behavior than it does to generate positive energy.

Though there are surely exceptions, I’ve come to generally believe that unpleasant people are that way for a reason. Whatever their personal circumstances have made them or done to them, I think that you have to be a not-good person from the start, in order to actually go out of your way to make someone else’s day worse. Given that conclusion, I have limited sympathy for these sorts of people. I am someone who was raised to be blunt, honest, and fair. My policy is that I will be nice to someone if they’re decent to me - I will even try being nice when they’re frowning or glaring at me as though they wish me a most painful death; or, for that matter, if they’re looking at me with mouths in the shape of a perfect ‘O,’ like I just landed on this planet from Mars. However, if they continue to go out of their way to be assholes, I will treat them accordingly. I have too much pride and too pure a heart to let anyone trample me or take any joy out of my day. Shit-disturbers will be dealt with swiftly, and in all probability, cursed out in a much more eloquent manner than they would do to me.

My point, however, is - and this is for anyone who is a good person, but who has let their problems turn them into a hateful being - putting out negative energy is like throwing a boomerang; it comes right back at you. If you treat someone nicely, you will feel better about yourself, and your day may even get just a little bit better. You know what they say: ‘Smile and the whole world smiles with you.’ Well, the reverse is also true. No one is impressed that you can get super angry and get in people’s faces. No one is going to be friendly with you if you’re so condescending and/or neurotic that you look at others as if they have some sort of disease. And nothing is going to make your life better if you yourself are the problem.

Shit, people. Smile a little. Be happy. You only get one life. Carpe diem! Or, my personal mantra: Carpe noctem! Seize the day, seize the night, seize some fucking thing. SMILE! Your face won’t crack, I promise!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Environment & primitivism: Backward to the future?

At this point, I’ve done several blog posts, articles, and YouTube videos about the natural world and our relationship (or lack thereof) with it. All of this would seem to indicate that I advocate nature’s utter triumph over mankind, no matter what that entails. The truth of the matter is, I take a much more pragmatic view of things than you would initially assume. I certainly don’t support things like eco-crime or even non-extreme (but still marginalized) positions like veganism. So just where do I stand on the spectrum of human development vs. the dominion of wildlife and nature? What about, say, a philosophy like anarcho-primitivism, which encourages the purposeful regression of civilization to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, as well as de-industrialization and abolition of technologies? That’s what I’d like to talk about here.

Before I go in-depth, let me define my current feelings about humanity/nature in simple terms, without getting too professorial. I don’t like that we tear down forests for the benefit of corporations, for the purposes of building man-made architecture, or for implementing infrastructure like more roads and highways. I don’t like that we have such high concentrations of the world’s population in sprawling urban centers, and I don’t like that, in this economic recession, we seem to be focusing only on bringing jobs back to cities, not to mention our refusal to tackle the rampant drug problems that have cropped up in suburbia and rural towns in the wake of mass unemployment. I don’t like that people have lost their closeness with, their knowledge of, and their love for, animals and the forests of the world, nor do I like the fact that technology and social media serves as a mass distraction for people who might otherwise cherish what the Earth has given us. And, just speaking from my own experience, I don’t like the condescending, xenophobic attitudes that people in cities have toward those who lead rural lifestyles (i.e. the whole concept of “hicks” and “rednecks”). At the same time, I don’t believe we can ever return humanity as a whole to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

Why can’t anarcho-primitivism work?

Now, on to anarcho-primitivism. First, I’m against that precise term, because I’m not a big fan of linking anarchism to primitivism. There, after all, lies an inherent contradiction. The human race is by its very nature hierarchal, even when industrial civilization is removed and replaced by communal living or a hunter-gatherer lifestyle; unless one intends to live an entirely solitary life (very possible, but an exception to the rule), he or she will inevitably have a place within a hierarchy, and one of the pretensions of anarchism is that hierarchy is something based on social conditioning, and which can and should be opposed. Not true.

Personally, even without the “anarcho-,” I don’t subscribe to primitivism or anti-civilizationism - at least not to the letter, ideologically speaking. I’m not a big fan of labels, even if they represent ideologies, and I have very little patience these days for anything that ends in “-ism.” But aside from that perhaps more superficial reason, I have a more valid defense for my opposition to primitivism, and that is, again, that it is simply not possible to de-civilize on a global scale.
Why is primitivism unachievable worldwide? Because the logistic, infrastructural, and socioeconomic conditions that would need to exist, ironically enough, in order for civilization to end, are frankly illogical. Assuming that large enough enclaves of bucolic folks ever tried to implement primitivism as it is currently defined, those in urban centers - who would still make up the majority of the world’s population - would suffer, and their problems would become the problems of those who tried to separate themselves en masse from civility and industry in the first place. Cities do not exist in a vacuum.

What EXACTLY is primitivism, though?

The justification of primitivism really stems from the standpoint that prior to modern agriculture, humans lived in a way that did not damage the Earth, and which was socially, politically, and economically egalitarian (a romanticized and therefore slightly incorrect view, but I’ll elaborate more on that later). Primitivism is thus opposed to social and power structures that subvert, circumvent, threaten, or outright abolish the individual’s or society’s connection(s) with the natural world. To that end, the supposedly logical steps to returning to a pre-civilized, pre-industrialized state include dismantling modern technologies, ending power structures that arose from division of labor and hierarchy, and transitioning from expansive metropolitan habitation back to a rural setting.

Here's the thing. Primitivism as a movement is inherently contradictory, because a movement is based on collective action while primitivism advocates absolute individuality and autonomy (hence the opposition to hierarchy). But any mobilization of a social force in which the whole is seen as being greater than the sum of its parts...defeats the ultimate purpose of primitivism. And as I said a few paragraphs ago, there’s also a lot of romanticization of pre-industrial life. For example, the myth of primitive affluence (the idea that people performed less labor, had fewer illnesses or diseases, had gender equality, and lived in harmony with animals and with one another - all things that are by and large untrue).

I do, however, like the idea of primitivism - here’s why

A few weeks back, I made a post on my Facebook, where I basically said the following: “Those who criticize idealism as being irreconcilable with pragmatism are missing the point. Ideals are not things to be achieved, but rather, things to strive for. Through struggle comes progress, and progress is, itself, pragmatic.”

To me, primitivism is an ideal, and we had damn well better start striving! While again, I don’t seriously consider ever adopting the end goal of primitivism, I believe that some - much, even - of what the philosophy advocates to be quite correct. But here’s where I diverge from its tenets: I think that we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. In my view, we need to drastically curb urban development, replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, and do some serious soul-searching when it comes to technology and social media, especially juxtaposing its ‘progress’ with the greater need for education and intellectualism. But we cannot just pack up centuries’ worth of social evolution and ship it off somewhere, even if it has caused - and is causing - terrible problems in the world.

Basically, we need to begin doing everything with an eye for how it’s going to affect nature. Nature should always come first. We need to house all of the homeless we already have, especially when we have abandoned houses and buildings throughout the country and crippled ghost cities like Detroit, instead of buying up and subsequently decimating natural land for real estate development. We need to stop with the architectural posturing - America’s infantile need to keep building massive skyscrapers that loom like poisonous monoliths over the Earth - and look at some more natural and modest ideas, such as green architecture. We need to build less roads and stop empowering the auto industry - whether it’s built on slave labor in China (which of course is wrong) or homegrown high-paying jobs, the effect of the industry still leaves an unjustifiable carbon footprint on the planet, to say nothing of how the roads and highways tarnish land that could otherwise be returned to the forest, or, if we must build something, could be fitted with railroad tracks for clean-energy high-speed trains like Maglev, which cause significantly less disturbance to the surrounding environment. And on and on and on, but you get the idea. There needs to be a halfway approach. But the priority - and this is a big distinction here - the priority should be the preservation of nature, above all.

And the halfway approach must happen soon

But don’t take it from me. According to a paper written by environmental journalist Richard Heinberg, “There is a widespread sentiment that civilization has gone too far in its domination of nature, and that in order to survive, or, at least, to live with satisfaction, we must regain some of the spontaneity and naturalness of our early ancestors.” Unfortunately, “civilized people are accustomed to an anthropocentric view of the world. Our interest in the environment is [currently] utilitarian: it is of value because it is of use to human beings - [even] if only as a place for camping and recreation.

“Primitive peoples, by contrast, tended to see nature as intrinsically meaningful. In many cultures, prohibitions surrounded the overhunting of animals or the felling of trees. The aboriginal people of Australia believed that their primary purpose in the cosmic scheme of things was to take care of the land, which meant performing ceremonies for the periodic renewal of plant and animal species, and of the landscape itself. We are accustomed to thinking of the history of Western civilization as an inevitable evolutionary progression. But this implies that all the world’s people who didn’t spontaneously develop civilizations of their own were less highly evolved than ourselves, or simply “backward.” Not all anthropologists who have spent time with such people think this way. Indeed, according to the cultural materialist school of thought, social change in the direction of technological innovation is fueled not so much by some evolutionary urge as by crises brought on by overpopulation and resource exhaustion.”

This is to say that yes, we should begin to encourage a position of actual respect toward the environment and the great forests, rather than a feeling of dependency or obligatory acknowledgement. It needs to become a part of our lives again, and that can’t happen if we continue to only develop the big cities, and aggressively “encourage” large portions of the world’s population to migrate to those cities (whether that “encouragement” is economic, social, or cultural).

An anarcho-primitivist blog added, “Today, the entire social structure is hopeless, rotten, [and] serving nobody’s interests except a handful of super powerful rich corporations that own most of this technosphere. Degeneration of humans renders them as parasites who then go in search of hosts, and begin to develop techniques of exploitation. Here, mechanization or technologization is the methodology of this exploitation.” That blog post went on to offer a great example of how the need for a ‘progressive civilization’ is draining the planet like never before. It referenced a National Geographic video called The Human Footprint, a quote from which reads: “A disposable diaper takes 8 fl. oz. of crude oil to make the outside cover. It sits at least 500 years in a landfill,” - yes, that’s how long it takes the material to completely degrade - “far longer than the child will live. It requires felling four mature trees to create the absorbent pads for one child’s supply of diapers.”

Yes, forward, not backward - but carefully so

So you can see why I passionately agree with much of what primitivism has to say, I just temper it with some healthy realism. And it sucks, because it truly is impossible to stop ravaging the planet altogether; it really can’t be avoided, at least in the foreseeable future. But if we can scale back the destruction to a level where we can let the Earth begin to heal itself, then that’s at least a start.

It's a complicated situation. We destroy, then try and rectify things with more ‘development’ and technology, and as a result, we destroy things to a greater extent. It certainly seems as though everything we’re doing as an ‘advanced society’ is wrong.

Tiny flying robots are being built to pollinate crops in order to fill the void left by the declining bee population.

The antibiotics we create are actually poisoning and killing fish in the oceans, to say nothing of the fact that hardier, more aggressive strains of bacteria are evolving to fight these antibiotics, which will in turn result in more sickness and disease, followed by even more, stronger antibiotics pushed by the big pharmaceutical companies, and ‘round and ‘round the vicious cycle goes.

With the triple threat of deforestation, animal overpopulation, and unusually powerful and widespread wildfires, the woods that once were precious to so many are now dying. And by the way, animal population explosions are mostly our fault too; we hunted down and virtually obliterated the wolf population that once thrived in North America; as a result, deer overpopulation is a major problem, with the animals actually destroying native plants because they eat so much. Meanwhile, instead of encouraging larger-scale hunting efforts (because “oh no, don’t shoot Bambi, you crazy redneck!”), we consume the garbage produced by the factory-farming meat industry.

And finally, climate change.

Need I say more?

So my view of things is, we do need to primitivize in some areas, and continue developing some industry - albeit of a greener variety - in others. However, it is not really a question of moving back or ahead, but rather, in a circle. Because life is a circle. What we put out into the world ultimately comes back around. Will we spew the collective exhaust of over one billion cars into the sky and dump oil into the oceans? Or will we strengthen the once-mighty forests and once more allow them to provide for us? This need not be a black-and-white issue. It is, in truth, a green issue, and we can return to the old ways of the Earth without calling for such outrageous things as the utter collapse of civilization. There’s more than one way to skin a cat (yes, I admit it, that’s a horrible proverb to include in a blog post like this).

Let’s not give in to extremes, but rather, strive for ideals like primitivism - without fully embracing the end game of such a philosophy. There was a quote said by a character tonight on The Walking Dead that kind of exemplifies what I’m trying to say here: “Embrace the contradiction.” Sometimes you need a big, romanticized idea to dream about, in order to adjust your life and your worldview accordingly, and implement the most pragmatic approach to achieving something that perhaps comes close to the ideal, without, again, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Compromise where you can. And where you can’t, don’t.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"Blake X": What's in a name?

If you know me, you undoubtedly know me as Blake Deppe. It’s right in the address of this website - blakedeppe.com; my name on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is ‘Blake X Deppe.’ What does the X stand for? Well, my full chosen name is ‘Blake Xanthos Deppe.’ And I’ll go into what each of those names means in a bit. In the meantime, you may have noticed that I said “chosen name.” Is it not my real name? Well, it is. But it isn’t the name that I was born with.

Unbeknownst to many, even some very close friends, my birth name and legal name is Mark. I won’t reveal the last name I was born with, because I don’t like it (hence why I adopted a new name in the first place) and I don’t use it anymore. So on all legal documents (my state ID, my birth certificate, my passport), my name is ‘Mark.’ But I haven’t used that name since I was 14 years of age.

It all happened rather spontaneously. I was hanging out in the park with two friends, and I had mentioned in passing that I didn’t like the name that I was given at birth; I didn’t feel that it defined me, or fit me. I felt that it was normal, boring, and, furthermore, the name was chosen for religious reasons (I was, unfortunately, raised Catholic), which only added to my intense dislike of it. But what to change it to? I couldn’t come up with a name that I knew for sure I wanted instead. So I don’t remember exactly how it went, but we started going over ideas for names. At one point, one of my friends suggested that I take the name ‘Drake.’ While I didn’t quite like that name, it made me think of one that sounded similar: Blake. The origin of the name is uncertain - some people thought it was a word that meant ‘black,’ others think it initially meant ‘pale.’ It made for an interesting dichotomy though, and ‘Blake’ certainly brought black to mind - which is a color (or non-color) that I wear daily.

So I had the Blake, and I started going by that name. The rest would come later. So the last name that I eventually settled on was ‘Deppe.’ I chose it for two reasons. The first was because it was almost the same as the last name of Johnny Depp, who at that time was my favorite actor (and who is still one of my favorites). My last name is literally pronounced the same way as his, even though it ends with an ‘e.’ My second reason was that it was derived from ‘Detbern,’ a surname that technically meant “bear-people.” At the point in my life when I chose this name, that had a special meaning to me because I lived in an area where bears were very common. So now I was Blake Deppe.

What about ‘Xanthos’? Well, at first, I chose the middle name ‘Skylar,’ for no other reason than I liked how it sounded. But when I started getting heavily into writing my book (a fantasy novel that is not yet completed), I decided that I wanted something from my work to be represented in my actual name. So I chose ‘Xanthos’ - a Greek word that meant “a golden-yellow precious stone.” I can’t tell you why this definition was so perfect without giving away a major, major plot element from my book, but this description was so on-point and so representative of what I was writing that it was no longer even a question of whether I would take it as my middle-name. (By the way, Xanthos was also the name of an ancient river in Lycia, in what is now Turkey.)

So, that’s Blake Xanthos Deppe. BXD. As of now it’s both a nickname and a pen name, though I do eventually intend to do a legal name from what my ‘given name’ currently is to my ‘chosen name.’ And as for pen names, I actually use a different pen name when I write for the online news publication where I work. For all journalistic writing, I use the pen name Blake Skylar.

As anyone who follows this blog or watches my YouTube videos knows, I’m a big advocate for autonomy, self-love, and control over one’s own life. We dress the way we like and do the things we like, so why should we not take the names for ourselves that we like best? Why should we be given a name that we’re not happy with and then be stuck with it? I believe that everyone should have the freedom to choose his or her own name, if he or she wants to do so.

So now you know. Unless you knew me before I took my new name, don’t call me Mark! It’s Blake. ;)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Who are you? What are you? What do you do?

Look carefully at the three questions that make up the title of this blog entry. In an attempt to answer any one of them, you might reference your Facebook or Twitter page; that should tell us everything, right? Not quite. You see, I’m not asking for your name. I’m not asking how many “followers” you have, or what your most recent “status update” was. Nor am I asking about your ethnicity, gender, or religion (or lack thereof). I’m not even asking about your job.

Who are you as a person? If you were to write a short essay about yourself, what would you put in it? Would you describe your achievements? Your hopes and dreams? Your hobbies? What would you say are your character traits, or attributes? And what do you do in life? What do you aspire to do? These days, most people never bother to think about any of these things. Isn’t that strange?

But hang on. Let me play devil’s advocate and counter that for you: “I’m too busy trying to look for or keep a job, and going to school, and commuting, and dealing with friends and family.” In short, there’s no time to turn your thoughts inward. No time to catch your breath and confront the very purpose of your own existence. And to that, I respond with a most classic and earthy rejoinder: “Bullshit!”

Let me “trajectory” this thing for you: You spend all your time trying to get a better job and a better education - both worthy pursuits! - pausing only to deal with other responsibilities (bills, family issues, etc.), so that you can make a little money and build a better life for yourself. If you do make any pit stops along that road leading from Point A to Point B, you certainly see them as distractions, and you instantly course-correct and continue on your way. At the end of it, you acquire many of the material possessions and societal necessities you always wanted, but gain no deeper knowledge of yourself, nor any greater, more significant impression of this huge, amazing world in which you live. Congratulations! You’ve made it through the rat race! And resultantly been snared in a trap we like to call “the modern lifestyle.” Damn. And you didn’t even get any cheese. (Rats eat cheese too, right?) But I digress. Back to the questions, and why you should be asking them.

To me, asking those questions or not asking them is the difference between living life or just going through the motions. What do you want out of life that is not based around money or objects? Do you want to take up any pastimes? (Binge-watching Netflix doesn’t count.) Do you want to travel? Do you want to do anything besides what you’ve been told you must or should do? If not, then why? Aren’t you worth it? “I can’t find the time,” you say. Once again, bullshit. If people can spend hours on Facebook, if they can binge-watch an entire season of House of Cards in two or three sittings, if they can take selfies and play Playstation VR and whatever else the cool kids do these days, they can get out and do things that are a bit more consequential, too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking any of those activities. But we are social, explorative, and knowledge-seeking creatures by nature. Or at least, that’s what I like to think. Certainly, history has been made, documented, and written by those who all possessed one or more of those traits. And if you actually do a little reading or research - and I don’t mean ‘Google it,’ - I think you’ll find that those who populate the pages of history books were each doing something interesting. It may have involved work, or battle, or some other type of great struggle. To anyone reading this, I’m not asking you to do anything so laborious or heroic. I’m asking you to challenge yourself. Ask yourself the questions I mentioned, and come up with good answers for them. Do something unexpected. Put down the smartphone for twenty minutes and pick up a book written by Charles Dickens. Get out of the 24-hour fitness center and go mountain climbing. Or horseback riding. Or learn archery. Do something. Live for something. Be something. Be someone. And don’t abandon any of your responsibilities, but squeeze in something different wherever and whenever you can. You never know - you just might surprise yourself and enjoy it.

None of this is hard to do, especially these days. I can see, of course, how someone working at Walmart can’t afford to travel to Bora Bora. But you can take a walk in a park. Maybe do some photography. Or actually stop and look at the fucking sky, and the trees, and even the people. Being super extroverted isn’t for everyone - I myself am shy and often like to be alone - but if you’re like that, take advantage of that quality. Share stories with people. Face-to-face, not through a computer screen. You may think I’m anti-technology, or anti-social media, but I’m not. I’m anti-letting it control or take over your whole life.

So what about me? Who am I? What am I? What do I do?

I’m the person who has loved art, reading, writing, and nature since childhood. My teenage years also awakened a deep interest in music. I explored all of these avenues whenever I could, through the nature class I attended as a kid in Audubon, New Jersey, and the World Wildlife Fund binders full of fact sheets about different animals, which I collected and read. Through the books that inspired me to become a writer, and to try and become a published author. Through the music that carried me, emotionally, through the hardest years of my life - ones marked by poverty and uncertainty about my own future. Through the songs that captured great times with friends and living in different places; songs that forever established themselves as erstwhile homes for fond memories, together forming an orchestral scrapbook in my ever-imaginative head. I’m the person who came through the other side of those aforementioned struggles, got a good job, began to support myself, and built myself up no matter how many people tried to knock me down.

I am an artist, and a writer, and a deep thinker. I am a roaring lion (indeed, I’m a Leo), and though my pride (my friends) has scattered across the country in their own searches for happiness and a means of living, I maintain my status as king of this concrete jungle in which I now live and work. Though none but I would use such a title, I do, in fact, sit on a throne. It was built from self-confidence, heart, intelligence, and a little bit of stubbornness for good measure. All of the attributes which, used together for a purpose, are harder than the toughest steel.

And finally, what do I do? I explore; I go hiking and I intend to take up fishing soon as well. I create; I draw and, when I can afford to, will begin painting. I write; I work for an online news publication as a journalist focusing on environmental and conservation issues, as well as pop culture like film and music reviews. And I am working on the first in a series of fantasy novels that I hope to one day get published. I travel; to numerous places across the U.S. and also to Paris. If all works out as it should, my next stop will be Iceland, and then Paris again, and maybe Rome as well, and Slovakia - the place where my grandparents are from - as soon as I can.

I also ask myself a fourth question. What do you aspire to do? As it happens, I myself want to learn archery, just because. I want to learn other languages (I’m trying to learn French, but I’d also like to speak Slovak and Norwegian). I want to do something else with music - perhaps do some black metal recordings. I did vocals in the past for a band of sorts, though we never officially recorded anything and it was mostly me and a bassist. Speaking of music, I want to learn how to play the keyboard - I was starting to, and then things in life came up that made me drop it; I hope to pick it back up eventually. There are so many more things I’d like to do, but these are just a few off the top of my head.

Now you’ve heard a bit of my story. It’s time to write your own. And the great thing about it is, you don’t need a pen. You need only find inspiration - and you can do that as soon as you set foot outside your front door. So who are you? What are you? What do you do? You can decide now, or you can spend your whole life never knowing. The choice is yours, but the clock is ticking.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Man and Nature: A once-powerful connection, now fractured

I recently went on a hike in the Ned Brown Forest Preserve, in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Just a half-hour bus ride outside of Chicago, it’s the closest I can get to nature right now. I don’t have a car, and the full commute to this preserve is roughly two hours - two trains and a bus, to be specific. As someone who grew up with a deep appreciation for nature, wildlife, conservation, and the environment, it’s important to me not only to maintain that sense of oneness with the Earth, but also to make it a permanent facet of my life. Where living in a city lays heaps of stress upon me, getting away into the woods - even for a day - lets it all drain away like water through a sieve.
With my fondness for nature also came learning and knowledge. I can identify which trees are white oaks and which are swamp oaks by looking at the leaves. I can usually tell which way is North by studying the lichens growing on the sides of trees. After living just three years in the Poconos in Pennsylvania, I can track and identify footprints in the snow, including those made by deer, bears, and bobcats. I can tell a pignut from a shagbark hickory nut. And, unlike when I’m walking around in a city, I can always find my way out of the woods and back home.

It’s saddening to me that most people I know, even many of my friends, neither care nor want to be a part of nature. Most of my friends live in the New Jersey suburbs, and seem perfectly content to keep on staying there. And most Chicagoans I know - well, they’re wedded to their city and even suburban people have a not-so-good reputation amongst them - let alone rural folks. I should add that this problem seems to be a very American one. I have friends online who live in Slovakia, Croatia, and Finland, and all of them love to go hiking in the woods. Most of them lament the preoccupation people have today with modern technology and urban living.

As I’m writing this, I’m recalling the very valid criticisms that some have leveled at me, whenever I would bring up the issue of bucolic living and a connection with Mother Earth. “People just can’t live like that anymore,” is the main counterargument that I hear; “We’re no longer a society that can sustain itself by hunting, fishing, and farming.” Or, the more pragmatic person will say, “People live in the cities because they need to have jobs and support themselves.” During my hike, I filmed a video, which I’ve since uploaded to YouTube, in which I addressed that latter point. In short, I agree! As I said in the video, Big Business has crushed independent places where people can work. Everyone I know is working at Walmart, or K-Mart, or Applebee’s, or McDonald’s. Many, many jobs have left even the suburbs, and of those that remain, few pay higher than minimum wage. If you want to get a higher-paying job, these days, the city is your best bet. Not to mention the rampant drug problems (meth, heroin, etc.) that now plague small towns and communities.

Well, we’ve trapped ourselves; that I’ll admit to. I’m not saying that it’s possible or even advisable for everyone to make a transition toward greener, more rustic living. But as an individual, I don’t think it’s impossible for someone to do just that. In the near future, I hope to teach myself how to hunt, how to clean and de-bone fish, how to grow basic plants and vegetables, and find a way to live successfully in an area closer to the wilderness. Ideally, I’d live in a cabin somewhere. But everything takes time, work, and a realistic outlook. I personally think that romanticizing nature is all well and good, but that if you truly want to make it a large part of your life, you have to be pragmatic and self-sufficient. You need to try and remove your dependency on other people, and especially on the city in which you may live.

The bigger point of this article is, I suppose, more of a philosophical quandary. I think that, by enslaving ourselves to these giant steel traps - these horrific metropolises of concrete and chrome that are an affront to the land upon which they were built - we have severely damaged our relationship with nature. I believe that there is a shared consciousness within all trees and plants, and at the center of that consciousness is the Earth. I have nothing to prove this theory and the burden of proof lies completely with me - I accept that. I view this as something that I believe - you will never hear me state it as some sort of fact. Regardless, I do feel this way, and when we drill into the Earth for natural gas extraction, or spew oil into the sea, or tear apart an entire forest for the purpose of industrialization . . . to me, that is tantamount to violence. We have inflicted wound after wound after wound upon the Earth, and while climate change is by and large caused by Man, perhaps it’s a just punishment for what we’ve done.

We are here as caretakers and stewards of the planet. And there is a piece of wisdom I once heard that drives home a good point: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” This is to say that we must work hard to make it a good place for the people who will live here in the future. We have not done that; and that’s on us.

We’re so confident that we’re an advanced society, aren’t we? We believe that we’re moving forward. We build, build, build, and call that progress. We are awash in a veritable sea of smartphones, Wi-Fi hotspots, and other gadgets, with consumerism as the conduit. As we supposedly become “better,” we seem also to become increasingly stupid and ignorant. Our literacy rate goes down, our education system goes into the toilet, our health care and basic human rights along with it. Our popular culture becomes “low culture,” defined by the crass and the crude where it once was defined by classiness and intellectualism. Do you think it’s at all possible that there is a correlation here? I think it’s a no-brainer. Pun intended.

Richard Nelson, a cultural anthropologist and writer for environmental radio series Encounters, wrote an essay called Eskimo Science. In it, he remarked, “Probably no society has been so deeply alienated as ours from the community of nature; has viewed the natural world from a greater distance of mind; has lapsed into a murkier comprehension of its connections with the sustaining environment. Because of this, we have great difficulty understanding our rootedness to Earth, our affinities with nonhuman life.”

That final point he made is one I’d like to emphasize, because I feel that the farther away you get from something, the more desensitized to it you become, and the less likely you are to be able to empathize with it. I’m talking in particular about animals and wildlife. It’s no wonder that we see so many stories in the news of younger teens abusing turtles they’ve found, or kicking stray cats, or beating up their own pet dogs. While this is sickening to us, the emotional weight and the absolute horror of what many of these kids are doing is lost on them. When all you’ve been exposed to are drab cities, nary a healthy tree in sight, your respect for the life that lies beyond our urban hideouts - deep in the forests and the oceans - dwindles. And as we continue on this trajectory, you can kiss animal rights and animal welfare goodbye.

Peter Kahn, a psychologist at the University of Washington, states that because so much of daily life is now based on electronic and metropolitan representations of reality, humans are very much at risk of losing touch with nature. “What do we compare technology to?” he asked. “If we compare it to nature, it doesn’t seem to provide as many psychological benefits.” But when technology is considered the new normal, that comparison is rarely made by the average citygoer. One begins to forget that ‘other, better thing.’ “Poor air quality is a good example,” he said. “We can choke on the air, and some people suffer asthma, but we now tend to think that’s a pretty normal part of the human condition.” He concluded, “People might think that technology is partly good because it’s good enough. But it’s not. Because across generations what will happen is that the good enough will become the good. If we don’t change course it will impoverish us as a species.”

Look around. I think it’s pretty clear that it’s already happening.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Game of Thrones: Predictions for Season 6 & beyond

f you haven’t already guessed, I’m a huge fan of both the books and the TV series. I’ve made several predictions already about the show that came true, so apparently I’m pretty good at this. I thought that Rickon would die during the Battle of the Bastards, and that happened. I thought Jaime would take Riverrun for the Freys and that Brienne would lose but escape (rather than die), and I was right. Now I have a lot of other ideas about what’s to come, so I’m going to share them now and see which of them (if any) actually come to pass.

Predictions: Varys, Jon Snow, Dorne

Varys recently left Meereen to go find ships to help Daenerys sail to Westeros. Now, it’s possible he might have met with Theon and Yara Greyjoy, and that’s why they appeared there in the most recent episode, but they made no mention of Varys and we didn’t see him, so I think we can rule that out.

You know nothing, Jon Targaryen.
No, I think that whatever Varys is doing is more complicated. He’s always been playing the long game, and has been a hundred steps ahead of everyone else. We know he’s trying to put Daenerys on the Iron Throne, that he’s maneuvered Tyrion into the role of her advisor, and now . . . it’s possible he knows about Jon Snow’s true parentage, and it’s not really hard to believe that he has plans for Jon. 

Note: The prevailing rumor is that Jon is not the son of Ned Stark and an unknown woman, but rather, the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.

However, I believe that Varys has set sail for Dorne.

Sand Snakes + Ironborn + Mother of Dragons = Unstoppable?
Confused? Let me elaborate. Varys is looking for ships. That rules out Winterfell as being his destination, and probably King’s Landing, as well. What other place has ships? Dorne. And with the Dornish having quite a hate-on for all things Lannister, it’s likely that Varys will be trying to win them over to Daenerys’ cause with the promise that they will sail for King’s Landing when Dany is ready to conquer Westeros. 

Certainly, it would be logical for the Sand Snakes to see the appeal of joining up with Dany and Yara. But as I say, Varys is playing the long game, and he is probably going to use the Dornish’s approval of the Targaryens to get them to support Jon Snow (after revealing his true parentage to them). I think that Varys ultimately desires for Jon to rule in the North, while Dany governs the South. It would seem like a nice balance for the Seven Kingdoms, and it just may be the direction in which the series is headed.

Predictions: Arya, the Freys, the Hound, Lady Stoneheart

What do all these things have to do with one another? Bear with me, I’m going to explain. On her way back to Winterfell, Arya will need to pass Riverrun, which is now occupied by House Frey. Walder Frey is one of the people on Arya’s list. I think she’s going to put her new assassin skills to use and get some brutal revenge for the Red Wedding. Given how vicious Arya’s become, I wouldn’t be surprised if she orchestrated some sort of massacre.

She's making a list, she's checking it twice . . .
But things may get even more interesting. Let’s say Arya runs into the Hound, who’s now traveling with the Brotherhood Without Banners. In the books, a resurrected Catelyn Stark leads that group as Lady Stoneheart, a merciless killer who goes after anyone even remotely related to the betrayal of the Starks. Could a reunion of sorts happen, with Arya meeting her zombified mother? 

I’m betting that if there is a scene like this, it happens at the very end of the Season Six finale, giving us a truly shocking, bloody conclusion to the season and proving once and for all that The North Remembers.

Note: Remember that Gendry originally wanted to do smithing for the Brotherhood before Melisandre whisked him away to Dragonstone? We last saw him rowing away from there thanks to Davos; I’m willing to bet he’s since rejoined the Brotherhood, and we just might see him sometime soon.

Predictions: Jaime, Cersei, King’s Landing

"Burn them all."
Over in King’s Landing, I think all hell is going to break loose. Cersei is going to use the stockpile of wildfire hidden beneath the city to attack the Faith Militant, but I’m willing bet that things are going to quickly go sideways. Cersei just might burn the entire city down, along with everyone in it. 

I also think that Tommen is going to die in the season finale, probably while trying to get away from the wildfire.

When Jaime arrives and sees King’s Landing in ruins, on Cersei’s orders, he’s going to go fucking insane. Remember that he earned the name Kingslayer because he would not let the Mad King do what Cersei intends to do now. And in accordance with the prophecy Cersei heard as a girl, Jaime will be the “younger brother” who strangles her to death. (That part of the prophecy is from the books; and so even if this doesn’t happen in the actual series, I think it’s going to take place in The Winds of Winter.) Either way, I don’t think Cersei is going to make it to Season Seven.

Things I can’t predict

- What will happen with Sansa? Will she become Wardeness of the North? Or will she perhaps rule Riverrun and reunite with the Blackfish (who I don’t believe is really dead)?
Is another Lannister-style relationship on the way?

- Will Davos kill Melisandre? What role do the Red Women and the Lord of Light have to play in what’s to come?

- Who, when, and where will Euron Greyjoy choose to attack? What kind of power will he have behind him and who will oppose him?

- I’ve heard rumors that in the upcoming books, there’s a romance between Jon Snow and Arya Stark. That sounds rather bizarre, because even if Jon isn’t Ned’s son, he’s still Lyanna’s son and thus half a Stark, so there’s something of a creep factor to this theory. Although, to be fair, Game of Thrones has never shied away from sibling romances, so one could assume they'd have no problem with a relationship between cousins. Some sources maintain that this theory is, in fact, very likely. So would Arya be the Queen in the North?


That’s all I can think of for now. This show and the books definitely keep you guessing. I have a lot of other ideas about what’s forthcoming in this series, so I’ll probably write about it at some point. If anyone who reads this is a Game of Thrones/ASOIAF fan, definitely share this page or comment on this with some of your own theories.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Werifesteria: Not all those who wander are lost

ell, this weekend I’m beginning my diet. It’s part of a greater plan to get myself healthy - in the spiritual, physical, and mental sense. Switching to lots of water each day, cooked meals like fish and lean chicken, and less sugary, carbonated drinks. I mean, I really have no excuse not to do it. There’s a produce store right down the street from where I live now, a health food store not far from it, and basically access to all of the types of food that I might want.

But that’s just one part of the physical improvement. I’ve been hiking here or there, but apart from a 16-mile hike I did several weeks ago that left me exhausted, I haven’t really made this activity a regular thing, because I often am so tired on the weekend, and I only get those two days to relax and have free time. But I think I need to prioritize hiking - I enjoy it, anyway. I’m not cut out for city life, but things like working and needing to live in a place that’s affordable currently keep me here; I may not like living in the heart of a busy city, but I also wouldn’t like being broke and not having a comfortable place to hang my head - I mean, my hat.  (I don’t actually wear a hat.)

That being said, I have an internal need to connect with nature as much and as often as possible. Many years ago, when the naïveté of youth was still strong in me, I just assumed that everyone loved the woods; the trees; the wildlife; the peace and tranquility of the earth. When I moved from small towns in Jersey and Pennsylvania, and came to Chicago, I saw for the first time that that was not the case. It shouldn’t have surprised me - after all, someone’s got to populate all these metropolises.

You can’t tear down what Mother Earth built and expect that people are going to be okay.

And yet, I can’t help but notice that city folks seem spiritually disturbed. This analysis won’t matter to people who don’t believe in the spiritual, but notice how they rush from place to place, how they have agitated and high-strung personalities, how they lose patience over the simplest or silliest thing. I feel that these are all signs of a deeper problem caused by removal of the human being from the environment. You can’t tear down what Mother Earth built, replacing it with a giant steel trap of noise and pollution, and expect that people are going to be okay. This is not, of course, a condemnation of city people, who say that they love living in their cities and have no desire to move. I believe them! And more power to them, I guess. But I still think they would be healthier if they lived away from what Man built, and nearer to what Nature gave us.

Anyway. This isn’t meant to be a study of metropolitan communities vs. bucolic ones. At the end of the day, I make no judgments about others, and can only speak for myself and my own needs. I don’t like being surrounded by skyscrapers. I don’t like having to walk past traffic filled with beeping cars and roaring engines; it stresses me out. I don’t like having to weave my way in and out of a hurried crowd of the 20-50 people who clutter a sidewalk at any given moment. And as for exercise, I don’t enjoy walking down a city avenue, much for the reasons I just mentioned.

There was no noise pollution, only rich, verdant mountains in the distance.

I fondly think about the days when I lived in West Milford, New Jersey. There were many things I hated about that town, it’s true: the drug addicts, the drug dealers, the ignorant assholes who would yell things at you out of passing cars, the town drunks that roamed around asking for $. And yet, I would do this 3-mile walk, both ways, each day of the week. I was really poor at that time, and had no Internet, so I would walk to the library on the other side of town to get my fix and keep in touch with everyone. Mind you, this was still back when MySpace was the main thing. But I remember that, apart from the occasional car featuring one of those aforementioned assholes, the walk was a pleasant one. I’d walk alongside the woods, often seeing deer, bears, and birds of all sorts. The road was almost always car-free, and things were so quiet that you could hear insects in the far distance. There was no noise pollution, only rich, verdant mountains in the distance, and Greenwood Lake, and interesting supposedly “haunted” places like Clinton Road.

For many reasons, I can’t live that life right now. Again, affordability is the main one. So I have to make do. I count myself lucky that I at least have somewhere that I can go and be surrounded solely by things that are natural. Where I don’t have to see cars or buildings or people (okay, maybe the occasional bike-rider or jogger). Granted, it’s a two hour trip out there by public transit, so I really need to make a full day of it when I go. But it’s one of those things that I need in my life, and I have to increase my exposure to it.

A great many people no longer appreciate the sound of rain falling on ancient cedar trees.
I’ve spoken before about people not appreciating the little things in their life, that a lot of people have to live without. Having a bed to sleep in, being able to actually eat meals of your choice and not starve or subsist on fast food, being able to buy things like clothes and books and music. 

But a great many people no longer appreciate the sound of rain falling on ancient cedar trees; the communicative calls of birds, ricocheting off the treetops; the proud march of a stag in the wilderness, off to find food. Or the simple touch of an old tree - something that has survived for generations; which has likely withstood the rise and fall of civilizations; which has grown to dominate the landscape, even as it faces threats like light pollution, deforestation, and the noxious things that industrialization has wrought.

A lot of people talk about going green these days. I’m not the only one who talks about eating right. There are others who feel they’re doing even better than I, because they’re turning vegan, going out of their way to find and eat non-GMO foods, investing in sustainable farming and rooftop gardening, so on and so forth. But to me, it’s not enough to care about something from a distance. It’s nice to be an armchair environmentalist and preach about defending nature from the comfort (their word, not mine) of your Brooklyn or Chicago apartment. It’s another thing entirely to make nature a part of your life - that’s true environmentalism, and you don’t have to check boxes off on some list of activism initiatives to do it. Love and worship nature, and the rest will follow accordingly. Try not to think academically about it, but rather, get your hands dirty and literally get in touch with nature - rediscover what you, the human being clinging to brick and mortar - have lost and understand that there is a great, collective wisdom in the woods.

Someday, we might end up burning everything down. Climate change, industrial development, real estate - these things will take away the final vestiges of true wilderness. Whether a hundred years from now or a thousand, unless we drastically change the way we live and the way we view the planet, it’s going to happen. And when that time comes, the wisdom and the spiritual power of Nature will be lost to us. So appreciate what you have, and make a few changes in your life.