Okay, well…hello and good morning and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post. I don’t have anything quite as momentous as last week to talk about today, but I’m making progress on good things, nevertheless.
For instance, I’m almost done editing my short story House Guest, which is even older than The Vagabond…I wrote it when I was in high school; I think I was sixteen at the time. Editing this story is a much faster process than editing The Vagabond was, and it’s about eighty times faster than editing Unanimity was. House Guest is a true short story, only about six thousand words long; even going through it repeatedly doesn’t take much time. I haven’t needed to change much, except to update some of the medical trivia based on my far more advanced present knowledge. There’s only a little bit of it; it’s not crucial to the story, but it does enhance it a bit.
It’s nice to be able to go back and see that I didn’t write much worse then than I do now. I might have written better occasionally. Certainly, I didn’t tend to write as long a story. Or, well, maybe that might not actually be true, now that I think about it. House Guest is just a short story, after all, and is simply no longer than it needs to be. My hand-written Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel Ends of the Maelstrom from around the same time was well over five hundred hand-written, single-spaced pages long, on very narrow-ruled paper*, and was almost certainly longer than The Vagabond. Maybe I worry about story length too much.
Oh, by the way, happy April Fool’s Day! I only realized the auspicious date—if that’s really the best term—when I saved this file just now. Despite the usual form of celebration—again, if that’s the right term—associated with this day, I’m pulling no pranks and telling no lies in the writing of this post, unless my forced cheerfulness counts as a lie. But if that’s a lie, it’s one that I, and I think most other people, tell frequently, probably many times a day.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. I encounter a lot of upbeat, “power of positive thinking” type statements and quotes and tweets and posts and whatnot all around cyberspace, but they often give me the sense conveyed by Queen Gertrude when she says, “The lady doth protest too much methinks.” It’s a rather desperate, almost panicky, quasi-hysterical positivity and cheerfulness…because, after all, no one will like you if you’re not cheerful, right?
And if you do admit to feeling poorly, especially emotionally, then you’ll often get responses full of platitudes and homilies and you-think-you’ve-got-it-bads, sometimes verging toward the tone of a slap in the face from Cher and a shout of, “Snap out of it!”
Of course, to be fair, you also tend to find sincere sympathy and concern. Even the other stuff often plainly comes from a well-meaning place, so to speak. I don’t want to impugn the motivations of those responding to things for which our culture gives us very few tools. I think almost all such people really do mean well.
But our society is drenched in the myths of the rugged individualist and The Secret, and the power of positive thinking and “Think and Grow Rich”, and “quantum healing” nonsense. If you find yourself tempted by the sugary, empty-calorie bait in those intellectual traps, remember, you only ever hear about the good outcomes, the lucky ones…the failures don’t publish their tales, and the marketing people certainly don’t promote them. If ever there was an inbuilt and all-but-inescapable confirmation bias, it’s in attitudes about the power of positive thinking.
Not that being reasonably, cautiously optimistic and positive is a bad thing—it’s not, if you can do it, and if you are so constituted that it doesn’t require you to browbeat yourself when you feel down, as you will sometimes, no matter who you are. Even the Donald gets down in the doldrums de vez en cuando, I’d stake my left kidney on it. But there’s no evidence whatsoever that the state of the present or future universe is affected by human thoughts and attitudes other than by dint of prosaic methods: hard work, discipline, planning, thought, careful evaluation and analysis, proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, and—almost always—many failures along the way.
I wish some people would positively think themselves able to defy gravity by the power of their minds and would hurl themselves from the nearest equivalent of the observation deck of the Empire State Building to prove it. That would be putting their money where they mouths are. When Deepak Chopra talks about the power of the mind to heal and to resist aging (and the like) through some kind of pseudo-quantum nonsense, make sure to compare photos of him now with photos taken twenty or thirty years ago (they are, unfortunately, readily available). He’s aged conspicuously. Also, remember that people like Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Dirac, Feynman, Bohr, Einstein, Wheeler, and the like—all of whom understood quantum mechanics far better than your favorite local or international or celebrity purveyor of quantum woo, to say the least—are currently and conspicuously dead. At least in this branch of the Everettian** multiverse.
Wow. That was a hell of a tangent, wasn’t it? No April Fools, though. I was speaking from the heart—which is to say, conveying my honest thoughts and feelings by means of a computer keyboard. Nevertheless, the good things I shared at the beginning of this post are true and unsullied, and The Vagabond is out there to be read by any who enjoy horror novels. I’m getting good feedback on it, as well as on Son of Man, which a coworker of mine recently finished. She said she loved the twists and surprises, and really enjoyed the book, which can’t help but make even a curmudgeon like me feel happy. Also, I recently reread The Chasm and the Collision, and the ending of my own book brought minor tears of joy to my eyes. That’s pretty cheesy, I guess, but I’ll take my little bits of satisfaction where I can get them, and I’ll try not to be too embarrassed.
And though you might not think it, I would take great and honest satisfaction in knowing that all of those who read this, and their loved ones—and everyone else for that matter—were healthy, and comfortable, and as safe as they can be, and as happy as often and for as long as they can be without using inappropriate and/or detrimental substances***. So, if you could do me a favor, please see if you can achieve those results.
*I haven’t been able to find such narrow-ruled paper again since that time, though I’ve often looked for it. Apparently, that super-tight ruling of notebook paper has fallen out of fashion. It’s too bad, really, because I loved the convenience of having to use fewer pages, though it made editing a bit of a mess. There were added sentences running into the tattered margins on almost every page, and even I had trouble reading what I had written. Maybe there’s a good reason that paper fell out of fashion…but it did look beautiful when blank. So many lines available to fill!
**Hugh Everett is also, lamentably, dead. He died at age fifty-one, my current age, after having left physics at least partly because of the animosity he experienced against his “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics, which may nevertheless be correct.
***I might think otherwise if such substances were reliable, or if they didn’t tend to end up causing a subsequent rapid, severe, and painfully ironic downturn in the happiness curve of life, but that’s just not the way things are.