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Monthly Archives: April 2021

Saint Petersburg State University

I’m getting a lot of hits from students at the above uni about a short story of mine.  If you’d like to know more or ask questions, please get in touch, I’m happy to chat.

#notflix

 

After 8 days of around 98% non-online activity (which means everything, apart from this journal), I decided to maybe rethink it.

Should I abstain for one month a year, or maybe one week a month or, as my girl says, should I just generally be ‘moderate’ in my consumption of the internet? In fact, she says I should be moderate in my consumption of everything, though I’m not sure sure moderate is in my vocabulary of available behaviours.

Anyhow, as I pondered this, I realised I hadn’t been on netflix for over a month. I don’t subscribe, but someone I know does, and he’s got me down as a user. There are a couple of programmes I enjoy, but I have no inclination to switch back on.

No netflix, then. No Amazon or Disney, or any other subscription channel either. As for terrestrial TV, I stopped watching it years ago.

I need to think about rebuilding my overall media consumption in a way that is equitable, and beneficial, to me.  If I was applying for government funding for doing liberal-arts type nonsense, I’d say I needed funding to curate my media consumption.

Whatever.

As always in this sort of situation, I’ll begin by writing a list.

 

 

hunger pangs

 

Day 8 of my online fast.

I’m thinking, should I do a month’s fast a year, or a one week fast every calendar month? I’m drifting towards the latter. I’ve heard of heavy drinkers taking a week off the booze every month, though that isn’t necessarily a great example.

 

 

 

It’s cold today. Hailstones. My little pooch refused to go out this morning and hid under the table. I don’t think he likes freezing rain. The temperature is hovering around zero degrees, and it’s almost May.

Global Warming, apparently. Or climate change. Or the onset of a new ice-age. Or just weather.

Whatever the cause, it feels very cosy sitting here in my office listening to an audiobook, doing my daily admin.

 

Gaijin

There’s a zen koan about enlightenment:

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

I say, cut out the middle man, just chop the wood and fetch the water. Forget enlightenment. Make a cup of tea instead. Read a book. Take the dog for a walk.

But as a Gaijin, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Zen in the Art of Archery

Reading this book, first published in about 1936, I can see that the writer, or speaker – it was, first of all, a presentation – is in love with Japan. He is a japanophile and he reads into the culture a depth of correctness that he believes is unique to Japan. He believes that the Japanese method of instruction, whereby the teacher does without explanation, and the student copies, assiduously, without question, is superbly effective.

He might be right.

But I disagree.

Sure, we need to learn fundamentals. Sure, repetition grinds away the superflous. And yes, there comes a point where, to excel, we need to be able to execute a task without conscious thought. But blind copying isn’t learning. And even if it is a form of learning, doing something that way because you’ve always done it that way can easily miss the point. Just ask the hedgehog how well curling up in a ball works on a busy road.

An example: aikido is a martial art based on a distilled essence of jiu jitsu, and practiced by many as a method of improvement and self-defence. It’s beautiful to watch a practitioner performing the movements, throwing a uke time after time in a seemlingly effortless blur.

But it doesn’t work. Even though one of my favourite ever books is about a man learning aikido, I have to accept that as a method of combat, it doesn’t work.

No amount of diligence on the part of the student will make aikido work as a fighting system. No amount of mystic interpretation will allow the aikido-ka to block a punch or kick.  And to adapt it into a form that would work, you’d have to discard everything that makes it akido. You’d essentially be reinventing BJJ or judo.

Maybe it did work, a long time ago.  But blind obedience to traditional forms hasn’t translated to effective application over time.

So I’ll finish this book. I admire the writer’s diligence, his application, and his journey. But I disagree with his message.

 

 

Following on from the thought,below. How you learn to do something is that you explore all the ways you don’t do it.

Then, whatever is left is correct.

It’s like Rodney Mullen said about learning to skateboard. It’s about falling and getting up again, and falling and getting up again, until eventually you learn how to not fall.

 

 

 

It seems to me that it doesn’t matter what discipline you adopt.

I write, but I could have chosen to lay bricks, the craft itself doesn’t matter. All are equally valid.

The trick is to apply yourself consistently, unceasingly.

 

Fundamentally, the archer aims at himself.

Day six of my online* fast and onto my third book. The first was a short 100 pages. The second a long 600+ page fantasy novel.

This one is short, 71 pages, and non-fiction.

 

 

*I don’t count this journal as I’m mostly talking to myself.

why I write #23

A while back I asked Lucas if she’d look up some writer’s websites for me and, being thorough, she came back with a list. After visiting a couple, spending a day or two checking them out, I decided not to return. Who wants to present their stories to other writers?

When I very first began writing I instinctively understood that joining a writer’s group would be creative death. Likewise, on the couple of occasions I’ve looked into doing a PhD in creative writing, I’ve always ended up thinking the time would be better spent just writing. Who wants to write stories whose criteria are set by a professor of ‘creative writing’?

Not me. I don’t play well with others.

That’s why I write.