Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

Circling About An Unseen Center

Sometimes it feels as if I've been circling about a particular idea for the last decade of my life. Some of it is Story, the particular and fundamental principles underlying everything I write about. The very same things that have always shown up in this Journal, and were only distilled in the way things turned out in my fiction, fan or otherwise.

I used to call them the Axioms of my life. Many of them have come from other stories, including "you can always change the world, but only at a price", "life is pain, your highness, anyone that tells you any different is only trying to sell you something", and "no matter where you go, there you are." I always took the last one to mean that anywhere you ended up was where you were meant to be, but lately it's been more about actually experiencing exactly the place and time I've found myself to be.

On the way to Oakland I read Seth Godin's Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us, so that I could return it to Amberley. It's a very good book: short and easy read, encouraging, full of interesting rules, makes very intriguing observations about the world, and doesn't bog down in the details of exactly how to lead a tribe.

The basic premise is that one has to care enough to be able to lead. Everyone that sees your passion and shares it will be not just willing to follow but will bring along others as a result of the purity of your cause. I loved the point where someone asks, "But how do I know I'll be credited?" and he points out that the true leaders almost never care if they are credited. So long as the *idea* is spread, and the Good Thing Done, they don't care who gets credit, of all things.

Almost as a side note, Seth sets down the difference between religion and belief or faith. And in that side note he defined for me the difference that has plagued me for my entire life. I've always understood that the main weapon against fear is belief. Whether that is self-belief, self-esteem, confidence, faith in the universe and its helpfulness, the surety of "knowing", a cockeyed optimism, or a holy man's serenity doesn't really matter. The value judgement of how it comes to be truly does not matter. It's the faith that matters, the thing that allows anyone or everyone to step into the unknown.

Religion is a tool, a social structure, meant to reinforce faith and belief on a regular basis. The idea that Seth gave me was that religion, when it is done well, is a support platform for the kind of faith that is necessary to live in a world that is uncertain and often filled with situations that one has never faced before. Religion can do the work of reminding one that faith is necessary, that belief is its own reward, and that it is always possible to find courage even when one doesn't know where to look.

When it is done wrong, religion doesn't serve that basic need. Religions can go very wrong indeed when they serve themselves rather than its members' faith and belief. I still remember that moment of revelation when Marcus Borg said that the entire Old Testament could be boiled down to one phrase: "Fear not." So much of the Old Testament is about God trying to tell the Israelites that they didn't have anything more to fear, and having them ignore Him constantly and get hit by the consequences of succumbing to fear.

I now see what it is that I get from all the old religions. What it is that appeals to me through my UCC experiences. How and why the Tao Te Ching resonates, and what it is about the practices of Buddhists like the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh that appeal to me. Even more so now that I've had a child. And the name has been muddied by other usages, other ways of talking about "faith" as if it were some religion, when it, itself, may well be enough.

Ross has always called me a prophet, one that is out to bring down the structures, the rules, and the codes in favor of the Spirit that moves through all people. And I guess this only proves him all the more correct. *laughs*

It is an interesting thing to contemplate, to really understand that the vital force is not dependent on being perfect, seen as faultless, or belonging to the right organizations.

Having always been on the wrong side of the equation, always one of the Them, always on the borders between what's 'right' and what's 'wrong', I've been happily contemplating lots of stories of people that were very much in the wrong trying to make something in their world right.

Amberley has been feeding all of this with a maelstrom of reference materials. I am now watching every episode of Leverage, reading all of the Parker books by Richard Stark, and gaining a great deal of material about the underworld and how it communicates. All of that on top of a thick layer of information on violence, how to do it, how to prevent it, practicing it, what being a medic for an army feels like, and the impact of participating in it has proven fruitful ground for stories and very interesting characters. The interesting thing is scrambling to catch up with all of the fiction out there so that I don't do repeats in this genre.

Complicating it all is that I really do enjoy working with a team, and having a full team of characters makes it all the more interesting to *do*.

I'm loving this. *laughs* I'll get there.
Tags: faith

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