Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tree In The Forest

Another source of crazy ideas for Paranormal and SF Romance is the word problem or philosophical puzzle known as a Koan. Take care: these things are addictive.

Rowena and Linnea discussed the flaws in our lead characters -- and how we love to test those characters to destruction.

Obsession is another such flaw, a flaw as dramatically powerful as a drug addiction. Many people get caught up in obsession with a person and mistake that for love.

That psychological mechanism can fasten onto these intellectual/philosophical issues and produce drama and romance just as powerful as drug addiction.

People do go through periods (astrologically) when they are vulnerable to being sucked into cults, or the study of the occult, or the pursuit of magical power to
a) attract their ideal lover,
b) take revenge on the unresponsive object of their obsession,
c) gain power and wealth, political and otherwise, but particularly political because with political power you can direct all your inner angst at the external problems of the world, thus self-righteously protecting your personal neuroses and addictions from change.

A writer looking for source material for popular stories rooted in classics can do well exploring all kinds of religions and philosophies world wide. Of course, you may become obsessed and keep looking and never writing.

http://www.thezensite.com/MainPages/koan_studies.html is a handy starting place.


I wrote about how bad I am at philosophical word problems recently:


My favorite Koans are like the one about if a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound? And what is the sound of one hand clapping?

These are actually language problems and world-view problems that you can become obsessed with -- or just shrug off as silly.

See my post on Linguistics For Writers:

which discusses the unthinkable.

The Koan leads you into a loop where your thoughts will just slide around the inside of the walls around your mind. Trapped, endlessly trapped -- because you think in language. The answer to this puzzle is literally unthinkable without accessing the realm where your spirit dwells without words.

To start getting out of that endless loop, see my even earlier post on Giving and Receiving.


If you can wrap your subconscious around the model of the universe with the Give/Receive paradigm built into the substance of Creation (i.e. the model of the universe behind the Tarot) you can solve the Koan of this type without any trouble.

Alien Romance writers note how two vastly different cultures and world views blend through the science of linguistics and the vision of Art -- the Western Magical Tradition with the Eastern Wisdom tradition of Zen Buddhism. At that interface, you will find hot stuff for romance. Talk about Romantic Suspense!

You can find 20 of my blog posts on the Tarot minor arcana posted on Tuesdays from August 2007 -- here's the first of the series

I hope to have a collection of them, with the unpublished volumes on Wands and Cups available for PDF download. Subscribe to this blog or to me at http://friendfeed.com/jlichtenberg to be notified.

These posts on the Tarot for Writers give an overview of a world concept rich with story ideas, especially ideas about Relationship driven plots.

The Tree of Life diagram behind the structure of Tarot is composed of 3 pillars, or vertical columns. Positive, Negative, and the Central Pillar which is neutral.

Male, Female, Neuter. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

The universe structure is inherently one of Giving and Receiving -- and between them is a point at which Giving and Receiving are in BALANCE or synthesis.

What these Koan puzzles are challenging is the structure of the universe you hold in your subconscious as a non-verbal assumption.

Carlos Casteneda wrote a series of non-fiction books
about the training of a shaman in which the candidate is taught to "stop the world" and slide through the "crack between worlds" -- to alter consciousness of reality and thus gain power. One of the exercises was "running the night" -- literally running through the desert without being able to see with the eyes where your bare feet will land, and still arrive at your destination.

The study of the Koan leads to a similar ability. The study of Tarot, likewise. The hint of the possibility that mastering these disciplines could bestow power - power to conquer one's inner fears, one's unspeakable and unthinkable fears - is what sucks some of the vulnerable into obsession with these occult studies.

Now, bravely, back to examining the puzzle of the Koan, the shape and structure of existence.

Can there be giving without receiving? And without both, can there be peace?

Can a hand clap by itself?

Does a falling tree make a "sound" if nobody hears it? That question depends on the definition of "sound" you see, which is linguistic or maybe scientific.

What is the definition of "clap" -- is it a word that means a sound, or a word that means connect with another of your kind? Does it mean deliver kinetic energy to? Does it mean receive kinetic energy from?

What's all this got to do with Romance, especially with non-humans?

The concept of Soul Mate is rooted in the concept of a world powered by positive and negative energies -- where one is not superior to the other, but they are in balance, and compelled by the structure of reality to combine and balance.

Because it is so primal -- more fundamental than staying alive (paranormal romance with ghosts), finding a soul mate is another thing that can become an obsession, a main character's major flaw that must be overcome at the end of the narrative so that he/she can find that soul mate.

A Soul-Mate will have a World View, a vision of the macro cosmic all, lodged deeply in unconscious assumptions, that is either identical to or in complement to the mate's. Thus they instantly fall into silent and total communication; they recognize each other at first sight.

When identical, such souls have a much harder time mating!

Think of the musical chord. There's a mathematical formula for making chords -- but there are a number of musical systems just among humans that all have different formulas for what constitutes harmony -- an ear trained for one system hears dissonance when a chord of another system is sounded.

Souls are like that - NOTES. They combine in CHORDS (families). But the sense of what combines with which to make harmony is DIVERSE.

If it's so diverse among human cultures -- just imagine how diverse it could get adding non-humans.

Now, a Soul-Note from humanity COULD combine harmoniously with a Soul-Note from non-humans.

However impossible, it could happen. Some theories have it that we're not always reborn on the same planet.

So one way it could happen would be if they both had the same answer to the question about the falling tree in the forest making a sound, or the sound of one hand clapping.

Does the giver have any effect on the world if there is no receiver?

And there we are back to unrequited love.

Is unrequited love a bad thing? Is "love" actually a transitive verb - that you must love someone or some thing? You can't just LOVE?

That ability, to just LOVE may be rooted in a view of the universe, an unconscious assumption about the nature of reality. Those who just LOVE tend to be HAPPY.

There's a new study that shows that happiness is contagious.

But they couldn't figure out how the mechanism that vectors happiness works, so maybe it works the same way as this "tapping" or Emotional Freedom Technique works (you can tap acupuncture points on your own body and improve the health of a close friend, relative, acquaintance! as well as your own.)

http://www.emofree.com/ -- ( a marvelous way to engage the placebo effect on yourself -- but oddly, it has been shown you can do it on yourself and help others.)

The Emotional Freedom Technique is also considered a scam by scam busters:

So you can see the potential here for conflict between lovers! (How dare you heal me with that scam technique!) (Well, at least now you don't need little blue pills.)

So this study on happiness being contagious might mean that some people, who view the universe in a certain way, may be able to spread LOVE around -- if Love and Happiness are related notes in a chord.

How might the Arcturians look at this argument?

I'm making myself crazy today -- too many interesting ideas all over!

But here are some "unthinkable" ideas to ponder as story material.

1) (USE AND ABUSE OF POWER) Maybe part of the auto-bailout deal ought to be a mandatory Breathalyzer interlocked with the car ignition, so if you're drunk you can't start a car. This is off the shelf technology that has never caught on with auto-makers, so it's not an SF concept. But considering automakers worldwide are now begging for your tax dollars, one of your characters might want to bring up the problem of drunk driving with congressmen/women. That's easy via this website.


Now suppose contacting a congressman/woman led into a searing hot romance via a blending of philosophies? Or into a relationship with someone obsessed with political power?

2) (OBSESSED FICTION READER) Publishing is continuing to melt down. You're going to have to find your daily fix of story via e-books, webisodes, movies, DVD's, (gasp!) TV! Words on paper are getting rare.

Here's a NYTimes article about Houghton Mifflin (huge publishing conglomerate) suspending acquisions of new books. (don't panic; they always do this in recessions)


The Chicago Tribune (which owns the LA Times, lots of papers and local TV stations, and the Cubs team) is in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. The Cubs aren't included.

And :

Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Thomas Nelson are restructuring or laying off people. Random, which is described as being composed of "fiefdoms," says it is breaking down the walls between the imprints. Sounds like they will be getting rid of some. S&S is cutting back. Nelson is firing 10% of its staff. One of the last two is also freezing pensions for newer workers. There is an article at the Huffington Post about it, as well as the Wall Street Journal.

If a Publisher falls in the forest of high-leveraged businesses, does it make a sound louder than the sound of an Auto Manufacturer falling?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg



  1. "The concept of Soul Mate is rooted in the concept of a world powered by positive and negative energies -- where one is not superior to the other, but they are in balance, and compelled by the structure of reality to combine and balance."

    Whoa! Practically poetry, Jacqueline.

  2. Oh my goodness! I remember reading your Sime/Gen novels way back when! Even then you were exploring this concept of the soul mate. I salute you, and wish you many more wonderful novels!

  3. Thank you LadyRhian!

    If you're interested in reading more new Sime/Gen, there's plenty posted online at simegen.com and a busy, productive Sime~Gen fandom -- we have a new fan novel about to be posted written by one of our most popular writers who lives in England!

    Email me at jl @ simegen.com if you would like more information.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg