Glass Houses

I was recently told that my writing has the ability to cause great harm. According to one visitor to my site, my mindset is damaging and shows a proclivity towards destabilising social order and pushing boundaries. While it is a compelling argument, and it is true that I do try to disrupt societal preconceptions; to say that I am a destructive force within the blogging community seems a little far fetched. Don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered that my work could affect someone to such a degree that the felt the need to contact me in an effort to degrade it. I just believe that those in glass houses should not throw stones.

A hush falls over the crowd as a collective sense of anticipation builds. There was an undertone of malice laced through those words. You can almost taste the tension in the air. Hell hath no fury like a writer scorned…

…True. But a wolf doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of sheep. I’m not bothered about the judgement or belittling bestowed upon me by the ignorant or close minded. So rather than descended into a petty diatribe about why someone offering bullshit advice as a life coach should be careful about criticising others for giving people hope, I thought it would be better to take the high road and comment instead on the paradoxical logic that leads people to make such assumptions.

Telling a writer that their work is damaging to the mindset of the reader is merely a poorly conceived assumption that the writer’s purpose or intent is exactly as you perceive it. And that every single consumer views a piece just as you do.

We live in a world of unprecedented exposure to art. Gone are the days where great artists created works to hang in prestigious galleries, or musicians crafted masterpieces to be played to amphitheatres of patrons dressed in their Sunday best. Even literature has become a living, breathing entity that moves through trends and creates successes and swallows failures.

Nowadays the creative arts are just a click of a button away on our computers and phones, allowing us to constantly immerse ourselves in the new and exciting. Music and movies can be streamed, literature can be packaged as an eBook or weblog, and art can be created or captured through photo sharing applications.

The benefits of this are obvious. Creativity is all around us. One can connect with an author or artist half a world away and be educated and enlightened by the works they produce. As an artist we can accrue an audience of similar minded consumers who we would have never had met without this widespread coverage. The audience that I have amassed here at The Renegade Press would not have come to fruition without having the ability to expose my works to the world through social mediums. Yet while I am grateful for the exposure, I am also aware that we are blessed with a curse.

The abundance and availability of art has created a devaluing of the work in the eye of the patron. Society has developed an insatiable lust for the new, bold, and creatively brave, meaning that artwork doesn’t undergo the same maturation process it once did before becoming a masterpiece. A song, film, book, blog, or painting is viewed, appreciated, then forgotten with the swipe of a thumb or the refreshing of a browser. Rather than creating works to last a lifetime, we now create pieces to capture an audience for just a fleeting moment.

IMG_9081

This lust to discover and consume, coupled with technological advancement and mankind’s desire to feel valued has allowed anyone to create and share through social media platforms. In our efforts to fit in or perform, we have unwittingly become venomous critics and hypocrites ready to disparage others to make ourselves appear greater.

Take me for example. I am a writer/author who has created a website through which I can create pieces of social commentary for a readership that chooses to coddle my creativity. Yet there are times when I will read through the blog posts of a like-minded writer and think that their work is sub-par in comparison to my own. Sometimes I will even pass judgement on them for making a stand for what they believe in. I’m not proud of that fact; it’s hypocritical of me to make such absurd assumptions. It’s ridiculous that I could believe that no one anywhere could find value in another writer’s words, or that anyone anywhere would derive the same meaning from it that I do. In those moments I’m standing inside my own glass house constructed through creativity hurling stones at my neighbour.

Thankfully, because I refuse to voice such negative opinions, my thoughts and feelings don’t hurt anyone but myself. They make me close-minded, arrogant and a bit of an arsehole without battering the fragile individuality of the artist in question. Yet this conceited judgement is a common practice in modern day society. We critique with bias, misconstruing both our perceptions of ourselves and of others. Teenagers call their peers a slut when they post a photo in their bikini, yet litter their own social media accounts with similar pictures. Musicians call another artists music dreary while haphazardly slapping together shoddy riffs and generic lyrics of their own. And sometimes fuckwit life coaches trying to swindle people with pyramid schemes or get rich quick plots dare to deem the works of another blogger as damaging to their readership. Yep, even the snake oil peddlers in their infinite wisdom dare to throw stones from inside their own glass houses.

So how to we counteract our penchant to throw stones? How do we dispel with this mentality of mass consumption, devaluation, and our proclivity for judgement and volatile critique? It’s actually rather simple. Stop being that ignorant consumer who believes in belittling another person for pursuing their own dreams. Stop throwing stones from within the confines of your glass house. All you are going to do is break a few windows and cheapen your own image.

If you want to be an artist, be an artist. If you want to be a writer, be a writer. And if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, then be that. Just don’t be a hypercritical arsehole who disparages others for wanting the same thing.

Wolves & Sheep

wolf mist

‘The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.’
– Hugh Macleod

If you were forced to make a choice between living a life of boredom, or one of loneliness, what would your decision be? Would you choose a stifled existence of mundanity in which you are forced to conform to the whims and needs of the masses? Or would you be comfortable in a life of isolation? Could you find comfort in the knowledge that you will forever be without inspiration, surrounded only by the mediocre and the monotonous? Or would prefer a life of seclusion and segregation?

The truth is that you wouldn’t wish to be afflicted by either. If I pushed you into a corner and forced you to make a choice, you would probably shove me back and call me insane. Why would anyone want to make such a ridiculous decision? No matter what avenue you pursued, you would be damning yourself to a life of frustration. And yet, on a subliminal level many of us have already made this choice. I’ll get to explaining why in a moment, but first I want you to ask yourself what you would decide. When your back is against the wall and you’re forced to decide between being a wolf or a sheep, what are you going to chose?

A life of boredom sounds well… Boring. But a life of loneliness sounds heartbreaking. Only a sadist would wish to spend their life utterly alone.

The human brain is preprogramed to pursue a life of boredom over one of isolation. We rely on chemicals and endorphins flooding our mind in order to feel accomplished. We establish friendships, set achievable goals, and pursue larger dreams so that we can succeed and our minds can be flooded with hormones that leave us feeling contented. Mankind is for lack of a better expression; a reward centric species reliant on self actualization and social fulfillment. On a subconscious level, we have a yearning to fit in, so we create communities of like-mindedness and consume products and ideas that fall in line with our beliefs and ethos.

We move like herds of sheep. Not because we are unable to stand alone, but because we are compelled to move together. Our behavior is indicative of boundless successes and our greatest accomplishments as a species are born out of this togetherness. We are all connected, regardless of colour, orientation, gender or creed.

But this herd like attitude can also lead to a lack of originality. When we all move in the same direction, we all think, feel, and act in an identical manner. We believe that we are exposed to beautiful literature because we are told by our peers that something is groundbreaking or unique. We believe in the faux realities portrayed to us on social media because we are afraid to ask questions. And we fail to understand or appreciate truly original thinking because it doesn’t fall in line with the rinse and repeat mentality of the modern era.

We become bored with ourselves and the world we live in, yet are somehow perplexed as to why anyone would dare to create something new and exciting.

Hold on, let’s take a break for a second. I keep throwing out the expression ‘we’ and yet I have never really subscribed to this type of behaviour. In fact, I have never really found my place within society. I’m still a lone wolf wandering adrift amongst sheep. Even after twenty-seven years of trying to understand myself, I am still the loneliest son of a bitch that I have ever known. Not because I am without peers, but because I don’t share the same ideological constructs or accept the same realities as those around me.

When you break down society into the two categories of sheep and wolves I fall firmly into the classification of the later. I would rather die of heartache than live an existence plagued by boredom. I would rather strive towards greatness than settle for the mundane. And I would rather fight for a dream than be handed a bullshit life suffocated by monotony and tedium on a silver platter. When I look at myself as a man and as a writer, I would rather be a fucking wolf than a goddamn sheep.

But in a world as fickle as this how does one find sanctity in loneliness? How does one chase a dream without succumbing to despair and isolation?

…You can’t. It’s not possible to be a wolf and to stand for what you believe in without learning to grift and grind when life gets tough. I am a twenty-seven year-old writer who suffers from anxiety. Why? Because I want to be something far greater than who I am. I push myself to produce and create so hard that oftentimes I find myself frustrated, angered, or crying in a wardrobe. Shitty literature, tacky mass produced music, and shoddy films break my heart. And the fact that celebrity and marketability has replaced talent and hard work feels like an affront to everything that I stand for.

And yet I write. I keep pushing through the loneliness because I believe that I can be better. I believe that through my words I can change the world. When I first started blogging I was an extremely unhappy, and tremendously lost individual. I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, floating through an existence that left me feeling broken and unfulfilled. But writing saved me. It became a reason to dream, a reason to love, and a passion to live for. Four years later, The Renegade Press has grown into something far greater than I had ever imagined. What started off as a way for me to embrace my inner wolf and peel off the layers of sheep skin that clung to my frame, has now become a medium through which I can connect with like-minded souls who believe that there is more to life and art than boredom and bullshit.

The price that I have paid to make it as far as I have in this industry (admittedly I’m still scratching at the surface) has been huge. At times I am so fucking lonely that I contemplate quitting. Sometimes I pray that I can start over and decide to be a sheep rather than a wolf. I tell myself that I would be happier if I learned to accept rather than question. But then I look at how far I have come, read the kind words of my readers, and look at my name on the spine of a novel and find my courage return. I am a wolf. And when a wolf finds himself backed into a corner he bares his fangs and fights his way out.

If ideological loneliness and heartbreak is the price that I have to pay to be a writer, then I welcome it with open arms. Because even though loneliness can be devastating, it is better to die having spent one day as a wolf than have lived an entire lifetime as a sheep.

Creativity and Corkboards

1b1b13935fb9c11fc354d6b4938b7662

Imagine that your mind is a corkboard. It’s brand new; you haven’t yet amassed any photographs, receipts, or quotes to affix to it. Which means that right now it is lacking of any pinpricks, thumbtacks, or sticky notes taped to its surface. It is almost smooth to the touch; but if you run your hand over the cork there are small imperfections that snag on your palm where the face of the board is split to allow pins to sink into it. And there is a thin veneer of pine acting as a frame.

It sounds exciting doesn’t it? When someone asks you about your creative cognizance aren’t you just dying to tell them all about your plain brown corkboard that is completely devoid of any imagination or creativity?

…Probably not. But in actual fact so much of our creative impulses are unconsciously developed upon a mental corkboard nailed into the walls of our minds. It sounds obscure doesn’t it? So let me explain.

It goes like this:

You start off with an idea. Often it’s something quite small. Maybe you decide you want to write a book. So you take the idea and pin it on your board. This moment marks the inception of your creative map. From there you start to build upon it. You take a piece of string and stretch it out to a second pin where you begin to fashion your protagonist. A third pin represents the antagonist. A forth exemplifies their conflict, and so on and so forth. As each new idea is tacked against the board, a piece of string reaches out to connect this new thought process to the last, creating an ever growing junction of thread.

Before too long your corkboard is overflowing with pins that represent ideas, plot points, research, characters, historical fact, intellectual and cultural bias, and a myriad of other concepts. As your learning and creative process begins to grow you start pushing thumbtacks into the pine veneer, desperate for more space. Eventually your thoughts outgrow your corkboard and spill across the wall, cover the floors, and in some rare instances, even the goddamn roof.

The pine frame of your board represents the preconceptions and creative limitations that you initially bought into the project. Like all intellectual boundaries, they need to be tested and broken. The pins and strings that stretch out onto the walls and floors of your mind characterize what you have learned through your creative pursuits. These pins are your creative freedom. They are what makes you and your concept both original and great.

It all sounds brilliant. And it is. It really is. As a writer I love creating mind maps and plucking my fingers along the strings stretched across my mind in an effort to breath life into characters and plotlines. But sometimes your mind maps can become convoluted. Strings can tangle or break, or you can find yourself venturing so far from your original concept that you feel more confused than creative. When this happens, all you can do is start to remove pins, coil up your string, and slowly work your way backwards until you eventually stumble back onto the thought pattern that you originally embarked upon.

It can be difficult to destroy your map. Sometimes we creative types can invest so much time in constructing these elaborate artworks of thread and string that it almost feels like you have failed to admit that the ideas are actually holding your imagination at bay. But there is something quite cathartic in clearing off a completed mind map, wiping your corkboard clean and starting over again.

But this process of mind maps, pins, strings, boundaries and starting over needn’t be limited to limited to the creative arts. It can be applied to our every day lives. It already is. We just aren’t consciously aware of this fact. Each and every day we experience new highs and lows, learn new information, forge new friendships, and add to the various corkboards that make up our minds.

We have boards dedicated to our employment; others represent friendships, dreams, likes and dislikes, religious orientation… The list is endless. For many of us we continuously add to these boards, pushing pins into veneers that represent societal, financial, physical or psychological constraints. But we stop there. We never dare extend our aspirations and learning across the threshold of those imposed restraints. Instead we continue to loop strings between an increasingly clustered series of pins and tacks until tangles wreak havoc across our corkboards, knots form, and we become disillusioned with the startling difference between our desires and our realities.

When we reach this level of confusion it can be difficult to remember how we even got here in the first place. A desire to obtain a degree, or fund a community arts project, or even write a book somehow evolves into working an unfulfilling desk job, chasing money to clear debts, and trying to force a square peg into a round hole. But all hope is not lost. Just like the writer mentioned earlier in this post, you can clear your corkboard, refocus and start over again.

Rather than write a typical New year: New me post in which you the reader rolls your eyes as I dictate my hopes and dreams for the coming twelve months, I though it’d try something a little different. Instead I will simply close out this entry with a statement and a challenge. 2015 was a fantastic year that came with both dizzying highs and harrowing lows. But that is now in the past, and the time has come to reset my creative corkboard and start afresh once more.

Right now I have two manuscripts in production (one of which is nearing completion), and this site to attend to. These three projects combined are my first pin. My objective is to continue to grow as a writer and see the sequel to Midas put into print. Where the next twelve months takes me from here is at mystery at this point in time. But with each passing day I will grow and develop and weave strings between newly acquired pins affixed to my board. As always I will continue to pluck at those strings and continue to learn until my dreams can come to life.

My challenge for you, my dear reader is this: reset your own corkboard. Remove all the tangles and knots that have grown and developed over time and start afresh. Create a new starting point as of today and grow and develop from here on out. Work towards your dreams, just like I am. And no matter how far you travel or how much you learn, never lose site of the reason you created a board of memories and experiences in the first place.

Loose Threads

Close your eyes and imagine your favorite sweater. Take a moment to envision it in all its glory. Maybe it’s blue, or red, or maybe it carries a garish Christmas print, or the logo of your favorite sports team or band. When you wear it something just feels right. The way the fabric falls against the contours of your body, the way the neck has stretched out slightly and the elbows are worn through makes it perfect to you. It’s comfortable, it feels wonderful, and you couldn’t ever imagine loving another inanimate item of clothing quite like your sweater.

Now imagine that your favorite sweater had a lose thread, and suddenly you’re faced with a decision you never thought that you would have to make. Do you pull on the thread and risk the delicate stitch work unraveling? Do you try and find a pair of scissors and cut it off, leaving a gap in the intricate pattern? Or do you simply accept that even something as cherished as your favorite sweater can carry an imperfection and leave it alone?

Well, what would you do?

Now imagine that your favorite sweater is in fact the world. The loose neckline is the Northern Hemisphere, the stretched out hemming at the bottom that you have learned to love is the South Pole. That garish Christmas print or logo is actually a cluster of nations defined by borders of water and man-made lines carved into the earth. And that lose thread? Well that my dear reader is what we know as racial intolerance and religious vilification.

I know that it may seem like an odd analogy at first thought, but look a little deeper; look beyond the surface of this earth and see the world for what it truly is. Look at what we as humans truly are: a species of Homo sapiens stretched across the planet with alternate thoughts, feelings, physical attributes and social structures. Yet for all our differences, we are supposed to be bound by one thing: our humanity. Those differences that at first make us seem so incongruous, are merely another tawdry pattern interwoven into the compassion that binds us.

So why the fuck after thousands of years on this earth are we still killing one another in hate? Why are we the only species on the face of this earth at war with itself? And why the hell are we so willing to blindly accept the wedge being driven between races by faceless cowards and men who hide behind misconstrued messages of faith?

There has always been a loose thread in the fabric of the world. With a population of over seven billion people and over four thousand alternating religions, we are bound to have clashes on an ideological nature. But right now in this moment in time, we as a species seem so fucking intent on yanking on the filament until the world unravels like a shitty sweater and anarchy reigns supreme. The thing we love so much: life, is being ripped away from us. We are been bombarded every single day with public imagery of war and hate to the point where we now mistreat and mistrust our fellow man based on the colour of their skin or the faith that they practice.

We’re pulling; we’re yanking on that thread by dividing and segregating ourselves and playing right into the hand to the minute percentage of arseholes who genuinely want to watch the world burn. Yet no one seems to have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say fuck this. There’s a bunch of bullshit on social media that allows the general public to believe that they are making a stand against hate and cultural vilification. You can change your profile picture on Facebook to the colours of a flag belonging to a country who has suffered at the hands of terror. Or you can subscribe to anti-war pages that promote slightly skewed logic to their followers. But no one is really doing anything, are they?

We’re still stuck in this troublesome cycle of fear and loathing, feeding the hunger and needs of terror-based organizations and allowing them to grow. Imagine the world as a sweater once again. Imagine that the loose thread is you and your intolerance of a race of people that is rooted in the media you consume and propaganda you endure. Imagine that you start pulling on that thread; imagine that you start vilifying innocent men and women because of the faith they practice. In turn your friends do too, and the sweater unravels ever so slightly. Those people that you discriminate against grow bitter, and start to lash out against you. Tensions rise. Social order breaks down and the fabric of the world begins to deteriorate as the sweater becomes an unravelled pile of yarn.

Now imagine if you just left that thread the fuck alone. Rather than discriminate against a set of values you don’t fully understand you instead try to learn about them. Rather than create anger you create love and passion. Soon that tiny thread of cultural differentiation becomes obsolete and irrelevant in the lives of those around you and the compassion that binds us grows ever stronger.

We can either have a sweater made stronger by our cultural diversification with a few loose threads throughout the stitching that add character. Or we can pull at the loose filaments and watch our world unravel. The choice is ours to make. We can pretend to make a difference, or we can swallow our pride, roll up our sleeves and actively do something to overthrow religious and cultural vilification. Befriend a stranger, learn their story, and stop passing judgement on matters of faith you haven’t taken the time to understand or comprehend.

Mediamorphasis

I need you to clear your thoughts. Remove all distractions, torments and dreams. Free your mind and abandon everything that you have ever learned or assumed to be true. For the next thousand words or so you are a clean slate. You have no beginning; nor end. You are an infinite entity uninhibited by prejudice and fear. It’s difficult isn’t? It’s hard to remove all the subjectivity and partisanship that we have allowed into our lives. But this little experiment will be worth the effort. Trust me. I’m a writer.

I want you to think about the evening news. Close your eyes if you have to. Imagine the reporters and journalists on your television screen. They are immaculately dressed in the finest of clothing as they sit at their desks or report live from the field. They look fantastic. Enviable even. One must feel so accomplished standing in a beautiful dress or designer labeled suit as they deliver the current affairs.

But looks can be deceiving. When you turn your attention away from their image and the branding presented to you; when you focus instead on what they are saying, are you still impressed with what you now hear? Death, destruction, and sacrifice reign supreme. A man has murdered his wife. Another has shot five people dead in a robbery attempt. Millions are starving. Wars are tearing the humanity from the clutches of nations. Another child has become radicalized. Every heinous report is accompanied by depictions of broken windows, police units and fractured lives splashed across the screen in a macabre slideshow.

Ruin and woe are threaded so effortlessly through each story that you have become desensitized. The damaged lives and senseless murders of others have been reduced to nothing but sound bites and footnotes that barely even pierce the veil of your subconscious. You have probably never noticed how repulsive the evening news is. Until now.

Every day the media tells us to trust no one and fear everything. Ruin and woe make the world go round. Or so we’re told. But are things really as horrible as we have been led to believe? Is the man whose religion differs from yours actually plotting your demise? Are governments truly lying to us about everything? Is every man, woman and corporation really your enemy?

…The short answer is no. The guy who lives next door and practices alternative beliefs doesn’t give a shit about you. He’s too busy trying to live his own life. The shear logistics required for a government to deceive its people make it nigh on impossible for them to cultivate devious conspiracies against us on a daily basis. And no one actively wants to hate you.

We’ve merely been misled and misinformed in the media’s quest to win our attention. Outlets like current affairs programs, tabloids, and circulars are businesses. As a business their primary objective is to accrue viewers. More viewers equal more money, and big business learned long ago that the human brain is attracted to two things: violence and obscenity.

The world seems to be becoming increasingly grim because the media started exposing the general public to violence, obscenity and disorder through events like the Vietnam War with the intent of providing a genuine insight into the perils of a conflict on foreign shores. But their pure intentions became distorted when marketing began capitalizing on society’s interest in the darker side of human nature. Nowadays media organizations are competing for viewers by continuously pushing one another to feature increasingly graphic and repulsive imagery, and we the viewer have become so bombarded with grotesque content that we have stopped seeing beauty in the world.

Before we go any further I feel like we need to take a quick break so that I can issue a disclaimer… I am a writer first and foremost. I’m not a scholar or leading expert in the media industry. My thoughts that are being presented here should by no means be taken as gospel. If you don’t like my opinions, or don’t agree with them, that’s fine by me.

Alright, let the controversy begin.

The media has undergone a metamorphosis. What was once a medium designed to communicate messages of interest and entertainment has now become a rabid beast hungry for consumer attention. While it is fair to say that we have become desensitized to violence, we have also created a world in which we form judgment and beliefs based off of targeted stories and biased opinion. We believe that the Muslim man who lives down the street is an extremist because we are told to mistrust. We believe that foreign parties are radicalizing children because we are exposing them to adult concepts long before they have the mental capacity to develop rational thoughts and understand their own emotional and chromosomal makeup. And we believe that it is our right to question everything, but we are being led to ask the wrong goddamn questions.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule. There are horrible people in the world. It’s inevitable that with a world population of over seven billion people that there are bound to be a few bad eggs. But the murderers, the rapists, the terrorists, extremists and extortionists are a minority. They are not the majority that you have been led to believe…

…So let’s start over…

…I want you to clear your mind again. I want you to empty your thoughts and bias just like you did at the start of this post and try to imagine that you are watching the nightly news again. Picture the anchors, the journalists and field reporters. They’re still dressed immaculately; they still smile at you with brilliant white teeth. But this time they’re telling tales of a different tune.

Instead of reporting that a man of Islamic decent has been arrested on terror related charges, they are instead talking of the Sheikh who has encouraged his community to aid the homeless. Instead of a story reporting that a man murdered his wife, there is one describing a man who loves his partner so dearly that he has professed his love with a hundred red roses. Instead of a child being accosted for attempting to carry a weapon onto a classroom, they are praising a school for their academic and sporting excellence.

Imagine how different our outlook on the world would be if the media presented stories designed to expand our minds and highlight the better angels of our nature rather than beating war drums and chanting tales of ruin and woe. If you knew of the wonderful deeds that they had completed, would you still be so quick to judge your fellow man? Would you still be so afraid of everyone and everything? And do you believe that we would be plagued with the same issues currently eroding the fabric of our society if we focused on positivity and progression rather than fear and violence?

I’m not saying that we need to be ignorant. We should never turn a blind eye to the one percent of mankind that choses to hate and destroy rather than love. There is no heaven without hell and without those heinous acts of brutality and violence we could never truly appreciate just how lucky we are to be alive. But we shouldn’t allow that same one percent to rule us through fear. The media has undergone a metamorphosis and led us to a horrible state of misinformation and hysteria. And if they can transform once, then surely they can do it again. So isn’t it about time they evolved into a medium of integrity and human decency once more?

Hellion

Hold up. Did you just try and walk up on me? You’re just a bottom feeder and you think that you have what it takes to front up to a wolf?

Alright; it’s your funeral. But let’s get one thing straight right from the start. I’ve taken down bigger motherfuckers than you before. I’ve buried bodies in the dirt and washed the blood from my hands without so much as a second thought. If you think that this is going to end well for you are sadly mistaken. I’m going to tear you apart.

You have to laugh at Internet trolls don’t you? You know the type: backwards pieces of shit who believe that they are clever because they sit behind a keyboard and demean or defame others. More often than not they are armed with a plethora of facts from reputable sources like Wikipedia or offer highly intellectual taunts like questioning someone’s sexual orientation or telling people to kill themselves…

I’ve had a few trolls in my time. From religious fanatics who believed that equality is the devils work, to scholars who thought that the ideas presented in my posts ran incongruously to what they understood to be true. At first the idea that someone could be so repulsed by my work that they felt the need to actively try and damage my reputation upset me. A lot. I’d sit for hours at my computer and read through the nonsense that people were writing about me and wonder how I could appease rather then offend. I didn’t want to be hated. I wanted to be loved!

But after a while you start to realize that the reason a lot of people turn to trolling is because of jealousy and fear. Through this site I have developed a sphere of influence that outreaches some and threatens to eclipse others. For those that envy what I have created they try to break it down, while those that I am threatening to out produce try to ridicule.

After you’ve been trolled a few times you start to enjoy it.

And why shouldn’t you? You’ve touched a nerve with someone to such a degree that they feel the need to try and belittle you on their own forums, unintentionally providing you with free publicity. I’ve been called out by conservative Christians, psychology scholars, other bloggers, business directors, and even a politician who resides half a world away; and every single time someone has tried to break me down their attempts have backfired.

You let the wolf lose inside your head you piece of shit. Now I’m going to eat you alive from the inside out. Can you feel me clawing at the back of your eyelids? Can you feel my fangs tearing apart your fragile mind? You started this. You stepped into the hunting ground and now you’ll be buried with the others. You wanted to front up to a world eater. Now I’m going to take yours away from you.

Let’s pump the breaks a little. This post isn’t about me sinking back into bad habits and trying to tear the head off of everyone who wrongs me… Well, not entirely… It’s about trying to ask at what point in history did it become acceptable to try and belittle and destroy someone’s hopes and dreams from the comfort of your lounge room? When did it become common practice to hide behind a URL, proxy-server or avatar and heap shit on others? It’s about asking where do we as a community draw the line against online bullying?

Because it has to be drawn somewhere. There has to be a moment in time where we as a society stand together and say no to trolling and the degradation of our fellow man and woman. There has to be an end to the faceless attacks against artists, writers and everyday people that leave them feeling broken and alone. Society has turned its back on humanity, decency and compassion in favor of bullying and faceless tormenting and it has to stop. It’s disgusting to see someone’s life or ambition shattered by their peers simply because we feel comfortable to harass from afar. If you don’t have the guts to step away from your keyboard and say something to someone’s face then you need to shut your mouth before someone breaks your fucking jaw.

Brutal? Probably. But as someone who has suffered through depression (and still lives with the knowledge that it will forever be apart of my chemistry) I know first hand the devastating effect that the words of a complete stranger can have. I understand better than most the hollow void that can consume your soul when you feel lost and abandoned. So if I have to get a little aggressive to rouse the masses from their blind acceptance of bullying then so be it.

There are far too many brilliant people out there who don’t have the belief in themselves or their abilities because they’ve been broken down and belittled by some piece of shit that hides behind a keyboard and thinks that it is funny to destroy lives.

For someone has arrogant as I am, the pathetic attacks from online bullies are worn as badges of honor. But the knowledge that there are other artists and ordinary people living in our society who feel threatened, lost and abused by faceless fucks makes me feel ill. Trolling and bullying has to stop and we as a community have to understand that belittling others destroys our humanity. Mankind is limited only by its imagination, so it seems counterintuitive to our progression as a species to be intentionally crippling the ambitions of one another through faceless subterfuge and online harassment.

If we abandon hate and focus on praising our fellow man and woman than there is no telling what we are capable of achieving. If you aren’t brazen enough to take your messages of hate to the streets, then it’s time to stop posting it online.

And if you really want to be a hero then try and walk up on a wolf again. I’ll happily rip out your throat, you ignorant piece of shit.

Literary Criminals

“This city deserves a better class of criminal. And I’m going to give it to them.”

-The Joker

The word criminal carries some negative connotations doesn’t it? We associate the word with crooks, delinquents and thieves living in the shadows as they commit devious acts. And why shouldn’t we? The word criminal is a label bestowed upon someone who commits an action or activity considered to be evil, shameful, or wrong. From an early age we are taught that crime is vile, and therefore a criminal must be equally as abhorrent to our society.

But we live in unprecedented times where the very definition of the word has become tainted. Politicians mislead and misinform, men of faith commit shameful acts, and laws are broken in the name of freedom while outlaws fight for their civil rights. The lines of right and wrong are so convoluted that it’s becoming increasingly impossible to distinguish a felon from a hero, and good intentions from underhanded persuasion.

So let’s loosen the reigns on the whole criminal angle just a touch so that we can flesh this out a little more. Let’s steer away from crime and talk about social disorder, antisocial behavior, art and literature.

Not unlike crime, social disorder is typically defined as an action or activity that is incongruous to the best interests or equilibrium of the larger community. Whereas crime is repugnant, social disorder merely upsets. We are repulsed at crimes; yet tolerate minor misdemeanors like graffiti, despite the fact that delinquents and criminals commit both acts and they have equally negative impacts upon society.

Are you keeping up so far? Good. Let’s get to the art and literature and start blurring the lines between right and wrong. Are you ready to taste the bitter tang of social disorder?

I’ve spent my whole life feeling like a fucking criminal trapped inside a cell. I was born into an age of intellectual neglect where cheap gimmicks and slick marketing have trumped my work ethic and talent leaving me subdued and alone. Society has allowed the creative arts to die and ridiculed me for trying to save it. I’ve been labeled an outcast and immoral by the very people that I have aimed to inspire.

My crime? I care. I care so goddamn much that it hurts my heart to see brilliant and audacious artists beaten down and cast aside in favour of bullshit. I spend every single day searching for beautiful pieces of literature, art and music that will never be seen by more than a few while millions devour mass produced shit spoon fed to them by snake oil peddlers and slick salesmen.

You want to know what my crime was? I made a deal with the devil and begged to be different. I wrapped my hands around the equilibrium threaded through our society and tried to break it apart.

But it was an act of passion; an act of love that was misconstrued and seen as evil. All I ever wanted was to create a little social disorder and save the industry I love. Is that really as monstrous as I’ve been led to believe?

Creativity is dying. Shot through the heart by advertising campaigns and pseudo-celebrities who thought that fame was more important than the vision that lead them to celebrity in the first place. Now here I am on my knees with using my hands to plug the bloody holes left by their bullets. I’m covered in claret, but I refuse to let what I love become carrion discarded by a world who no longer values intellectual diversity and beauty…

…Alright, maybe it’s not quite that bad. There’s plenty of blood on my hands but the industry will struggle on, wounded by society’s insatiable lust for instantaneous entertainment. The newfound equilibrium in the creative arts places less and less emphasis on literature, meaning that book sales are on a downward spiral. Even though more authors are being published then ever before, just over one percent of them are finding their ways into bookstores, profits are razor thin, and younger generations are turning their backs on the written word.

It’s an extremely worrying trend, but the saddest thing about the industry’s current predicament is that rather than having publishers and agents look towards new and exciting authors to recapture the audiences they’ve lost and the minds of younger generations, they’re trying to replicate successes of days gone past. Imitate rather than innovate. But it’s not working. Not like it used to.

I’ve been really struggling to find my rhythm with blogging lately. While there are a few personal issues involved in my creative slump, it is largely due to growing frustrations at the manner in which society views and values entertainment. I tell myself every single day that I’m the best writer of my time and that I’m only getting better. But sometimes I feel a twinge of self doubt when I see literature devalued in comparison to emerging (and senseless) mediums. The creative equilibrium of the modern world is skewed and it’s time to set it right; even if it takes a little literary crime and social disorder to do so.

This world needs a new breed of author who isn’t afraid to engage in social misconduct, create a little havoc and breathe new life into the aching lungs of the industry choking for air. Fans of prose and fiction deserve a better class of author. And I’m going to give it to them.

I could give you some bullshit speech here about how I’ll push myself to new creative limits and try to further the industry, but you and I both know that it won’t work. We’ve been there before. I’ve spent years trying valiantly to be the man who redefines the written word and all it got me was a prison sentence when I was caught plugging up the holes of a bleeding industry with my fists. What I will say is this: it’s time for emerging writers to find rise and start smashing in the windows of ignorance, marching against the fall of literature and setting the world ablaze.

Traditionalists will call us criminals. They’ll distance themselves and say that we don’t represent the craft they love. We will be viewed as literary outlaws and delinquents who stand for something foreign. But that’s OK. The greatest accomplishment a writer can ever realize is to stir emotion within their readership, even if that emotion is discontent.

This social disorder can extend beyond the boundaries of my industry too. We can start a revolution, one man or woman at a time. I’m calling out to the wolves, world eaters and literary criminals across the globe and asking them to stand proudly beside their prose and fiction. I’m asking artists, musicians, athletes, and fucking everyone else who has ever had a passion and a dream to rise up and stake their claim.

This world deserves a better class of writer, painter, singer, musician, lawyer, doctor, mother, father, and everything else. And we’re going to give it to them. You and I. All it takes to change the world is a little social disorder.

The Lion’s Gaze

There is an ancient fable from Terma in which Padmasambhava, a literary character, appears before a Terton and teaches him how to better focus his emotions. Padmasambhava says that when a stick is thrown to a dog, the dog will chase the stick. Yet when you throw a stick to a lion, the lion chases you. A dog’s gaze will always follow the object: the stick. The lion gazes steadily at the source: the thrower.

Yep, that’s right. After a brief absence from this site I’ve returned to drop some obscure philosophy served with a side of self-indulgence on you that’s sure to leave you scratching your head wondering why the hell you’re even reading it.

But hear me out. Open your mind and be prepared to look beyond the stick and instead focus on what is really important: the thrower, and why they tossed it in the first place.

The stick is a distraction; a frivolous entity designed to draw your attention away from your heart’s true desire. Yet so many of us chase the damn thing every fucking time that it’s thrown, diligently returning it to its owner, only for them to hurl it in a different direction. So many of us are as loyal as a hound, and that loyalty ultimately becomes our undoing. We play according to the rules of men and women distracting us with a petty game of fetch, when all we really want is for them to treat us as equals or allow us the opportunity to blossom.

A lot of people have been commenting on how quickly this site has grown over the past few months. Your writing has improved! Your followers have exploded! You seem so much happier in your work! All of which are true. I’ve put in a lot of hard work into what I am producing and amassed numerous sleepless nights as I’ve toiled away at my writing. It hasn’t been easy, and at times I’ve wondered why I chose to enter such a fickle industry. Yet when people ask me what inspired the metamorphosis between the boy I was eighteen months ago and the man I am today, I’ve struggled to answer.

            I’ve learned to silence my ego. I say. I’ve let go of my hate.

I haven’t though. I’m still the perpetually frustrated mind I was back when I was producing endless streams of whiney bullshit to a lackluster audience. And I’m still arrogant as sin. I don’t understand humanity, and I struggle to tolerate much of popular culture. Yet I have grown. And I have improved. But I’ve never really understood what changed inside of me that allowed me to become someone with a published novel and a chance to actually carve my name in the walls of the literary industry.

Until I learned about the lion’s gaze.

When I first told myself that I was going to become a writer I did what most people do. I dove headfirst into an industry that I didn’t really understand and started fetching sticks, wrestling them from the mouths of other like-minded authors and presenting them to literary masters. Get and editor they’d say. So I did. Tone down the violence. I obeyed. Jump through this hoop. Sit. Roll over. Play dead. I’d bow down at their feet and do anything that I could just to capture the attention of the industry. But the industry itself was merely throwing sticks into a field to keep me occupied.

The problem with trying to earn the respect of someone or something in this manner is sooner or later they are chucking more sticks then you can ever hope to fetch. You become confused, unsure what direction you should follow, or what branches are worth retrieving. Soon that confusion festers and becomes anger. You’re tired. You’re bitter. You dream of success and of lashing out to bite the hand that feeds. You become so caught up in playing games of fetch that you just end up chasing your tail around in circles.

But you don’t have to hunt distractions. It took me a long time to learn this but it’s ultimately true. The difference between the shitty little blog that I ran eighteen months ago and Renegade Press is that I learned to ignore disruption and interference, stop chasing sticks and do what I want to do: write fucking entertaining posts that capture the imagination of my readership. I’ve let go of comparing myself to the works of others, I’ve turned my back on purposely trying to cultivate ‘confronting’ pieces, and I’ve allowed my work the opportunity to be judged based solely on its merit.

It’s been a sharp learning curve, and at times when I’ve felt my confidence falter it has taken all my strength not to start playing fetch and conforming to the whims of others once again. To help me through I created foundations of strength through my wolf and world eater monikers, but never once have I taken my eyes off of my ultimate goal: to write damn good literature.

When you understand what your heart truly desires you have to learn how to develop a lion’s gaze. You have to teach yourself to ignore the distractions that life throws at you and never allow yourself to lose sight of your dream. You may dream of being a writer like me. You may aspire to be a parent, or a lover, an artist, lawyer, doctor, or poet. The dream itself can be anything. But that fire, and that intestinal fortitude to never lose focus even when times get tough is what ultimately allows us to grow and achieve.

When Padmasambhava, appeared before the Terton he taught him that the slightest shift in perspective can change the world. When I stopped focusing on chasing down frivolous exploits or competing with others and focused instead becoming a better writer, I altered the course of my life and found success.

Now it’s your turn. Take a moment and ask yourself if you were to shift your perspectives away from the unimportant and block out all distraction, where would your lion’s gaze be focused?

What could you achieve?

Why the hell are you still chasing sticks?

Landscape

landscape

I lie beside her and watch her back rise as her lungs fill with air. She breathes so carelessly in her slumber. She holds her breath deep in her lungs for the faintest of moments before she exhales and her body melts into the softness of the bed. A smile creases her lips as my fingertips graze her shoulders; firmly enough for her to feel my presence, but light enough so as not to rouse the muse twisted between my sheets. Her lips curl so gracefully in the corners, her cheeks dimple in response. This woman, this muse of mine is beautiful; from the crown of her head down to the tip of her delicate toes. And as I lie beside her and watch the rhythmic movement of her breath I can’t help but imagine how glorious it would be to shrink myself so that I can explore every inch of her not as a woman, but as a landscape.

I would start in the small of her back. To my north would lay the bottom most ridges of her spine. Small vertebrae visible beneath the smoothness of her skin, stretching away into the distance until they slip between the rolling expanse of her shoulder blades and vanish beneath her silky hairline. To my east and west her sensual hips arc and curve beneath her sleeping frame. And to my south the gorgeousness of her buttocks rises beneath a fragment of crisp white sheet that is draped across her. Such choices. Such wondrous journeys await me as I discover her beauty inch by glorious inch.

I would move south, slowly venturing to the crest of her round buttocks. I would cherish my climb; pausing to inspect a freckle, or to marvel at the intricacy of a birthmark. Her skin would be so smooth; my calves would ache rewardingly as I journeyed to the summit. I’d stand atop her rear and pull the binoculars from my hip, casting my gaze down the seemingly endless legs that stretch across my sheets. Oh how I would die to walk the length of her luscious legs I would think to myself before realising that in my miniature state I can do just that.

I’d march across the suppleness of her hamstring, descend the hollow at the rear of her knee, and traverse the concave of her calf. My journey would take hours. I’d stop to note pigmentation here, a scar from a youth filled with sport there, until I arrived at her ankle. I’d follow the runway of delicate bone past her padded heel, through her arch until I reach her toes. Her nails would be painted brightly, my footsteps tickling her slightly as I walk right off of the tip of her big toe onto the sheets before journeying across the bed and climbing onto her opposing limb, reversing my long walk back to her buttocks.

My journey would take me across her hips. Her gorgeous rounded hips would be like walking across a beautiful knoll. They’d rise gently from her back and roll across her side before delivering me to the firmness of her stomach. I’d reach her navel and camp by its edge. I’d dangle my weary legs over the edge and I would marvel at the feeling of her stomach muscles beneath her tantalizing flesh.

Rejuvenated, I would journey on to the base of her sternum. I would take my time to walk beneath her stellar breasts, running my palm against their curves before ascending each one to marvel at the loveliness of her areola. My, they are beautiful. Their pinkness so perfect against the whiteness of her untanned flesh; it is so exquisitely her. I can’t help but imagine how my loins would cherish this moment atop of my muse’s chest.

But my travels would not cease, I would venture on to the nape of her neck, and descend into the crevice of her collarbone. I’d track a path across her neck and over the precipice of her jawline until I arrived at her lips where I would plant the smallest, most fragile kiss she had ever received against them. I’d move to her ear and whisper into it just how completely she moves me as the scent of her hair fills my senses. I would move around her hairline and descend her occipital ridge until I arrived at the upper echelon of her spine between the two matching crests of her shoulders.

I’d begin to walk slowly now. More aware that my journey across the luscious landscape of her if drawing to an end. I’d run my fingertips across her shoulder blades and kneel to plant the softest of kisses against her skin. And when I finally arrive at the small of her back once again I would turn ever so slowly to view the beauty of her once more. My eyes would fill with tears. Neither of sadness nor those of joy. But the tears of a man who has witnessed something more extravagant that he ever believed possible. The tears of a man who believes in God, for he has found the true magnitude of his work in the flesh of a Goddess.

But alas, I cannot shrink to such a minute state of being. I cannot worship my muse as a landscape and venture along her supple flesh. I cannot plant those miniscule kisses against her skin, or stand atop her buttocks with a yearning within my soul. But I can lay beside her as she sleeps and watch as her lips twitch and eyes fritter with the makings of a dream. I can hold her tight as she stirs, and tuck the loose strands of hair that fall loose behind her ear as she wakes. I can be hers, and she can be mine.

Run

There’s this photograph: a snapshot in time taken by an unknown photographer and posted onto a website filled with thousands of images pooled together from all over the Internet. It sat nestled in a series of travel pictures, wedged between a photograph of the Louvre at sunset and a deserted island beach with crystal clear water and sands of brilliant white. It was the kind of image that many would skip over and never give a seconds thought. There was no tranquil waters, nor monuments of modern architecture. There was just a camera, a knife, and a gun sitting on a velvet runner. An odd inclusion amongst a sea of exotic locations, but that moment captured in time sent a shiver rolling down my spine.

I’ve never seen anything as striking as that photograph. I’ve never witnessed another image that could cause such a whirlwind of emotion within my soul. But between the camera, the knife, and the gun there was a freedom and simplicity that I’ve always longed for.

We live in a world where we are bound and constrained by our own creations. We wake every day and repeat the actions of the day before. We commute to work and clock into a job that leaves us unfulfilled so that we can earn enough to buy ourselves a few moments of respite or items of leisure that will help distract us from the fact that we are living out the same repetitive movements day after day. We sit in contemplative silence at our desks, in our cars or on the busses and dream of something more. We sit. When all we want to do is run.

I’ve always had a desire to run. I guess that’s why the photograph left me feeling so fragile. It’s what compelled me to save it to the desktop of my computer and stare at it every single day for years.

I’ve never really grasped much of the world that we live in. I don’t understand who decides what is popular, or why some people’s lives seem to be blessed with so much, yet others are afforded so little. I’ve never understood why hardship befalls good people, or why the wicked and heartless continue to achieve. But I’ve never really wanted to either. I don’t want step on others so that I can have a lot. I want to reach down and help out those who have fallen so that we may all achieve together and have just enough.

Sadly though my mentality is frowned upon. It’s a dog eat dog world, or so I’ve been told. People see your humanity as a weakness and use it as leverage for their own personal gains. Sometimes I try to fight against these feelings. I try to fit in. I wear masks to appear normal. I speak poorly of others in a vein attempt to show strength. But all I really want to do is run. Run and be free. I want to liberate myself from feeling as though I have to fit in. I want to take a camera, a knife and a gun and walk into the wilderness and find a freedom that people seldom realize exists.

But I’m not that brave. A guy like me would be eaten alive in the wild. I call myself a wolf but I’ve been raised in suburbia where I’ve suckled on the teat of mindless acceptance and laziness. So instead of living a life off of the map, I write for my freedom instead. I substitute the camera for a minds eye. I’ve traded the knife and gun for paper and pen. I can’t run no matter how much I want to. I can’t vanish into the sunset, but I can dream. I can create worlds to disappear into for a few brief moments in time. I can create literary photographs that provide a glimpse into a life of freedom and peace.

I use literature to create halcyon moments. When the demons of my past or the anxieties of my present become too much to bear I slip into the memories of glorious phrases, subtexts and plots like an intrepid traveller armed with his trusty camera, knife, and gun. I’m never going to understand humanity; I’m never going to be just another number marching to the beat of the majorities drum. But as long as I have my heart and my mind, my pen and my paper, I’ll never have to run.

%d bloggers like this: