Almanac: Confucius

I really wish that people would stop mythologizing other human beings. Just because you respect someone, and just because they were wise, does not mean they are infallible. This is true of anyone; from Jesus to Gandhi to Confucius. In fact, I think that holding our heroes up as paragons of humanity is THE single best way to fall short of their (as well as our own) ideals.

The point of my preamble is this: I have a very, very deep respect for Confucius. However, I am not a Confucian, in that I do not venerate him as a religious figure. However, I do find his philosophy and reasoning to be sound enough to study him, so you could call me a Confucian in that I consider myself a student of his. By the same token you can call me a Christian or a Buddhist, since I am a believer and studier of many of Jesus and Buddha’s philosophies, as well.

I hope that people reading my writings will receive some of the messages I’ve imbued in them. One of the central themes of all of my works is that everyone’s knowledge will always be incomplete. Omniscience is impossible, but it is still an ideal worth striving towards. I think that learning can be a wonderful thing, so I don’t find it tragic in the slightest that we’ll always have something new to discover. After all, to quote Confucius, “Isn’t it a pleasure to learn, and put to practice what is learnt?”

Most of Confucius’s teachings are attributed to him by the Analects, a collection of of his dialogues and other orations. In the Analects, Confucius weaves an ancient form of humanistic philosophy. He, of course, spoke the Golden Rule: “Do not do unto others that which you would not have done unto yourself.” He believed, as I do, that sincerity, education, and patience were some of the greatest keys to living a meaningful life. Of course, he believed in the Chinese folk religion of the time, but as I mentioned before I don’t believe this holds much relevance. So long as you have a basic understanding of human nature, I couldn’t care less what you believe. I also happen to think that no matter how intelligent or wise you are, if you grow up in a religious community, you will tend to be converted (at least initially) into that religion.

One thing I find fascinating about Confucius is that he was considered a “troublemaker” during his own time. His contemporaries believed that he was corrupting the minds of the youth, which closely mirrors the opinions of Socrates’ and Jesus’ contemporaries. Confucius was sent away from a royal court for counseling the monarch against living a hedonistic life, then he proceeded to teach what knowledge he had gathered.

People have always complained about the youth and their new ideas, and have been distrustful of change. That is the way it has always been; there are no “good old days.” Hedonism and backlash against painful truths are things that have always been with humanity. I believe that philosophers of the past are worth studying, not because we should go back to what their times were like, but because they gave examples of how one might find happiness and fulfillment even in such counterproductive circumstances. I am of the belief that mankind has always had the capacity to do the right thing- and that mankind’s nature is to search for another way, because the only way to do the right thing is very difficult.

I doubt that there’s a “secret” to happiness in the traditional sense; the “secret” people are searching for is nothing more than a way to cut corners and move more quickly in a process that is, and can only be, very slow and gradual. This is why I believe patience is such a tremendous virtue; happiness is a journey, not a destination. It is something you must work for at all times in order to maintain it. It might sound trite, or cliched, but that’s because it’s true, as well as something that we humans have always known.

More important than patience, I think, is honesty. Since Confucius’ time, the cultures based on his teachings- Japan and China, notably- have elevated nearly to the point of godhood, and as such have lost sight of his teachings. Or rather, they never had sight of them to begin with, and now that Confucius is dead they can wring any meaning from his words without being corrected by him.

I don’t believe they’re alone in this, however; the Christians of the US are guilty of these sins, as well. Despite the fact that Jesus was more critical of the cruel, hypocritical, and exploitative than anything else, those who purport to follow him often preach hate and intolerance in his name. Greed is all too common among religious leaders, and hypocrisy is par for the course. I wish to say to fire-and-brimstone preachers, “If you want to see depraved, evil men; if you want to see someone who’s going directly to hell; if you want to see someone who is doing the Devil’s work, look no further than your nearest mirror. You are more of an asset to Satan than the vast majority of Satanists are. You spread cruelty and injustice in this world. You make lives worse and create needless suffering here on this earth. If the God you preach of is real, he is the SINGLE evilest thing to ever exist, and you are nothing more than a pawn for his malice.”

Humility is another virtue that Confucius taught. Be humble enough to admit that you don’t know everything, and don’t pretend that you speak on behalf of God. God doesn’t need you to speak for him. God doesn’t need anyone to speak for him. We have the tools necessary to discover the secrets of the universe ourselves; in our hands, eyes, ears, and minds. I am countercultural because cultures are based on dogma; we humans should abandon our cultures and simply search for what the truth is, welcome change, and be willing to admit it when we are wrong.

I deeply respect Confucius and Gandhi and Jesus; not because they are venerable, but because they knew how to achieve happiness. I know because I’m happy, even though my childhood wasn’t. Dogma and fighting over details distracts from the spirit of the ultimate truth: that we are all brothers, and that kindness, wisdom, and patience are the one and only path to happiness and fulfillment.

Here’s to Confucius; a man who, like many other men, uncovered the secret of happiness.

My Storytelling Style

Now that I’ve started to make my work available to all of you, I thought it would be appropriate to introduce you all to how I craft my projects.

First of all, I am a storyteller by extension of being a lover of stories. Put another way, I write because I love reading. Aside from writing, I probably spend more time reading than I do doing anything else; I will literally forget to eat and lose sleep while reading. I don’t even listen to music or watch movies or shows as much as I read. I’m the sort of bookworm other bookworms would call too obsessed with books (although I’m nearly every bit as obsessed with all other media, as well).

When I read (or watch a movie, or play a game, etc.), I always expect a few things: I expect to be entertained, I expect to learn, but most of all I expect to lose myself in a stunning fictional world.

This is the main reason I read: the escapism. I don’t much care for reality; my childhood was extremely difficult and unhappy due to a number of things, including being witness to a pretty nasty divorce, having a thoroughly screwed up extended family, and being viciously bullied by other kids.

The bullying was absolutely the very worst part; I’ve always been extremely weird and socially inept (I have Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD, among other things) and completely nonconformist. As a result, I was abused physically and emotionally by other kids throughout my entire elementary school career. Since I live in Utah, a lovely little hamlet of repression and unenlightenment of the honorary Deep South, the adults did nothing, thinking it wasn’t a real problem.

The bullying deeply damaged me. Between my abuse at the hands of my peers and my authority figures’ complete lack of interference, I developed a deep hatred and mistrust of my fellow human beings that I continue to bear to this day. I completely lost any empathy for those who’d done me harm, and began desiring to inflict the same pain upon them that they’d inflicted upon me. I’m so very grateful for my mother, who understood and cared for me and was largely responsible for me not becoming something truly horrific like a serial killer or a school shooter or something like that. As a brief aside: to all those who read this, monsters are made, not born. Trust me, as someone who was well on the path to becoming one, I know.

I’m convinced now that sociopaths are perhaps the most empathetic people around; my mother (who is a brilliant psychology student) told me that everyone has empathy, but most sociopaths are so sensitive and have had such terrible experiences that they can’t bear their own emotions and simply switch them off. I can personally attest that that is probably true; I’m extremely sensitive and compassionate (especially towards animals), but after my suffering at the hands of my abusers I no longer have any of that compassion whatsoever for those I deem to be evil. I think at this point you could accurately say that I’m partially sociopathic. You know how I compare myself to Sherlock Holmes, Leleouch Lamperouge, and Light Yagami? Yeah, I’m not kidding.

I’m eternally grateful for my mother. She’s every bit as intelligent and sensitive as I am, and she was able to understand me and was instrumental in my survival in a frankly dark and rather hopeless world. She nurtured my empathy and helped steer me off the course of exacting vengeance upon those who’d wronged me. Another of the best things she did for me is she pulled me out of school and homeschooled me during my middle school years.

I’m also very grateful for my dad. It was his side of my family that is especially screwed up, and he and my mother’s divorce was because of things he’d done, so I’m not saying he’s a saint by any means. But he’s a much better person than he used to be, and I owe him eternally for one thing: if my mother saved me from my despair, my father was the gatekeeper to all that brings me joy.

The word “nostalgia” is meaningless to me. I had a horrible childhood, and I never want to have it back. However, there is one source of happy memories within that bleak time: reading, watching movies, playing games, and otherwise consuming media. The only happy times I can remember are when I watched Disney movies, played games on my Gameboy and PC, was read books to at bedtime, and all the other times I sat and listened to stories. I can only recall joy in those moments watching The Secret of NIMH, or playing Klonoa: Empire of Dreams, or when my dad read me Ender’s Game or told me epic fantasy stories he made up as he went along.

There’s nothing I love my parents for more than this. Through stories, they gave me my only moments of happiness and my only escapes from my relentless sorrow. Though both of my parents gave me both of these things, my mother provided me more of the latter while my father provided me more of the former. Of course, I can trace my love of many of my favorite works to my mother; because of her I love The Wizard of OzPride and Prejudice, and Hitch. However, though my mother introduced me to these and saved me from becoming a monster, it is my father who made me who I am.

My father was a nerd in the ’80s when geekdom was still a tiny subculture. He’s one of Star Wars’ biggest and oldest fans, he was one of the first in line to see The Fellowship of the Ring when it was first released in 2001, and he was a hardcore gamer in the golden age of arcades. He passed the flame of highest-caliber nerdiness down to me by watching Batman Begins with me, reading Harry Potter to me, and playing Medal of Honor with me. It is he who gave me my tastes and my passionate, burning love for media. Matilda is one of my favorite books because I can relate so deeply to Matilda Wormwood; like her, I was a brilliant, miserable little kid whose only escape from his dark, cynical world was the bright, optimistic world of fiction.

I cannot describe how much I love reading. It continues to be what makes me happy and what makes my life worth living. I found that I could not be satisfied with what I had, however; there were books that I wanted to read that did not exist. So naturally, the duty fell to me to make it so I could read them. This is actually why I am an author: I write the books that I want to read but currently cannot. I am simply a storyteller as an extension of being an audience.

I’ve been writing and drawing my whole life. Most of what I made at first was fan works of my favorite stories. From the moment I could hold a crayon, I drew Spider-Man over and over and over again, getting steadily better each time. I wrote very poorly-spelled stories about Batman and Pokémon and Klonoa and everything else I loved. I read my first novel (The Incredibles) in one sitting, and proceeded to do the same with every installment of the Harry Potter books. As I grew older, I began writing (somewhat) original stories by asking myself questions such as: “What would happen if a boy fell in love with an alien girl?”, “What would happen if a serial killer turned up in Idaville, and Encyclopedia was the only one who could stop him?”, and “Shouldn’t there be an amazing Santa Claus novel?” These questions have led me to write novels called UFOPact, and Santa Claus respectively, which I will at some point finish and release for all of you to read.

But my most defining experience was when I conceived my magnum opus. While I was playing on the swing-set in my front yard, I formulated the idea of a story with a few basic concepts: a girl who could transform into a mouse, a witch, an inky, warped, black figure with red eyes, a hotel room, and psychedelic rainbow-ness everywhere. The idea really intrigued me, and I thought it was really cool.

Then I completely forgot about it.

A few years later, in the summer of my eleventh year, I was reading a series of books on the paranormal called Mysteries of the Unknown in my town’s public library. My father had brought them from the library a few years earlier, and I’d adored and been fascinated by them since. This is actually perhaps my most vivid memory; I can tell you exactly where I was and which book it was. I was cross-legged in one of the corners and the book in question was Utopian Visions.

Upon finishing one of the pages I closed the book and thumped it against my knee. “Wow,” I thought. “This stuff is amazing. How the heck has someone not written a novel about it?”

I think the thing I loved most about those books (and the weird, supernatural subjects they covered) was the pure, unadulterated sense of wonder I felt reading them. It’s a bit difficult to describe what I mean, but I’ll try: play Bejeweled 3, or read A Wrinkle in Time, or listen to The Real World by Owl City. Hell, just read The Mysteries of the Unknown. You feel that? That’s the mood, the feeling, the wonder I’m talking about.

“Why hasn’t someone made a novel about this stuff?” I thought. Of course, stories about aliens, or ghosts, or vampires, or Bigfoot, or telekinesis, or fortunetelling, or bending reality had all existed already. However, most everything I’d yet seen of the subject matter (such as GhostbustersAtlantis: The Lost Empire, or the aforementioned A Wrinkle in Time) covered only a few of these things, mentioning the rest only in passing. But I had yet to see a story cover all of it at once, let alone on as grand and epic a scale as, say, Lord of the Rings.

“If someone would write a book like that,” I thought, “that would be the best book ever.”

And at that moment, the inspiration struck me. I suddenly remembered that beginning of an idea I’d had years before, and with this newfound realization the story rapidly grew. would write that book, and it would indeed be the best book ever.

At that moment I immediately ran home, pulled open a binder full of filler paper, and began writing a book I knew should be titled Rainbow. My reasoning was simple: it was the only name that suited it. Only rainbows were comparable to the wonder and beauty this book would contain. Only rainbows were as magical.

Ever since I began this project seven years ago, it has been my greatest obsession. It has remained almost entirely unchanged from those ideas I formulated on the library floor when I was eleven years old. I have dedicated my life to it; I fully intend to make it truly the Grand Masterpiece of All Literature. In my mind, all other things are subordinate to and serve it; I eat, drink, and sleep so that I can write it. I read, play games, and watch movies and shows to increase its quality. Finally, I create other works simply to support and expand upon it. Indeed, this website itself is ultimately here only for the sake of Rainbow.

About a year later, I sat down and watched an anime with my father and brother. Though I’d seen Pokémon and Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh and Naruto, I hadn’t yet seen what anime was truly capable of.

The anime my father, brother, and I watched was Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It was the most thoroughly mind-blowing experience I’ve ever had.

I was absolutely staggered at how overwhelmingly epic and enormous this show was. It was bright, it was colorful, it was emotional, it was existential, it was thrilling, it was exciting, it was awesome, and it was so, so damn beautiful. Ever since then, I’ve been every bit as obsessed with anime as I was with Rainbow, and very shortly thereafter I realized that I must make Rainbow an anime; believe me, when you all read it, you’ll see that anime really is the perfect medium for it. Shortly after that I decided I’d move to Japan to make it fully realized; I would make the Grand Masterpiece of All Literature shine across every medium; prose, animation, graphic literature, live performance, and simulation. Japan is the perfect place to accomplish all that.

With all that in mind, I can now explain my style of storytelling.

Firstly, I write for myself. As I said before, I write the books I want to read. I have dedicated my life to writing Rainbow because I have dedicated my life to reading Rainbow, which I will be unsatisfied with unless it’s the greatest novel of all time.

Because of this, I am determined to make every one of my works a timeless masterpiece. Once again, because those are the sorts of things I want to read.

My writing is passionate, direct, and blunt. I do not write to shock, but I also do not care if what I say shocks my audience. I aim to tell the truth, no matter how shocking it is nor how much people don’t want to hear it. Because of this I have no doubt I’ll be controversial, but I say: so be it. Nearly every great work (and man) shakes the world, and as Gandhi said: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

People say that True Art is Angsty. I disagree; I think that true art is angsty, but hopeful. My favorite works are those that plunge the audience into deep darkness, but show that there is still enormous beauty and light in the world. If you want great examples of this, watch It’s a Wonderful Life or The Wizard of Oz or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. All of these movies are stereotypically “happy,” but if you watch them they are actually quite dark; none of them shy away from the depths of horror and despair that humans can experience. However, they don’t conclude with the message “the world sucks and we’re all screwed;” rather, they reassure us that despite the great horror and misery in the world, it’s still unbelievably beautiful and you can still be happy. I create my works with this philosophy; I attempt to make every one of my works speak a message of hope and compassion after its characters undergo great trial and tribulation to demonstrate the truth of it.

By the same token, all of my works are deconstructions/reconstructions of themselves. I believe all the best works are; for instance, Harry Potter is an unbuilt story, since it’s about a kid who goes to a magic school. However, even though it was the first story to popularize this concept, it deconstructed its own ideas before anyone else could; though the world of magic is shown to be wondrous and awesome, it’s also demonstrated to be dark and horrific. Once again, I don’t believe in darkness for darkness’ sake, but rather to make the victory of light all the more triumphant, which I believe is what will naturally happen when a story is truly great. This is one of my philosophies: a story should be self-aware and intelligent.

I am primarily a world builder. This makes sense, I think, since the primary motivation behind my love of reading is to escape to a better world. I’ve never had much tolerance for works that attempt to show the “gritty and ugly” side of life; if I wanted to experience that, I’d just go out and walk down an impoverished street. My philosophy is: there is no reason to not make everything about your work beautiful. If sewers can look gorgeous *cough* *cough* Eternal Sonata *cough* *cough*, anything can. This is actually why my art falls in a spectrum between anime-style art and fantastic realism; I find that they are the most aesthetically pleasing art styles. This is also why my favorite works are very slick and/or colorful, and I aim to make all of my own exactly the same.

Because of my love for intricate and detailed worlds, I have an especial love for doorstoppers. You are all free to call me “tree-killer;” I love doorstoppers and most of my works will probably be doorstoppers themselves.

With regards to themes, my subject is always human nature. Of course, my magnum opus tackles the biggest ones: the meaning of life and the secret of happiness, but all of my others tackle some or other aspect of the human condition. I expect to learn when I read, and by the same token I aim to teach when I write.

I believe in never talking down to my audience. As far as I’m concerned, Viewers are Geniuses. That’s not even an exaggeration; if you go to the TV Tropes page on it and read the description of a stereotypical example, it reads,

“…you go and write a series loaded with difficult quantum mechanics, quoting obscure 17th-century philosophers, with characters who are philosophical Magnificent Bastards who speak a dozen languages while conversing to each other by sending Shakespearean Zen koans hidden into chess move patterns, and packed with allusions to ancient Sumerian religion. You make sure all your Techno Babble is scientifically plausible and go to great lengths to make sure all your ancient Roman soldiers are wearing exact replicas of period equipment.

This is almost word-for-word exactly what my works are like. Seriously, when you read Dragons or Rainbow and read that quote again, I think you’ll find that they fit pretty well within that hypothetical, satirical, exaggeratedly ridiculous description. One of my greatest challenges has actually been attempting to categorize my works; I could accurately call Rainbow Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Dystopian, and Romance all at once. As for what age group it’s for, I’ll probably end up marketing it as a YA novel; after all, its protagonists are thirteen-to-sixteen-year-olds. On the other hand, it’s very violent and sexual, with torture, human trafficking, genocide, rape, war, and incest all coming into play. It also has a very healthy dose of existential cosmic horror. But on the other hand, I would have absolutely adored it when I was a kid. Then again, when I was a kid I was reading Dracula and Les Misérablesso perhaps I never represented the child demographic very well…

Nonetheless, I know children like it when a work is high quality and respects them; after all, children aren’t stupid, and they’re humans just like everyone else. Therefore I refuse to talk down to them.

Finally, concerning the sort of characters I write: I diligently attempt to represent every kind of human in my works, but when it comes to my main characters (that is, my main protagonists and main villains) you’ll probably see a disproportionate amount of Author Avatars of varying degrees of blatantness within them. If you want to know precisely how pure of Author Avatars any of my characters are, look for characters who resemble Sherlock Holmes, Sheldon Cooper, or Leleouch Lamperouge. Especially Leleouch; I would say that he’s probably closer to what I’m like than any other character in fiction. Pay special attention to magnificent bastards and tortured well-intentioned extremists; more often than not those are probably supposed to be me. It’s almost certain they are if they are albino (I have vitiligo, which basically means that someday I will be an albino) and/or bisexual (I’m not, but wish I was, since I feel I’m denied the ability to detect all human beauty, which I as an artist desperately desire. This one’s more wish fulfillment than anything). You can bet the house on it if the character in question is flamboyantly campy (again, just like Leleouch. People think I’m gay all the time because I’m really like this; I think masculinity is an idiotic ideal to aspire to). Yeah, you guys can probably see why I love Emperor Kusco and Lord Shen so much. I’m insanely vain and egotistical on every level it’s possible to be.

Here’s to my works; I hope you’ll all enjoy them as much as I am.

Almanac: Religion Introduction

As a philosopher, few topics inspire as much fascination for me as religion. As indicated by a previous article, I’m an anti-organized religion agnostic ultimate atheist. To go a little more in-depth, I’m firmly of the conviction that nobody should worship anything and that people should pursue their spirituality independently without allowing others to tell them what to believe. In other words, one of my greater life philosophies is phrased thusly in Assassin’s Creed II:

“Do not follow me, or anyone else.” – Ezio Auditore

However, though I strongly oppose organized religion, I can see many benefits to religion in and of itself:

The first (and perhaps most obvious) is that religion has produced an enormous amount of astonishingly beautiful art. A good first place to begin showing this, I think, is the religious texts themselves; for instance, the King James Version is a poetic, quality translation of the Bible that has become one of the best-selling books of all time. This, to me, makes sense; Christianity is the world’s most prominent religion, and English books are the best-selling. Why though, one might ask, would this particular translation rise to the top?

King James Bible

Well, of course, there’s the fact that it saw a pretty freaking wide distribution in England, and therefore when the English came to the United States it’s the one they brought along with them. However, that still leaves the question as to why England basically recycled it over and over again for centuries rather than making any new translations when it grew archaic. In my opinion it’s because not only is it (reportedly) a good translation, it’s also beautifully written. Of course, I might just be a sucker for flowery early modern English resembling Shakespeare’s (it probably helps that Shakespeare was supposedly one of the translators), but a sign of quality writing is memorability, and we have a long list of common phrases from this translation, including:

“Bottomless pit,”

“Den of thieves,”

“God forbid,”

and “Holier than thou.”

These are phrases that have been stuck in our heads for half a millennium now. Only the universally-recognized genius Shakespeare has had such a huge impact on English. That’s some damn good writing right there.

Another such enormous literary achievement is, of course, the Quran. As I said before, memorability is a pretty good sign of quality writing, and the Quran had to be memorable; according to Islamic tradition, Mohammed was illiterate and had to recite it for others to memorize and write down. Assuming this is true, I can only assume it’s pretty memorable. It’s been compelling enough to become a religious text for over a billion people, and it’s had an even bigger impact on Arabic than the KJV has had on English. As for my take on it, although I don’t know Arabic I’ve read an English translation and found it to be quite pretty. Of course, this could simply be a translation far outshining its source material, but as I understand it this is pretty hard to do. Until I can read the original Arabic text myself, I feel rather confident assuming it that it is, in fact, a literary masterpiece.

Quran

While we’re on the subject of the Islamic world, let’s talk about their calligraphy. Muslims are insanely good at calligraphy. If you don’t believe me, take a look:

Student Islamic CalligraphyIslamic Lamp

Working Title/Artist: Leaf from a Qur'an manuscriptDepartment: Islamic ArtCulture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: 07Working Date: 13th-14th century photography by mma, Digital File DP238067.tif retouched by film and media (jnc) 5_31_12In this Thursday, Jan. 26 2012 photo, Palestinian calligraphy expert Adel Fauzy practices at his studio in the West Bank town of Hawara, near Nablus. Parchment, feathers and "qalams," a pen made of dried bamboo, are still used by sophers Jewish scribes and khattats Muslim calligraphers. AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)Tell me these writings aren’t drop-dead gorgeous. Because the Islamic people venerate the Quran so enormously and they’ve had a general aversion to graphical images due to their strict laws against idolatry, they’ve naturally become perhaps the world’s best calligraphers, rivaled only by the Chinese. After all, constraints foster creativity.

And of course, buildings. Religion has produced what are (in my opinion) the world’s most beautiful buildings. Here are some mosques, temples, churches, and other awesome, awesome buildings from an assortment of religions:

Notre Dame de Paris

Buddhist Temple

Shinto Temple

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Need I even mention the paintings that religion’s produced?

da Vinci John the Baptist

Creation of Adam

Or the sculptures?

Buddha

Pieta

Yeah. Needless to say, religion inspires unbelievably amazing art.

But then why, you might ask, do I oppose organized religion so strongly? For the answer to that, look up the Spanish Inquisition. Or the Crusades. Or the Salem Witch Trials. Or the September Eleventh Terrorist Attacks. Even if you think those are  overly dramatic examples of religion’s harm, go look at Jehovah’s Witness deaths over (lack of) blood transfusions or LGBT suicides over bullying.

Now, I want to make something abundantly clear: I do not think it’s religion’s fault these sorts of things occur. After all, the world’s most genocidal man was an atheist. Rather, I believe that it’s the problem of mankind itself; I believe that humans are basically evil and that kind, virtuous people are rare (and by the way, before any of you start shouting that I’m even more full of myself than I am, I don’t count myself among the decent; I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them). I think that rather than allowing passion or conscience to drive them, people allow fear to be their primary emotion, and that religion simply accommodates and (potentially) amplifies this.

Therein lies my greatest criticism of religion: I think that, taken literally, it’s almost invariably fear-based. People even readily admit this; notice how common the phrase “God-fearing” is. Especially with Abrahamic religions, ethics essentially boils down to “carrots and sticks;” do good, and you’ll be rewarded. Do evil, and you’ll receive punishment. In my opinion, this way of viewing the world is deeply misguided and cowardly.

Of course, I think that religion can do great things, as well; in my opinion, the wisest of all men were deeply religious (Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Fred Rogers, etc.) and religion has inspired a great deal of charity, warmth, and brotherhood.

The reason I believe religion is capable of causing such tremendous evil is because it can make people act in fear of the ultimate retribution: eternal suffering. The reason I believe religion is capable of inspiring such tremendous compassion is quite simple: people are very visual creatures.

To explain what I mean by this, think of the method of loci or Oriental abacists. People are able to memorize staggering amounts of information and make enormous calculations by visualizing imaginary locations and objects. By the same token, we use stories to teach lessons; with Hansel and Gretel, we use the vivid imagery of being eaten alive and burning in a furnace to teach the lesson of not trusting strangers. With the Lion and the Mouse, we get an obviously highly contrasted pair of characters to demonstrate for us the potential self-benefitting nature of altruism. Wise religious leaders have thoroughly understood this; Jesus framed his lessons as parables, one of the most famous being the Good Samaritan, establishing that all men are brothers and should show compassion and kindness to one another (as a brief aside I think it would do Islamophobic Christians much good to recall this parable).

What I’m ultimately saying is: we need stories in order to learn, and in many respects religions have the most potent stories, and therefore the most potent lessons. After all, it’s hard to get loftier and more vivid than lakes of brimstone and fire or a parting sea or being raised from the dead. This is where I believe the benefit of religion lies: it has perhaps the most powerful images and ideas with which we can learn and understand the world.

By this standard I am in a way deeply religious myself; I use books to shape my morals and the characters therein to be the personifications of my ideals to be emulated.

However, once again, I would advise against organized worship, or even worship altogether; when it comes down to it, my thoughts on whether or not there’s a God (or gods) is: I don’t care. If none exist, I’ll live the best I can with the time I have. If one does, I acknowledge it as nothing more than another being with greater power than myself and I will continue to attempt to live ethically and happily, regardless of what it tells me or threatens to do. Anything that wants to be worshipped doesn’t deserve to, and anything that deserves to be worshipped wouldn’t want to, and therefore I worship nothing.

Although I believe that it would ultimately be better for people not to worship anything, I believe that so long as people are kind to one another and strive to make the world a happier and more peaceful place it ultimately doesn’t matter what they believe.

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” 

Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso

Almanac: Philosophy Introduction

Being the extremely pretentious individual deeply thoughtful person that I am, I thought I’d share my opinions ideas on philosophy, that most subjective, convoluted, inconclusive deep, complex, and fascinating of pursuits.

To paraphrase Frueline Maria, let’s start at the beginning, as it’s a very good place to start.

Here’s what I am with regards to my views on the universe as a whole, how it began, and what it all ultimately means: I’m an existentially nihilistic agnostic ultimate atheist. What this essentially means is that I think we (probably) began in nothing, will return to nothing, and that nothing ultimately matters. With regards to higher powers, I quite happily admit to having no idea if any exist or not. If I had to set my chips down on a guess, it would be that deities do in fact exist; I most certainly believe that aliens exist, and I’d be willing to wager that some exist that wield (what we perceive to be) enormous power. Nonetheless, I highly doubt the existence of an “eternal, transcendent, all-powerful” deity, as I believe all things are subjected to the laws of nature and must answer to that darkness from which all began and all will end.

Though this might seem to be a rather bleak worldview at first glance, I don’t find this to be cause to wallow in hopelessness and self-pity. After all- why would you? There’s no reason to. Of course, there’s no reason to be happy either, other than we want to. And therefore I declare: though life might have no meaning, I’ll forge one for myself. I decide that the meaning of my life is for me to be happy, and since my projects provide me the most happiness I therefore dedicate myself fully to them.

On a more practical and personal level, I’m deeply misanthropic, pretty radically left-wing (as in, I believe everyone has the right to do absolutely anything they like so far as they don’t infringe upon the rights of others), socialistic, secularistic, countercultural, pro-intellectualism, anti-organized religion, egalitarian, and I fervently advocate for the defense of nature and the rights of animals.

Above all I advocate for the promotion of learning and the arts, as I believe that these are the keys to understanding and enlightenment and therefore the means to achieving widespread peace and joy.

I will go with more depth into the aforementioned subjects and I will explain why and how I’ve come to my currently-held positions and worldview, in hopes that universal understanding might be achieved.

To reference Assassin’s Creed: here’s to peace in all things!

Almanac: The ’80s

In the novel Ready Player One (which I plan to review relatively soon) there is a character named James Halliday who compiles a collection of writings known as Anorak’s Almanac. In his almanac he rambles his thoughts on the world in general and pop culture specifically.

I relate very deeply to Halliday and share many of his eccentricities and interests, most notably our shared obsession with the 1980s. Reading about Halliday and the Almanac immediately made me want to undertake such an endeavor, and so I’ve decided to begin this subproject henceforth known as Akira’s Almanac where I can place my general musings on perhaps my two favorite subjects: philosophy and media, often intermingling the two. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on perhaps the best place to start: the ’80s.

I am incredibly, deeply obsessed with the ’80s. Despite the fact that I haven’t lived during that decade, it is my favorite historical decade, followed closely by the ’60s and the 2000s.   My reasoning is pretty simple: in my mind, the 1980s was the decade when modern media was born. Although things such as popular music, video games, speculative fiction, and anime had existed before this era, this was the time they began to be refined to excellence; though the ’70s gave us the first arcade games and home consoles, the ’80s gave us the Golden Age of Arcades and the standard-setting, trailblazing home titles such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Legend of Zelda. Though it’s the ’60s that gave us Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons began in the ’70s and forever entrenched speculative fiction in our culture by the ’80s. The ’80s gave us perhaps the first “true” pop music with entertainers such as Michael Jackson and Madonna, and the global smash hit anime Dragon Ball was gathering steam in Japan.

I feel I as an enormous nerd owe unfathomably much to the ’80s, and not just because it’s when the foundation of modern geekdom was established; this was also the decade that established my favorite aesthetics.

To explain what I mean, think of what the ’80s was. Of course, the people I asked about it might have been donning nostalgia goggles, but from what I hear the ’80s was a huge, colorful party much like the ’20s- and had all the problems that come with huge, wild parties. At that point relations between the West and the Soviet Union were at a peak of tension not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis, and people had very good reason to fear that the entire world would go up in a mushroom cloud. Naturally, when people are very, very frightened, they become very hedonistic, and thus we got the party today known as the ’80s. Oh sure, we had lots of fun- we had lots of loud, new music, new toys, lots of colored lights, and lots of wild hair, but along with that came a new STD, an influx of disturbingly predatory media, and a repeat of Prohibition in the form of cocaine.

I’ll discuss all that another time; right now I’ll focus on what I like about the ’80s. Again, it was the era of bright light and vibrant color. To give you an idea of precisely how important that is to me, my favorite anime is Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and my favorite electronic game is Kingdom Hearts II. You’ll notice that both of those works are absolutely brimming with vibrantly colorful lights and feature climaxes that involve the opponents throwing pure energy at each other, culminating in the antagonist barraging the protagonists with enormous amounts of it. That’s one of the biggest observations I’ve made about my aesthetic taste: the more bright and vibrantly colorful a work is, the more likely I am to like it. Of course, this sort of aesthetic principle very much took ahold in the ’80s, with works such as the Star Wars films and Tron utilizing ridiculous amounts of colored energy. I cannot thank the ’80s enough for providing me this, as you’ll see most or all of my works being this bright and colorful.

The ’80s also gave us some of our first great ventures into fantasy; we got WillowConan the Barbarian, The Dark Crystal, The Princess Bride, and Labyrinth during this decade. Though these films couldn’t quite reach the scope and grandiosity of high fantasy (my favorite sub genre), which would finally happen in the 2000s with the Lord of the Rings films, we got excelent experiences with the restrictions we had nonetheless. We were also setting the stage for such huge high fantasy works to happen; this was the time Dungeons and Dragons at last developed a huge cult following, paving the way for the best Final Fantasy games, other fantasy tabletop games such as Magic: the Gathering, and of course huge cinematic fantasy endeavors such as Game of Thrones and the aforementioned Lord of the Rings.

But there is one thing in particular that stands out about the ’80s to me. It’s the one thing that makes me think that perhaps I was born in the wrong time and should have come into my prime then rather than now. To understand why, I must discuss my magnum opus.

In my “About” page, you’ll see near the end that I mention a desire to pen the “Grand Masterpiece of All Literature.” This isn’t just a general, vague dream; I’m speaking of a specific project when I speak these words. This project I refer to is my flagship work; my magnum opus. I have fully dedicated my life to the creation and sustenance of this work; even all of my other projects are simply extensions of the ideas in it. It is literally my ultimate ambition for this work to become renowned as the pinnacle of artistic achievement and for it to fully live up to that title.

This work is titled Rainbow. In its first incarnation it is to be a science fiction/fantasy/horror/romance/dystopian/adventure novel, and I plan to eventually adapt it into a manga, anime, film, and ultimately a video game. I won’t reveal much about it for now, but what you currently need to know for the purposes of this discussion is that it’s all about the paranormal (and is therefore comparable to works such as Gravity FallsThe X-Files, and Ghostbusters) and was inspired by a series of books on the paranormal called The Mysteries of the Unknown. This series of books was released in the ’80s, and without those books I likely wouldn’t have conceived Rainbow.

And so this is why I love the ’80s so much; it has shaped and inspired my works, and it has laid the foundation for my favorite works as well as my own to shine.

Here’s to the ’80s; I owe everything to you!