Sometimes you just feel like painting how you feel. Digital art by Nikoletta Winters February 25th, 2018. Larger view HERE.
Sometimes you just feel like painting how you feel. Digital art by Nikoletta Winters February 25th, 2018. Larger view HERE.
Cyberpunk is exceedingly pastiche. It imitates our own postmodern absurdity much more than it explores a bizarre non-existent side-future. I suppose that this is why it’s appealing to a certain type of individual.
Cooking is as much a technology as the smartphone is. Technology, in general, isn’t so much something that I associate with the future so much as it is a product of the mind used to accomplish some end. In “Neuromancer,” Gibson’s portrayal of women fringes on treating them as mere sex objects. Linda Lee, in particular, is essentially Case’s sexual drug. Molly is quite an oddity within the general scope of Gibson’s world because she breaks away from what we come to expect of women in the first part of the book. Molly is without a shadow of a doubt a gender transgressor. She’s pretty I guess. But also pretty deadly due to her surgical augmentations. Of which were paid for through sex (she was a meat puppet). Ultimately, she uses sex as a tool to break away and isolate herself from the “normal” life that she might’ve had otherwise. As a reader, Molly is even more attractive because of this. She even leaves Case high and dry at the end…
It’s all very interesting because people out in the horrific world are slowly becoming aware of the fact that they have the ability to decide what they want to be. To many, when they become confronted with this they either:
1. Turn tail and deny it as unnatural–which it is, considering we are already unnatural beings. (their loss though)
2. They embrace it and ultimately integrate closer to their authentic Selves. (best case scenario, also the rarest)
3. Use it as a band-aid to address another underlying issue that doesn’t become apparent until it’s too late. (worse case scenario, most common)
Everyone can craft their identity. Does that mean that humanity is falling away from us though? Or is there something else to learn as a result of this? To me, it’s pretty apparent that most people can’t handle the speed at which technology is shaping the world because it constantly forces us to define and re-define who we are at every level of who we are. To observe the tangible insanity of this, you don’t need to look very hard.
When I look back at my 32 years on this planet, I like to separate my time here into three different lives. My childhood–from the time I was a baby until the end of high school. My young adulthood–the time in which I spent trying to figure out who I was. And lastly, the life I’m currently living. My current incarnation arose late last year after realizing that I was not only capable of becoming Adept, but that I actually had developed into one.
A couple weeks ago, I had a huge “a-ha moment” with regards to how I interact with people. Communicating has never been my strong suit. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that it’s become even more difficult to speak with others on a one to one level. The majority of this problem is grounded in the fact that amidst the confusion of my past lives, I chose to look inward and journey through the depths of the Underworld.
As of February 2017, I am surrounded on all sides by Tucson’s wall-to-wall corporate sprawls filled to the brim with white upper middle class suburbanites just looking to raise their families, punch the clock, and consume. Here, everything has novelty. Shitty black garbage bags with yellow ties. Shattered cavities of plastic and torn shiny paper. Smog and tumble weeds of blue solo cups and rusted nails. The sad loneliness of Panda Express in front of the television with the family on a Sunday evening.
“God’s not dead.” they say.
“God’s not dead!”
“Do you hear us?”
“God’s not dead!”
Yeah–okay. Whatever you say.
I’m living in the middle of an airborne toxic event. Suburban Tucson is a bad parody of a Don Delillo novel on expired LSD laced with bath salts. People here are just looking to live out their lives refusing to ask the tough questions that might change each and every one of them irrevocably.
“God’s not dead!” they scream, running away from the rabid black-toothed rats gnawing away at their insides.
“God’s not dead! HE’S NOT DEAD.”
It takes a lot of energy to ignore the ferocious biting of rats. They will rapidly tear away at everything you are or ever will be should you do nothing to stop their treacherous advance. Some of postmodernity’s favorite remedies for ignoring this pain come in many shapes and sizes, all beautifully packaged for your consumption. Amphetamines and antidepressants. Wild Turkey and Ambien. Subway punchcards and Starbucks. Bad movies and aspartame. Painkillers and suicide.
Don’t get me wrong–if that’s the life you choose then so be it. Who am I to judge? My situation is unique to me. Just don’t expect me to refer to that type of life as an “enthralling state of existence”.
I vividly recall what rats gnawing away at me felt like. It was incessant and raw. As a young adult, I remember the rats of my childhood eating away at my insides. They reminded me that deep down I hurt. That I had no idea who I was. I needed to get away from them in order to heal the open sores they had caused.
When I was little, my life was rigid, structured, and controlled. At times, I remember becoming paralyzed by anxiety in an effort to save face in the presence of my father. As I moved on into my next life as a young adult, I began to explore the possibilities of my new found freedom. Because I grew up in an environment of suppression, I found it incredibly easy to obsess over the things I could never do. My lifetime as a young adult was very short. It was a positive experience, but ultimately, met its end in a tragic death of my choosing.
Classic Kung Fu revenge films and Westerns all share the same basic story structure. The main character begins living a decent or happy life. They then suffer through an intense tragedy. Usually this takes place in the form of their entire family being murdered. This sets into motion the protagonist’s need for a journey through wilderness and/or period of intense training away from society. They then return to society in an effort to just “get along.” Of course this never works out. There’s always a few bloody fight scenes along the way. In the climax, the main character almost always achieves deadly revenge against the person or force who caused their initial tragedy. Lastly, the credits start to roll, and we find the main character either walking off into the sunset alone or pulling a “remember the Alamo.”
I identify with movies like “Fist of Fury” and “The Grandmaster” because I have lived out the Kung Fu revenge trope before. Because I have lived through it, I understand that language.
My journey towards this understanding began when I was seventeen. I recorded an energetic demo tape with my brother and formed my first band. When I was eighteen, we were struck with young dumb luck and signed a record contract in the pre-MySpace era. At nineteen, I toured coast-to-coast across the United States. This may sound awesome, but life back then was far from perfect. The rats of my gender identity issues still gnawed away at me underneath it all, but I was able to ignore them because I was happy. At least I thought I was. After all, I was doing what I had always dreamed of–I was a professional musician. And that’s all I ever needed!
It wasn’t though. In 2006 my band died from my inability to ignore the rats in my closet any longer. I had a life as a musician, but what use was it if I couldn’t live out that life as myself?
In the wake of losing what promised to be a flourishing career I decided to put an end to my life as a musician and instead tour the abyss in search of myself. It was time to figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life. And the only way to figure any of that out was to approach the tough questions only I could ask: “am I capable of walking away from it all?” and, “Could I build up a new life for myself starting from less than zero?”
The first step in the long journey towards yourself begins with the realization that you are capable of crossing that lake of fire. That you are capable of doing the things you set out to do. That you can reach the very bottom of Hell at the expense of everything else in your current life. Only you can decide if you can handle the unexpected calamities that will come with taking those first few steps into the Underworld. To become yourself, you must test your capabilities. And you must develop them through the trial of journey. Keep in mind that your destination certainly matters, but all of your meaningful life changing transformations come from the journey itself. This is why it’s incredibly difficult to express what Xeper is into words. Xeper is powerful because it is shrouded behind the walls of confusion and ambiguity. And to have any sort of relationship with Xeper, you must be willing to recognize the superficial nature of what it means to be you and work your way violently inward.
The most difficult aspect to journeying the Underworld has to do with the people you meet along the way. You will meet many. But most don’t even make it past the gates. That’s because they lack the realization of capability. Many people take two steps in and turn tail–they fear for what they might find underneath it all. Some brave souls will journey with you for a time. A few of these will try to distract you from getting to where you’re headed. Fewer still will even face some of the trials you may encounter along the way by your side. Eventually though, if you’re truly determined, you will leave every one of these people behind. Not because you’re better than them, but because they are physically and spiritually incapable of journeying farther. There’s a sad rule to traveling the Underworld–the deeper you go, the less company you’ll be able to keep. As you slowly make your way to the bottom, you even begin to speak an entirely different language than all of the people on the levels above you.
I spent nine years (2006-2015) traveling the Underworld of myself. A lot of times I felt as though I was in limbo, that I wasn’t making progress. But I learned to heed the signs along the way that indicated that I was indeed capable. My journey there was punctuated with a great deal of objective personal change. I transitioned. I went to University. I decided it wasn’t for me. I hit rock bottom. I found joy in performing. I got into car crashes. I ate a lot of ramen noodles. I got my first cavity. I discovered that I was still a musician. I had life changing surgery. I moved across the country. I joined the Temple of Set.
My time as a first degree in the Temple of Set wasn’t riddled with frustration. Instead, it felt like going home for the first time in my life. It helped me to emerge from the Underworld and confront profane life in the everyday. My first degree taught me that I could arrive to new solutions to old problems, and how to apprehend new problems before they grew out of my control.
Becoming Adept doesn’t come from merely accepting yourself for who you are. That’s part of it, but it goes much further. The Adept understands that she is always capable transforming herself into someone she can truly love. For me, I couldn’t have come to this realization without traveling the Underworld for nine years. And I wouldn’t have been able to Xeper as a result of this realization without learning how to make use of the languages I learned while traveling the abyss. I accomplished this by embracing consistency in my initiatory practices which allowed me to keep the rats away and the channels of my endeavors open and awake. Both journey and consistency are integral to the development of the would-be Adept.
The Rat-Trap Working (aka Journeying the Abyss)
By Adept Nikoletta Winters
The following is a long form GBM working that has many parts to it. It’s very important to make preparations beforehand in order to execute each part efficiently. The purpose of this working is to reaffirm your genuine wants requiring you to plan for their success in the long term.
We often start and stop many things. Starting an endeavor usually begins with intense enthusiasm, but without pursuing consistency, you will be incapable of taking it further. In order to see beyond the initial realm of impulse, you must be willing to complete the motion of journeying with your endeavors as a way to express authenticity of want. It’s easy to ask yourself what you desire. It’s hard to answer why you aren’t doing the things you want to do. You want to learn Russian right? Then why the fuck aren’t you doing it? Don’t say “I don’t know,” or attribute it to laziness, lack of time, or other adult responsibilities. Excuses like these, are rats. And you actively use them to ignore your potential. You create them on the surface level and eventually they attach themselves to your daemonic self. They hold you back from chasing after the things you want. This working is engineered to exact revenge on these rats, effectively “trapping them.” If this working is performed correctly, you will have begun the process of equipping yourself with a shiny pair of capable new eyes. If you feel yourself slipping away from the things you want due to the rats of depression, apathy, or exhaustion–plan a weekend around performing this. Over the course of this working, you will actively engage with immediate manifestations of your will. You will also set into motion energies in that will aid in rooting one or perhaps several wants/desires as a powerful source of Xeper in your life. This working will require you to communicate not only with yourself, but with people around you. It is separated into six phases modeled after the Kung Fu Revenge Western trope:
During the course of each stage pay close attention to your surroundings, how you feel, who engages with you. The only catch is that you must complete the main working in a twenty-four hour period.
BEFORE you perform the main working, you must write your own Invocation of Set. You can model it after the Invocation in the Crystal Tablet if you lack a sense of creativity, but I would ask that you at least give it the good ‘ole college try to put your own personal touch to it. The ultimate purpose of this exercise is to make an invocation that is uniquely your own. You are taking this invocation on a journey and delivering it to yourself via consistent nightly recitations of it between two days of personal power. Hint: if you do it right before bed, you’ll experience vivid and sometimes horrific dreams. Don’t be scared–that’s just your magic letting you know that your doing the work.
For me, I situated nightly recitations of my invocation over a fifteen day period from February 10th to the 25th. Both are days of significant power for me. The tenth marks the anniversary of significant progression in my gender transition, and the twenty-fifth is my birthday.
The main working occurs on your second day of power. Begin the main working in the morning or early afternoon. Dress appropriately–you’re going to be headed out for the day after performing the “Peace” phase. You won’t return until you reach the “Isolation” phase.
At the end of each phase, recite the following encouraging words in reference to experiencing the stress of Hell, the Duat, or the Underworld: “My dear, my dear, it’s not so dreadful here.”
I pulled this phrase from Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Prayer to Persephone.” Persephone is the queen of the Underworld and also the goddess of growth in the spring. This is vital to the working as a king or queen of the Underworld will have certainly journeyed to its depths and gained forbidden knowledge of its hidden languages. Persephone’s second aspect, of growth in spring, is equally as vital to this working. It connects the idea of the new and intense enthusiasm we experience when we first pursue the things we want to do (spring) and being able to nurture them to maturity through consistent journey (growth).
1. Open the Gate – Ring Bell x9, recite your invocation of Set, call upon the elements, drink from the graal, etc.
Recite the following:
“There are days where the sun will hide, where peace has withered, where tragic death leaves a gaping hole. There are days where you will journey to the fiery pits, and to the ends of the Earth. There will be days where you will make a return in the spring, and leave again against frozen northern winds. There will be nights where you will seek revenge, and mornings where you’ve tasted it. There are days where the sun will hide, where peace has withered, where tragic death leaves a gaping hole.”
“My dear, my dear, it’s not so dreadful here.”
2. “Peace” – Engage with something that makes you feel peaceful and relaxed. Perform it until you feel at ease. Ten minutes is the ideal amount of time for this phase. For me, I chose my favorite guided meditation and did it.
“My dear, my dear, it’s not so dreadful here.”
3. “Tragedy” – Get out of the house. If you can, visit a place of significant tragedy in your life. Discuss tragedy with a perfect stranger. Talk with a loved one about the saddest day of their life. Any one of these things will work. Get to know what tragedy is in your own world.
For me, it’s when something goes away before it’s time.
“My dear, my dear, it’s not so dreadful here.”
4. “Journeying the Abyss” – Choose a place to go that makes you uncomfortable or uneasy. I’m not asking you to pull a John McClane and walk into a room full of terrorists, but I am asking you to visit a place that gives you a sense a danger that you cannot easily leave.
I chose to visit the Underworld by going to Bisbee’s “Copper Queen Mine.” In the case of an interesting synchronicity during the course of my working, I was randomly asked by our seventy year old guide to have a seat on the “sanitary cart” in the mine. The sanitary cart was a toilet for the miners of the Copper Queen mine and was known as the “shitter” or “throne.” For the rest of the tour, our guide kept referring to me as the Queen of the mine and asked me to pay him a visit in the future. He told me “I could come back and be Queen anytime.” This was mind-blowing to me! I literally became Queen of the Underworld while the gate was open on my working. Synchronicity? Yep. Laugh out loud funny? Hell yes, but you kinda had to be there.
“My dear, my dear, it’s not so dreadful here.”
5. “Reintegration” – The key to this phase is communication. Talk to people around you. Visibly display your Pentagram of Set if you feel adventurous. If someone is wearing or saying something that strongly connects with any of your sensibilities, make a comment or start a conversation with that person.
My big reintegration moment came when I came across a guy in Bisbee dressed head to toe like a steampunk. It was a pretty radmobile getup so I told him that I “liked his outfit.” He commented on my Pentagram of Set and showed me a red ring he was wearing that also had a pentagram on it. This was a cool little moment. I ended up running into him again across town. (I think he followed me). He gave me a business card this time. Turns out he was a local entertainer who performed nightly seances on the weekends.
“My dear, my dear, it’s not so dreadful here.”
6. “Combat” – Do something that requires you to learn a new language. Spend the afternoon learning a new skill, a new game, or dance routine. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but you do need to understand how to engage with your chosen language by the end of this phase.
I chose to learn how to play a complicated board game called “Eldritch Horror.” After I learned, I played a game of it with my significant other. We got our asses royally kicked by the Azathoth.
“My dear, my dear, it’s not so dreadful here.”
7. “Isolation” – For this phase return to your ritual chamber and perform a task that isolates yourself in such a way that you can completely focus on yourself inwardly. I chose a ten minute scanning body meditation.
At the end of the final phase, make a list of three endeavors you wish to pursue over the next month. You must consistently engage with these on a regular schedule throughout that time. Keep a daily record of this in your magical diary. At the end of the month, write about what you learned and how you feel about your time pursuing these endeavors.
In the spirit of consistency before you close out the working, recite your invocation of Set one final time.
Ring the bell nine times.
“SO IT IS DONE.”
Here’s my first digital painting as of today. I went out on a whim and decided I wanted to give it a shot. I’m glad I did. So super fun! It’s Chocolate Misu from Sorcerer Hunters. :3
Last spring, I began studying Baguazhang. I had spent the year before acclimating to a new job that required me to be in an office forty hours a week. About eight months into my tenure as an office dwelling pencil pusher I started feeling sick. My body ached. My stomach was constantly in shambles. I started shaking all the time. This wasn’t surprising considering the lack of physical activity I was getting between my day job and producing music at home. Both of these things required me to be sedentary for upwards of eighteen hours a day. I would go to bed and repeat the cycle the next day, which, in retrospect is a horrifying experience to re-live in my mind. The process of breaking out of this self-destructive cycle began with my investigation into traditional Japanese fan dancing, Wing Chun, and Tai Chi. Unfortunately, I couldn’t participate in the fan dancing classes because they happened while I had work. The local Wing Chun school was quite promising, but it was about forty minutes away from where I lived. I did actually start doing Tai Chi for about two months with a rather nice group of people at the local Chinese Cultural center in Tucson, but I quickly bailed on them after realizing that it was a glorified swingers club for people above the age of 55.
I began searching for solutions closer to my apartment and discovered a school that taught internal Chinese martial arts literally a mile down the road. I wrote their association and was informed about their meeting times and attended my first class. The school was hidden in plain sight. The only indicator that the school was different than the houses around it were the two ivory “foo dogs” that stood watch at the entrance. When I entered, I was greeted by paintings and photos of smiling Bagua and Xingyiquan practitioners Dong Hai Chuan, Liang Zhenpu, Gao Yisheng, Zhang Junfeng, Li Guichang and a group of five people slapping the shit out of their bodies. At first I wanted to laugh, but I was quickly beckoned into the circle to join in on the “light” body slapping.
I later discovered that light body slapping is done at the start of every class to essentially wake the body up by getting the blood flowing. In the context of my initiation this fit in well as a way to physically explore what it meant to literally go from white to red and back again. With every slap, my circulation improved, my blood rose to the surface of my skin, and for a few hours several times a week I began to realize the importance of using exercise as a way to quiet the brain.
Notice, I did not say my practice of Baguazhang shuts down the brain. Baguazhang is an internal martial art. It works by activating different structures in the brain that I don’t normally use while simultaneously quieting the prefrontal cortex. This allows me to stimulate a state of Flow by being able to focus wholly on what I’m doing without being interrupted by my self-consciousness. Bruce Lee referred to this as the “emptying of the cup.”
Bagua has given me an outlet to stimulate my ability to achieve a state of Flow with greater frequency and ease. My initial experience with using martial arts in this way didn’t come until I was able to have a grasp the basics of my chosen fighting art. Which is why I’ve only really begun to write about it now–this is a new, unexpected development in my personal quest to constantly improve.
Flow requires us to bring several automatized skills together in order to kick up our focus to a level that allows us to experience it. It takes awhile when we begin to learn a new skill or artform before we can actually experience a brain quieting flow-state. Steven Kotler, author of “The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance” would describe this experience as “Transient Hypofrontality:”
“In flow, parts of the brain aren’t becoming more hyperactive, they’re actually slowing down, shutting down. The technical term for this is transient, meaning temporary, hypo frontality. Hypo[…]the opposite of hyper means to slow down, to shut down, to deactivate. And frontality is the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that houses your higher cognitive functions, your sense of morality, your sense of will, your sense of self.”
I get a sense of deep embodiment when I practice Baguazhang. There’s nothing quite like being locked eye to eye with another person while focusing on multiple outlets of your own physicality. The ancient Greeks called this deep embodiment, ἔκστασις (Ekstasis). Ekstasis can be best described as an altered state beyond the normal “sense of self.” Ekstasis is NOT Flow, but it is a byproduct of being able to achieve Flow on a regular basis. In a Setian context, being able to experience Ekstasis means tapping into my “divine pattern.”
Now just imagine how amazing I feel by being able to achieve Ekstasis a several times a week! Baguazhang has all but become not only a powerful tool, but a conduit in which I can interface with my higher self so long as I continue to practice it or something like it.
Tapping into Flow takes practice. When it comes to my practice of Bagua I fail at tapping into it several times a session. This is usually caused by me trying to mentally dissect forms or movements. In terms of my physicality this “over-thinking” comes from making use of my prefrontal cortex.
I’ve experienced wonderful success imprinting myself with the overload of information I get from my practice the less “think” about it. And the less I think about it, the more I experience Ekstasis by having meaningful personal breakthroughs on a regular basis.
For instance, I was able to fully retain the positions of the nine palaces and the thirteen elbow form last month after working with them each for half an hour. Everything prior to that took several months for me learn. Part of my ability to retain this information comes from the challenge of seeing if I could actually do it, which I could surprisingly, but part of it also comes from a grasp of the basic movements I’ve spent perfecting since last spring.
Bagua has taught me how to get in touch with my immediate physicality–a.k.a. those things that I can see in the mirror. It has also taught me that I am fully capable of interfacing with of my physicality that I previously regarded as impossible to connect with like blood flow, internal energy, successful breathing, and various parts of my brain.
While it could be argued that certain notions of “emptying” the cup could be misconstrued as more of a right hand path philosophy I would argue that the “loss of self” that is experienced by learning to stimulate Flow through shutting down the prefrontal cortex requires the same control it takes to move our sovereign consciousnesses through the objective universe. “Emptying the cup” is something I do voluntarily for the purpose of stimulating Flow in an effort to connect with my divine pattern through Ekstasis.
Over the last month or so I’ve been trying to figure out the question of “what’s next?” It’s exciting to think about, as the possibilities are pretty endless, although it’s pretty clear to me that I won’t be climbing Mt. Everest anytime soon. I mean–I could, but I won’t. It doesn’t appeal to me.
Part of this “what’s next?” question ties in with figuring out which one of my personal endeavors I can hold myself absolutely accountable for. I need accountability in my life. It’s a personal assessment as to whether or not I’m making true progression. My work in Bagua has taught me the importance of making the things we hold ourselves accountable for as part of our regular scheduled programming.
So what’s next? Well–music is definitely on the menu. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a new project. Musicians always tend to do this. If existing projects don’t fit into or serve a very specific need to what we want to do our first response is, “let’s do a new project.” But why limit what a project can do? Yeah, they might have a specific sound to them, but if that sound isn’t as fun as it used to be it might be time to change it. I’ve decided against it for the time being.
I used to be a little more obsessive with making “serious” music. Growing up listening to Black Metal can do that to you, until you realize that the guys in Satyricon or Behemoth are just a bunch of practical jokers who have very good work ethics.
Over the summer I released a track called “Cat Party Baby.” Its been getting played regularly by a few DJs who appreciate the importance of cats and dancing.
I did a few things different with that song that I didn’t do before. I took a step away from preset sounds from my VSTs, instead I made a few of my own. Moving forward I think that this is an important practice, but shouldn’t always be pursued if it gets in the way of songwriting.
I made the switch back to Image-Line’s FL Studio. I still really love Logic, especially for recording actual instruments, but FL works better for electronic music–at least for me. I can also go back to using it anytime or ReWire it, or both. After using Logic for over four years it’s not like I’ll unlearn it.
I got to learn my way around Yamaha’s Vocaloid 4. Cyber Diva isn’t the perfect vocalist, but she’s definitely impressive for an artificial voice.
I still have lots to learn on the production front. As I’ve broken ground on the new Vi album, I’ve been able to work faster and more effectively. Details have become more important to me. I won’t really go into what that entails, but this includes a better understanding of how sounds work together, automation, velocity of notes, etc. etc. “Cat Party Baby” taught me that making a song’s structure simple, to the point, but with unique smaller details can be much more appealing to the ear than something that is difficult to follow. The way I wrote lyrics for “Cat Party…” was also different than I’ve done in the past. Simple stories with visual and relatable details and a few sexual innuendos makes for decent entertainment.
The weirdest thing about My experience writing “Cat Party…” was that I was actually having fun. I didn’t give a fuck if I was being serious, the more I wrote the lyrics and the song itself I literally kept saying to myself “this is ridiculous.” And it was.
As I begin accumulating new material for the new Vi album for 2017, I’m not going to worry about whether the songs fit into some preconceived vision of the future, but rather whether or not each song really gets me going. I want these songs to be fun. I want them to take me somewhere. The I’m making a departure again from the Neon Metal sound of “Singularity Now.” In retrospect, I think that album is good, but it doesn’t embody what I want out of the project yet. “Singularity Now” was extremely experimental for me. It was the first album that I recorded completely by myself without studio intervention. I did the best I could at the time, but it really shows. I’m going to do much better for 2017. The work goes ever on.
Meta is a term that’s been kicking around in various gaming communities for a few years now. When we talk about meta in a game it is the self-referential process which something must be done in order to arrive at a satisfying conclusion. I.E. Winning. This process can be changed and can evolve with time through trial and error. Meta urges players like Rûna urges initiates to seek out the proverbial “hidden.” For instance when you sit down and play a game like Guilty Gear X2 meta compels players to act and react in certain ways against other players. As older strategies for dealing with other players become common place, meta-game evolves as a way to leverage potential future victories against your fellow competitors.
Meta, much like Rûna is able to be applied to how we form questions and answers, discover solutions to old problems, and arrive at new questions as a result of those solutions. Compelling literature and television shows, can offer a microcosmic depiction of how the process of Rûna can work and how it also is meta at the same time.
Rûna is what you might call an impelling word. Through Rûna we are driven to seek out seemingly hidden questions and unknown curiosities that burn deep within the mythos of the self. She whispers simplicity to which we reply with dissatisfaction.
First time viewers to the anime (巌窟王) “Gankutsuou,” an adaptation of Dumas’s “The Count of Monte Cristo” is an example of how our curiosity for the world we cannot see can drive us to obsessive investigation. Who is the Count? Why is he making an effort to become acquainted with Albert? What is his relationship to Mercedes? etc.
In the fantasy microcosm that is Gankutsuou we are exposed to a world that is filled with more and more questions. When new details are brought into focus, our perception warps triggering false positives, blurring our interpretation of previous questions we may have had before.
When we witness the mysterious we are driven by our curiosity to discover what makes it so. This is what makes Rûna is an impelling word. This force of curiosity is also the primary cause of how the meta-game in various gaming communities are both created and destroyed.
“Gankutsuou” is an exercise in how the mind can work when exposed to a body of work that provides few answers. It replaces these answers with whispers of details that provide the viewer/witness with questions, and questions within questions. These questions are intentionally meant to steer us off course. And in order to illicit an emotional response through the resolution of the process that is “Gankutsuou” we must be bombarded by an extended session of false answers and questions. This allows us to witness a transformation of the hidden into an unexpected tragic loss of life or ideals.
It’s all very meta. Of course, Rûna in it of itself is meta. You have a question about something that’s completely unknown to you? Try to find the answer. You’ll always find a bombardment of more questions, many of which often reference one another. The subtle irony in all of this is the simple idea that when we arrive at an answer we will always find a way to pose another question as to why we’ve arrived at that specific answer.
In an initiatory sense, the process of becoming is also meta. Lady Rûna urges you to evolve through her “Awaken, See, Act” mantra only to have you start once again when you reach your next preferred state of existence. Initiation is a room of mirrors stretching into the very limits of your desire to continue with it.
Application–Awaken, See, Act
Speaking from personal experience, I’ve spent the better part of the last year just completely at a loss of what I needed to do in order to feel “whole.” It’s hasn’t been an easy ride. Leaving New England last June meant I was leaving all of the things that I used to do in that space.
The only thing guiding me through this new and unknown life in the desert of Arizona has been my curiosity for the possible. Rûna, like a fly buzzing in my ear has been urging me to seek out new avenues in which I can be sovereign in this new space. I’ve had a lot of false starts–I even tried to do some of the same things I did back in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, I’ve come up short every time.
One of the things I’ve become hyper focused on in my life through this period of trial and error is an investigation of what it means to live a balanced lifestyle. This is directly related to how I view myself in an unfettered sovereign environment. It is also related to how I view myself in general.
If achieving a more balanced lifestyle is the answer to my current dissatisfaction in my life then how do I get there?
A balanced lifestyle only has one law: don’t spread out too much into one direction. It’s all too easy to become too situated into an easy lifestyle, which means having concern for being comfortable. In the 21st century, the easy lifestyle means spending 80% of your day on your ass and the other 20% finding ways to spend it there. We relax entirely too much. Relaxation has its place, but it isn’t something that makes me feel particularly fulfilled.
I need strife. So where do I find it? Over the last year, I slacked real hard on physical activity. In New England, I used to work a job where I was on my feet all day. I now work a job where I sit at a desk all day. Add that to a rather sedentary lifestyle at home and you have a recipe for disaster.
The question I’ve had for myself over the last nine months was, “What can I do to add something physical to my lifestyle?” I assessed what I knew and came up with several possibilities.
Running isn’t all that fun. I used to run five miles four times a week with my Rhodesian Ridgeback. It sucked. Anyone that says it’s amazing is wrong. Running sucks. Stop lying to yourself, the human body isn’t made to run long distances like that. Aerobics also suck. I used to do that a few times a week as well. Both are hard on the knees, and both aren’t especially cerebral. I’ve never been the kind of person to enjoy team sports, or lift weights either. So what else is there?
I played with the idea of doing Wing Chun for MONTHS. I really liked the style after watching Ip Man four times in a row one day. I never acted on the idea, however, since the only place to learn it in Tucson that wasn’t a McDojo was an hour drive from my apartment. Long drives can get brutal. I eventually settled on joining a group that did Tai Chi at our local Chinese Cultural Center. I went religiously every Tuesday and soon caught on that it was a club for 60+ singles to bang after class. I discovered that Tai Chi had some things I liked, although it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. Especially when it came to joining in on extra curricular activities with people twice my age. I’m sure they would’ve loved that.
Old. Hairy. Balls. SAY NO MORE. I’M ALL SET.
My search continued. It was clear that I wanted to do martial arts. I spent more time looking, researching, visiting places to pursue my interest in martial arts further. Like a fly buzzing in my ear, my fiance kept mentioning a dojo to me that he tried a class out at last summer. He said they did three hour training sessions twice a week, which had scared him away from it. They did this weird style of martial art I had never heard of–Bagua Zhang. The best part? The dojo was less than a mile away in a re-purposed villa down a hidden road.
I was scared. I decided to email them for more information, to which they said I should come down and give it a try. I asked my fiance if I’d be okay going down there on my own, and he seemed to think that I would. I was still scared despite having his vote of confidence. The attention that one woman can get in a place swamped with a bunch of men can be intimidating.
In the end, I decided to make the short drive out to their dojo to investigate whether or not this was something I could get on board with.
The dojo was very traditional. I was greeted by two evil looking chinese guardian lions on the outside, and four very quiet people on the inside slapping the shit out of their bodies. They were warming up. I jumped in. The dojo had a nice vibe to it. Wooden chinese style shutters. No a/c. No punishing fluorescent lights. There were paintings of various Wudang masters all around us. There was a huge imposing statue on the far end. The training session was oddly quiet. I felt like I could genuinely hear myself think in there. My workday melted away. I came back for another session. And then another. And another.
I had just successfully added meaningful physical activity to my weekly routine. And besides, how many people do you know have a bunch of old Wudang masters watching them workout for six hours a week? I know at least one now!
I’m by no means near the end of my never ending pursuit of the hidden. As I’ve come to find out in my practice of Bagua Zhang there is so much I don’t know about myself. There are so many variables to consider that I was never aware of–for example, making deliberate movements requires an intense control over your consciousness. I feel like in the practice of this art I’m somehow interfacing with a part of myself I never knew. In the previous iterations of myself I always regarded myself to be an intellectual. For some reason though, while Bagua is an intense and difficult workout I have been excelling at it. Much to my surprise. I never knew I had this much belly fire. Maybe I actually have the capacity to be physically “intellectual.” Might as well give it the old college try while I’m young.
I mean what’s the worst that can happen? I develop a lifelong practice that will prove everything I used to think about myself wrong?
Part of figuring out where we want to go in life has to do with finding our own answers. Like a math problem we’re often given the answer first. Curiosity for what hides behind the value of X, is the why, the how, and the means to arrive at the desired answer. Sometimes you don’t get it the first or second time. Sometimes you don’t even get it the third time around. Pursuing wonder is what drives the working initiate forward into the places he or she wants to go. Losing that sense of wonder takes them away from it.
Reyn til Rûna!