Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Starting a novel in the middle of the action

I went surfing for any helpful info on breathwork last night, the transformative healing methodology.

Information on breathwork is experiential and psychologised. I am not intellectually satisfied by nonlinear and trans-rational methodologies such as kinesiology and breathwork, but I have the good sense to go on using them. Here is an interesting quote, from a site called the Catalyst:

"As with other methods of attaining altered states of consciousness, holotropic breathwork has received some criticisms. According to Taylor, "Mostly the criticism of holotropic breathwork comes from those who haven't done it, or from those who are frightened of deep work. Some have said that "hyperventilation" (faster and deeper breathing) brings material to the surface before it is ready to come and can cause problems. Western medical and psychological response to hyperventilation has always been to repress it by having people breathe into a paper bag or take tranquilizers rather (than) to encourage full expression and experience of whatever is happening.”

Taylor adds, “Our experience is that material seems to come to the surface when people are ready for it. People do breathwork so that material can arise."

As I read this I vividly recall the hyperventilations I had as a teenager, in the fucked atmosphere of my family life at the time. Any recollection of the time is bound to be insinuated by my own biases anyway, and it is gone long ago, just a dream.

I do believe that I would use holotropic breathwork in the second installment of Gaia. The superstable and hypertolerant meritocratic society, the United States of Canada, would probably use it to help adolescents, with early twenties trainers and maximum intimacy and connection from the experience. Instead of using alcohol and drugs and excessive promiscuity to enact childhood trauma and heal emotional wounds of childhood, teens could use breathwork for the same ends.

I explained the meritocratic form of government to Craig the other day, and because of his special lucidity of presence it came out remarkably quickly and lightly, flowing in an ordered and simple way.

So I got excited and wrote it down. Then I got really excited and saw that I'm actually the appropriate person to write about this idea in a nonfiction book, and that it is historically the similar time and place for these ideas to enter public discussion as it was for their first incarnation with John Stuart Mill's writing.

(I remember how indignant I was to read in Mill that more educated people should earn more votes. Outrageous! But then the last century has shown just how destructive and deluded public intellectuals can be. I am thankful for David Hawkins work, which puts intellectual achievement in the context of humanity's wider spiritual vision, and is a powerful reassurance of human significance and meaning for me.)

Anyway, I submitted the meritocratic idea to the developement process. Quickly and fluently I summarised it in one sentence, detailed the three main ideas, the setup and the payoff for the reader; then I began to develope the 3 main ideas in terms of their characters, motivations, principles, simple and complex expressions, pro and contra elements, concrete expressions, and their conclusions. This was exciting and vivid. As I did so I began to spontaneously write extra ideas around the original structure and form paragraphs and chapter and subsection headings. When I had done I had a couple pages of each of the 3 main ideas, the setup and the payoff.

The design documentation told me to re-examine these ideas from three different contexts, so I simply brought up the main intellectual influences on the ideas, which to my surprise was incredibly easy. But then a sense of unease came over me, as I considered how complex these ideas were becoming. They would I saw quickly take on a life of their own, absorbing time and energy as they did. And I saw it was time to take a break last night from designing.

On the ten step design process I am up to step seven, but I have added a step seven-A because I believe that contextualising nonfiction is more crucial than in fiction, where the dream of fiction transcends the fact of the words themselves. In nonfiction, the hero is the reader, and the hero's journey is the reader's journey of discovery using the context of the book. Thus the sacred glamour of the Book itself in nonfiction is what makes it the magical tool for discovery.

The design process for my novel Return To Gaia, with it's labyrinthine backstory and outrageous lengths without action, frustrated me sufficiently for me to finally and grumpily take Aristotle's advice and start in media res (in the middle of the action). I was thinking of the opening of Homer's Illiad when I wrote the following, and I shocked myself by just how deep into the story I could begin. I mean, for God's sake, this short piece of writing is the start of the LAST THIRD of the book as I have designed it! Is that to say the scene breakdown I have done, all the character development and world building of the first two thirds of the novel is to be assimilated into mere BACKSTORY?!?

I do not know the answer to that yet. I have two things to do:

First I will post these 'in media res' chapters up in my next entry.
And, second, tonight I'll sit down and rewrite the design documents to see if this novel will fly or not if I start at that point. I am far better off redesigning that writing yet another first draft, I know that. I know that. And how glad I will be to turn out a remarkable novel, after all this time put into it!!


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