Author: RaidonTPhoenix

Gnomes and Experiments

“Now you’ve done it.” Tomas’s voice shrieks through my eardrums like a fire-blade. The worry-widge Human is right, though. I have, indeed, done it. Professor Kalmar will likely suspend us both pending a behavioral review.

“Never mind that. It worked!” Victory sends me bouncing around the rim of this massive bowl filled with white fire. Even on my highest jump, I barely reach Tomas’s chest. He drops a heavy hand onto my head to stop my glory dance.

“Next time, I’ll listen when Gear tells me not to partner with a Gnome for an Experimental trimester. I’m calling the Outrunners.”

“Aww, you’re no fun, Tomtom.” I shove his hand away. “We made Aether Fire, and that doesn’t excite you at all?”

“Not when it comes with the idea of lock-up time or suspension.” I try to grab the phone, but his arms are just too long. He makes the call, and now we wait for the authorities.

Coming Out To My Past Self: A Letter To Me

Dear past self:

We need to chat. I’m re-reading Out of the Closet and Into the Meme War, and I just have one question. What were you thinking?

Okay, let’s back up and handle this point by point, like adults. First, a fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality. Yes, that’s the fifth definition. Still, every definition involves the idea of objective existence. That means separate from perception.

So no, R. T., it’s not a fact that you’re a transman. It’s a fact that you’re female. Self-identity is almost entirely subjective.

Even as I type, I can feel you reacting somewhere in the depths of my subconscious. How can I say such things about my own self? Am I a masochist?

Maybe. Or maybe I’ve learned a thing or two in this last year. The first is you were right on some points. First, yes, women are quite attractive. Men? Eh. Except Jacob. 🙂 Second, Yes, we did marry him, and we’re quite happy we did. But women are still sexy.

In fact, most of what you wrote is pretty accurate. Life before the wedding was straight up madness.

Really, I just wanted to chat about two points you didn’t really understand.

  1. We got sick during massage school. It wasn’t “just stress”. Something broke, and I still don’t know what, but I’m working on it, for both our sakes.
  2. You have no idea what it means to be a Daughter of God. Truth be told, I don’t either, but I finally started learning.

The mystery illness that walloped you upside the brain and ground any plans to a halt? Lab work is happening, and I’ve got the process as under control as it’s possible to have such trouble.

The Daughter of God thing? Well, that’s bigger. See, when you wrote your post, you wanted so badly to be visible. You wanted people to see and understand all the parts and pieces of you. Even followed it up with Realizing I’m Not Invisible a few months later.

Yesterday, I learned that no matter how badly you or I want it, parts of us will always be invisible in some situations. You can’t fight a crusade against the world. And the world will make its assumptions. I know, it can be frustrating.

Just remember, those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.

Really, though, the reason I say you didn’t understand then what it means to be a Daughter of God is this. You still clung to your identity as a transman. You clung to your identity as ONLY Raidon T. Phoenix. You tried to forget Tanith Rose.

When I moved to California, I still carried your idea of identity. Except that idea hurt. Every day, it hurt. So I gave it up.

In fact, I gave up the idea of identity entirely. And in doing so, I found the freedom to be ME. Not you. Not Tanith.

I found the freedom to be Raidon Tanith Rose Phoenix Taylor.

I still use masculine pronouns on social media. I strongly dislike the inundation with ads directed at women. I live in California and see enough bikinis to last a lifetime in the summer.

Not to mention the makeup ads are way too trippy.

I’m still getting our name legally changed. After all, we chose it together, and it’s part of us now.

Thanks for everything you taught me, R. T.

Sincerely,

Raidon

 

Why I No Longer Say “My Truth”

The truth shall set you free.

People use the phrase conversely, both to scold and to praise. What if we shift the words a bit?

My truth will set me free.

I confess, just typing that set my insides twisting into knots. Heck, typing this post sets my teeth a bit on edge. I’m afraid of the potential backlash. But I’m writing anyway.

The second group of words grates for me, because no one can own the truth. Not you, the one reading this on a shining screen, and not me. Google my truth or what started the phrase my truth before you go further. The search results baffle.

This is not to say we do not have different perceptions of reality. Take a look at the image above, though. In fact, a fellow blogger said it best. “Reality is an aspect of perception. It is distinguished from the truth.”
I’d take it one step further. Reality and truth intertwine, weaving in and out of each other like flowering vines on a trellis. Reality is the vine, shiftin g, changing with the winds, sprouting new tendrils with every new interpretation. Truth is the trellis. It stands, holding shape, regardless of our perceptions of reality. We certainly own our perceptions.

We do not own truth. We can’t.

Perhaps, though, this is a natural out-growth of how we speak. We use the terms subjective truth and objective truth to attempt to separate anecdote and experience from scientific methods and consensus. Is such a separation truly possible, though? And when did society find the need to exchange the words experience and fact for the euphemisms of subjective truth and objective truth?

Yes, these phrases are euphemisms. The rational, secular culture in which we live wields logic as a weapon, shaming those who see the possibility of a single, universal truth, applicable to everyone. Such a concept, the logic says, cannot exist when human experiences remain as diverse and infinite as they have through out history. So what’s left but to shame those who believe such an irrational concept?

Remember, if you’ve seen Now You See Me, these opening lines. “Come in close. Now closer. For the closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see.” For those who haven’t seen the movie, first go see it. Second, the movie follows a FBI agent and an Interpol detective in their attempts to take four stage magicians to justice for robbing banks during their shows and giving the proceeds to the audience. I won’t spoil the movie. Suffice it to say, the law agents never looked far enough away to catch the tricks.

I see similar patterns in our rational, scientific culture. Many claim that by scrutinizing all things as closely as possible, we may in time divine the over-arching, universal truth. If, says this culture, such a thing truly exists.

Yet science looks too closely. They find pieces of this truth, and hold it up as the truth. The soft sciences do this quite a bit. Find a thing. Draw conclusions based on perceptions of that thing. Claim this perception as truth.

‘shakes head’

Universal truth cannot be dissected like a frog on an eighth grader’s science lab table. That dissection shows us the pieces that exist inside the frog. In the end, we learn nothing about the habitat of that specific frog, or how its species lives, functions, and moves in the environment. We pour salt on the muscles and see them twitch. Hardly the same as chasing down frogs by the side of the lake and experiencing for yourself just how fast the little blighters can be.

You have your experience of reality. I have mine. Neither of these is the truth. Both of them contain pieces of the truth. In the coming days and weeks, I intend to discuss what bits of truth I’ve come to understand through my lived experience.

In the end, only by coming together to discuss, openly, respectfully, with frank precision can we come closer to understanding the universal truth surrounding us all.

Opinions Are Safer Than Slices of My Soul

I’m not certain who originally created this meme. That person is, however, entirely correct.

You may be yourself all the time. Except when your boss only needs one aspect of you. Except when your friend needs another side of you. Except when being yourself means breaking social norms, or worse, laws.

We dedicate thousands of hours and tens of thousands of words to advice on how to be better members of society.

And right now, I don’t know if I’m failing or succeeding. I’m also trying desperately not to care.

After all, I blog. I want to blog more. (Some would say I NEED to blog more.) Most of the time, I blog about opinions on stuff I see online. Why?

Because it’s easy. It’s safe.

I don’t have to slice of a piece of my soul and risk baring it to the entire world. After all, opinions change. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but they change.

/\ Actual footage of some of my opinions changing. /\

Basically if a random internet stranger cares to tear my opinion apart? The wounds only go skin deep.

Blog: What Is It?

Often? The blog is merely a series of what may be termed personal essays. I set my fingers to the keyboard, type up an opinion and send it off into the ether. Then I wait, and wonder if I’ve said something that mattered to anyone but spammers?

So what happens? I run out of steam. I don’t know what to write about. I don’t want to write about my principles, because I have learned to fear the reactions of total strangers on the interent, when I actively refuse to fear the physical strangers I encounter every day.

I put stock in posts like Virginia Woolf: There Are Way Too Many Personal Essays Out There. I mean, how do I know if I’m “[using] this medium from genuine inspiration because it best embodies the soul of [my] thought.”? Or if I’m just rambling.

In the end, I don’t know. I just have to hope what I’m typing helps.

Why Opinion Is Safer Than Principle

We all have opinions. Some can be as simple as whether the blue shirt or the red shirt is better today. Frankly, the only one who truly cares what shirt you wear or what you eat for breakfast is you.

Then we have our principles. Those codes and convictions we hold so strongly they guide the ship of our lives. And I frequently only talk about principles when I have an ill-informed opinion on a principle I’m struggling to understand or implement in my life. I rarely speak of the genuine challenges and difficulties I face in learning a principle. I only share what may be “acceptable.”

I may change this as I can. To start with:

I am a faithful, attending member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (I am not a perfect member.)

This Coming Out post is not longer completely accurate to my perceptions.

I don’t like talking about myself in-dept to the internet.

ADHD makes it far easier to spout off to people one-on-one or in person.

I may or may not come off as a know-it-all. Blame what you will. It may have something to do with how I was taught to write, and the fact that I defend myself emotionally from being wrong. (Last I checked ALL humans do this.)

So yes, this is a personal essay. Yes, I may or may not have gotten very personal.

Just admitting I have difficulty writing this is a step towards genuine, I suppose.

Now I’m going to go make bread.

Aeon Timeline 2 Introduction

I’m fascinated by how much there is to learn about using computer programs. To that end, I’ve made it my side quest to show the wonders of a few programs and techniques I use to keep track of all the random stuff necessary to actually craft a world.

Among them is Aeon Timeline, an amazing software only 13 months old in its current incarnation. Which means no one has reached expert user level yet. After all, you need 10K hours of practice, and 10K hours have not yet passed since this software came to market.

Thus, I’m still learning, and I want to share as I go, because once you’ve got the hang of this tool, it may replace losing post-it notes for some of you. And so I present to you Aeon Timeline 2: Introduction or Everything You Want To Know BEFORE Getting Started.

Perfect? Not A Chance

Perfect. You’ve heard the word, probably even applied it to your own life. The perfect house, the perfect car, the perfect spouse. But what does PERFECT really mean?

I have no answer.

Sure, I could hunt down a dictionary and type that in as the answer. Yet what’s the point of that? Perfect remains a concept.

An idea.

An IDEAL.

So if we can’t have the ideal, why bother trying at all? Because we can learn to thrive in the imperfect. It’s not easy in a world so caught up in Perfect, but it can happen. We can make it happen. Take this YouTube video I just made.

I have a decent-ish webcam, and software that cuts out most white noise when I use the right microphone. Except I’m pretty sure I used the wrong mic.

If I’m honest, I could point to a million different things “wrong with” this video. But what’s the point of that? It’s published for all of you to critique and criticize if you like. The fact is, I did one thing very, very right.

I hit Publish anyway.

Yeah, it’s terrifying. Yeah, my video isn’t perfect. It is, however, proof. Proof that I accomplished something. Proof that I completed a goal, albeit a frightening one. Proof that no matter how scared of imperfection I am and have been, I can still finish a thing.

That’s right. I can finish a thing. Now, it’s time to finish more things. Also, we’ll be cutting back to 3 days a week so I can stop having a panic attack at the idea of five posts. Now go out there, and claim your place in our beautiful, imperfect world.

CyborgScribe Tutorials: Reboot and Re-energize

Ever tried to write a book? Most people I speak to haven’t. It’s tough. It’s even tougher without proper tools.
Nowadays, those tools often come in the form of software. I’ve got a few programs I can no longer function without.

So, I’ve decided to do something a little different with Wednesdays. I’d like to actually bring you behind the scenes and show you what my writing process looks like.

We’ll start next week with a redo of my first Aeon Timeline tutorial. In the meantime, let me tell you a bit about some of the programs I’ll be showcasing on my YouTube channel. And yes, you’ll be able to find the videos through my blog.

Scrivener

The first program I picked up to help streamline my writing process, it’s done so much more.

Effectively, Scrivener combines the traits of a database and a word processor. It’s simple to write scene by scene, move chunks of writing around simply and without fuss or mess.

Now yes, it has a learning curve. In fact, take a look at the sidebar in the screen-shot of this post’s draft.

Yeah, there’s a ton of stuff there. Color coded flags for days of the week (each indicating a different theme/category) and all kinds of other stuff.

The Fiction template has a similar number of folders.

Yes, this program confused the heck outta me for a while. Now? Not so much.

Then there’s its partner in crime.

Aeon Timeline

This is literally the only functional timeline software I could find. And since I can’t often make heads or tails of WHEN something happened, well, I needed it. It’s also learning intense bit of software, and I’m learning as I go. The website has some blog posts and things, but I’ve decided that in order to learn this thing, I need to know as much about it as possible.

To that end, this will be the first focus for my Wednesday tutorials. Especially since I found it, got excited, and made a few rather bad tutorials. Watch them if you dare.

So, if you want a peek into how my mind works when I’m writing, drop by my YouTube channel, and click subscribe. That way YouTube will actually tell you when I’ve got new videos out.

Accomplishment & Success: Can’t Have One Without The Other

Success. Accomplishment. Most of us crave them in some form. My question is…Do we recognize them when we achieve them?

Often, no. Without knowing what you’re looking for, you’ll never know if you’ve found it.

Story time:

Seven or eight years ago now, I had a conversation with my mother which involved both of us describing our ideals of “success”.

I don’t remember what hers were. I remember enough about mine to laugh at the naivete. Among my thoughts—

  • I’ve published at least one New York Times best seller.
  • I have enough money to show up to my high school reunion on a custom Harley and wearing leathers studded with semi-precious stones. (Yes, you may point and laugh all you wish.)
  • I never worry about money, even if I spend several thousand dollars a month on stuff that doesn’t matter.

I’m disappointed, younger self.

See, while these are obvious signs of accomplishment to the people who don’t matter in my daily life, they don’t truly mean much. The reasons why?

  • The New York Times best seller list is a money game between the big NY publishing houses.
  • I care about very few people from my graduating class enough to concern myself with impressing them.
  • Yes, money helps, but what would I SPEND several thousand dollars a month in random cash on?

So what ARE we looking for?

The Twins: Success & Accomplishment

Ever owned a house plant? So far, I’ve owned two in my life. One was a bamboo. The poor dear likely ended up in a dumpster when we rushed our last move.

Now, I’ve got a parade rose on my desk. The orange beauties need daily light watering. Just an ice cube or two. Success in caring for a house plant is easy to see.

My roses get wilted, I’m not getting them enough water or sun.

My roses stand tall and proud? I’m succeeding in my job as caretaker.

Seeking success is a matter not of “getting there” but of small, genuine accomplishments daily, weekly, monthly. It’s the invisible twin that holds no recognition until many accomplishments have built up over time.

Accomplishment is the obvious twin. This twin can be found in the daily details of everything from running a household to running a corporation. Getting up in the morning. Keeping the files organized. Washing the dishes.

Seek genuine accomplishment and success will likely follow.

Genuine Accomplishment a.k.a. DO THE THING!

We all have that ONE project. It’s sat in the back of your head for six months, six years, or six decades. I don’t care how long. The vintage airplane to restore. The book not yet written. The painting not yet painted. The language not yet learned.

You want to do it, but you don’t do it. You hesitate.

Why?

Among the winners: No time. No money. Could be “more productive”.

Now, if your project is restoring a vintage airplane to operating capacity, yeah, okay. The money part has some validity. You need parts and stuff. Although it may just be a matter of changing your budget somehow.

Nearly every no time excuse is exactly that. An excuse. I didn’t have the capacity to see or count all the minutes I wasted on stuff like Netflix and Surf when I could’ve been writing. I just know I did it.

As for needing time to decompress, etc, yes, day jobs can suck out your soul, if you let them. Don’t let them. After all, it’s your soul, your passion, your determination and drive. Not someone else’s.

As for decompressing, if The Project happens to be a passion, doing it won’t be a chore. It CAN be your decompression.

Now why bother overcoming whatever mental and physical hurdles we have to do the thing?
To accomplish something. It’s worth the pain.

Now I ask you, what’s your ONE PROJECT? What do you really want to do? Share with me in the comments, and let’s have a conversation!

Dr. Strange’s Keyhole: Opening The Doors Of Perception

Freedom IS a constant struggle not against the external but against the INTERNAL. I can’t recall the correct attribution, since I ran across the quote in some link-rabbit hole surf day. Even so, the idea resonates with me, especially as one just beginning to practice Stoic philosophy.

After all, one of the big keys of Stoicism I’ve found so far is the idea that it is impossible to free ourselves from our circumstances. However, we CAN free ourselves from the influence of those circumstances.

We do this by freeing ourselves internally. By disallowing ourselves to get sucked into just how terrible others might believe our circumstances are. See, more than we like to admit, life cuffs us upside the head, body slams us into a wall, and laughs in our face. Or in my case kicks you in the teeth as your down, and keeps laughing anyway.

Does it ever stop?

No, not completely.

Reminds me of a movie. Mild Dr. Strange spoilers ahead.

Dr. Stephen Strange, best and brightest surgeon of his age. Until all hell broke loose, and his life got upended. Guess what? He allowed himself to crumble into an obsession.

He needed a cure.

Out of money, out of options, he wandered into a foreign country seeking a cure.

Enter the Ancient One.

In their meeting, he’s shown in a quite powerful way just how limiting his beliefs have been in his search for healing. If you want to see how, go watch the movie.

That scene illustrates just how much BELIEF can show us. Such belief takes many forms. Polytheism, monotheism, Christianity, paganism, Islam, Judaism, non-religious philosophies such as Stoicism or Buddhism. I don’t have the space to list them all.

Beliefs vary as much as the individuals who hold them.

In the scene I’m referring to, the Ancient One explains that Strange is like a man looking through a keyhole, trying to understand what’s on the other side. I’d argue that makes him just like the rest of us. We’ve all got our version of…

Dr. Strange’s Keyhole

Back in the day, 1800s or so, when skeleton keys were all the rage, you could see through a keyhole. You may not see much though. Perhaps a blur of color here or there. A hint of shape. The whisper of reality beyond the door.

Once you open the door, you can actually see what’s going on.
Despite our external circumstances, our inner physical and mental realities are a lot like that glimpse through the keyhole. We think we know what we’re looking at. We’re certain we understand what’s happening!

I don’t know about you, but I keep learning enough to show me that I don’t. Not really. Reality and my perception of reality often disagree. Vehemently.

It’s like the old tale of the three blind men and the elephant. One claimed the elephant was like a tree. Another spoke of how like a serpent it was. The third man spoke of its hairy hide. They all had pieces, the leg, the trunk, and the end of the tail. All were right…and not.

So I can stare at that door all I want, but until I turn the key and open it…Well, I won’t have a clue.

Opening The Door

First, it helps to understand all your mental doors are made the same stuff. Perceptions. Opening the door means challenging that perception.

That’s the scary part.

The master key to these doors is curiosity. Curiosity about yourself and the world you live and move in.
Trouble comes when the key rusts, because we decide the answer we have is already enough. To polish the key, we choose to learn more, even when it hurts. Or the door itself is rusted shut.

My question to you: are you willing to polish that key? Open those doors? Accept what’s behind them?

I promise, your pride may take a beating, but it’s worth it. Last time my key turned up rusted, I believed that doctors would know what to do to help my pain levels and daily chronic migraines.

No luck. Instead, I’ve done my own research, and spent the last several months, with more ahead, testing a variety of other methods to gain relief. Some work, some were discarded.

All have been lessons.

I don’t know just how many doors exist in my mind. I do a little every day to keep the master key polished. I want to see more than just the piece of the room behind the keyhole.

What about you? What perception door have you been staring down, afraid to open? Tell me about it in the comments.

And go on. Turn that key. Set yourself free.

How Do You Know? Ancient Man and the Trash Pile

Today’s stream of consciousness: what can we learn about someone by digging through their midden pit—a.k.a trash pile? I’d guess less than half the story. Spoke this morning to someone at my usual café, and the topic of ancient peoples came up.

He mentioned the difference between us today—Modern Man—and our predecessors. You know, before things like art and abstract thought, right? And I got to thinking…

Do we really know as much as we think we do about our predecessors? How many papers and articles have you read that imply in polite, flowery terms that Ancient Man was kind of a moron?

Sure, they knew enough to hunt. They knew what would poison them and what wouldn’t. But ART? Nah, they didn’t make ART. They didn’t understand the value of abstraction, because they couldn’t.

Perhaps they did understand abstract thought, and simply had no time to indulge. Hunting and gathering and ensuring survival for the clan or tribe likely took precedence over creating a Sistine Chapel.

But SCIENCE!

I know, I know. I’m not a scientist, I’m a writer. I build worlds on the basics of what I know. I create societies and cultures and insulting gestures and characters. I don’t dig through 15,000 year old trash piles and try to piece together the inner minds and workings of entire societies from that.

The process of creating a world got me wondering why we do. Science has wonderful applications, don’t get me wrong. Modern sanitation, indoor plumbing, vaccines, and all manner of marvelous creations have come to us because of science.

We also got the ALIENS meme guy…

Yes, more…astute?…scientists reject his conclusions out of hand. After all, building the pyramids was the feat of slave labor and pharaohs, right? Or was it the feat of humans who desired to build something incredible and found a way to do it.

Again, how do we KNOW?

Partial Conclusions

From the Pharaohs we have the hieroglyphs and the Rosetta Stone. From Greece we have the plays that survived the ages. From our truly ancient ancestors, we have building foundations and crumbled pottery, if that.

Even the leaps of modern science are, in many ways, partial conclusions. We can observe a lot more than we used to. Electron microscopes and the Hubble telescope. Space probes. What do they teach us? 90% of the lesson is that we don’t know everything. Not even close. In a century or two, we will be subject to the same scorn we give pre-Civil War physicians for not cleaning their instruments between surgeries and Regency mothers for believing that lancing their teething baby’s gums was a good idea.

Even the hard sciences are an ever evolving set of partial conclusions based on exceedingly narrow questions. So how can we believe we truly know as much as we think we know about ancient peoples?

What if the people of the Stone Age actually had metal, but it was so rare and precious that they turned it into exceedingly high quality tools. And when one of them owned a tool like that, they kept careful care of it. They used it for its intended purpose, and ensured that when it finally wore out, they’d have gotten an entire lifetime of use out of it.

I doubt a tool like that would be left in a refuse pile. The most we would find would be fragments of the broken wooden handle.

What do you think? Were ancient peoples truly so much less intelligent than we are? Or did they apply their intelligence differently? Drop your thoughts in the comment section below, or shoot me a comment on Facebook!