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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Through the eyes of another …

Last night I finished reading the 1952 classic The Space Merchants. I was so happy to have found this older story in my dad’s science fiction collection, and I’ve been talking about it on my other blogs. Today I realized that the discussion of one of my favorite elements of this book belongs here.

I’ll post a full review this novel by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth on Goodreads and will only say now that it is not a total thumbs up. I know that styles have changed over the decades, and science fiction has never been know for its complex character development, but I found the ending and many of the emotional transitions abrupt. I had high hopes for the story and it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, even though I’m glad I read it.

So what did I like? The satire of a society driven by ever increasing sales was spot on, in spite of the author’s failure to predict so much of modern society. What made the dichotomy between the ruling class of advertisers and lower class consumers work was the way in which the sales people so thoroughly misunderstood the lives of the average person. It’s barely a spoiler to reveal that protagonist and ad agency executive Mitchell Courtenay finds himself stripped of his identity and turned into a low life laborer. Once he is on the receiving end of his own work, his perspective changes.

Psychedelic 9The idea of obtaining personal growth and better perspective by walking the in shoes of another is a common plot tactic and rightfully so. From the literary classic The Prince and the Pauper to Trading Places, the hilarious movie it inspired, story tellers have shown how the heart is softened once a human walks in another’s shoes. Sexism took blows from both Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire. Black Like Me opened minds in entirely white Hays Kansas in 1968. I know, because I was in the English class that was required to read the controversial book.

The authors of the “The Space Merchants” use this powerful tool well as the privileged Mitch discovers that workers do not hold menial jobs merely because they are lazy. In fact, he is surprised to learn just how much hard work a menial job requires.

If the idea of experiencing the life of someone you don’t understand is powerful in a novel, it is even more powerful in the world. Reality TV shows, such as Wife Swap, have used this theme about swapping lives, and student exchange programs are based on it. At their best, travel and intercultural communication of all kinds can foster enough exchange to encourage empathy and respect.

My initial interest in telepathy grew out of curiosity about how difficult fighting a war would be if you could read the mind of your enemy and feel his or her emotions. Most of us can’t read minds and never will, but living a life similar to that of your “enemy” is the next closest thing.

Mitch Courtney is willing to sell anybody anything, until he experiences a life in which his small amount of discretionary income is the continual target of clever ads trying to pry his limited money away for things that bring him little joy and even harm him. The emotional transition that rang most true in this novel was the story a man who learns to see the world through the eyes of another, and changes his own life as a result.

(For more about the Space Merchants, see my posts I Know Sexism When I See It?The Kinky of the Future and Predicting the Future or Shaping It.)

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2015 in empathy, peace, telepathy

 

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Wise and quiet

Days aren’t what they used to be. About a year ago, I did the math and decided that If really wanted to, I could retire. I was a little young to do so, and of course one can always use the extra money from working longer. But my husband, who is a few years older, was a retired teacher already and I was discovering that being employed is harder when your spouse no longer is. Besides, I have this crazy dream of writing more speculative fiction, much more speculative fiction in fact, and I was beginning to realize that was only going to happen if I didn’t have to go into an office every day and try to figure out seismic signals bouncing up from the earth. I was ready to be an early retiree.

Psychedelic 13So I gave my notice at work, and we sold our house and moved, and I woke up in a strange new place with boxes everywhere and spent about a whole month unpacking and tying to get my arms around what sort of life I now had. All my reference points were gone, and I was far too discombobulated to post a blog, much less to write fiction. Hell, I could hardly sleep or eat. In spite of a fair amount of careful planning, this was not the dream life for which I had hoped. Nothing, other than the slowly shrinking mess of boxes, was wrong. But nothing was right either and I didn’t even know why.

Something deep inside us knows what we need. Apparently, I needed yoga. I already have a little daily qigong routine I do, and that practice helped keep me grounded through the house sale and the move. But once I arrived in a strange place and found myself with no job and no schedule, I seem to have overloaded my circuits well beyond what my solitary qigong sessions could handle. So I spontaneously signed up for a monthly all-the-yoga-classes-you-care-to-attend program in the small town that is my new home, and it probably saved my sanity.

wise and quietIt got me to breathe slowly. It got me to sit with other people who were breathing slowly. It gave me a reason to bathe and go into town and know what time it was. And, thanks to several wonderful instructors, it gave me bits of wisdom to ponder.

When I wrote x0 four years ago, I had very little idea about how to write a novel. I only knew that I was compelled to tell this story, the tale of two women who shared a special gift. In the world of x0, everyone broadcasts their emotions all the time. Only the gifted can receive that information. Only the very gifted become telepaths, because they are the ones who have the rare ability to listen well. My two heroes were gifted because they knew how to listen.

During a yoga class last week, the instructor encouraged us to be wise enough to listen to our inner selves, and to let our minds be quiet enough to hear. I decided right there on my yoga mat that this advice needed to be carried further. I needed to be wise enough to listen in general, and quiet enough to hear that which was worth hearing. I was overcome with believing that this wonderful advice was good for writers, good for would-be telepaths, good for yogis and very good for newly retired people. In fact, it is probably wonderful advice for everyone.

For one thing, if you listen, you will hear what you need to hear. Like in my case, when I heard that I needed to listen more.

(For more thoughts on retiring early and pursuing a dream, see my posts If you’re going to be an old car, Am I a Shape Shifter Now? and Greener Grass.)

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2015 in telepathy, writing

 

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