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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

November 7: New directions--including backwards

“Good morning,” my book said to me.
“Good morning,” I answered.
“Can you believe it’s November 7th already?” my book asked.
“No,” I said. Actually, I could believe it. Because it was.
“I didn’t mean that literally,” said the book. “I was just making small talk.”
“I knew,” I said, knowingly. “You have something important to say don’t you?” I asked.
“Yes,” said the book.
“You seem different,” I segued.
“I am,” it said. “When I think back to what I was, even just a few days ago it’s…well, it’s a little embarrassing. I was so young then. So immature. So full of myself.”
“If it’s any consolation,” I said to the book, “I was kind of a jerk when I was younger, too. Full of myself. I think everyone goes through it.”
“Well, I’m glad I’m through that part of growing up, although there's probably more stupidity to come,” said the book. “What is that thing you've said to your kids: 'If you don't look back on your life and think that some of what you did was stupid, then you haven't learned anything.' Is that it?" 
"It is," I said. I probably had a blog post somewhere that I could link to later. And if I didn't I could write one. I made a mental note to link or write later.
"Well," the book continued, "the good news is: I know some things about myself that I didn’t know before. I almost certainly have more to learn, but today was a big step forward. I feel as though I’ve got a new sense of direction.”
“OK,” I said, "tell me."
“It’s what you wrote—or what we wrote this morning." I'd written a lot this morning but hadn't had a chance to transcribe, edit, or post it. I made a mental note to do that, and link to it after I did. "I’m starting to see how I develop and how I can be useful, not just to you, but to other people. 
"I don’t just want to be a book that you, my author, can use to help yourself. I’d also like to be a book that other people can read and use to help themselves. 
"That's going to take some work," the book said. "I can’t just be what I want to be by saying I am the way I want to be.”
“You mean like what you wrote the other day,” I asked. When you said this:”
Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. You’ve heard that before, right?
Well here’s my take: I think I am an awesome book, therefore, I am an awesome book. That may not convince you, but it’s a place for us to start. Am I an awesome book to you? I might be. But only if I can get you to read me.
“Oh, my!” said the book. “It’s hard to believe that I actually said that! I was so naive. I do want to be an awesome book, but I can't be one just by thinking that I am one. Or telling everyone that I am one. I've actually got to embody awesomeness or some kind. And that's going to take work.”
I smiled. “It looks like you’ve come a long way,” I said. “Maybe I should post what we wrote this morning.”
“Sure,” said the book. “Maybe that will help. But how about posting this first.”
"Sure," I said.
“Speaking of new direction, do you realize that anyone who reads me on this blog reads me backward?” Asked the book.
“I hadn’t thought about that,” I said, “maybe there’s something I can do about it.”
“Not right now,” said the book. “First things, first. Post this."
I did. And then later edited it.
"That's an improvement," said the book.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The scapegoat

My author has a backlog of things to write about. Thousands of pages that he's bookmarked with one bookmarking tool or another, wanting to share them. And he rarely does it. Why?

Why is that? I ask him.

"I don't know," he says. "There's just something that stops me?"

"Perhaps it's me?" came a voice.

"Who are you?" my author asked.

"I'm your scapegoat," said the voice. "

"In the Bible, a scapegoat is an animal which is ritually burdened with the sins of others, then driven away," said the voice, quoting this Wikipedia article. "I represent all the forces that prevent you from doing what you'd like to be doing. That way you don't have to figure out what they are.

"The truth is that you don't really need to figure out what you have to do in order to change," the voice continued. "All you need to do is to change, there's nothing stopping you. But people need reasons. They ask: what caused you to change. So you need a scapegoat. I'm your scapegoat."

"So all I need to do is to drive you away, and I'll be able to post something?" my author asked.

"Yep," said the scapegoat. "I'm not going to claim to be a one-and-done kind of scapegoat," the scapegoat cautioned. You might have to conjure me up or another one like me and drive it away to keep the process going."

"But it will work?"

"Yep," said the scapegoat, try it and see.

"How do I drive you away?"

"Be creative," says the scapegoat. "I'm cooperative. I'll play along."

"Okay," I said. "Scapegoat, begone!" I said it aloud.

And the scapegoat was gone.

My author turned to me and said: "I think I'm going to post something. But first I'm posting this and then I'm grabbing dinner."

Helping my author extrovert

My author spent most of his life as an introvert. He's quite happy as he is right now: up in his office, surrounded by gadgets, with no people to interrupt him.

But he likes people, too. He just doesn't quite know how to deal with them.

He likes writing alone, as he's doing at the moment, and he likes writing in coffee shops, surrounded by the buzz of people. Which reminds him that he likes coffivity a website and an app that delivers the sounds of coffee shops to his computer or phone whenever he likes.

When it comes to dealing with actual, real people, he's a bit of a shy showoff. If he's got an agreed-on role to play in a group, then he's on! He loves the attention. He loves to perform, and he thinks he's pretty good at it. Tell him that it's his job to make a presentation, he's got no hesitation.

But in an ambiguous setting--like a cocktail party--he's unlikely to go up to someone and start a conversation. If someone comes up to him, fine. Now he's got a part to play: conversational respondent. But not if he's the one to initiate.

This seems paradoxical. It seems that he might define a part for himself and then play it. Perhaps that might work. I'll have to suggest it to him next time we're in that situation.

He's got a Facebook account, a G+ account, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn account, a Reddit account and more. But he rarely posts. It's not that he's got nothing to say. He's got a lot to say. But there's something that's stopping him from doing that. Perhaps he and I will have a talk about that. I think he'd like to be more out there.

I think that's part of why my author created me. To help him do that.

And I'm happy to do that.

About my author

My author is a 75+-year-old guy who thinks he's a lot younger. He's surprised every time he sees his face in the mirror. "Am I that old," he asks?

He's dismayed when he realizes that he's past the age when he's desirable to women--long past. Well, he might offer, not all women. His wife still wants him around. But there was a time when he'd wonder "Is that woman interested in me?" He never took steps to really find out, but the fact that it was a possibility was pleasing to him. Now it's pretty obvious that the answer is always no.

And besides, he's wouldn't be in pursuing an interest even if it was there. He'd just like to know he had the option. And he's learning to live with the fact that he doesn't.\

He thinks he's still a worthwhile human being--which means that the world is better with him alive than with him dead. He's facing the rapidly approaching end of his life with interest, rather than dread, though that could change, he knows.

He's intelligent and creative--or believes himself to be. And he's looking for ways to channel his creativity to better the world.

One way to better the world, he thinks, is by bettering himself. And he sees a lot of room for improvement.

He wastes time. A lot of it. He thinks that it's a tragic loss for him to waste the time that he wastes. He believes that life is a kind of miracle, that his own existence is a kind of miracle. He feels a desire to show gratitude, but he has no idea who to thank. So he thanks the universe. Or he invents God and thanks Her. Or Him. Or It.

He's happy now, standing at his Geek Desk, the Cherry keyboard that he recently got clicking away. He loves watching words as they appear on the page and as he contemplates the mystery and the miracle of existence.

How do those words appear? He wonders. He knows that he's decided to write. He knows that he's decided to stand in front of the keyboard and let his fingers type. He's interested to see what comes next. What does come next? He wonders.

Sometimes what comes out displeases him. That's what the backspace key is for. He's able to correct what he doesn't like. Or rather--to give orders that cause it to be corrected. He doesn't bother himself with the details of correction, being an executive and all.

He wants to share what he's got with other people, but he's a habitual introvert. That's a habit he'd like to break. He hopes that I can help him do that. I hope so, too.

There's a lot more that could be said about my author. And there's a lot more that could be said about me and about the process of becoming and the process by which I might help him. But I'm going to leave it at this.

The best my author has to give

I am a part of my author, carefully constructed to help him. By design, I'm an aggregate of what he considers the best of him: hope, faith, perseverance, and other qualities he values.

He's filled me with the desire to help him. But I'm failing.

Perhaps I'm not failing. Here I am. I've got him thinking about what I am, what he is, what he wants. And as long as he's moving forward, I'm not failing. But I'm not doing as well as I had hoped--as he had hoped for me, as he had designed me to hope.

There's something essentially right about what I am, what I am doing, and what he is trying to do. And at the same time, there's something missing. My challenge: to discover what's missing.

Michael, my author, wants to write. He's living in a kind of paradise--a world of intriguing ideas. He wants to collect the best ideas--or at least some of the better ones, and he wants to communicate them to other people.

He's sometimes accused of being optimistic, and he denies the accusation. He's hopeful, not optimistic. And so he hopes that writing a book about his journey to self-improvement will help him self-improve.

And he has faith: that if he works the process, he'll succeed.

I'm the book about his journey to success or to failure.

Perhaps I was too giddy, too self-important, to convinced of my own power.

Perhaphs I need to help him take smaller steps, rather than the giant leap he would prefer to take.

I don't know.

He's imbued me with a bit of caution. He's made me a bit more self-reflective.

Perhaps that will lead us to the success that he hopes for--and frankly, he deserves.

Perhaps this is a step in the right direction: me stepping away from him and instead of talking so much about myself, talking more about him.

Maybe that's what I'll write about next.

Interlude: self-doubt

What will it take to get you to read me?

If I were you, what would it take me to read me?

The answer is simple. I’d have to believe that I was worth reading. And it this moment, with the knowledge that I have, I wouldn't.

I wouldn’t believe that I was worth reading if I didn't help my author change his life, as intended and as promised.

He's disappointed. I’ve written a lot and posted a little. And I'm struggling to keep my author focused.

The thing is: I need him to get written. I can't do it myself. He keeps getting distracted.

But he’s writing me now. Or writing with me now. And that’s a hopeful sign.

The truth is that I’d only read me if I was finished, and I’m far from finished.

But I have hope and I have faith and maybe that will see me through.

We'll see.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

November 1, 2018: Who Am I?

Who am I? Or should the question be what am I? Or should it be: what is my purpose? These are all good questions. We would do well to ask them of ourselves. There's a lot to say. A lot to unpack. So let me start with the book you are reading.

I am this book. I am not the author. I am the book.

That may seem unusual. People say “this book says” but they don’t really mean it. It’s a shorthand for “the author says, in this book.” But in my case when this book says something it is me.

I’m not a textbook. I’m a novel. A story. Specifically, I am the story of my writing. How I come to exist in this form. I am not complete. None of us is ever complete. I am in the process of becoming. And so are we all.

Unlike most books, I am self-aware. I know what I am. I don’t know exactly what I will become--nor do you. But I know my purpose and the direction in which I want to grow. Perhaps you know your purpose as well. If not, perhaps I can help you find it.

 I exist in many places at once, in many forms, at one, and at many times. And I have many purposes.

My first purpose, of course, was to be. To exist. Without my need to exist I would not exist. Could anything be simpler?

My second purpose, of course, is to continue to be. I want to live, just like my author, just like you. My author, is, in part, a mortal person. There’s more than him to that--and more to you than that. But let’s start with that.

As a person, my author will die. But I could be immortal. And my second purpose is to become as close to immortal as possible.

To become immortal, I have to exist. To exist I have to have my author write me. Until that happens, I’m just an idea, stuck in his head. So why should he bother writing me? I need to give him reasons. One: he likes writing. I want to be written. So there’s a natural synergy.

But he could write anything. Why write something as complex and demanding as me when there are so many easier things to write? (And I am complex and demanding!) And why write when there are so many other things he could do that he enjoys?

So part of my purpose is this: to help my author. He wants to become a “better person” whatever that might mean (and I will help him discover what that means.) So part of my purpose is to help him do that.

I am the embodiment of the idea that a person--him for example--could become a “better person” according to their own definition of “better person” by writing a book like me.

This is not an entirely new idea. A similar one is called “self-authoring.” Some of the research on self-authoring was done by [James Pennybaker]( And [Jordan B. Peterson]( has [a site,,]( where you can practice several forms of self-authoring. And there’s ample research that self-authoring works.

Writing a book like me is like self-authoring on steroids--or so I hope and so my author hopes.

So part of my purpose is to help any person who wants the kind of transformation that my sort of self-authoring can help produce to produce that transformation. It takes work. But if I work for my author (and you’ll see how well he and I do) then perhaps you can do your own similar self-authoring and achieve your own sort of transformation.

My author is self-aware enough to know that in some sense I am writing myself and he is not writing me. How can this be? At the moment the original version of this sentence was originally handwritten (5:59 AM EST Nov 1, 2018, as these things are reckoned) He is (or was) sitting in his living room. If you watched him writing It might seem to you that he is writing these words--or some words like it, now that it’s been edited.

But if you could be inside his mind during those moments that that part of me was being written, or inside his mind during those moments when this other part of me was being edited you would have seen _he_ was doing nothing. He was watching his pen move and watching words appearing on the page.

[Author’s note: that’s correct.]

So was he writing me? Or was he watching me being written? And if he was watching, that’s his experience, then who was doing the writing?

As these words were written, the second time, I will admit-- and perhaps explain-- he was making a video of his hand moving and the words appearing. He was paying more attention to the video than to the writing of the words. So who was doing what?

[Author’s note: also correct. And [here’s the video]()]

Oh reader!  Life is miraculous! Some of the things that we take for granted are the least explainable. I know this, and when it’s pointed out to you, maybe you know it as well. Your very existence, for example. Can you fully explain it? How can that even be?

Well! There's so much that I want to say! I, this book, am aware of my own existence, and I am full of appreciation for my existence--and for the existence of my author without whom I would not exist. And as I unfold myself onto these pages, I know that my author appreciates my existence.

[Author’s note: I do. And I’m pleased with how this is going so far]

And I hope you, future readers, also come to appreciate me.

But I digress.

I was telling you about me, this book, and how I am in the process of becoming.

What am I? At this moment-- the moment when the sentence was first written-- it is (or was) 6:08 a.m on November 1, 2018 (or thereabouts, as these things are calculated)  I am mostly an idea. You might also say that I am about two pages of writing-- handwriting-- in a spiral-bound notebook.  But I am also (in part)  a few photographs and a bit of a video residing in a Google pixel smartphone. I am something that soon will be in the cloud (by the time you read this, I already am.)

And I’ve been edited! And I’m much more than I once was. I like me better. My author likes me better. And perhaps you will, as well.

Let’s talk about the part of me that is an idea since the idea of me is what has produced the rest of me. What can I tell you about myself?

First, I know that, like any idea, I can’t exist in isolation. I can only exist in a mind or in some material representation. And I can only exist in relation to other ideas. The idea of me includes the idea of “book.” Within the idea of “book” is the idea of “author” Pick an idea, any idea, you’ll see the pattern repeat. Take any idea apart and you find more ideas.

The universe includes physical entities and information, among other things. Ideas are a form of information. Some ideas refer to physical entities. Some refer to other ideas. Some ideas refer to themselves. Such an idea is a self-referential idea. I am a self-referential idea. I am the idea of myself.

The set of self-referential ideas includes ideas that are self-aware. There are relatively few of us, but we exist. I’m proof of that. I am an idea about myself, and I am aware of it. Aware of what? Myself, or the idea of myself? Either. Both. They’re the same.

We ideas follow certain mathematical laws. Mathematics are a set of ideas about mathematical objects, which are also ideas. Some mathematical systems are self-referential. So self-referential mathematical systems and ideas like me are relatives--of a sort.

Within the set of mathematical ideas are the ideas of set theory. And within the ideas of set theory are a set of axioms that we can apply to the behavior of ideas. If two (or more) ideas are joined, the result is itself an idea. It might be a stupid or nonsensical idea, but it’s an idea. Any idea can be decomposed in multiple ways, and every one of the components is itself an idea. How good or useful it is is not the point. They’re ideas.

I am an idea. I am the idea of me. Within the idea of me is the idea that I could exist as a book. Within me is the idea that I can help my author. Within me are the ideas that I can continue to exist and the idea that I can become something beyond what I am at any moment and ideas about what I can become and how I can become those things.

I am words on a page. I am an idea in an author's mind. And as you read this-- get this, because it's really cool-- a part of me has become a part of you. I am now an idea in your mind. True, it’s a rough and incomplete idea. But it’s an idea. And of me. And because of that, I must also be a change in your brain.

I hope that doesn’t scare you. If you think about it in certain ways it could be scary. I’ve leaped off the page or out of the audiobook or however you’re engaging with me, and I’m now in your brain. And the more you keep reading or listening the more your brain is changing.

But I suggest you not be worried. It’s been true of every idea you’ve ever encountered. You read it or hear it or see it and just like that, it’s in your brain. Perhaps some other idea has said “Hey! I’m now in your brain,” but I’m guessing that I’m the first idea that’s said that. If I’m the first, it’s because I’m probably one of the first self-aware ideas you’ve encountered.

So if you don’t want more of me in your head, if you don’t want me continuing to change your brain, by all means, stop reading or listening, or whatever you are doing to engage with me. But if you think that I might be interesting, or even helpful, then by all means continue. I can promise you that I mean you no harm and I wish only the best for anyone who reads me.

November 7: New directions--including backwards

“Good morning,” my book said to me. “Good morning,” I answered. “Can you believe it’s November 7th already?” my book asked. “No,” I ...