It seems sometimes, in a Judaeo-Christian society, that we are a constantly being scrutinized by a rather harsh all-knowing God who rewards getting the faith-words accurately correct, to the letter, and the faith-based actions perfect, without a single mistake. And He punishes missteps of word or deed with pain and suffering and the potential of an eternity in Sheol or Hell. And that is a tough God to live with. He is like a teacher who uses his or her God-like powers to reward or punish to lead his students all down an exacting, narrow path to a destination that does not have room for everyone when they arrive.
It doesn’t take long in childhood for a highly intelligent person to realize before childhood is over that this cosmology is actually a load of horse pucky. It didn’t even take long for somebody as semi-stupid as me.
What I like about listening on YouTube to the wisdom of Alan Watts is that he gives us an alternative way of seeing the universe and ourselves. This he can offer through his studies of Eastern and Buddhist philosophies. Everything appealing in John Lennon’s signature song “Imagine” comes from Lennon’s love of listening to the lectures of Alan Watts. He is obviously a wise-guy.
Alan Watts teaches us the pathways that lead to finding yourself, who you truly are, and how you fit into the universe as a whole. When Carl Sagan says that we are all made of star-stuff, he is not only telling us what is literally true, as the elements our bodies were formed from were literally made in the nuclear forges at the centers of stars that later exploded in nova-bursts to scatter the elements across the skies of everywhere. He is also telling us that what Alan Watts says is metaphorically true, that everything in the universe is part of the same thing and we are all one in this way.
There is plenty to worry about in my little life. I could easily drop dead at any time from any one of my six incurable diseases or even the return of the skin cancer I beat in 1983. I suffer from the consequences of disease daily, as I have for many years now. My sins are many. I broke my promise the other day to never show you the horrors of my naked body on this blog. I constantly eat the wrong thing and continue to do things that I know are bad for the environment and the health of my body. I am prejudiced against racists, stupidity, and the actions of dedicated Trump-lovers. In many ways I deserve God’s wrath and brutal correction. I have come to truly believe that climate change is going to end life on Earth. I am horrible.
But I have learned from Alan Watts that all of those concerns mean nothing. I don’t believe in Heaven or an afterlife. But I do not fear death. I am one with the universe. And the universe goes on even if I do not. And I will always be a part of it, even after I am no longer alive. The universe has a mind and is intelligent And I take part in that because one small part of that intelligence is me, and lives in my head.
There is comfort to be found in the words of Alan Watts. And living in pain as I do, I really need that comfort most of the time. That is why I have attempted to share a bit of that comfort with you.
People are not really vegetables… even though I have seen IQ scores as a teacher that might say otherwise. But I often use the pun of calling them Human Beans.
Of course, being a Texan means having a healthy appreciation for beans as a staple food. Cowboys used to live off of beans and beef jerky, and if Louis L’Amour is to be believed, they even made tea from mesquite beans. That makes your average cowboy made up of over 50 per cent beans. Of course the rest of him is mostly gas caused by the beans in his diet, whether it comes out as a fart or as a Texas tall tale… And yes, I admit it, I get a lot of my writing ideas from eating beans.
We must also be aware that Texas has no corner on the beans market. We all know Boston baked beans by reputation. They, like the ever-hapless Cubs, had a habit of never winning the World Series. And now, in the last two decades, it has actually been difficult for the other teams to keep them from winning it all. But we shouldn’t mix up beans with baseball metaphors. Baseball is like life. Full of long and boring parts punctuated by intense moments of hitting, scoring, committing errors, and player versus player individual drama. And concession stand food! Beans, however, can taste good in chili draped over the ballpark hot dogs which cost more than a restaurant meal at most reasonable restaurants. And I promise you, you will never hit a home run over the fence by hitting it with a bean.
And I wish to point out that this last human bean is not a racist cartoon. Beans are not part of the human race. They only have legs in cartoons and would come in last even when racing a snail. And all beans are created equal in the sight of God. Kidney beans, butter beans, navy beans, string beans… all beans are just beans, no matter what the color of their skin is, and no matter how they add flavor to a casserole. All beans are just in it to live life the best they can, and if that’s not enough… they can be planted as seeds to raise the next generation of human beans.
I have begun work on novel #10 in my Hometown Series about the imaginary little Iowa town where I grew up. This novel is called Fools and Their Toys. It is basically a novel about how human beans communicate, mind to mind, heart to heart, and mouth to ear.
Now, I should tell you, calling them “human beans” in the previous paragraph was not a spelling mistake. It was the kind of pun that fools like Mickey often employ. And I don’t consider the word “fool” to be an insult. After all, the fool in a Shakespeare play often says the thing that sounds the wisest in the play. And all the world is a stage, and all the people merely players. But I do acknowledge that fools can actually be stupid, too. Their whole purpose is to make you laugh.
Probably the most foolish thing about this novel about fools and foolishness is that the narrator is a zebra sock puppet that the ventriloquist protagonist uses to be able to talk and communicate. Murray Dawes has a condition that makes people think he is slow of mind because he is unable to create speech in his own mouth. He is actually quite brilliant. But that doesn’t come out until he finally has the puppet to do the talking for him. Zearlop, then, is the narrator who puts the entire book in his own words even though he has brains made of wadded newspaper and cotton stuffing.
I have long worried that this particular book would be hard to write. But just like the last three novels it is now flowing out of my word processor as if it is writing itself. I do hope I can hang on to life long enough to make it real.
I have been using the Tuesday post for this blog for a very novel thing. Yes, that’s an ironic pun made with 55% pure iron. This once-a-week exercise in fictional weirdness is basically a forge for failing novel ideas.
I began with the Stardusters manuscript for a stalled sequel to Catch a Falling Star. I worked it out with a rewritten Canto per Tuesday. And I turned the weird little climate-crisis science-fiction comedy into a passable piece of novel noodling. I was also able to use it as a test novel for the Amazon Kindle Publishing method of turning it into a book that I could hold a copy of in my two hands.
Then I tried to rehabilitate my first and worst published novel, Aeroquest. I found I had a lot of very good individual Cantos (which I was using as a faux-poetical and somewhat snooty substitute for the word chapter). But the overall story was fractured and incoherent. What I eventually decided to do with this book is to break it up into at least three separate stories. I don’t know if I will ever republish this book, it is there to be worked on for as long as I’m still kicking.
So, what will I do with Tuesdays now?
This is now the longest stalled manuscript I have going. It has some definite problems and plot holes. I might choose to revise and edit it in this space on my blog. If I do, it will be even more of a real rewrite in front of your eyes than the first two. I initially thought these Novel Tuesdays might yield input and criticism that might prove useful. But of the few people who are actually interested enough to read this word-wrenching and rearranging, I don’t seem to get any thoughts beyond likes and hope-you-succeeds.
Anyway, I am pretty well addicted to this odd writing behavior by now, and next Tuesday yields the start of a new novel, whether you are ready or not.
I was a boy back when the milk man still came around in his blue-and-white panel truck delivering bottles of milk with Elsie the Cow on them. I don’t remember clearly because I was only 4 years old back when I first became aware of being a boy in this world instead of being something else living somewhere else.
There were many things I didn’t know or understand back then. But one thing I did know, was that I loved Elsie the Cow. And why would a farm boy love a cartoon cow? There were many not-so-sensible reasons.
For one thing, Elsie the Cow reminded me of June Lockhart, Lassie’s mom and the mom from Lost in Space.
It may be that June Lockhart’s eyes reminded me of Elsie’s eyes, being large, soul-full eyes with large black eye lashes. It may be that she starred in a TV commercial for Borden’s milk in which Elsie winked at me at the end of the commercial.
Or maybe it was because Elsie had calves and was a mom. And June Lockhart was Lassie’s mom and the mom of Will Robinson, so I associated both of them with my mom, and thus with each other.
Elsie gave you milk to drink and was always taking care of you in that way. Milk was good for you, after all. My own mom was a registered nurse. So they were alike in that way too.
And she was constantly defending you against the bulls in your life. She stood up to Elmer to protect her daughter more than once. Of course, her son was usually guilty of whatever he was accused of, but she still loved him and kept Elmer from making his “hamburger” threats a reality.
And you can see in numerous ad illustrations that Elsie’s family were basically nudists. Although she often wore an apron, she was bare otherwise. And though her daughter often wore skirts and her son wore shorts, Elmer was always naked. And that didn’t surprise me, because no cow I knew from the farm wore clothes either. From very early in my life I was always fascinated by nakedness, and I would’ve become a nudist as a youngster if it hadn’t been soundly discouraged by family and society in general.
So there are many reasons why I have always loved Elsie the Cow. And it all boils down to the love of drinking milk and that appealing cartoon character who constantly asked you to drink more.
I need to figure out marketing if I am ever going to make a dent as an author. So I got together $11.75 and hired two stuffed celebrities to endorse my books. Fozzy comes from Goodwill for $4.75, while $7.00 on E-Bay netted me Alf.
Okay, I guess it’s a start. Maybe not a great start, but a start.
Yeah, maybe Alf needs an attitude adjustment… with a brick.
Okay, money poorly spent… but it is a good idea. I need somebody who doesn’t have sawdust in their heads. How much do you suppose Angelina Jolie charges per endorsement? Yeah, I’m pretty sure it would be too much for my budget. Maybe I could get Bette Davis. She’d be cheap. But how persuasive are dead people?
Yes, there is very definitely a possibility that there is more than one me.
If you look carefully at the colored pencil drawing above, you will see that it is titled “The Wizard of Edo” and signed by someone called Leah Cim Reyeb. A sinister sounding Asian name, you think? I told college friends that my research uncovered the fact that he was an Etruscan artist who started his art career more than two thousand years ago in a cave in France. But, of course, if you are clever enough to read the name backward, you get, “beyeR miC haeL”. So, that stupid Etruscan cave artist is actually me.
It turns out that it is a conceit about signing my name as an artist that I stole from an old episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show and have used for well over two decades through college and my teaching career.
And of course, the cartoonist me is Mickey. Mickey also writes this blog. Mickey is the humorist identity that I use to write all my published novels and blog posts since I published the novel Catch a Falling Star.
Michael Beyer is the truest form of my secret identity. That was my teacher name. It was often simplified by students to simply “Mr. B”. I was known by that secret identity for 31 years.
Even more sinister are my various fictional identities occurring in my art and my fiction. You see one of them in this Paffooney. The name Dr. Seabreez appears in Catch a Falling Star as the Engineer who makes a steam engine train fly into space in the 1890’s with alien technology. He appears again in The Bicycle-Wheel Genius as a time-traveler.
The young writer in the novel Superchicken, Branch Macmillan, is also me. As is the English teacher Lawrance “Rance” Kellogg used in multiple novels.
So, disturbing as it may be to realize, there is more than one name and identity that signifies me. But if you are a writer of fiction, a cartoonist, an artist, or a poet, you will probably understand this idea better. And you may even have more than one you too.