Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award

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Storytelling tonight: Is it a Thing?

Tonight, I’ll be telling a gripping story about what the publication of my novel revealed about my PTSD. It’s a mysterious thing, but to find out about it you’ll have to come to O’Shaughnessy’s Public House.

Hope to see you tonight:

Is it a Thing?

O’Shaughnessy’s Public House

4557 N Ravenswood, Chicago, IL 7:00 PM

And here I am reading in California. I’ll probably look different tonight.


Photo courtesy of Why There Are Words.

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Didn’t you think?

Didn’t you think that your dream of the woman’s hands depended on a memory of a woman’s hands?

Didn’t you think that the memory came first, followed then by the imagined vision, the game, the mental play?

Or have you been thinking that those hands you keep seeing were never before your eyes? Do you think, sitting here now, seeing those hands, that you’re able to generate them entirely, their skin and lacquered nails, from the memory of completely different hands?

Did you think, before we had this conversation, that blind men imagine hands as vividly as you do?

Can you ever be sure that any image in your mind, in that field that rushes forth and pulls back instantly and endlessly, is either imagined or remembered?

Does it matter what it is if it’s not before you right now, if the image is only dredged up from the past or anticipating a future, one unlikely to come?


Photo by Kheel Center.

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The “secret weapon” of marketing

Hint: it’s no secret.

Here’s a great video I’m going to use in my class this summer to make a point about argumentation and persuasion. This woman’s job is to make the British and Canadian public buy food raised in factory farms. She reveals her methods, all of them obvious yet, for most of us, shocking:

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Rare footage of LSD test (video)

If you’ve taken LSD before, you’ll know what this woman is trying and failing to explain. I have recently been thinking about some of the more transcendental psychedelic experiences I had during my college years and comparing what they revealed to what Zen meditation reveals. The overlap between insights offered from psychedelic experience and Zen practice, especially when rooted in mindfulness training, aren’t merely uncanny. They are essentially directing attention to the same thing, this “it” that the woman keeps trying to explain. While she’s hung up on the “prisms” and “colors”, it’s only because the “wholeness” of her experience is beyond what language can handle. It’s true for anyone, not just the tripping: our experience is greater than what language can handle, greater than what we can be aware of consciously…and I’m about to babble.

I’m so happy this interview is available.

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What’s a natural thought?

I read an article the other day that asks if the suicidal are selfish. It got me thinking and tweeting, and I found myself remembering moments from my childhood.

I was in grammar school the first time I wondered if the world would be a better place without me. I remember the moment, the thought fresh as frigid winter air, frightening as the face of a demon. I was in church, sitting alone and waiting to confess sins for the first time in my life, horrified about how to tell the priest that I am a little pervert—this would put me in my first communion class. It means I was eight years old.

The memory is gray and cracked, like a black and white photo that survived a war. I can still depend on it, and there are layers that I know to be true. I knew with certainty that the world would, indeed, be better off without me. I was not merely a sinner, but most of the time I provided nothing of use to anyone. If I was useful, it was to make satisfactory public displays, to recite things before groups, to demonstrate my memorization skills (which, in childhood, were phenomenal, far better than what I can memorize today), things that made various adults in school and home glow with pride. Beyond this, I was constantly in need.

I needed food, and I had a gluttonous appetite. I needed clothing. I needed friendship, even if I often preferred to be left alone. I was mostly a burden, and without Jesus I would have been doomed to a horrible eternity of fire, a furnace my imagination raised easily: the space in the heart of a campfire larger than Chicago, deeper than a fallout shelter. If I died without confessing my sins, I’d burn forever. As I burned, trees would grow without me. Stores would still work. Busses would keep lumbering around the neighborhood like drunks.

I didn’t imagine suicide, not really, although I did imagine dying. What would it be like? Would I really be forgiven for everything before I died? I realize now that I had never believed confession led to forgiveness—it was just a temporary post, a kind of way-station where my secrets were examined and evaluated by an elder, but in reality the sins were always there, shoved into a pillowcase I carried on my shoulder like a runaway. Even if I dumped the case, the next perverted thought was looming, coming even as I counted how many I had harbored up to that point. There was no escape, neither in death nor in life. I had nowhere to go except into my own perversions.

My opinion of myself has changed only slightly. Since childhood, I’ve been influenced by Camus, Beckett, Dostoevsky, Pink Floyd and The Cure. I look at myself as a massive consumer of resources, a burden to the system, a mouth in need of energy. I need lights and heat. I need transport. My impact on the world is mostly to its detriment. The universe is better off without me. If I disappear, the sun will burn on one side of the earth as the moon glows milk-white on the other.

Is this an idiot’s thought? If it is, it proves, again, that the the world has little use for yet another idiot.

How are ideas like this—including the concern about whether or not I am useful—born? Is this my natural state, or did I learn to believe this?

And is it really unselfish to wonder if you’re necessary. What if it’s actually the height of megalomania? If I believe I am worthless, isn’t it because I assume I should be worthwhile? And if I I think I should have some value, isn’t that the mark of a self-inflated twit? A twit assumes value is measured in absolutes. He remains blind to the obvious reality: there is no measure of anything that is not contrived.

I attended a Zen lecture yesterday that reminded me how desperately we all cling to delusions of security when there can be no security in an impermanent universe. I was reminded that we are not separate from what we perceive. So, quite obviously, if we feel we provide nothing “of use” to anyone, it’s because the universe provides nothing “of use” to itself. Worrying about your value is like worrying about the value of sunlight. And worrying about death is like worrying about giving the flowers enough water. The thoughts are equally contrived.

At times like these, I like to go to sources of unfathomable beauty. The Brahms Horn Trio. Things like this have no meaning beside themselves. They are, in that way, like petals fallen from obliterated peach blossoms, perfect metaphors for reality.

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Mobile phones and memory

I’ll be giving a lecture on the difference between memory and imagination in only a day, and so I’ve been thinking about the accusation: “We used to remember so many phone numbers. Now our phones do it for us. We’re lost without them.”

This is true. From childhood to my teen years, I usually had about ten or fifteen phone numbers memorized. I still remember a handful of them.

Here’s the real insult from this phenomenon. Our phones remember our grandparents’ number so that we wouldn’t have to. However, we still need to remember numbers, or at least streams of characters known as “passwords,” a funny name because they lead to no passage at all but only to metaphors for our contemporary entrapment.

I know about seven different passwords which I have invented myself at different times when different machines and services told me it was time for a new one. I cannot automatically reset every password I use in every website to the exact same one without driving myself insane. So I just remember al the different ones. And I’m ridiculously good at it, far better, perhaps, than I had been at remembering phone numbers.

What a pile of nonsense. We have exchanged remembering actual passwords—numbers which brought us to the space of conversation with someone—for these wild multi-character symbols which lead us to our empty bank accounts. Some of us use the same stream of symbols, a exclamation point taking the place of the “l”, fucking absurd !over5!ane to access our pornography.

Our memories work fine. We’re just remembering absurdities.