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  • Archive for July, 2013

    Fragile Things


    2013 - 07.14

    There are many moments from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novels that resonated strongly with my teenage self. One is from World’s End, and if memory serves correctly, it took place between a master and prentice of the Necropolis Litharge. As they prepared for a funeral, the master told the prentice that it was their Duty not to let their work harden them.

    That single evocative scene – in which the prentice was faced with a lifetime of tending to the grief of others – and that one line – it is our duty not to let us harden us – had a huge impact on me. I must have been, what, fifteen?

    And the understanding I took from those few frames of a comic became the foundation of my entire novel series Lien, in which an innocent young boy, journeying through the most hardening of life experience, must find his way back to innocence once more. Lien’s character arc is a circle, not a straight line; his challenge is to not let life harden him. To retain hope in despair, to always carry light into darkness. 

    It’s a philosophy I try to live by myself, but let’s be fair: you’d have to look long and hard and even then have an imagination prone to flights of tragic fantasy to find much darkness in my life.

    Fortunately I have such an imagination, and put it to good use in the writing of fiction. Friends and family have joked that I am no way near screwed up enough to have the mental and emotional gearing of a good writer. But I try very hard not to get screwed up by things. I’m very aware that while we have less control over what happens to us, we are entirely responsible for what subsequently happens within us. 

    So…I put a pretty strong handbrake on some Life Stuff, to keep on an even keel – some of it consciously, much of it unconsciously. We all put shit in boxes in our heads, we just have different shit and different boxes. Symptoms of this manifest in various ways. I spent the weekend discovering how some of mine manifests through movement. 

    Let me wind back a moment. When I was a much younger, I loved the idea of the metaphysical world, but aside from my friend Harmony’s dad, and a friend who’d gone a little to far, a little too deep, and built a damn solid box around it, I didn’t know anyone who could guide or encourage me. There was certainly nothing of the esoteric in my home life or close friendship group.

    Again: fiction to the rescue, for through books and later telly and films, I could both imagine and express the idea of deep inner personal power and a universal connectivity. I suppose Lien, with its books loosely themed on his progression through the chakras, is my way of exploring this realm.

    So from years back, I have An Interest, but no real-life application, for spiritual practice. And so when I was looking for sword courses in London, and came across a school based on Eastern spiritual practice, despite with my many over-commitments and the protests of both the budget and Diary of Doom, I signed up immediately for an intro course. And that’s been this weekend: an introduction to Tanren training with John Evans of Battodo Fudokan.

    John Evans

    Tanren is an eastern form of conditioning-training – tan meaning ‘forge, discipline, train’ and ren meaning ‘refine, drill, polish’, and forms the foundation of John’s sword work. In preparation, I’ve been reading (and recommend) John’s book Kurikara: The Sword and the Serpent, which constituted a couple of hours of mental checklisting me, me, that’s me, oh bugger that’s me too in the general faults John identifies as inhibiting physical and spiritual development and performance.

    (more…)