Jack of Many Trades

One Book to Explain It All

Originally posted: 2014-02-12

I know, honestly, intellectually, that there is no One True Magic Book. No matter how much I know that, though, I think I just imprinted too hard on the Neverending Story as a child. I still browse for that One Thing that will make everything else make sense. I browse the metaphysical section at Powell's. I look in other bookstores, too, especially mysteriously dusty ones. And in the last few years I also do a lot of blog reading.

I don't usually realize I'm doing it while I'm doing it. Periodically I have to pull myself back from this or that thing that I'm getting too deeply into.

It's easy, when I find something fascinating, written by someone who's clearly both a gifted author and knows their shit, to get drawn in by that. And there's nothing inherently wrong in being interested in what other people are doing, IMO. But I don't think I, personally, am ready to do that again yet.

That desire was part of the force behind Project Protagonist in the first place - there's no 100% perfect answer out there, and the desire to throw myself into deep pools in the attempt to find the one where I don't drown is not healthy for me. I had thought maybe that taking the time away would let me come back around to a place where I could do that, but I still can't and maybe I never could.

I had my first experience with psychologists in high school, when I was referred for evaluation and I spoke with three psychologists in quick succession. I had a variety of possible diagnoses suggested, including schizophrenia. Now I will admit that I have some symptoms that fit the criteria for a schizophrenia diagnosis but I didn't know much about it at the time.

When I first went away to college I pulled out all the books in the library on the subject, especially more literary accounts like I Never Promised You A Rose Garden. I discovered that I was very good at putting myself in that place, letting go of whatever it is that mostly keeps me tucked away in OCD-land with processing issues instead of flowering into schizophrenia. The more I read, the harder it was to remember that this was not my normal baseline.

I just happen to be very good at losing myself. It goes back to Firebird as Diplomat, I guess, and a weirdly-developed sense of empathy. Nowadays I mostly do it in two situations. The first is when I discover someone whose religious writing seems to be pushing Yes This Is Important buttons, I want to immerse myself in the philosophy and try it on 100%, holding nothing back. The second is when I'm writing.

Fictional reconstruction is the intersection of the two, where I dive deep into the pool that gave me my divination deck. Done properly, fictional reconstruction means going far enough into that mindset that it works for me just like it would if I lived in that universe (though somewhat less showy, by necessity) and the gods can reach me just as they would if I lived in that universe.

If there is a book with all the answers for me, it's among the books I write. If there's a bookshop where salvation is hiding, it's in the one Keiji runs, and if there's a perfect teacher out there, whether she's Magpie or Daiyu or the Firebird, she's speaking to me via the dictation I take down.

I know this like I know the sound of my heartbeat in my ears. And yet I still find myself browsing... just in case.