My new Author Page on Amazon listing all my published books:
I’m retiring. But not from my creative activities – just from the daily grind of trying to make enough money to survive without completely corrupting my art.
I applied for early social security, and my first check arrived ten days ago. This has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders that I have been carrying since I first entered the workforce in 1971.
There have been flush times and scant times, and I’ve mostly mishandled the occasional small fortune that has fallen my way. And as a result, I was usually living on the edge and often over the edge, just trying to crawl back onto the cliff before the fraying vine I was hanging on snapped and I plummeted to my financial death.
And it has been like a pressure in my head – having to put my feelings on ice and force my thoughts into directions they would never naturally run. Denying myself the freeform experience of serendipity, and stuffing my dreams in a lock-box until I have become too old to pursue many of them.
Yet there is time left. If I am lucky, perhaps another twenty years or so of reasonably self-motivated life, based on family history. Still, I have put on weight, and as a result, my feet are sometimes too painful to even stand upon. But I persist in one of my two most long-held dreams of through-hiking the John Muir Trail in one session (though it seems more unreasonable with each passing year). That, and to see Paris, are the only two dreams that have remained at the top of my mental froth. They have not abandoned me, so I will never abandon them.
But they do not define me. My drive to see in life a new perspective, to embrace a new feeling, and then to capture and share it as an essay, a photograph, a song – this is one of the key elements of my identity – the joy of communicating and then communing with others in regard to something wonderful I have found in my haphazard meandering through life, without and within.
This need to share – not to have someone appreciate the artist, but to appreciate the art. To make me smile because the thing I have created made them smile. I gather no self-worth from this. I simply gather pleasure. Not matter what it is that I discover and become fascinated by, whether it be a wholly new idea or expression of my own, or simply finding another artist who shows me his or her new perspective or experience, I want to share what I found with others.
And that is why this blog was created, and also why it has been so unfulfilling. To me, the thousands of entries I’ve made here, each with a new idea, discovery or creation, is a treasure trove – a wildly eclectic collection of the most mentally pungent and heart-warping material – a playhouse filled with the most wonderful toys. Yet no on care. Or nearly no one.
I randomly click on a like in my collection, see what is presented and ask myself, how can people not be as wholly enthralled with this item as I am? I am left with the possibilities that:
a) I am not a very good artist or creator
b) I am not very good at organizing or presenting what I have discovered
c) I am not very good at marketing what I have discovered
d) The things that fascinate me are of no interest to most people
I suspect some mix of all of these is probably the cause.
One thing is certain – how I have been going about my artistic life has not ever satisfied me and brought me no fulfillment, only frustration.
And so, as per the title of this entry, a new approach is sorely needed.
Due to the addition of the guaranteed income of the social security each month to my meager business profits, I should be able to survive with far less of my time devoted to meaningless money-generating tasks.
I have determined that because I have historically been SO close to the edge, that I make 90% of my profit from the first 10% of my labor, but then must put in 90% of my labor to make the additional 10% of my profit so I don’t go under.
With social security, that ends. I can do the 10% labor for the 90% profit and then forget about that final 10% profit and get back 90% of my time.
How will I spend it? How can I maximize my journey through life with the hopefully healthy time I have left?
The answer to that is part of this new approach.
a) When I get an idea, an inspiration, a concept I wish to pursue, I can drop whatever I’m doing and chase after it.
b) Rather than try to complete art in which my interest is transitory, I’ll simply post it here in its raw form – unfinished, but sufficient to convey the notion that interested me in the first place.
c) In addition to this ongoing temporal expression, I will take the time to create proper web pages here where, as I am so moved, I will begin to organize my material in a far more accessible manner than I ever have before.
Turning my attention from the mundane to the incredible will bring life back to my life.
Categorizing and properly presenting my body of work will bring me satisfaction that those things meaningful to me will persist to bring joy and enlightenment to others after I am gone.
Being free to document here in this blog portion the ongoing free-flowing journey of my life, the ups and downs, the insights and effusive moments, will open the door once again to my capricious nature, to explore at will wherever the Muse leads me.
Wanderlust, in mind and expedition.
And, here in this time-flow I will also note whenever old material has been properly curated, and so those few of you who do drop by will see the ancient photograph taken in my youth, the half-finished demo of a song, the aborted screenplay, the unleavened thought – all mixed in with my headlong cascade-stumble through my remaining years.
And this, this new approach, will finally and at last bring me peace and bing me joy.
Melanie Anne Phillips
May 28, 2017
A meme showed up in my newsfeed today with a picture of the twin towers burning and the words, “If we’re taking down statues because of the civil war, we should be taking down mosques because of 9/11”
I thought about it a moment and then replied, “To keep your analogy accurate, we should be taking down statues of the 9/11 terrorists. Oh, wait! There aren’t any! I guess we got it right this time.”
But then I thought a little more deeply. Comparing Civil War heroes to terrorists is really unfair – just as unfair as the original meme.
While on the one hand, estimates range around four to five million as the number of blacks who died due to slavery (including the slave raids in Africa) but “only” three thousand
victims died on 9/11 and up to 5,000 total including diseases of the first responders, on the other hand, the Southern heroes were not fighting against slaves, but against those who would have oppressed them in the North.
The North had the greater population, and therefore greater political control. So they kept ramming through legislation that put unbearable tariffs on the South to their own benefit, much as King George had so recently done to them, contributing to the Revolution.
There were so many unfairnesses and restrictions that the South legitimately felt they had no say in their own country, and began to thing of their part of the nation as the culture and country to which they belonged.
As most of us know, slavery might have petered out on its own except for the invention of the cotton gin, which made America’s short seedy cotton fibers more economical to harvest.
But, if slavery had been taken from the South by laws imposed in the North, then the entire Southern economy would have collapsed so that they not only had no political say, but because the rural “lower 40” for the North, producing agricultural products while remaining in perpetual poverty.
Clearly, if you lived in the South, that was worth fighting for as your family, your culture, and your homeland depended upon it. And, in fact, most of those Southern soldiers never owned slaves, and a bunch even saw it as a necessary evil that, hopefully, might be eliminated someday.
Still an all, those heroes of the South in the civil war – the ones in the statues – they fought to maintain their society and economy and self-determination, all of which included and even perhaps required the institution of slavery.
So you think about the North and ask if they were much better. Well, there were states that went with the North that allowed slavery. And even Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation only freed the slaves in the states that seceded, leaving that policy alone in the states they couldn’t afford to lose. Very practical – very hypocritical.
And the founding fathers owned slaves. And they didn’t even free them when they died.
So why aren’t we taking down statues of Jefferson?
There’s one big reason why not: symbolism. Symbolism is not “cast in stone.” It is the meaning that is assigned to the stone. And not all those who see a work of art, see it as symbolizing the same thing.
Further, symbolism is a living, changing interpretation of art. We can recognize what the artist originally intended it to symbolize, and also accept what it has come to symbolize.
For example, the swastika was originally a revered religious symbol in India and southeast Asia. But can you imagine putting up a swastika statue in a publicly owned park today with the expectation that people would appreciate its spiritual significance?
The symbolic significance of any object changes continually and some items fall in and out of favor for what they have come to symbolize.
In the case of the statues in New Orleans, they have historically represented four primary meanings:
1. To southern patriots, they symbolize the honor, courage, and belief in self-determination of their forefathers.
2. To human rights advocates, they symbolize the oppression of millions of human beings.
3. To white racists, they symbolize entitlement and elevation based on having a white skin.
4. To black racists, they symbolize the same thing.
Note that southern patriots from point one might be black or white, and the same is true for point two. But three and four is race-dependent.
Over the decades, the percentages of folks in each of those four categories has slowly shifted so that more and more people are joining the ranks of meaning number two.
Now like anything, if the center of gravity shifts, it will tip. And the symbolism of the statues has reached a tipping point.
And that is why they are being taken down.
And that is why we aren’t yet taking down mosques.
Here are some clues for all you Dramatica theory hounds…
Strong, Weak, Electromagnetic, Gravity
Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma
Mass, Energy, Space, Time
Universe, Physics, Mind, Psychology
Knowledge, Thought, Ability, Desire
Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb
The same relationships among them, repeated in different subject matter context.
Reflective not of the items but of the way the mind organizes the items.
Therefore reflective of the patterns not of the observed, but of the observer.
This group of interrelationships is the basis of the quad.
It is described by a series of equations.
One of the equations is the psychological equivalent of E=MC2
Each quad is a dramatic circuit in fiction or a psychological circuit in the real world
The items in a quad can be seen as Potential, Resistance, Current, and Power (dynamically).
The items in a quad can be seen as 1,2,3,4 (sequentially).
The items in a quad are not objects but processes.
The Dramatica chart is a periodic table of psychological processes, treated as objects, as in object-oriented programming.
Each quad has a pair that is seen as made up of discrete items.
Each quad has a pair that is seen as two items blended into one.
There are three kinds of pair relationships in each quad – Dynamic (diagonal), Companion (horizontal), Dependent (Vertical).
The three kinds of pairs correlate to sine, cosine, tangent.
Each kind of pair has two examples – one positive, one negative
There is a fourth relationship in a quad – whether the items are seen as four individual items or as a single family of similar items, such as “This IS the United States” or “These ARE the United States”
This fourth relationship goes beyond the trigonometry functions with a fourth function that moves imaginary numbers into the real number plane since time is part of the equation.
The quad is the core and key to how the mind works and can be used to move beyond artificial intelligence to create artificial self-awareness.
There is much, much, more than this.
Narrative is not an artificial construct imposed on fiction or on events in the real world. Rather, narrative is a description of how we go about solving problems, both as individuals and in interactions with others.
As individuals, we use all our faculties, such as “reason” and “skepticism” to evaluate our situation and determine the best way to improve it. And when we get together in groups, we tend to specialize, so that one person emerges as the “voice of reason” for the group, and another as the “skeptic,” for example.
In this way, the perspectives and methods of our own individual minds are mirrored in the roles and functions of individuals in a group. This results in a “group mind,” in which all members take different points of view on the issue in order to resolve difficulties of a common concern, just as individuals bring all available viewpoints to bear on their personal concerns.
In the following video clip from the “classic” original presentation of the Dramatica theory of narrative structure in 1999, you’ll learn about the core concept of the Story Mind and a whole new way of looking at stories and how they work.
It is well known that the observer changes the observation, but it is equally true that the observation also changes the observer. Consider that the order in which you observe a series of perspectives changes you as you go. But because we always feel like ourselves, so we believe we are constant and any differences between perspectives are due to the object under observation, not to ourselves. This becomes especially crucial when we observe ourselves, for the order in which we take points of view of “us” is continually altering us, so in the end, we get a warped view of who we are because all we see is seen as us, not as us that was, us that is, and us along the path from was to is.
Lfe experience gives each of us a belief that a particular order is best (because we have found that we are safest putting our inaccuracies in one place over another). And society indoctrinates us to take a particular path through all points of view, because as a culture, it works best to sweep the inaccuracies under a particular corner of the rug.
But, no path is objectively accurate, and we can never see all points of view at the same time. Therefore, we always fall short of capital “T” truth, but can only hope to approximate it.
Still, if we are bold enough (and enough of a risk-taker) to continuously alter the order in which we play mental musical chairs, we can get even closer to objective truth by having the inaccuracy move around.
Problem is, when inaccuracy is always in the same place, you can discount that particular part of the observation and focus on what is most clearly seen. But if inaccuracy is mobile, you never know where it may show up, putting one in danger of relying on incorrect understandings.
Life is not a quest for truth – life is a race against misconception.
Dramatica is a theory of narrative that has a very specific model – rather like the DNA of narrative psychology. But, the model is just the structural linear side of the theory – a way of visualizing how narrative works from a definitive, almost mechanical perspective, like a Rubik’s Cube of story or a Difference Engine of psychology.
But there’s the whole other side of the theory that hasn’t been much expressed – a holistic or analog side that is more attune with the processes and emotions of narrative psychology than the specific nexus points of a given structural storyform.
It’s about time to creative a more balanced view of what Dramatica really is, and how it really works.
So, here’s a concise little crash course on Dramatica from a holistic point of view…
To the heart of the matter, are you familiar with the initial psychological equation of Dramatica that started it all – K/T = AD?
The left side of the equation is all about logic – Knowledge divided by (or parsed) by Thought – K/T. It’s how we reason. But the right side is Ability multiplied by Desire, which created a product we know as Desirability. It is all about motivation or drive – If Ability is zero, motivation is zero. If Desire is zero, motivation is zero. But for any non-zero value of both Ability and Desire, some degree of motivation is created.
When this equation came into my mind for the first time I thought it meant, “One side divides and the other multiplies.” But It turned out it wasn’t a math equation, but a logic equation describing a psychological balance. It reads like this: When Knowledge is divided by (parsed by) Thought, the result is balanced against Desirability.
What is means is that K/T is Knowledge divided by thought or deductive reasoning or, for practical purposes “logic” (or linearity).
In other words, a lot of folks would say, “Emotion does not figure in my logic – my logic is pure reason, critical thinking.” And they’d be right. But, we might apply our logic anywhere, so how did we end up thinking about this particular thing? Desirability.
In other words, logic may be pure, but what we use it on (as opposed to some other topic) is determined by desirability – emotion, holism, touchy-feely.
So, while logic is pure, the application of logic is not. But, that doesn’t put passion at 180 degrees away from logic, because it isn’t against logic, it just directs its use. So, from a passionate or holistic perspective, passion is 90 degrees away from logic, because it also arrives at a conclusion – where to put our logic to work. But, from a linear or reason based perspective, passion is 270 degrees away from logic, because it keeps creeping into the purity.
So, linear thinking says – logic and passion are nothing alike because logic requires evidence and proof and passion does not. But from a holistic way of thinking, logic and passion are quite alike because each arrives at conclusions, and it requires both to direct and then implement logic – they are team members of the greater process.
Now this runs right up against the nature of the philosophy of duality. Linear thinking is going to see things as components, separate entities whose borders, perhaps even their natures, can be precisely defined. Things have edges that define them. And this is what K/T is all about – defining things as independent components. And this is how the model of the Dramatica theory was built – in order to best service and communicate with a linear society.
But, the holistic side of the Dramatica theory is more inclusive, rather than exclusive. It focuses on how separate things are actually interconnected, parts of a family or a greater whole.
For a more practical example of this, check out this video clip on my web site about main and influence characters. One of them is going to say, “you and I are both alike” and the other will respond “we are nothing alike.” I’ll tell you why they do this and how it relates to exclusive/inclusive and duality after you see the clip.
Here’s the ink: http://storymind.com/video/examples/you-and-i.mp4
Now that you’ve seen the clip, you can see how often that conversation comes up in stories. And yet we never see it as cliche, because it is the core and essence of that duality problem.
One is saying, “We are nothing alike because I am an apple and you are an orange,” and the other is saying, “No, we are both alike because we are both fruit.”
So, one is using linearity to find the differences that define us as individuals, and the other is using holism to find the similarities that bind us together as a group.
Fact is, each one is right, but each thinks the other is wrong. Why? Because neither can conceive that there is no single answer to the question, “are we alike?” because in some ways we are and in other ways we aren’t.
But why would we have these two perspectives yet never reconcile them? Simply put, life experience shows us that under some conditions, it is better to see things as separate and other times as part of the same group. This is how we determine friend from foe, mine from yours, and even defining ourselves sometimes as individuals and sometimes as part of a family.
Children struggle with this as they grow up, first seeing themselves as part of the family, then trying to find their place within it, then trying to define themselves independently of it. But the truth is that we, like Schrodinger’s Cat, are both independent and dependent at the same time.
That is the core problem in the United States – are we United or are we States? There is no single answer because we are all part of the collective, yet at the same time each state has rights independent of the nation as a whole.
These concepts appear over and over again both in the elements of story structure and in the subject matter we explore in stories because choosing one view over the other is never absolute and must be determined by experience for a given context, yet is always changing, drifting, and what was best seen linearly this week (or in our childhood) may be better seen holistically (as an adult) at this time (though it might change again next week).
Linearity looks to the long-wave truths, calls them predicable, labels them as a law, sets up rules to impose the law, and defines any instance where it doesn’t work as an exception.
Holism looks to the short wave truths, calls them “evolving,” labels them as trends, breaks down barriers to encourage evolution, and defines any instance where change does not occur as an obstacle.
Both are true, neither is right.
In the movie, Kingdom of Heaven about the time of the crusades and the struggle for the control of Jerusalem, the Crusader philosophically asks the leader of the Muslims, “What is Jerusalem worth?” The Muslim leader replies, “Nothing,” turns to walk away, turns back and replies again, “Everything.” And THAT is the truth.
Those who go in search of the answer are already looking in the wrong place, because there is no answer. There are two points of view of equal value conceptually, but different value specifically.
When I was around 5 – before Kindergarten – I was on my swing set on an overcast day with a seamless gray sky. I wondered if I could swing high enough so that nothing but gray would fill my field of vision – no swing set edge, no bushes, no trees – no frame of reference.
I swung higher and higher, and after nearly toppling the swing set, for one brief moment, I saw nothing but gray. And I stopped my swing and sat there and wondered – If there was nothing that existed, would it be black because there was no light or gray because there was no black either?
This was an unsolvable problem. I could see it both ways. But clearly neither was more compelling as being the absolute truth of the matter. In my own childish terms, I realize that there were some questions to which there was not a single all-conclusive answer.
I wasn’t bothered by that so much, but I WAS bothered by the notion that there could be something in existence about which my mind was incapable of finding a single answer. In those days, I was sure the answer existed, I remember thinking, maybe God can see the answer. But if he can, then why is mind mind forever incapable of knowing the answer – in what way is my mind inferior to God’s?
Imagine what kind of five-year-old I was to be thinking such thoughts on my own in the back yard while my mom thought I was just playing on the swing set….
So, the fact that such an answerless question could be asked did not ruffle me, but what stuck in my craw and, in fact, guided everything I explored since – especially my work in developing Dramatica and the Story Mind and Mental Relativity, was to at LEAST find an answer to the question of why my mind is incapable of seeing the answer that surely must exist!
I couldn’t answer THAT question with Dramatica. I couldn’t answer it with 64 years of life-experience. But eventually I did answer it. And then I found peace.
Simply, it isn’t that one side divides and the other multiplies or even one side is exclusive and the other inclusive or even one side defines the differences and the other defines the similarities. No, the way to grok the equation is, one side separates and the other blends.
That blending part is what you don’t see in the dramatica model directly, but it’s affect is omnipresent.
Whenever we abandon our common societal view to step into the shoes of another culture, we discover the same thing – there are those in each society who see the other society as different and those in each society who see the other as the same. But what you don’t often find are those who see the two societies as being both different AND the same.
Embracing that perspective is the closest we can come to becoming one with the Truth.
My advanced work on Dramatica has all been about modeling that. Pretty complex stuff trying to describe something rather simple, but isn’t that always the case?
Now, I don’t expect this note to open your eyes to any new ways of looking at anything or to put peace on your table along with the meat and potatoes, but, like Prince Rupert’s Drop (Google it and watch a video – it’s a cool physics effect), I expect it to disintegrate against against your hard-earned life experiences, at first, and then, by the time you’ve assimilated it for a while, the almost invisible shock wave of this concept will reach the root of the questions you set out to answer, and will work its way back up from your premises to your conclusion, shattering previous perspectives along the way.
But that is not my purpose. Rather, the point for the here and now is to open a door to an additional realm within the Dramatica theory that leads to a more sweeping and more practical appreciation of the model as it initially appears and as you have currently applied it.