Saturday, January 16, 2016

Book Review: Harmony Black by Craig Schaefer

Amazon Prime recommended this one to me (how Amazon manages to recommend anything to me given the weird and random things I buy is really beyond my algorithmic abilities), and for once the interwebs read me correctly.

Harmony Black by Craig Schaefer was completely worth the time. I loved this book enough to read it in a night, losing sleep to find out what happened. 

If you know anything about me at all, that's just about the highest praise I can give a story: I am excessively protective of my sleep. The premise alone was enough to hook my interest: FBI agent recruited somewhat against her will into a secret black project government branch that investigates and eliminates paranormal threats, because she's a Witch.

I like paranormal fiction. I like well written, fast paced, fleshed-out paranormal fiction that has a surprise or two...and oh, the characterization of Harmony's personal demons, along with the rest of her team's quirks, kept me entertained for the whole story. Since this is the beginning of a new spinoff series by Schaefer, the story surrounds the initial case bringing Harmony's new Scooby team together. The timeline skips from her recruitment, in which she specifies she works alone, thanks, to her long-needed vacation after bagging some major case monster in Vegas. But we've all watched enough cop shows to know vacation is NEVER uninterrupted, and she's ordered to break her "lone-wolf" rule by joining some elite super-secret monster hunting squad: to catch and kill the Boogeyman. 

I appreciate that this book is truly a monster-hunting story. The ethical conflicts between expediency of removing a (literally) monstrous threat to the public versus following procedure seems boring when written in a sentence, but as a conflict for the main characters it's what brings a measure of reality into a universe where demonic bounty hunters from Hell are competing with the FBI to catch a creature stealing babies. 

Yup, I just wrote that sentence. 

And, because I not only wrote that sentence but thoroughly enjoyed the book that drove me to write it, I'll be reading the sequel(s) as they come out. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

"Happy" Isn't My Goal

There's this absolutely fantastic video going around on social media in which Jada Pinkett-Smith tells her daughter, eloquently and with the sort of power only she has, that the messaging in this country to women about being wives and mothers needs to change. Her point is that women are made to feel guilty or "less" if they DARE to take care of themselves first, so they are happy. And that happiness is our own responsibility; no one, no matter how awesome, can make you happy. YOU make you happy, then it's shared.

I love this. I think it's completely applicable to both sexes (particularly regarding spousehood and parenthood).

But the messaging is still just a little off, and I've been thinking a lot in the past month or so about why the "find/make your happiness" phrases are out of tune in my head.

Much like the word LOVE, I think the word HAPPY is often misused to represent something else, and it's that something else we're responsible for creating in our personal universe.

Well being

What's the difference? 

Happiness is an emotion. An emotion is a fleeting feeling, just like Minnesota weather: wait five minutes (ok, maybe sometimes an hour or a day or a week) and it will change. Happy (or sad, or bored, or elated, or lustful, or joyous, or disdaining) isn't a state of BEING: it's a state of FEELING.

Seriously, our culture is all about being happy all the time, like we should all be giggling and thrilled with our lives every fucking second of every fucking day. And if you aren't happy all the time there's clearly something wrong with you: ads are all about telling you what do you need to buy, eat, fuck, or take (alcohol/drugs) to feel happy.

Except you can't BE happy all the time. No one can: happiness by definition as an emotion is not permanent. If you were happy all the time, where's the room for everything else: sadness for lost friends/family/pets, falling in love, anger, rage, jealousy. We are here in these meat suits to bumble around for a couple decades, and we've been given this astounding capacity to feel: maybe we're SUPPOSED to feel it all. Maybe focusing on any single feeling and trying to force it to be constant is unhealthy: it can't be constant. It is fleeting, and it happens more than once.

The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear* might focus specifically on fear (yes, it's not about finding your happy, but bear with me here), but the concept that no emotion controls you unless you allow it can be applied to any emotion. Observing doesn't lessen the feeling: it allows a moment of space between experiencing the emotion and acting in, I can observe that I'm pissed off without actually punching someone (which would make me happy for a moment...and probably less happy when I end up in jail...therefore, useful to the whole adulting thing). I know, if you're not a Dune fan it seems like a weird non-sequitor, but I always liked the Litany as an example of the underlying state of well-being.

A state of BE-ing is the ocean over which emotions sail. Or, if you prefer construction terms, maybe it's the foundation over which emotions pass... 

In any case, if that foundation is strong (if you are in a state of positive well-being in general) I think it could be called contentment. Contentment isn't happiness. Happiness is a MOMENT. Contentment is a state which can weather emotional storms, whether they are exciting in a positive way (joy, elation, lust, passion) OR a negative way (sadness, fear, anger, jealousy), because underneath all the emotions is a core person who is stable, strong, and good with both their place in life and where they're going. 

Make no mistake, contentment doesn't mean complacent: I firmly believe a person with deep rooted foundation is most open to growth and NEEDS to grow and change. In nature and the universe, that which stops growing stagnates. Stagnation leads to decay. 

And nobody wants a goddamn horde of mosquito larve infesting their foundation. Ok I mixed metaphors about: nobody wants cracks and rot in the foundation. Nobody wants the icky, smelly pond full of bugs and dead leaves instead of clear, clean water. Better? 

Discontent works the same way in the reverse: if your well-being is damaged and you are not content or well, does ANYTHING really make you truly happy? Can you feel even a moment of actual joy if your underlying wellness is murky?

So. What about the love thing? Well, that's something I'm still working it'll be in a different rambly and nonsensical post.

*The Litany Against Fear, Frank Herbert, Dune, 1965

I must not fear.Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain