here are some numbers which keep coming up in fiction. The obvious number is three: there are three little pigs, three billy goats gruff, and Goldilocks eats three bears (right?). We’ll come back to three, but let’s talk about some other nice numbers.
In Tibetan Buddhism, Tulpas are theoretical beings or objects created with the mind or spirit. In modern internet parlance, a Tulpa is a theoretical autonomous sentient being coexisting with the consciousness of its creator, a Tulpamancer. Various internet communities share guides, tips, and advice for creating and managing Tulpas.
At first glance, it’s easy to look down on this sort of thing. What kind of grown adult has an imaginary friend? It doesn’t help that many Tulpamancers choose to make Tulpas based on anime characters or My Little Ponies. Even if it’s true that a Tulpa is autonomous, and not just an imaginary friend whose actions are consciously directed, isn’t that just self-induced schizophrenia?
But think about it this way: you can predict how your closest friend will react to events. You can even finish their sentences, or make them laugh with a knowing glance. In this sense, even if your predictions aren’t always correct, you mentally simulate your friend as a natural aspect of social interaction.
As a writer, I’m used to setting aside part of my consciousness and claiming it’s someone else. In that regard, writing a book is like playing with sock-puppets. Fictional characters tread the line between narrative tools and autonomous actors; spend long enough on any writing forum and you’ll hear about people whose characters have spontaneously diverged from the plot they’ve planned.
There’s no way around it: the fundamental structure of our consciousness is built to house autonomous sentient beings. The most obvious example is the self. After all, if you’re not an autonomous sentient being, what are you?
I try to mix and match so many mythologies that my writing isn’t so much cultural appropriation as cultural appreciation. Still, with the surreal imagery I’m pumping in, I occasionally reference stuff I didn’t even know about.
I didn’t make Akayama reflect Inari on purpose, but Akayama also reflects Quetzalcoatl (she’s a feathered serpent who sets herself on fire) and she creates Sheridan, Akayama DanJay’s Garden of Eden, so I think I’ve spread my religious influences thin enough to get away with it.
Wabi-sabi 侘寂 is a concept I’m almost certainly misunderstanding and misusing, but I’m not going to sweat it, because acceptance of imperfections is important in wabi-sabi, so my terrible explanation here is probably appropriate.
To pull a quote directly from the Wikipedia article, wabi-sabi “occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West.” Where western art might be measured by its resemblance to reality, or to an immaculate ideal, the Japanese notion of wabi-sabi encourages us to appreciate the way things are and their eventual ending. Objects reflecting wabi-sabi might invoke stark melancholy with the implication of personal history in their imperfections. The recurring example I find of a physical object representing wabi-sabi is a simple tea-cup, perhaps chipped, whose glaze is fading with use.
In L2. The Interview with Virgil Blue Jay sits alone with the mysterious Virgil. Virgil Blue’s engrossing silver mask resembles the moon, and like the moon, Virgil Blue represents the ultimate truth, silent but solid. Blue refuses to speak to Jay, even after Jay asks a question three times, until Jay writes “”. This seems to provoke the Virgil, who tells Jay to drop the pen. When Jay promises not to speak or listen, Virgil Blue tells him the story of Nemo, the first man in the religion of Sheridan.
I’m a bit strapped for time this week, as I’ve got a big midterm on Friday I should probably be studying for right now. I’ll keep my commentary quick as we discuss Nemo’s horrifying tale.