Hall of Mirrors

I wonder if anyone cares enough about what happens next in the “Barny” storyline to make it worth writing.

For all my brave talk lately of writing for myself…. it does it very lonely sometimes.

And perhaps all my bravado about how I am currently writing for myself, writing things I would want to read in order to give to others what other people’s writing has done for me, is nothing but a thin patina of brazen braggadocio covering the same old fear of actually sending my work out into the world to be coldly judged by the gatekeepers of the written world.

And it’s occurred to me that perhaps I am being selfish. It occurred to me during therapy yesterday. My therapist and I talked about how I use my writing to explore various issues of my own and I told him the gist of the Barnacled Hermit plotline, and that led to some very fruitful discussion because, as it turns out, when you explain your meaty metaphors to your shrink, he can ask some very illuminating questions about them.

And that led to him suggesting that my writing could really help people. And that has always been my intention. I want to write things that shine light into the darkness of the isolated live of other people like me, and show them that they are not alone and that there is hope and that they, too, are beautiful.

But to have that idea invoked by him made me really think about whether it is selfish of me to keep my writing largely to myself and to never really focus down enough to make something I write professionally presentable, let alone send it out into the cold cruel world to fend for itself.

If my words are my babies, then submitting them to the gatekeepers is like sending your kid off to school for the first time. I don’t want to let go of them. I want to protect them from the hazards of the real world.

And just thinking about sending them out there to be judged provokes a lot of seperation anxiety in me, mother hen that I am.

And yet, I know I am brilliant. I know I could really contribute. I know my words could do a lot of good in the world.

So am I selfish for keeping them to myself? Do I have a duty to go out into the scrum of the world and fight to get noticed so my words can reach the people most in need of their medicinal effects?

I feel like the answer is an inevtiable yes. After all, imagine if your favorite author(s) had hoarded their words instead of getting them published? You would never have experienced their writing, and you would be the poorer for it.

And yet I can’t accept that because if I did, I would have to end my solitary wordsmithing and start working hard on gettiing published.

And that involves the risk of being plucked out of my little hole when something I wrote sells and there is now an expectation that I will keep going and striving and focusing on getting even more things published and at some point I might even have to talk with strangers on the phone or in person and my social anxiety givesme palpitations just thinking about it?

I guess I have a fear of success.

And a craving for it, of course. I feel like, at this point in my life, I am really feeling the divide between the healthy and unhealthy parts of my mind. The part that is terrified of interacting on a more than superficial and transitory way is obviously the unhealthy part of me, and I really don’t want to be that way.

The healthy part is the part that would love whatever recognition and accomplishment (and reward) might come my way if my writing was to meet with any approval at all.

The unhealthy part would prefer to toil in safe, pathetic obscurity. It quite likes the idea of piling up rejection notices without fear of publication.

That part of me is, quite obviously, insane.

And I want to be rid of it, and all its clutching panic and fretful fears and immobilizing terror. I wish I could just shed it like a second skin and leave it behind as something I have outgrown and stride into the future as the confident, calm, and collected creative tpye I know I can be.

But it’s not that easy. There’s real pain under all that ice and snow inside my heart, and until that shit it thawed out and dealt with, the pain will remain.

And I feel so shriveled up and weak lately. Like there is nothing to me. Like I have no life force in me, no heat to my blood, no pump in my heart. Like all my healthy hearty and hale emotions are frozen in a locked deep-freeze somewhere deep in the vast and icy warehouse of my soul.

What am I so afraid of? I ask myself. I know I can do this. I know my writing is fucking amazing and better than most of the crap out there. I know I could be very successful at writing if I just put myself out there.

But then I wouldn’t be able to scurry back to my hole whenever I got too freaked out! says the sick part of me. I would have to go out there and stay out there for long periods of time and cut way down on my alone time and, in short, I would have to deal with life.

And deep down, I don’t wanna.

But I do. But I don’t.

And so whether it’s indecision or indolence, I end up not going anywhere in my life, and that makes me sadder and sadder as I get older and older without even even getting started at life.

And some day I die without even making a ripple in the pond.

And when I have died, they will lower me into the earth.

But it won’t matter, because I was buried insde myself way before that.

And on both sides of the grave, I just sit there and rot.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.


The Further Adventures of Barny

The Barnacled Hermit (or “Barny”, as the media persisting in calling him). glanced nervously at the sky as he followed his blessedly familiar path around his tiny asteroid.

Technically, there was no need to do this. The signaling station maintained itself flawlessly. It was also entirely redundant as the signals it was designed to monitor weren’t merely obsolete, their entire spectrum had been replaced by a new technology called Modlar that made the station seem as absurd and ancient and primitive as communicating by tribal drum.

The station was, therefore, of merely historical signifigance, and to be honest, Barny had, technically, stolen it.

he was at least honest enough to admit that to himself and to not pretend that he had some noble purpose for it or that it was somehow better than all that newfangled quantum entanglement nonsense.

He needed it because it helped him feel sane.

He’d done a lot of crazy things for that reason.

Like search the galaxy tables for an asteroid identical to the one on which he had been stranded seven hundred years previous.

The original, of course, was now a religious site to which tourists flocked to visit the Shrine of Shimmering Purity (home to the Barnacled Adventists) and/or the Beacon of Life Temple (the separate but still technically in the same building headquarters of the Staff of Life/Circle of Birth cult).

Barny wouldn’t dream of going within a thousand light years of that place. It was embarrassing enough when he had only one religion founded in his name and purporting to espouse his beliefs and carry out his agenda.

But to have there be two? Two that constantly squabble over brutally tiny details like which part of the building was higher and therefore closer to God and whether their religious symbols were first on the “all religions welcome” sign?

That was more than any being should ever have to take.

Besides, large parts of their doctrines were mutually exclusive, so if Barny showed up and said practically anything, it would be interpreted as endorsing one side or the other and he’d end up being accused of heresy.

Even worse, the other side would then be hanging on every word their new spiritual said so they could add it to their holy scriptures.

And there was no way his programming could handle that level of responsibility.

That’s why he was now walking an unnecessary route around a hilariously obsolete signaling station on a very, very expensive asteroid with an even more expensive cloaking system that made it invisible to absolutely all known methods of detection in the known galaxy.

He just couldn’t take it any more. He had to escape. It had cost him most of the vast fortune he had unwillingly accumulated over the centuries to do it, but now he was as safe from the huddled masses as he could could, so it had all been worth it.

Nevertheless, he watched the skies with paranoid intensity, convinced that despite all the measures he had taken, some kind of spaceship was going to land in front of him one day and say “At last! Joyous Day! The Second Finding has come! We’re going to take you to be our leader!. ”

The fact that he’d been forced to improvise some babble about “going on a spiritual journey to find the true source of all meaning” before he disappeared did not help the situation at all.

He’d had no idea the effect that vague nonsense would have on the human mind. Instead of writing him off as a useless cipher like he had thought they would. it had driven the humans into a frenzy of speculation and projection of their own agendas onto his words, and made them all the more determined to find him again in what was now universally called the Second Age.

And all from a string of spiritual sounding words he’d made up on the spot in order to dodge a determined looking interviewer.

There was so much he would never understand about humans.

Not that his fellow robots were any better. Sure, they vehemently denied that their “Research Societies” and “Study Institutes” and “Foundling Universities” were not, in way shape or form,  religious institutions, Barny wasn’t fooled.

He knew fanaticism and worship when he saw it.

After all. he’d been the victim of it enough times.

So now he spent his days in the only place where he felt sane, or at least, where he felt the least crazy.

If you are honest with yourself. there is only many times you can check the sky for something you know, logically, cannot be there and still consider yourself sane.

That’s why when a vehicle actually did appear. he hadn’t noticed right away. There had been, shall we say, false positives many times before, and he had gotten into the habit of discounting anything he thought he saw up there unless it gave him a clear, unambiguous sign that it was here to stay.

This it did by landing, rather sloppily,  directly in front of him and disgorging what had to be the ugliest human Barny had ever seen. The man (?) seemed to be made of warts, scars, and clump of unwholesome looking hair.

This should be a good one, thought Barny, who had become somewhat of a connisuer of hallucinations as of late.

The “human” glared at Barny with insect-black eyes for a few minutes. then waddled aggressively up to Barny and glared at him some more.

Dqarny was impressed with himself. He wouldn’t have thought he had the imagination to creature such a thoroughly repulsive creature. but obviously, he had.

The “man” walked around an utterly fascinated Barny like he was appraising Barny’s value as livestock and wasn’t too impressed. At least, that’s what Barny thought those grunts and half-enunciated words meant.

And then “he” said the words that would once more shatter the Barnacled Hermit’s world and make him have to rethink everything all over again.

“So who the hell are you?”.