20: Conversion

Conversion is an all-too-uncommon experience in our age of enlightened skepticism and easy religion. The skeptic is apt to consider a conversion experience delusional, for it (or any human experience whatever) cannot be observed through scientific means and so cannot be said to truly exist. For the religious atheist, on the other hand, the phenomenon of conversion is supplanted by the notion of a kind of software update where beliefs and behaviors are changed but that’s about it. However, conversion is much more profound and precarious than either of these attitudes may attest.


19: Permission

There are two principle prerequisites for mastery of anything: practice and permission. The necessity of diligent practice over many hours is well-known, but the second dimension is often overlooked, if it is considered at all. Indeed, most will likely have never heard of permission spoken of in this way. What has permission to do with mastery? Initiation by assent We generally take the need for constant practice to be required for mastering skills as well as ourselves.
Modern zombies
The zombie apocalypse is among the most recurrent and persistent themes in the popular culture of our time. The image is of a world overrun by creatures neither living nor dead, whose sole sustenance is the flesh of the living. Millions if not billions of people find this vision thoroughly compelling, perhaps even addictive. What makes this theme so enchanting to the modern human being? Undead confluence As we shall see, there is a confluence of mutually reinforcing factors that compound together to render the zombie apocalypse a canonical mythology of our time.
Round loaf

In part 1 of this series, we defined “the bread problem” as the tension between spiritual and artistic demands and those of bodily sustenance. We also looked into some possible, though ultimately unsatisfactory, solutions. In this second and final part of the series, we’ll dig into the roots of what makes the bread problem so difficult and consider how a viable solution might be realized.

Bread loaf

The “starving artist” has long since become a cliché, even in our “advanced” civilization. Art is not always or essentially an ascetic endeavor, so why do we so easily assume artists to be nutritionally challenged? The answer lies in our intuitive understanding of what we might call “the bread problem”.


Before the modern idea of “sense data”, it was thought that the eyes themselves illuminated the world they witnessed. Though this notion was lost to natural scientific thinking, poets retained knowledge of sensory “outlits” that reveal the world to us. Let’s see what we can learn from the poets about the nature of our senses.

Praise the Sun

Imagination knows no boundaries, while the world of daily life is frought with limitations and obstacles. When these worlds collide, disappointment, despair, or worse may be born from the conflagration. So, we tend to sacrifice one world on the altar of the other, lopping off half of life in the process. Half is enough for many, but what are we who seek the whole of life to do? The quest of Solaire of Astora, of Dark Souls fame, provides a clue.

Sharpened charcoal & sandpaper block

Addiction is a fact of life for many, perhaps most, people these days. For all the talk about the “disease” of addiction, we continue to get addicted at great human cost. It stands to reason that we want to be addicted, that addiction is in fact doing something for us that is worth the cost. If so, we might hazard a “cure” for addiction: a reason to quit.


Many of us have struggled to find our calling, only to end up trodding the same tired ground over and over again. How do we get stuck in this loop and, more importantly, how can we get beyond it and get to the work we’re destined to do? It all starts with hearing.

Blank leaf

What is space? The answer to this seemingly esoteric question has, in fact, tremendous practical significance for our everyday lives. Our conventional thinking about space can alienate us from others and ourselves by creating the illusion that we are all separated by an unbridgable distance. How can we rethink space to bring ourselves closer to our fellow human beings and to ourselves?