The Brad OH Inc. Happy Times Children’s Blog Post

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampI’m afraid I must apologize in advance. I don’t have any cute cat pictures to share with you, nor will I be indulging in any hilarious memes. I have little talent for the sort of viral content which is so popular these days—I find myself grounded in my age, and can offer little in the way of contemporary distraction.

But that’s not the only apology due to you, and that is in fact precisely the purpose of this article. Certainly, you have a great deal to entertain you—the myriad distractions and novelties provided for you surpass by far the offerings of any generation prior. Sadly, you may grow to find that dependence on such toys often stands in the way of imagination—that lauded gift given to you by birthright and discouraged by reality. Do not let it wither within you—for the future depends upon the imagination, hope, and problem solving skills of your generation.

We welcome you to this world with open arms and sagging spirits—excited for your arrival at the same time we are shamed by the condition of the world we present.

Fear, distrust, and desperation are the leitmotifs of our present day. The distractions you will be subjected to have already taken their toll on us, and the failures of my generation will be the chief inheritance of your own.

The deceptions you face will inevitably be even stronger than those which sundered us from decency and good sense. You will be tempted by greed, misguided by vice, placated by contentment, and pacified by placebos—a constant stream of assurances that if you bury your head in the sand and allow time to slip by, everything will be ok in the end.

Of course, that is not the case.

It’s not an enviable situation we leave to you, and that is the reason for our apology here today. But with it, I offer something else, and that is encouragement. Perhaps a challenge even, for I expect you will find that far more enticing.

Be better than us. Expect more—not for yourself, but from yourself and all others as well. Demand that your generation rises to the incredible potential it holds in secret, and refuse to accept anything less than the beauty of which you are inherently capable. Pursue science, and knowledge, and faith, and justice. Do not blindly accept the systems around you, or fail to seek answers where there is doubt. Question all, and where you find the accepted answers do not satisfy you, question further still.

Find new answers—or create them. Evaluate what you have, challenge what you’re told, and never settle for less than you are capable. Change systems, laugh loudly, and tear down political structures which are meant not for your benefit but your containment.

Scream, bang walls, and rage like only youth can. Get in the faces of your elders and show them that you can do better—remind them of the truths you take as sacrosanct—which they have long forgotten. Be better than us—it will be a shame which we can happily bear in our twilight years, watching with unbridled pride as our failures are buried in history and your victories shine all the brighter for the difficulty through which they were achieved.

And through it all of course, remember to have fun.

-Brad OH Inc.

Will vs. When: In Defense of the Muses

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampToday, in continuing our celebration of the release of ‘Between the Shelves: A Tribute to Libraries by Edmonton Writers’, we are happy to share with you a submission from our former anthology, ‘Don’t Chew on the Sharp End of the Pencil’.

This anthology was released back in March of 2013, and much like ‘Between the Shelves’, was edited by Brad OH Inc. and Hal J. Friesen, and featured submissions by members of ‘Edmonton Writer’s Group’.

Below, you’ll find the Brad OH Inc. submission from ‘Don’t Chew on the Sharp End of the Pencil’ in its entirety. We hope you enjoy it, and don’t forget to pick up your copy of ‘Between the Shelves: A Tribute to Libraries by Edmonton Writers’ in either Kindle ($2.99), or Paperback ($12.50) copies. All proceeds are to be donated to the Edmonton Public Library System.

BetweenTheShelvesCoverWill vs. When: In Defense of the Muses

A Discussion on Timing your Productivity

-By Brad OH Inc.-

 In many ancient cultures, art was considered the work of divine inspiration, imparted unto chosen individuals by the muses. In some accounts they were daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne—the goddess of memory. Some myths hold that there were three muses, while other accounts say nine. In some legends they are each given a separate artistic domain—ranging from poetry to tragedy, and even encompassing such arts as comedy, astrology, and dance.

I am not a historian, and cannot claim a comprehensive knowledge of the muses’ origins. All that I can say with certainty is that I have yet to meet a muse, and by this fact I am somewhat perturbed. They would be most useful for anyone in a position for which creativity is a prerequisite, and I can certainly imagine that if they existed—whether there were three or nine—all art would cease, as all artists began a bloody battle for possession of one.

When writing, I often feel there is a similar conflict being waged for my productivity. This conflict is recalled to me whenever I hear other writers planning their efforts—particularly when the discussion drifts towards overcoming the dreaded ‘writer’s block’. It is the battle of will versus when.

There are myriad opinions on the matter, for there are many different writers. It might be that the ‘will’—that indescribable drive to write which often settles upon us at the most inopportune times—is lacking. This inevitably leaves us throwing crinkled papers angrily across the room, cursing our lack of creativity before giving up entirely.

On the other side is the issue of ‘when’. Writing is a demanding occupation, and we are bombarded constantly with conflicting expectations which encroach on time that might otherwise be spent churning out vast tomes of flawless material.

This conflict happens to us all. Every writer finds themselves challenged by one of these constraints—if not both. Often enough, ‘will’ and ‘want’ will double team us—a sudden brilliant idea will strike us, and we know that as soon as we’re at our desks that this cathartic flash will become the breakthrough plot of our burgeoning career. That’s the setup.

But chores abound, and when finally we find ourselves seated in our office chair—that imagined place were high art flows from our pens like fountain pop at a child’s party—we find ourselves abandoned. The words don’t come, or worse, the idea is in hindsight pretentious or cliché. That’s the knockout punch.

Wherever you turn, you’ll find advice on the matter—and I remember trying it all. I’d sit at my desk for hours uncounted as the chair constricted around me. The blinding snowstorm of my blank screen burning my tired eyes as I’d reassure myself: You just have to sit and force it, dig deep and find where you’ve got it buried.

Nothing would come.

I’d sit until I was certain to develop bedsores, and finally push away in disgust—positive there had to be a better way.

Of course, this attempt at forced productivity was duly compensated for. Weeks would pass in an apathetic malaise—I’d tell myself I was recharging or that I needed to be in the right place to write. That place wouldn’t come either.

It made me wonder why I started to write. I certainly don’t remember sitting down with an empty word processor, thinking: This is the life. I’m not sure any writer ever has.

So how did I start to write then? In fact, I can’t recall now that I look back. What I am certain of is that it happened gradually, most likely as I came to realise that I had a lot I wanted to write about—and more important still—that I enjoyed doing so.

How do we as writers find ourselves at this impasse? Whether walking the streets reflecting moodily on our recent lack of productivity, or sitting with an empty sheet regretting our inability to find the words, we are constantly relegated into the unwilling pawns as our inspiration squares off with our discipline in a match which can end only with the death of our aspirations.

When writing is such a struggle, it can be a feat to remind ourselves that frustration is an integral aspect of any endeavor, and that no matter how it may try us, we write because we enjoy it.

Enter the muses—shy ladies, they come unlooked for—bringing a sudden smile as the words fall together in your mind. Like the building of a song, the bridge of some happenstance occurrence meets the chorus of obscure connections, until we are left awestruck by the crescendo of a promising plot.

It’s not something you can look for. That’s not how the muses operate. But I do know that when I sit at my desk calling for them, there is seldom an answer. Nor do I fare better playing hard to get, pushing them from my mind hoping they’ll sneak up from behind.

Rather, we must allow ourselves to receive these inspirations when they come, yet know where our efforts are best aimed when they do not. Being a writer is a surprisingly multi-faceted pursuit—editing, marketing, research, organization, plotting, learning—all of these and more are required to find success, but not all of them demand the attention of the muses.

Productivity may be achieved even when creativity lacks, yet we must be vigilant for creativity when it does arrive. In an age of limitless accessibility to technology, it’s easy to be prepared: phones, tablets, laptops, or even a good old fashioned notebook. When the call sounds, there’s little excuse not to answer. I’ve found many of my finest periods of productivity coming unexpectedly—one idea branches into many, and I eventually get home with a notebook brimming full of hasty scribbles to decipher.

These brief triumphs don’t end the battle. Perhaps it’s not the sort of battle which is meant to end. There will never be enough time, and what little does come up will still all too often be spent futilely. But if we remind ourselves why we write—what passion for wordplay or prose grew within us to foster this mad pursuit—and in so doing maintain a positive and open attitude towards our craft, then surely we’re on the right track.

It may be an offhand remark of a friend, an unexpected sight, a nagging question whose answer plays out in our minds, or just a whisper on the wind. However it comes though, we must be prepared. For the muses—rare and mysterious as they are—still speak in ancient tongues. It is up to the writers, and indeed all artists of the world, to be ready to translate them.

-Brad OH Inc.

On the Fear of Big Government

purelyspeculationLast week on Brad OH Inc., we explored the issue of government infringements into personal data. This is a serious concern to a great many people—and the striping away of civil liberties such as privacy is a trend which continues to show the detached relationship government has with its citizenry. With such gross violations becoming a regular trend, it’s no wonder we still toil under the outdated notion that ‘big government’ needs to be held in check.

But make no mistake about it people, this is no reason to hate big government; just bad government. In the 1980 presidential race against Jimmy Carter, it was the infernal idiot Ronald Reagan who promised to “get government off our backs” (Source). After taking office, Reagan followed through dutifully on his promise—shattering the government’s role in protecting families, citizens, and the environment. Business, of course, flourished.

This push by Reagan to reduce the size of government was founded on claims of a fictional ‘welfare queen’ getting rich off the tax dollars of the electorate, and the general claim—as off-putting now as it was then for a man seeking public office—that “Government is not a solution to our problem. Government is the problem” (Source).

This toxic line of thinking heralded in an era of anti-government dialogue which effectively allowed rights to shrink away as powers were handed off to the corporations. Social programs were cut, and people suffered. The fictional ‘welfare queens’ theorized by Reagan have been fully realized in the decades since, as corporations are given increasingly large portions of the communal pie: receiving corporate tax breaks, bailouts in place of bankruptcy, and taking eagerly the keys of governance from the discredited and disenfranchised democratic system.

Ever since then, people have been treating government like it’s a dirty word—perhaps because it so often acts like several of them. But fear of government is irrationally motivated, and exercised for all the wrong reasons. It serves only to allow government abuse of citizens. People must remember that proper governance is there to protect them, from exactly the sort of threats which corporate governance has become. We should not fear government; we should utilize and control it to our own empowerment.

Of course, the government has to remember this as well.

The very notion of democratic government is anchored firmly in the concept of representation for the people—and this includes all people, not merely the drivers of the economy. In this era of ever growing population and incredible scientific potential, the ‘free’ market has proven itself a failed notion. But let’s hope that from this mistake we’ve learned at least not to store the meat with the dogs for safe keeping.

It’s the government’s job to put these lessons into action: protecting and promoting the healthy growth of society. This is the primary and most fundamental function of any government which has a legitimate claim to authority, but the vilification of big government started with Reagan has led to a very different objective for government institutions.

By reducing government programs, the general citizenry has been left out of the conversation, while political control has been corralled into the realm of economic growth. The corporations which now run the economic and social systems are malignant automatons. For all the time humans have piddled away fearing robots or advanced and indignant AI’s, they miss that they have not only created such in the corporate human, but also given it the keys to the driver’s seat of our society.

If such a threat came from metal clad robots or from outer space, the entire world would be clamoring for government intervention. Instead, it is claimed to be ‘capitalist’ and a product of the ‘free’ market, and the electorate has bowed their heads in well-rehearsed reverence for their reckless and self-serving overlords.

The point cannot be stressed enough: it is the function of government–elected by and representative of the people—to reign in these brutes, to protect natural resources that rightly belong to all, and to ensure that whether or not commercial entities deign to send our jobs overseas (leaving all save the CEO’s destitute), the people of this and all other countries are provided for from the resulting bounty.

These are the needs of a society, and the job of the government. To fear such is the sole result of misinformed and malicious propaganda. What we have now is not a democratic government, and this needs to change. If we are to find our way out of these difficult times, it must be faith in government—true government—which is the light on our path. This is our salvation—for to fear all government is to leave ourselves alone in the dark, looking to the wolves for solace.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Metaphorical Imperative Revisited

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampIn our last article, ‘Without Words’ we reflected on the idea of what the world would be like without the vocabulary to define it. The concept was an interesting one to write about and consider; ultimately, it got us thinking back on another article we wrote, ‘The Metaphorical Imperative’.

The Metaphorical Imperative, for those who don’t recall, was a notion we explored about the source of and meaning behind creativity. In a nutshell, the idea is that as human beings evolved and our cerebral capacity expanded, the ability to question our world or ask ‘why’ would have appeared around the same time as the ability to use abstract conjecture to answer the question. These activities are certainly tied to language, although they need not be defined by it. Still, for the purposes of this article, we will take articulated thought as the base point for our considerations.

The fundamental assertion behind the concept of ‘The Metaphorical Imperative’ is that if humans owe any reverence or thanks for their current state, we owe it to the incredible work of evolutionary architecture that is our own minds—not to any god, devil, or undefined miscreant in between.

The need for existential reassurance, the fear of death, and the question of what we are and why we are here; these are all the direct products of a brain grown sufficiently complex to wrestle with such abstractions, and this alone is more miraculous and better cause for celebration than any story I’ve read in a holy book.

But that leads us to the next point. If our ability to ask questions is a miracle, what can be aid of our ability to create the answers for them?

Metaphor is the abstract use of one object to find or create meaning in another. If abstract thought is the impetus for asking ‘why’, then the tool for answering it is metaphor. My contention is that these abilities would have evolved in relatively close proximity to one another, representing a true ‘awakening’ of humanity.

If we are to discuss metaphor and meaning, we might as well start with one of the most famous—and central to our current topic. In the Garden of Eden, it’s said that Eve (that reckless upstart) ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and thus doomed mankind forever.

Thanks a lot, Eve.

I find an interesting parallel in this. This fruit, the ‘knowledge of good and evil’ which caused mankind’s fall from innocence, is symbolically comparable to the notion of the Metaphorical Imperative, in which we gain both the ability to question our nature, and the skill to fashion suitable answers.

But it’s really the answers that interest me here; the nourishing apples to the terrible hunger of ennui. Via our ability to create meaning, the human race has tapped into our most fundamental and defining abilities: creation, art, and belief.

The power of this ability might be observed most directly in expressions such as organized religion, whose depth of belief has inspired acts of miraculous empathy and terrible cruelty. But the power of metaphor isn’t limited to religion alone. Any story—TV shows, books movies, video games—has the power through metaphor to provide just as much as religion to anyone with the ability to relate to it on a personal or psychological level.

Stories are the foundation of all culture; ideas, philosophy, art and religion, the fundamental basis of humanity can be defined as the ability to dream things up in a way they are not.

There are no exceptions. Whether it’s sports, gods, science-fiction, or science alone, everyone places their trust in some grand idea, anchoring their hopes and aspirations to some intangible notion that rings true to them.

Luke Skywalker, Aragorn, The New Orleans Saints, Zen Buddhism, Zeus and Allah and Jesus, all the angels in heaven and demons in hell have sprung from this one key human drive. All art is the product of the metaphorical imperative, and stands as testament to everything which makes us human.

But here an important consideration arises in our series of metaphors. If, as suggested earlier, this key drive which makes us human (for both good and ill) was represented as the great deception of the devil in the garden, then perhaps all artists are in fact worshipping the devil.

Perhaps the development of consciousness and desire in humans was an accident—a random fluke forever changing the course of our species. No doubt we would have existed in perfect harmony with our environment if we’d never developed the capacity to believe we are separate or better.

Maybe it’s a good thing, and maybe not. But although this cerebral capacity has led to great pain and suffering throughout history, I refuse to believe it is not also the thing which will see us to what we need to become. Creation and metaphor, for all our missteps, define us as the beautiful, shining bastards we are, and will someday show us just how incredible we can truly be.

All we need to find is the right story.

-Brad OH Inc.

Without Words

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

Among the many blessings inherent to being a writer, paramount among them is the gift of always having the right word for a given occasion. Any writer—and even well-read non-writers—knows the thrill of pulling out some million-dollar word that so perfectly encapsulates your predicament it seems made just for the occasion. But recently, I found myself wondering just what sort of blessing this is, and whether with every proud smile and impressed friend that comes with knowing how to effectively articulate some miniscule event, some greater thrill may be lost.

What would the world be like without words?

Not many know—and those that do would certainly have a difficult time expressing it. It’s a primal sort of idea, hearkening back to cold days huddled around small fires on the plains of the savannah; gazing with inexpressible unease into the encroaching dark.

Sitting at that fire, you might feel the cold creeping into your bones, and with no words for why, toss another handful of sticks onto the glowing coals of your salvation. The flames would lick up; tiny firefly sparks sailing up into the boundless night sky to get lost among the countless, brilliant stars that watch you each night from above as the wolves watch from below.

The heat would swell, pushing back the creeping chill of night in its eternal yet ultimately futile battle. You might smile, and your head would swim with the wonder of it all. You would understand the connections and worship the results, but you’d have no words for the meaning behind it. A smile would have to suffice.

The next day would find you rested and warm, the sun back again, reliable as ever, chasing away the nameless demons of night and promising again that the familiar cycle would continue. And you would be glad.

There would be no words for the joy that day brings, nor the trepidation you might feel when the thunder clouds roll in, covering up the sun and threatening with their deep voices to tear the sky asunder.

With all the terrible fury of an unimagined god they would come, beating down with rain and hail from above, and shattering the mountaintops with flashes of authority beyond description.

Imagine then the relief when they passed, and again the world returned to normal—like it always did. Imagine the thrill of security and the reassuring surge of faith in your pounding heart: imagine it all without words.

So too would every waking moment be defined by such wonder. In the world we live in now—there are words for everything, even if at times many seem to fall so pitifully short.

Without words, how confounding would be ideas like hate, and love, and grief. Without a means of expressing them, how could we ever let go of that which hurt or hallowed us. All would be reduced to the guttural screams of terror or triumph; communication shackled to the hair-tearing passions of inarticulate isolation.

With no weather systems or science or writing, the world would be an unpredictable place of magic and mania—and every turn would bring some uplifting new idea which would lie stillborn on lips incapable of giving them birth.

It’s a marvellous but inaccessible idea. I think about it a lot, and slide every time down an unspeakable precipice of wonder and nostalgia, as if touching by proxy upon the culturally inherited passions we all share in our ancient past. It fills me with an incredible sense of awe, but each time I’m moved to encapsulate the extent of such feelings, I find sadly that I am without words.

-Brad OH Inc.

In Defense of the Villain

Under the Green Desk Lamp..

Green Desklamp

There is a great deal of credit to be given to the pivotal villains in our lives. They are the flavour—the spices to the bland and basic nutrients of daily experience. Without the villains, there is no story, and without villains, it’s pretty damn hard to have a hero. Without the Joker, Batman is just some crazy asshole in tights; without Scar, Simba just an entitled burgeoning monarch.

Whether we look to the great novels of our time, or fine films—in daily life and even in professional wrestling, it’s inevitably the villains that make the story matter. They create the conflict, and more often than not, provide the personality so lacking in a world without them.

At Brad OH Inc., it’s a role we are often more than happy to play, and why not? Villains walk the less familiar path, and the great ones do so for reasons worthy to make us question what might otherwise be a simple matter of rote knowledge. They are the equation before the solution, the seduction preceding the climax.

In contrast, the hero is an easy role, and one driven merely by the most basic values and expectations which everyone should know. They’re accessible, simple, and fundamentally uninteresting. Ultimately, the hero can by nature do little more than reaffirm that which we already know, and while this can for a certainty be a great comfort at times, it lacks the potential to teach us anything new. Practice makes perfect—but mistakes are where the fun comes in.

Yet if you ask any given person, at any random time, you will with little variance hear them claim that they are a ‘good guy/ girl’, that they do what is right, and condemn its antithesis. It’s not a hard claim to make, and it shouldn’t be a difficult line to walk. The right choices are—or at the very least certainly should be—incredibly easy to make. Decency is a concept confined to no language, limited by no culture. It’s the same in most any society, and is the basis of every religion. Be honest, treat others well, consider the effects of your actions—Christ, I’m getting bored just typing it. Reiterating such basic concepts ad nauseum is like selling a math book with only the answers—it tells you everything, but teaches you nothing. It’s the job of the villain to provide the questions, and that is by far the more compelling role.

But while the villain may be the more fun and interesting role, it’s no earth-shaking thesis to say that decency remains the logical choice as far as actual action goes. After all, if everyone were to simply follow even the most basic principles of decency, we would be living in a veritable utopia of equity and compassion. A quick and informed look around however should tell even the most simple-minded observer that that is far from the case.

So what’s going wrong? Is it that the majority, or even a highly impactful minority, is choosing to play the villain role out of passion for its inherent interest? No, I don’t think so.

If we accept the basic assumption that the world would be paradise if everyone were to follow simple precepts of decency, and further that this is such a self-evident truth that awareness of it can never be far from any one person’s worldview, then the current state of the world presents us with a significant conundrum.

The problem as I see it is that for such a system of basic decency to have any success whatsoever, it must be a tenet to which everyone holds dear. Not a few, not even the majority. It’s a platitude to be sure, but in this case it’s true that even a few bad apples will spoil the barrel. If your neighbour is likely to rob you blind and leave you for dead, showing trust and decency is a quick ticket to being a victim.

For decency to work, it must be ubiquitous. To this end, the impetus to act morally is a shared responsibility of all; unfortunately, this tends to translate in the minds of the simple majority as tantamount to and inseparable from diffused responsibility.

Herein lies the problem. The perception of diffused responsibility is erroneous from the start, as it functions to break down faith in others, and provides excuses for the self. ‘It’s up to everyone, not just me’, is an easy call to arms for the ethically impaired, and could act as an effective summary of society at large. Ultimately, diffused responsibility serves as a lessened sense of purpose for everyone involved.

The fact that a successful society is the shared responsibility of so very many people makes the idea of personal responsibility seem like a distant pipe dream, whereas in truth it should serve to increase the motivation. In place of diffused responsibility, I would submit that it should be felt as a sense of compounded responsibility. The more people share in a responsibility—and the more significant the good that stands to be gained—the greater should be the personal impetus to adhere to it.

Obviously, that expectation is a fruitless hope, but there have been respectable approaches to creating this sense in the past. For starters, an obvious attempt is rule of law. This applies consequences to anyone who strays too far from the path of decency, as defined by the courts. Law certainly succeeds in maintaining a status quo, but the threat of punishment is insufficient to snuff out ill-will in those who see no future in honesty.

Another historical attempt to keep people adhering strictly to the righteous path has been religion. Religion has—to an extent—managed to help overcome the notion of diffused responsibility and settle on the greater ideal of compounded responsibility to be decent—at the threat of eternal fire. But with the rate of active practitioners dropping steadily (Source), and the very notion of faith being bastardized by legislation such as the Right to Corporate Religion (Source), there is again little in the way of keeping the average person from shirking this fundamental personal responsibility.

The death of god is one thing, the death of the human spirit is another entirely—and a far more regrettable one at that.

So what solutions remain? If the threat of punishment by measures such as laws only motivates cooperation as long as the benefit of compliance outweighs the motivation for misdeeds, and religion is increasingly ineffective at providing internal motivation to respect the compounded responsibility to decency, what options are we left with?

I think the key question here is, beyond the delectable irony of playing the villain role, why do so many people choose to break public trust—diffused responsibility notwithstanding?

Above, we established that the world would be a utopia if everyone simply made the right choices, and acted with dignity and respect. There would be no need for dishonesty or competition. However the problem that arises is distrust—if you cannot count on other people acting this way, then you will be ripped off and fooled. Thus, very few people bother to act correctly.

The problem here is that society is presently functioning as a zero-sum game: the gains of one are the losses of another. This is increasingly true in a world where Corporations are bleeding money out of the economy, hoarding it in non-taxable offshore accounts and leaving the population as a whole to struggle on with exponentially limited resources.

If our goal is a society where people will willingly make choices that benefit society as a whole, the solution is not singularly in punishing those who break this social contract, but rather in fostering a nation in which there exists the option for all people to safely make this choice.

With effectively balanced social supports: healthcare, welfare, affordable education and housing, etc., we could strive towards a society where living in a moral way will never leave a person wanting or starving. If citizens were not forced into unbearable debt, they could realistically get by simply living a just life. If people had that faith in their society, it would make true the false promises of all past religions.

Despite the fun of playing the villain, I firmly believe that people would choose to be good if it were a realistically safe path free of treachery and betrayal. If we want people to act morally, they must be provided with the option to do so unburdened by the threat of a neglected family life or crippling debt.

It is possible, but first we must move past the selfish machinery of Corporate profit-motivated nihilism which continues to keep the citizenry shackled to a lifestyle of simple survival without positive growth.

It’s just an idea mind you. It’s a complex issue, and there can be no doubt the obstacles in the way are unthinkably vast. In the meantime, there’s no sense in not enjoying ourselves. If we can’t have perfection, at least we can have fun! Here at Brad OH Inc., we’re happy to continue to play the villain, at least until a better role comes along.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Metaphorical Imperative

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

Here at Brad OH Inc., I’m often asked why I write. Certainly, it’s a difficult question to answer. For me, pleasure would be one acceptable response—whether it’s my own, or that of the visitors who read and enjoy what I’ve written—both are wonderful reasons to write. I’ve heard other authors answer this question as well, with such varied responses as: ‘to elicit emotion’, ‘to express myself’, ‘to make money’, and of course, the old go-to, ‘because it’s what I’m meant to do’.

They’re all true enough, and all equally vague in their own ways. But dealing with such questions, it’s hard to avoid a little bit of abstraction, and that’s ok. When you try to dig any deeper—questioning things such as purpose and meaning—it becomes a real existential quagmire.

To me, writing is a sort of religion. Scratch that… like so many religions, that’s already a bit narrow-minded. Limiting this explanation to writing is unfair… more broadly, art as a whole—or metaphor more specifically—is my religion. Let me explain…

As humans, we occupy a level of intellectual complexity reserved for us alone. As a result, we have many abilities which are entirely foreign to all other known organisms. One of the most obvious, and arguably the most significant, is mortality salience. More clearly put, this refers to our awareness of our inevitable demise. This awareness, as fully explored in Ernest Becker’s ‘Terror Management Theory’, creates an existential terror in us that is unknown in other animals. It also creates something else… a drive for meaning.

Not only are we the only known animals to perceive that we will ultimately die, we are also the only ones capable of creating meaning from nothing—metaphor. The power of metaphor is something which must not be underestimated: it can give us hope, it can inspire courage, and—as applies in the case of mortality salience—it can provide us with comfort.

What makes us so special? Why do we alone have these powers of perception and creation? Well, simply put: evolution. Our brains, under the pressures of natural selection, have slowly expanded in form and function to get us where we are today. Now, this is certainly not the endpoint of evolution, but somewhere in that incredibly drawn out process, we’ve developed the capacities for both language and abstract thought. These developments are among the most crucial to defining our humanity.

Ever since the dawn of complex language in the early prehistory of man, we have been using it to ask such questions as where we came from, what our purpose is, and whether we are serving that purpose well. This delves into some deep religious and philosophical territory, but I believe the important point here is that abstract thinking—the ability create or attribute meaning and connections where they do not naturally exist—serves as both the impetus and the solution for such quandaries.

In short, the ability to ask ‘Why’ exists within us because of our propensity for abstract thought, which is also the reason we are able to answer that question with, ‘Because…’. Our need for meaning and our ability to create it are one in the same.

Metaphor is God—and vice versa. Everyone finds it somewhere—religions, movies, bands, relationships—we idealize and apply significance to everything within the limits of our perception. The fact that some of the most popular metaphors are now held as absolute truth (and used to justify both miracles and atrocities) doesn’t negate their reason for being or their power, but rather only affirms both.

Being human, we all share a sense of wonder. Looking up at the night sky, pondering the nature of deep emotions such as love or hate, reflecting on the direction of humanity and where we are to end up… these are natural behaviours which result inevitably from our very ability to articulate them. Once a question is asked, it cannot be unasked. There is no satisfying the human urge for understanding; only an ongoing effort to satiate it.

I call it the metaphorical imperative. To provide meaning is both the result of, and a response to, our ability to think metaphorically. Every story, song, painting—all works of art—are sincere grasps for meaning. Their success, the extent to which they succeed in this goal, is simply a matter of how strong an impact they have on their audience.
And… that’s why I write.

-Brad OH Inc.