Sometimes people on Twitter tell me to get therapy. Not because they actually care about me or mental illness, of course, or because they agree with the best practices of the mental health profession. But I did just go to therapy for a few months. I got it from an unlicensed USU student at a huge discount because I live in poverty. Like everyone else in that building, she was irreligious and politically progressive, the opposite of these Twitter people - not that she pushed any of that on me, but I made the assumption and she confirmed it. I mentioned on my blog when I started therapy, and then I thought I'd have a lot to say about it, but I didn't. Now I'm done for the time being because we ran out of things to talk about and also because I live in poverty.
At the beginning, I was just so excited to have a captive audience that I wanted to talk to her about all the deep intellectual things that I'm starving to talk about. I'd half-seriously considered hiring a prostitute to pretend to be interested in the things that interest me, and I assume this was cheaper. But she wanted to have actual therapy goals and stuff. She had the idea to read and discuss a chapter of The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspective of Autism by Dr. Temple Grandin and Sean Barron each week, and since it's available to borrow for free on archive.org, I agreed. I went through a suicidal patch last summer when I realized that the loneliness I've experienced for my entire adult life is never going to go away. Now it's daunting to even think about trying to have real relationships. I'm still not sure if I will.
I've been a fan of Temple Grandin for a while. I'd never heard of Sean Barron. They bring very different perspectives to the book. It seems that Sean wants relationships for their own sake, while Temple just sees them as a thing she has to do to advance her career. Sean sees autism as a disease and thinks he's been cured of it by learning to think differently, while Temple just sees it as the way she is. I have some mixed feelings about their approach to teaching social skills in the book. I agree that people on the autism spectrum need to understand how to be polite and hygienic. I think I've already benefitted from some of the principles they explained, like showing interest in people and knowing when it's okay to break the rules or lie. At the same time, though, neurotypical people should learn not to be ignorant assholes about things that don't matter. Sean tells the story of how he started to make friends with a boy in his class, but then he blew it, and the boy started bullying him like everyone else. The entire focus is on his lack of social skills, and at no point does he acknowledge that the boy was wrong to bully him. Temple mentions that she got a new boss who wanted to fire her for being weird, but she changed his mind by showing him how much she'd contributed to the company. She doesn't seem to recognize that her boss was in the wrong legally and ethically. She says she learned not to do certain mannerisms in public. She shouldn't have had to.
The other day, an anonymous Twitter account told people that I was always weird, even in the Mormon singles' ward. I asked him what I did that was so weird. He said, "Dude you wandered around shoeless muttering to yourself." He seems to have remembered wrong or conflated me with someone else, because I've never been in the habit of muttering to myself in public, but the first part is accurate, although he could have just as easily said "walked" instead of "wandered," but that wouldn't have sounded derisive enough. Walking around for exercise is entirely normal behavior. Doing so without shoes isn't, but so farking what? I didn't harm him. I didn't harm anyone. He just thought I was harming myself and needed therapy because it was different and therefore made him uncomfortable. Not that he ever expressed that to me in person, of course, though he claims that he knew me pretty well. (He's not the first anonymous Twitter account to make that claim. It's actually pretty creepy.) I wonder how many other Mormons just pretended to be my friends while having no qualms about telling people behind my back that I'm weird. It's funny how they think drinking coffee is a sin but being two-faced isn't. So that was kind of depressing, but I'm used to people unfriending or unfollowing me all the time, so it wasn't very surprising. And I read enough of his Tweets to confirm that he's an asshole and I don't want him as a friend.
The last chapter had a section on anger management which, unlike all the other chapters, included several comments from other adults on the spectrum. It was the first time I ever heard of a correlation between autism and anger. I've wondered sometimes if I'm just an exceptionally angry person. But Jerry Newport validated me by saying, "ASD folks are no strangers to anger. They have lots of reasons to grow up into angry teens and angrier young adults. Put yourself in their place. Imagine yourself being teased, constantly misunderstood, abused in the name of therapy and often genuinely confused and overwhelmed by it all - not just a few times, but hundreds, if not thousands of times. It is no wonder that I know many adults with ASD who are literally paralyzed by their anger." Then, I might add, people just blame you for being angry and tell you it's entirely your responsibility to make something edible out of the shit sandwich that they gave you.
I, for one, get angry about injustice whether it's against me or anyone else, and this world has no shortage of injustice. That's basically its defining trait. I'm angry about how I was raised and about how my entire generation has been royally screwed over by the preceding ones so that I'll never be able to own a house or retire, but I'm also angry about people murdering children in Ukraine and Palestine, people oppressing women in Iran and Afghanistan, people fighting against LGBTQ rights in my own country and too many others to count, etc. I think average Americans ought to be a lot angrier than they are about all this bullshit. It's called empathy. Some members of my family still believe that anger comes from Satan, and I think that's a really immature an unhealthy view. But since I'm also powerless to do anything about anything, my anger goes nowhere, and the only way to deal with it is to stop caring and escape through entertainment. I prefer music and movies. I hope to try mushrooms soon. I take some comfort in knowing that someday we'll all be dead.
Between Temple and Sean, I think I have more in common with the latter. Temple thinks in pictures. I think in words. My mind is constantly running an inner monologue, and the pictures I get in my head while reading are vague and unfocused. I just came to realize this about myself when I needed to put more description into my novel. Sean struggled more as a kid and had more anger. Before, I assumed that Temple had twice as many obstacles to overcome from being autistic and female, but from her description, it seems like those things canceled each other out to an extent, and she was treated better and learned more easily than a boy might have. (She has high praise for the structured, polite society of the fifties and sixties that she grew up in, so that's some white privilege too.) Sean mentions that he struggled with humor, that he tried to be funny by repeating funny lines from TV out of context until everyone was sick of him. This is where I differ from him. Somehow I've gleaned underlying principles of humor without even trying. I often forget to put them in my blog posts, but my novel is very funny. Please read it. Amazon Associates link:
I made a simple little YouTube ad for my book. In theory, I have a wider reach on YouTube than on any other platform, because I have 3.45K subscribers, mostly thanks to one music video I posted in 2015 that has over two million views. In practice, this video has gotten six views in six days. Yay, I love being me.
But I'm also friends with a host of a Star Wars podcast, and I arranged to exploit that for some free advertising under the rationale that my book drew lots of inspiration from Star Wars. I listened to this episode on mute because I want to support my friend but I'd rather slit my wrists than hear my own voice. This was my first time being interviewed about what I hope to leverage into a career, and I think I did pretty well right until the end. I've decided that from now on I'm not going to be apologetic or self-deprecating about the fact that I self-published. That was my choice, and I stand by it. I don't know how much rejection I would have experienced or how many changes the publisher would have wanted to make if I'd gone the traditional route, but the fact that I didn't is not a reflection on the quality of my writing. Also, at the end, I should have mentioned my Goodreads author page. I only mentioned my Amazon page and this website and said that should about cover it. My mind was racing with all my different social media profiles, and I thought I should keep it simple by not including them, and then I didn't mention the Goodreads author page because I haven't done anything with it, I have one follower (the podcast friend), and I don't have a strategy for using it to further my career. I should, though. But see, I'm learning already, and it's a very good sign that I don't hate everything about this interview.
A few days later, as it happens, another friend sought out people to participate in a podcast that she's making for a college class. The topic is "life lessons you wish you had learned sooner." I'm not sure if I'll do it or not, because the biggest life lesson I wish I had learned sooner, besides the generic and boring ones, is one that she, a Mormon, wouldn't want to hear. The biggest life lesson I wish I had learned sooner is this: Feelings are not a reliable method of evaluating truth. I've only learned this in the last couple of years. My parents and everyone in the LDS Church taught me from a young age to base my worldview in large part on "spiritual witnesses" that are actually just normal human emotions. As an adult, I thought I was so open-minded and well-rounded because I accepted spiritual methods of evaluating certain kinds of truth in addition to empirical methods for evaluating other kinds of truth. But this sandy foundation, and my desperate wholehearted efforts to follow God's direction for my life, eventually brought me a world of pain and disillusionment. Pleasant feelings are not the Holy Ghost. Unpleasant feelings are not Satan. This is so obvious now. I'm pretty pissed off that I was indoctrinated to think that way. I try not to be pissed off at any specific person who indoctrinated me, because I know they all meant well.
There was a very specific point in my life, age seventeen, where I chose to continue believing the church, despite all the evidence I'd stumbled upon that Joseph Smith was a fraud, because of the powerful "spiritual witness" I'd felt at EFY. It's hard to say I regret that as such. I don't regret moving to Utah, going to USU, or meeting many wonderful people and having many great experiences through the church. It's impossible to even say how my life would have turned out otherwise. But eventually, my fidelity to this decision - to God, I thought - drove me to twist myself into intellectual pretzels, put up with a lot of bullcrap that was so clearly wrong, and waste several years of my life defending and promoting a lie. I wish I had still come to Utah and gone to USU but left the LDS Church years earlier. And I hope to help others figure it out sooner than I did before they base their major life decisions on unreliable feelings, perhaps with less positive results. Think of all the women who gave up their dreams because their prophet told them to be stay-at-home moms, for example. Think of all the irrational things people may do because they think the Holy Ghost told them to. Someone posted this on reddit a few months ago. They filed it under Humor/Memes, but it's not funny, it's terrifying that children are being groomed to think this way. Or more precisely, to not think at all.
People in every religion appear to get the same "spiritual witnesses" that the LDS Church wants to monopolize, and I point this out at every opportunity. Mormons typically give me one of two responses. The first one is that of course all these people feel the Holy Ghost because all religions have some truth. But that still undermines the claim that Mormons' spiritual witnesses specifically prove that their religion is the most true. Mormons have no right to assert that their subjective personal feelings are more powerful or more authentic than everyone else's subjective personal feelings. This also fails to explain why "the Holy Ghost" bears witness of the truth of suicide cults, as attested by people who have been filmed bearing emotional testimonies a few days before they killed themselves because their prophet told them to. And when I bring that up, Mormons give their other response, which is that Satan deceived those people by mimicking the Holy Ghost - something that the LDS Church specifically taught me he couldn't do. My sister said that's why we have to evaluate religions by their fruits. I tried to explain that nobody in the world sees the LDS Church protecting child abusers or lying about its obscene wealth and thinks "Ah, this must be the true religion."
Someone posted this on reddit a few days ago. I can vouch that nothing in it is inaccurate. I was taught all of this in the LDS Church, and now, from the other side, the manipulation and circular reasoning are so obvious (without even getting into the fallacious claim that the church is automatically true if the Book of Mormon is true).
The LDS Church quite noticeably pulls this same bullcrap with tithing. If you pay it and good things happen, that proves tithing is a true principle and you should keep paying it. If you pay it and good things don't happen, that means you need to wait on the Lord's timing or you're just failing to notice the subtle ways he's blessing you, and tithing is still a true principle and you should keep paying it. There is no scenario in which the church will concede that the tithing promise has been falsified.
While I'm on the subject of the Book of Mormon, though, I want to address a couple of faith-promoting cliches that I saw all over Twitter when Mormons began studying it in their church curriculum this year. The people saying these things weren't the usual alt-right jerks that I interact with, so I left them alone unless they specifically invited feedback. But I can't stand the claim that Joseph Smith only had 85 days to translate the Book of Mormon and therefore it was miraculous. According to his own narrative, he had five and a half years between the time he first mentioned the golden plates and the time he started translating them. His mother later wrote of this period, "During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelings, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them." He even got a bit of a practice run when he dictated the original 116 pages and then didn't reproduce them after Martin Harris lost them, as he would have been able to do if he'd actually received them by revelation. And then he only needed to dictate for three to six hours a day to get the Book of Mormon finished in 85 days. Suddenly it's a little less miraculous.
I also saw a lot of assertions that the Book of Mormon has "held up to scrutiny" for almost two hundred years. That one just baffles me. Orthodox Mormons will continue to believe in it because of their "spiritual witness," not because of external evidence or internal consistency, regardless of what anyone says. Meanwhile, the people outside of the LDS Church and the tiny Mormon splinter groups who take it seriously as an ancient document can be counted on one hand. Virtually all scholars of anything regard it as an obvious work of nineteenth-century fiction. Even many Mormons regard it as a work of nineteenth-century fiction. I have no real idea, but I think it would be generous to estimate that 0.05% of people in the world believe the Book of Mormon is what Joseph Smith said it was. So why does that tiny fraction of a percent, whatever it happens to be exactly, get to decide that the book has "held up to scrutiny"? What does that even mean under these circumstances? Just that the book has continued to exist? That's a pretty low bar, and not miraculous by any stretch of the imagination. It's the same bar to which they hold the entire LDS Church now that its "miraculous" growth rate has been plummeting for three decades in a row.
So that's why I'm not sure if I'll appear on this other friend's podcast.
I've spent most of my break from work adding to my Spotify playlists, bingeing the Muppets, reading a book about the history of psychedelic drugs in religion that so far has taught me more about spirituality and the human condition than 29 years in the LDS Church, celebrating that my asshole roommate is gone for a long while, and trying to get my money back from a scam company. I have plenty of time, and no excuse for not writing a long, thoughtful post except that I don't feel like it. I do feel like reminding people, however, that my humorous science fiction novel is out. I've sold at least three copies, and I don't know how many more because the purchases take over a week to show up. But I need to sell many, many copies, and I have no advertising budget, so I'm going to be a bit of a nuisance about it. This is my lifelong dream and my only hope of escaping from a life of mediocrity and borderline poverty we're talking about here.
ebook - reminder that this option is cheapest but gets me the most money because it has no printing costs.
Now here's a nice underrated song for the new year. Of course, the numbers we attach to dates and times are really meaningless, and nothing is going to magically change at midnight tonight, but celebrate if you want to. Myself, I'm just happy to be at home with no responsibilities and no roommate.
The Kindle ebook of my novel is available here. You don't need a Kindle device to read it, you just need to download the app. Paperback and hardcover options should be available within a few days. Setting up the ebook was super easy, barely an inconvenience, but sizing and formatting the covers for physical printing has been a long ordeal that's left me feeling like Hitler in that movie clip where he goes ballistic. I can only hope it's over now. The Kindle version is much cheaper, but will get me more money per sale due to the absence of printing costs. I'm going to charge $24.99 for the paperback version, and if anyone buys it, I'll get less than a fifth of that. Of course I need to get enough sales that the amounts don't matter.
This novel goes back over eighteen years, all the way back to the daydreams I had in seventh grade study hall after seeing what was then the last Star Wars movie ever and reading Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the first Star Wars Expanded Universe book ever. These daydreams eventually became an attempt at a book, and then another attempt at a book, and then another attempt at a book. I've started many books. The last attempt, in the summer of 2010, was two pages long when I gave up on it. The next year I came home from college for winter break and found it on the computer. At that time, I felt inspired due to recently discovering several sci-fi abandonware games from the early nineties, so I got back to work on it, and I kept working on it off and on until the summer of 2013, when it became my first finished book. Then I just had to revise it several times until it was perfect. Then this past summer I became so frustrated at entering my second year as a bleeping substitute teacher with a bleeping Master's degree that I decided to stop procrastinating on my dreams, and I gave myself a deadline when I would have to decide it's good enough and put it out there. I chose December 15, 2153 because that's the anniversary of me discovering those old games and also 130 years before the book takes place. I'm obsessed with dates and anniversaries. So here it is. By self-publishing, I've avoided all the rejection and arguing over creative choices.
Today's Cache Valley Unitarian Universalist service was a celebration of the winter solstice, with the lights down and the curtains drawn until the very end, and candles and chanting. It was the most spiritual I've felt in a while. Spiritual feelings don't come easily to me. I've been looking forward to the solstice so that it will be over and the days will start getting longer again, but just celebrating it for the sake of itself was a nice perspective shift. Every week CVUU also does "Joys and Sorrows," where people are encouraged to light a candle and share a joy or a sorrow with the group. Today I shared my joy, and people were really happy for me, and it felt wonderful. Alluding back to a recent service on the topic of book-banning, I told them that if they want to support me, they should challenge my book and try to get it banned so I can get free publicity. They laughed, and it felt wonderful.
I really don't have any publicity since I'm self-publishing. My original plan to build up a large following on my blog and then tell everyone to buy my books never panned out, and every social media algorithm seems hell-bent on keeping me invisible. But I honestly think my book is so funny that it could become a success through word-of-mouth. That's its greatest strength by far. I didn't set out to write a comedy, I just wrote the kind of thing I would want to read, which happened to be something very funny. That's not conceited. It's just a fact. If you don't find it funny, you should see a doctor to make sure you aren't clinically dead.
I've completed the final pass through my novel, I just have some more description and other touch-ups to add, and then I hope to get it published by Friday, though that partially depends on whether the artist I hired comes through with the cover in time. If he doesn't, I'll be kind of pissed, but it won't be the end of the world. Anyway, I'm very sleep-deprived even by my standards. A couple of nights ago I had multiple nightmares, and I don't even know why. First, I either woke up and had sleep paralysis or dreamed I had sleep paralysis and then woke up. I imagined a shapeless white ghost thing coming through my window, and then a vague black demon thing standing over me while I couldn't move. I've read about sleep paralysis, and I don't believe in demons in large part because everything that people used to blame on them has been explained by natural phenomena like sleep paralysis, and it only lasted a few seconds, but it was still terrifying. Then I dreamed that lightning struck hundreds of times simultaneously, all over the sky, and I thought about how much it would hurt to get hit by lightning, and I wondered how anyone could survive that, and I remembered that I was more likely to get hit by lightning twice than attacked by a shark, and I decided that if I was going to get hit by lightning twice, I didn't want to live. It's weird how sometimes my thoughts in dreams are entirely coherent like that. It makes me think my brain is still working too hard.
So anyway, this post is basically filler to keep up my goal of writing one every week, and I will continue by mentioning some other things from my Spotify Wrapped that I would have mentioned last week if I hadn't been in a hurry. Spotify said that I'm a "Shapeshifter," and described my listening habits as "eclectic." That's exactly the word I would use to describe it. I also used to use that word for my political philosophy, but then I realized that one side of the spectrum is a much, much, much, much, much bigger problem than the other one. (Hint: it's the one dedicated to fighting against social equality and education.) These were my top five songs, none of which are by my top five artists, because I'm a Shapeshifter.
Cerrone - Supernature
A fun Halloween disco track that clocks in at almost ten minutes but is worth it for the way it starts small and layers instruments on each other to gradually build up to the good part. I like it when songs do that. And that's the closest I'll ever get to sounding like a legitimate music critic. Completely out of nowhere, Duran Duran covered it on a Halloween album just a couple of months ago.
Omega - Gyöngyhajú lány (The girl with pearly hair)
A hauntingly beautiful fantasy song from the sixties that sounds like it must have always sounded old. An English version was released a few years later, but the lyrics are so hard for me to make out that I find it barely more comprehensible than the original Hungarian.
Vogon Poetry - Atomic Skies
A fun song about the Fallout games. If you, like me, have never played the Fallout games, then it still works as a fun song about living in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. We'd better practice having a positive attitude about that sort of thing.
Yarmak - Ragnarok
I encountered this banger as the backing track for a compilation posted in r/ukraine of the Ukrainian military prepping to kick Russia's ass. According to Google Translate, this is what the artist said about the song on YouTube: "These lines were written just a few days before going to war. It contains my entire inner state, and I want to convey this state to every brother. A great battle is ahead, after which not only our country will change, but the whole world as well. This is a real war between the warriors of light and the forces of evil, the battle of angels against demons, people against the dead. Each of us must accept and walk this path. Today, the future of the planet is being created in Ukraine, and we must do everything in our power to defeat the horde of darkness. Perhaps this will give someone motivation, know that I will not only be by your side in song, but also physically at the front with my unit. It's time to return yours! This is not a track, not a composition, not a song - this is a spell of immortality!"
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - If We Were Vampires
According to this song, maybe love is more precious because it can't last forever because we're all going to die someday. It was always beautiful to me, but it became more poignant after I lost my faith and had to take it more seriously. I still think it's possible that human identities and relationships will persist after death, but I'm no longer confident of that, and I am confident that whatever the afterlife may look like, Joseph Smith's eternal sex fantasy is not it. I heard this song a lot because I have three versions of it on five playlists - my 2010s playlist, my Halloween playlist, my fall vibe playlist, my nostalgia playlist, and my death playlist. It works on many levels. I just realized that I should also add it to my twue wuv pwaywist.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.