There is No Proof!

As a fiction writer I’m familiar with legends and myths.  My occupation requires that I spend considerable time in the make-believe.  Fiction is a way to teach and learn truths without beating people over the head with them.  It softens the experience, and in spite of it not being real, it is incredibly relatable.  Sometimes the difference between fantasy and fiction become blurred.  There is something that’s been on my mind lately.  Sometimes there are difficult to explain or for some people downright unbelievable.

For the most cynical, nothing exists except for the stuff that can be proven repeatedly in a laboratory.  These folks then in turn may criticize anyone who has a more open-mind.  To be fair, I understand this point of view.  People are not known to be reliable witnesses and often misremember things.  Sometimes the truth is difficult to discern.  However, we have all seen people making angry, jeering comments on the internet who dare to believe or believe in something they do not.  These people justify their positions by saying “There is no proof!” Especially toward topics of religion, spirituality, the paranormal, or supernatural.

Anecdotal evidence may not be empirical, and is even unreliable to base entire beliefs off, but what if there are countless cases of anecdotes that have remarkable similarities?  Should those be dismissed as well?  A cynical person may say so, may point to the fact that coincidences don’t equate proof.  Perhaps, but what sort of proof would there be for let’s say the afterlife?  If someone is going to demand proof, he or she should know what sort of proof is required to be sufficient.  Sure, NDE’s are seen my skeptics as nothing more than a chemical reaction in a dying brain.  What about the cases where people saw the hospital room, described what the doctors said while unconscious?  If that doesn’t count as proof or even a strong suggestion, then what would?  How would an afterlife be proven?  Would anything suffice to those who are absolutely certain it doesn’t exist?

People tend to base their beliefs off their upbringing, worldview, and psychology, not necessarily evidence.  Certainly, there are exceptions though.  If someone has decided unequivocally that something does or does not exist, it is rather difficult to convince that person otherwise.  Ultimately, evidence may not be enough.  Also, what is convincing to one person may not be to another.

Demanding proof for something, especially God or the afterlife is a bit ironic to me, since technically you cannot prove that anyone outside of yourself exists.  Yes, that sounds like hokey mumbo jumbo, but we cannot know for absolute certainty that the people we know or the world around us as we perceive it is reality.  No, this isn’t delving into the Matrix theory.  The point is rather, there are things we take for grated every day, that cannot be proven.  Do you love your spouse?  Can that be proven?  Yes, endorphins can be measured, and some would say that is proof of love.  What if you have those endorphins but act like a jerk or are abusive to your spouse?  Do you really love that person then?  Love is more than chemicals, it is action.

Proof may not be subjective but how it is received definitely is.  This isn’t about convincing the reader what is and isn’t real, but to hopefully shed light on the fact that it may not be the proof but the person’s worldview that keeps him or her from seeing things from a different perspective.  It is simple to either believe everything or nothing at all, neither require thought and are realms of comfort.  Just something for us all to think about.

Hard Lessons Learned-My Experiences as an Author

Writing, like anything worth doing in life is challenging and filled with daily lessons.  One lesson became painfully obvious despite my many attempts to ignore it. I am on my own when it comes to marketing. I research quite heavily on how to market a book.  Many people suggested outsourcing marketing such as hiring bloggers to share or review your work.  There are an innumerable amount of people and “companies” on Twitter who are willing to Tweet books and/or put you in their email list to their “many” followers.

Like most authors trying to build a brand, I’ve had a hard time with marketing.  The feedback I’ve gotten on my books from people I trust has been largely positive.  However, giving out books for reviews rarely produces any reviews at all.  So many people say they would love to write a review but when it comes to committing, they simply don’t show up to prom.  To further that metaphor, I’m left alone on the dance floor without a date that swore to Heaven she would show.  This is even after treating her like a princess and picking her up, she just slips away quietly right after we enter the school.

I feel like everything I’ve done as far as marketing is concerned is met with similar results.  My wife and I tried to hire a marketing team, but even with the prospect of paying company several hundred dollars they still took weeks to respond and never met their deadlines.  It’s beyond infuriating when I’m told I will get a response by Friday of this week and I don’t hear anything until four weeks have gone by and I contacted this person’s boss.  After this I felt depressed.  I am still learning how to find my audience.  I need someone to come along side me and work with R. Michael Books long-term.  I also got desperate.  Desperation never results in good judgement.

I decided to reach out to a blogger who writes book reviews who initially contacted me.  I researched this person and could not find anything bad about her and her site was professional and looked legitimate.  I did research on whether authors should pay bloggers and one site suggested it is a good way to get exposure as did a few others.  In my desperation I became convinced and decided to hire this blogger. She seemed professional and was always kind in her emails, so I ignored my reservations.  She did produce a review on her blog, but it was obvious that she hadn’t read my book.  It was just a bunch of flowery platitudes that were carefully crafted to stroke my ego, most likely in order to win a repeat customer. I decided to dig deep into Google and try to find ANYTHING I could about her other than what her website says.  Lo and behold I found a KDP thread where a few authors detailed a similar experience with this blogger.  I then carefully read through her blogs and they were all the same.  Overly flattering to the author, she was reviewing.

I tell of this experience because I learned a few things.  NEVER pay for a blogger to review your work.  No matter how reputable he/she may be.  The blog I purchased wasn’t technically for a positive review, and the site owner claims to only charge to help her family.  I also know as someone who has a few websites that they are expensive to keep operational.  It is frowned upon to pay for reviews in the literary world.  I honestly didn’t realize that until it was after the fact and I did more reading on the topic, which meant going more than a few pages into Google.  This review is utterly useless due to the nature of how it was designed to flatter me more than actually giving an honest look at my book.  Initially I justified this in my mind because there are large companies that review books for several hundred dollars.  Well-known companies and I found it odd that paying them is considered professional but not a blogger.  Honestly, I don’t think either are all that helpful.  As authors when it comes to getting reviews and selling our books it is based on time and hard work.  Throwing money at the situation doesn’t solve the problem.  I’ve learned my lesson, and if you are an author too, learn from mine as well.

Do we live in an age without self-awareness?

As an author I feel it is my job to pay attention to cultural leanings and norms.  I’ve written before about the politically charged climate we live in.  People have adapted an “us verses them” mentality not just with politics but faith, lack of faith, and even mundane things like movies.  Yes, movies, I’ve seen some impassioned arguments about them on the internet.  With these discussions one primary accusation comes up; the other person or side is a hypocrite.

The truth is, no one likes a hypocrite and we can smell hypocrisy a million miles away in another person or group but struggle to see it in ourselves.  It’s undoubtful that everyone has been a hypocrite before.  I certainly have, everyone I know has been.  That is an inevitable part of being human.  There is a problem when hypocrisy is a pattern or even a lifestyle.

Hypocrisy can evolve to a point where a person is utterly lacking self-awareness.  The problem compounds when such lack of self-awareness spreads throughout a culture like a cancer.  Perhaps I’m cynical but from my perspective this seems to be where we are at in western society.  We see this especially in politics.  If someone from our “team” is guilty of something we look the other way and justify their actions.  However, if the “other side” does the same thing we lose our minds and catastrophize the situation.  The same thing is with religious verses irreligious folks.  The common attitude is that people can have their faith and believe what they will, but they must keep it to themselves.  However, irreligious folks, sometimes flood the internet with comments about how people who believe differently than them are delusional idiots.

There is a surface celebration of diversity in our culture, but rarely are diverse ideas met with approval.  It is the norm to shout down, belittle, and attack those who think differently.  Maybe we should try to understand why someone believes differently instead?  That is much harder.  It also goes against human nature.  It requires an immense amount of empathy, but it is not impossible.  I’m directing these comments as much to myself as anyone reading this.  This is how we become self-aware and do not become what we hate in others.