Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Book Signing Experience at Barnes & Noble: Terrific - If You Don't Count Sales!

Book signing at Barnes and Noble yesterday

One of the venerable traditions of authorship and book publishing is the event known as the "book signing". This usually takes place at a book store, with the author (or often several authors) seated at table(s) with books on display - and then customers enter, maybe chat a bit about the book content, and hopefully buy one - which is then inscribed on the title page with the message of their choice.

At least one author website has defined a book signing success as "showing up, and selling at least one book".  While this may sound preposterous, it really isn't when you think about it in an age where Nooks, Kindles and e-books dominate. Thus, what is the point of a real, 3D book -signing, when the author writes some message on a the real page of a hard copy book, when e-books dominate in the marketplace? People prefer the lower cost and also the convenience of the e-book (which btw, are regularly made available at the same time as hard copies by publishers.)

So again, in this milieu and context, selling one book - say for $26.95 (when the e-book is only $3.50) is a big deal and could be counted as "success". At least for the ordinary mid-list (or low-list) author, who isn't J.K. Rowling or Stephen King.

In my case, at my book signing at the local Barnes and Noble yesterday, Janice and I had a great time. It was in fact more a social occasion than a selling occasion (I did make the 1 book threshold!) as 9 customers arrived at my table and wanted to discuss the basis for the book (' Beyond Atheism, Beyond God') at length. This happily consumed nearly 50 minutes of the 2 hrs. there, but was well worthwhile - since any other customers entering the store (the table was near the entrance) beheld an author in active, engaged mode - as opposed to sitting alone (ok, wifey was at my side- other than when she left to get us coffee).

Oh, that's another warning brought up in a number of websites detailing 'how to' points of book signing: NEVER do a lone signing! (Unless you are  Stephen King, John Grisham or J.K. Rowling!) Well, easier said than done - especially if the B&N (one of the few left) only has room for 1 author signing and time slots are limited.

Anyway, the discussions were where it was at, especially with one Catholic seminarian who took one copy off to skim through (probably avoiding the sections on quantum mechanics, and the Aspect experiment, Bell Inequality) and returned 25 minutes later to ask lots of questions and discuss the answers in depth.

One of his worries concerned the holistic concept of the book, and that any serious readers who used its prescriptions or intellectual formulations might actually believe they had become 'creators' in the cosmos as opposed to remaining 'creatures'.  But as I pointed out, noting the sections he likely skipped, the quantum mechanics of nonlocality disclosed in the book - on the basis of that Aspect experiment at the University of Paris-  certainly allowed the emergence of co-creators or (as physicist Henry Stapp put it in his book, 'The Mindful Universe') , "participating observers")

It helped that I had the foresight to have brought an 8 1/2 x 11' notepad with me to be able to more completely provide a response via sketches. In this case, showing the relation of explicated individual forms to the universal aggregate  (called the Dirac Ether or Holomovement) - which might be depicted:




 The relation is holographic in the sense that each of the individual forms contains the information of the whole holographic field. The Dirac Ether is equivalent to Bohm's Implicate Order, or what he calls the holomovement, and is a pure frequency domain. If one imparts to it a universal consciousness (as Bohm does) it would also be the "Universal Mind" (another term for God, albeit, impersonal - not personal- and embracing the whole).  The ripples on this sea are the distinct material forms perceived as separate entities in the universe because we are generally unaware of the implicate order.  But - to the extent we become aware, whether by learning the applicable quantum mechanics, or using meditation - yes, we emerge as conscious forms manifesting the Whole (Universal Mind) and hence, "co-creators" of reality, not merely passive creatures.

As I also pointed out, the concept of being passive creatures is an offshoot of the ancient thinking that we are all separate from each other. This is a direct result of extreme reductionist thinking - accepting the human as a kind of automaton that simply reacts as opposed to having the potential to surmount that condition.

I think the point that probably struck the seminarian most, was invoking the analogy of the ocean - or oceanic reality. I asked him if one could simply remove a wave from the ocean, place it separately on the beach and say 'Look, there's a wave!'. He shook his head, "Of course not!" And this offered the perfect opening to reply:

"That's my point! The point of the book! In the same way one can't take any individualized form and remove it as separate, the perception of separability is purely an illusion. In the same way, it makes no sense to extract "God" from the oceanic and say, "Here is 'God'!" - because in the end, reality is all ONE thing - not multiple things. Multiple things, the explicate order, is purely an illusion driven by our biological evolution and the limits of our sensory organs, apparatus.

This nearly blew his mind, and he could only answer: "Wow! I get it!"

We then also agreed that if "God" can't be extracted as a separate entity from the oceanic reality, it makes no sense to call the word out or use it. You can't separate it out any more than a wave from the ocean. By extension, it makes zero sense for atheists to joust at it, because they are inveighing against a redundancy. They effectively become like Don Quixote tilting at windmills of their mind.  Once all and sundry agree the word "God" is only a regulative ideal of the mind, a verbal symbol to represent a concept that can't be really processed or extracted (differentiated) as a separate reality, then we move away from false onto-theology and useless polarizations - say between "believers" and "unbelievers". What one then has and can debate, perhaps, is the (subjective, and relative)  "God-concept" while admitting the actual, real REAL entity is beyond description via a language whose function is to fragment reality..

The seminarian then expressed some concern about a human "co-creator" (say who reads my book to the fullest and applies it)  trying to gain power over other humans who may not share his esoteric insights. He asked me whether I had any worries of people misusing my book like that, and I replied "Absolutely not".

I explained that any person who achieved the level of insight needed to become a co-creator would not seek to exert power over others, because this implied  not being free of the illusion of separation. Only one steeped in separation would aspire to power over others, precisely because "the other" is seen as apart and inferior or worthy of only being exploited to one's own ends. Hence, this is the modus operandi of a "separatist".  By contrast, the Holist sees all people as part of the same unitary whole - and even if (at the explicate level of individuality) he often inveighs against them (say me vs. Neoliberals and militarists, "repukes") he doesn't seek to subjugate them to his will. He merely seeks to induce them to cooperate in the master plan of a better life for all humans, as opposed to undermining it - say by military waste, or spreading inequality.

At this point, the seminarian was so astonished as to be left nearly speechless, whereupon Janice interjected that yes, I had spent three years at Loyola University taking assorted Theology, Ethics and other related fare. He blinked several times and asked if I was still an atheist, to which I replied, "Yes, but an implicit atheist - I withhold belief from the claim made by the theist to have absolute knowledge of a God. I don't "deny" his or her claim, or attack it."

Impressed, he nodded his head, thanked me for the exchange and left.....but didn't purchase a copy of the book.

Janice surmised he probably extracted all he needed or wanted to in his 25 minute skimming, and besides, the Priests running the seminary might regard it as "heretical" material.

Was the book signing a success? Yes, I believe it was. The social occasion of the event allowed the frank and open intellectual exchange of views with strangers who otherwise might never have considered the elements discussed. Sales? Maybe they will come later!

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