Just finished doing my taxes and it’s the first time I’ve had to do a “Schedule C” in decades. In case you are blissfully unaware of such, it’s the form “…to report income or loss from a business you operated or a profession you practiced as a sole proprietor,” as the IRS puts it in their typically turgid prose.
In my case, as you might suppose, the business is the one of creating and selling comic books.
Am I rich yet? Nope. If I had to survive on my comic book income I wouldn’t be typing this out on a computer right now unless I my ghost had managed to become a poltergeist.
Doing taxes is not my idea of fun in the first place. Coming face to face with the actual comic income from the past year was not exactly a thrill either. The word that came to mind as I contemplated the balance sheet was “failure.”
The comic failed to sell and there was nobody else around to point the finger of blame at but yours truly. Ergo, the natural conclusion would be that as a maker of comics, I am sitting right in the cross-hairs, a target of the damning designation of “failure.”
There’s an odd masochistic sort of satisfaction that settles in sort of like you are at the bottom of a metaphorical avalanche, beyond any possible rescue, certain that no St. Bernard is going to dig you out and offer you a swig of brandy.
You gave it a shot and you blew it. Now you can relax and let go the burden and maybe you can just veg out, gaze at the boob tube, and wait until the curtain drops. You might have a peaceful retirement in the meantime. Maybe you could even (shudder!) take up golf.
But the shoe doesn’t really fit. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to see that this “failure” stuff is a mental construction that’s weighted with a lot of old conditioning. The causes behind such conditioning don’t matter so much as being aware that this is a construction of the mind (called “sankhara” in Pali, often translated as “volitional formations”) that causes suffering, not an eternal truth. You can go with the usual neuron flow and believe in it, or you can see it, give it some space, feel the pain of it in your body and let it go. Learning that I don’t have to react to this sort of self-inflicted put-down is one of the great gifts I’ve received from Buddha’s teachings. That, and learning that it is possible to be kind to myself.
Like I say though, no Buddhism required, just the ability to see a pattern as it comes up as a pattern and choose to not react. One of my teachers has compared these patterns to computer programs. We have tons of them. Some are helpful. Some are neither helpful or harmful. Some are harmful. You have the power to alter the patterns of of your conditioning with kindness, patience, and mindfulness. In other words, like Virch, you have the superpower to “mutate your reality” (hopefully in a way that leads to your benefit and that of others, and not to warping of the space-time of your dwelling place).
Making comics is a fascinating mystery to me and I’m grateful that at this point I don’t have to make it pay. I’ve paid my dues in the 9 to 5 world and now, for whatever stretch of time I am given, I get to play. Is that a selfish attitude? Or a kind one?
Some of my “programs” are half-baked comic-making ones that I’m really just beginning to cobble together. Although I’ve been ‘tooning since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I’ve actually only made two and a half comic books. I’m really a novice at this most peculiar and demanding art-form. (Call it a craft instead of an art if you want to, but to me it’s still a riddle wrapped in an enigma.)
Next time, I think I’ll try to look a little close at this mystery and see if I can unravel this enigmatic riddle a bit. Meanwhile, Virch and Zeldoid set out on their own strange journey in search of a missing household appliance. Hope you will join us.
BTW: For an amazing article on the revolutionizing your reality, see “Mindfulness and the Relational Field,” by Ajahn Sucitto. Don’t expect to grok it all in one reading. I’m certainly still puzzling it out.