BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

An interesting journey ...

If I were a judge, and this was a case, I'd probably have to recuse myself, as I have long-time familiarity with the author, who was among the early crew over on LiveJournal … and so has been one of my “pixel people” for well over a decade. Unlike many of those on-line contacts, I have actually met the author on one occasion, last fall, and almost killed him with my bare hands then (he'd asked me to take part in a film somebody was doing about his “Concrete Shamanism”, and at one point – standing out on the beach with the cameras rolling – he insisted that I choke him “for real” … I grabbed a hold of his wind pipe and waited for him to look real panicked to let him go). Needless to say (no doubt to the relief of other authors), that's the only time THAT's happened!

Anyway, aside from the Shamanism, the author and I also had the writing/publishing overlap, especially when I was still runnng Eschaton Books full time. This brings up another point where I should probably take a step back … I am a terror when it comes to formatting issues (and typos, and lacunae, and assorted related errata), and this book is full of them … to the extent that I asked the author over on Facebook about what lay-out program he'd used for it, thinking that the one consistent, highly irritating, “issue” in the book was an accidental artifact of some quirk in that system. He identified this, but assured me that the formatting “issue” was an intentional design element (all through the book, where a paragraph breaks across pages, the resuming text block has an indent like new paragraphs have, albeit coming mid-sentence). Unfortunately, this was hardly the only “odd element” in the book, and only one really stood out as being an intentional design element (the header/footer stylings on page 82).

So, the book in question is ALL THINGS GO: How I Became A Shaman by Eric Durchholz / Patrick John Coleman … the latest in the author's varied output of nearly a dozen titles. As one can guess from the sub-title, this is a book about transformation, but it's more “how Eric Durchholz became Patrick John Coleman” than about him “becoming a shaman”. Frankly, despite his “branding” what he's doing as “shamanism”, it seems to me that his path has much more to do with the Lakota figure of the Heyoka than a “medicine man”, “curandero/brujo”, or other Shamanic manifestations (an example of this is his use of a partial pack of children's alphabet flash cards for divination, and other toys as shamanic "tools").

If I posit that the author is a Heyoka, it frees him of any of the linearity, structure, consistency, and logical progression that I would otherwise be looking for in a narrative like this. So I hope that he “owns” that as an alternative handle to “shaman”. One would not be surprised if a Heyoka stopped a chapter mid-topic (heck, mid-sentence) and launched into the next thing on the facing page … one would not be surprised if there were “missing” bits that were none-the-less identified in the text (in terms of graphics, etc.) … one would not be surprised if the use of QR codes was irregular, with many of them leading off to inaccessible material (such as “private” YouTube videos) … and one would almost expect there to be odd formatting like that noted above. A Shaman, even a “Concrete Shaman”, would “have some 'shplainin to do” about why things were the way they were in the printed piece … a Heyoka, not so much (and, given that his books are self-published through, he doesn't have an Editor to answer to).

The book is an auto-biography of sorts … although not particularly linear. Eric (I've known the “Eric” persona a lot longer than the “Patrick” entity) has had a rough life on a lot of levels, and the backstory of much of that appears in various points in this. For the broad strokes: he was born “Patrick John Coleman” in Chicago, but was adopted by a family from Kentucky and re-named “Eric Durchholz”, his adopted family are “narcissists” (in his terms) and found it very hard to deal with him being both artistic/creative and gay. Living in a small town in the bible belt, his upbringing was fraught with traumas, and he attempted to run away on multiple occasions. By 1999 (the year his best-known novel, The Promise of Eden came out) he was living in Nashville, TN, and having a reasonably integrated life with his particular social scene there. However, in 2010 he lost nearly everything he owned in area flooding, and “freed” from the encumbrances of material things (which he cites at one point as “having way too much stuff to be able to move to Chicago”), he re-located to Chicago, and began working in Comedy, at Second City and other clubs. Then …
In April of 2013 I was dragged into the spirit world and told I would be a “psychic, medium, healer and helper” and I was terrified by the experience. I was told by unseen spirits that I had died of a brain aneurysm in my new apartment that was situated between two huge graveyards. … When I returned to life after an intense and horrifying period, I found I was very different. I knew things I should not have known. … And my mind was a jumbled mess so I decided to figure out just what had happened to me. … In my case, I did not choose to be shown the inner workings of the Universe and what humanity is and what we truly are and the one thing that keeps coming is that my perspective is not valid. … We are all human beings viewing life through our own prism. Everyone's perspective is valid. This is a true thing. … Another true thing is that I can access alternate and parallel realities to gain knowledge, get lessons and find ways to heal myself in this one.
And …
I did not choose to be a shaman but my perspective as a shaman is just as valid as your perspective. … Just listen to what I have to say and draw your own conclusion. Or you can do what I do. I prefer to have no beliefs or opinions and just accept things as they are. Because when aliens show up in your apartment to give you energy-field upgrades, what are you going to do? Tell them to leave?
As I mentioned, the book jumps around quite a bit … at one point being a scenario from 2042 … parts of it written as Eric, parts of it written as Patrick … parts of it written as plain expository material. There are also sections on Jane Roberts / “Seth”, Esther Hicks / “Abraham”, and Edgar Cayce (the author sees a lot of meaning on his being raised close to Cayce's home), as well as back-and-forth between the “Eric” and “Patrick” personas.

As I noted, there really isn't that much stuff about how the author becomes “a shaman”, aside from the mental/spiritual turmoil involved with having the one persona leave and the other come in … he pretty much encapsulates the “becoming a shaman” part as:
I did not choose to be a shaman. I was pretty much bopped on the head, pulled into the spirit world and told I was a shaman. One day I was working on comedy and the next I was figuring out the mystery of my own existence.
He notes that he “began practicing” in August of 2013 … so most of the “transition” is happening in the months from April to August of that year.

While I've followed Eric's on-line presence for well over a decade, he also delves into auto-biographical material here that I somehow hadn't noticed … specifically that dealing with his becoming HIV positive. He copies a lengthy post (9 pages here) that he made to Facebook back in August of 2012 which details his discovering this and beginning to come to grips with it. I'm, frankly, amazed that I'd missed (or somehow forgotten) this on-line data point (it certainly is a substantial sub-theme of the book), but I guess my radar in this case was set more for the books/shamanism axis of the author's life, and not really registering the gay/HIV aspects (although at one point in his on-line “career” it was certainly hard to avoid that).

So, basically what you get in ALL THINGS GO is a bunch of stories of Eric's life, a bunch of looks at things that have influenced him, a bunch of information about Patrick and how he came to be “in” Eric, and assorted material on things like “formlessness” and “walk-ins”, all tossed into a cement mixer, bounced around, and poured out (see what I did there) as the author's coming to practice “concrete shamanism”. I enjoyed parts of this very much, was made quite uncomfortable by others, driven nuts by some of the formatting, and fascinated by little sparkling bits of otherworldly wisdom that show up randomly through it.

Would I have been reading this if the author wasn't one of my “pixel people”? I don't know. And, in this lies the crux of my wondering if I really would recommend it to somebody who didn't have over a decade's familiarity with the author. It's a strange book, for sure. It's a reasonably “easy read” (the “uncomfortable” bits notwithstanding), but it's ultimately a look at one man's odd journey. If the uncommon melange of stuff that I've described above sounds of interest to you, by all means pick up a copy. As noted, it's published via LuLu (so might be a challenge to find a copy in a retail outlet), but Amazon has it as well … and throwing this in on a larger order will avoid shipping costs (which I recall are pretty hefty through LuLu).

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Tags: book review
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