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Thoughts on a Modern-Day Book-Burning: How a novel I wrote was destroyed by the NYPD at OWS

November 16, 2011

About five years ago now, as a humble English major in Upstate New York, I started writing a metaphysical, slightly surrealistic story that eventually turned into a full length novel only a year and a half later. Three years of grueling editing later, with several professors guiding and mentoring me all along the way, I had my very own published novel. How cool! Little did I know that only a few short months later, the presence of my novel would apparently prove so offensive to the city of New York that it would be destroyed by the NYPD. But only a few short nights ago, that’s exactly what happened.

When the NYPD–decked in riot gear–violently raided the heart of Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park in the middle of the night a few nights ago, they destroyed the People’s Library in the process. All told, over 5000 books were destroyed, including (but certainly not limited to) my very own.

Well then! I always wondered what it’d feel like to have your book burned — and I have to admit — having your book destroyed by the violent arm of a corporate state is a very special feeling.

But eventually I began to ruminate on the irony of the situation, connecting the storyline of my novel to its eventual destruction at the reckless hands of Mayor Bloomberg’s own private army. My novel isn’t political at all, nor is it inflammatory. Starting from the mundane premise of a college student having troubles with a mysterious girlfriend, the novel eventually transforms itself into a metaphor for the uncertainty of truth and the discovery of spiritual Truth, hiding ever-present behind the narrative fictions we all spin to make sense of our nonsensical lives. The novel doesn’t seem like it ought to be connected with a politically motivated modern-day book-burning in the slightest — and yet somehow, the act of its destruction seemed a deeply symbolic one to me.

About a month ago I wrote a post entitled Occupy Your Mind, in which I wrote about how the deepest import of a practiced spirituality is that it has the ability to link our inner journey with our outer purpose. By realizing the Oneness of all things experientially for oneself through the power of meditation, one’s relationship with society and the world at large changes forever. At the subtlest layer, beneath all the tropes of character, metaphor, style and plot, this was what my novel was all about. Realize the Truth within: change the world without. The title of my novel, In the Smoky Air, points to the chief metaphorical inversion of the novel: rather than fog being a force that “obscures” Truth or knowledge, that act of obfuscation itself points to the Truth shimmering right there in front of you all along.

“The fog allows you to only see where you yourself are,”  one of the characters, Ivan, observes, “and not up ahead and not back behind.” Smiling, seeming immensely pleased with this, Ivan then tells us that we are therefore forced to “live in the present.” Armed with true knowledge, only then can we move ahead.

“A true revolution begins with a revolution of consciousness,” I once wrote, referring to the Occupy movement. “Occupy your mind.” Since the beginning, I have felt that this was the essential dilemma of the Occupy protests, first in their inception at Wall Street and later around the world — not a problem of methodology, of goals or even of PR, but of consciousness.

Don’t get me wrong — Occupy Wall Street has already effectively raised the level of consciousness all around the globe. But why? What for? Where are we headed and why do we want to get there? Moving from vague objectives and symbolic, physical occupations, the recent raid on Zuccotti Park is forcing the Occupy movement ahead to phase two. My fellow occupiers, bereft of sleeping bags, of tents, of comfort, now find themselves in the metaphorical “fog” of my novel. Rather than hindering their forward movement, I’m more confident than ever that Occupy Wall Street has, is, and will continue to change the world. Why? Because this is no longer a physical occupation. The genie’s been let out of the bottle. The occupation has moved from the space of a park to the hearts and minds of every American. This is a revolution of consciousness — the revolution is happening now, and the revolution is here to stay.

Everything is connected. This is not a mere belief, nor is it a platitude. It is a scientific fact; even more deeply, it is spiritual Truth, substantiated by the Realization that can only be found within. I don’t need an authority to tell me what to think, who to be, what to buy. I have seen the Truth for what it is, deep within my mind in the silent murmurings of my meditations. It is beautiful; it is everywhere.

Think the Corporate State finds this sentiment offensive? Ask the NYPD what they did with my novel. You tell me.

Interested in my novel? Click here for more info, or check out my Amazon page here.

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