Everyone Has an Origin Story

A tragic turn of events unleashes new, unfamiliar superpowers that shock the wielder, eventually forcing him to face his moral obligation to reduce the suffering of those around him.

The New World, 1978. As early as 6th grade, I was already captivated by the evolution of humanity, hope for improvement, and an awareness that we live our lives in a blip on the larger arc of history. Homo Sapiens is the one obscured by the ship’s exhaust (before catalytic converters!), shooting for sport. Or perhaps out of fear. This drawing meant so much to me that I’ve kept it all these years. It is the only drawing I still have from elementary school.

As a child, I had recurring nightmares. My mother taught me how to get rid of them: for at least five minutes every night, I threatened my nightmares with the worst torture my six-year-old brain could conjure up. I’d pull out their fingernails, I’d disembowel them while they watched, I’d keelhaul them. (Keelhauling, if you don’t know, was a form of punishment for sailors that involved tying the victim to a rope that is looped around a vessel, throwing them overboard, and dragging them under the ship’s keel from stem to stern.)

Perhaps not coincidentally, around that same time in my life I remember falling to sleep listening to my mother yell at my father downstairs, virtually nightly for months. I continued this nightly ritual of threatening my dreams through high school.

I was introverted and unathletic but wanted the other boys to be my friends nonetheless. Instead, I got repeatedly picked last at recess for sports. A boy cannot articulate— or even acknowledge— the trauma that comes with being voted least worthy by his male peers. 

One day in third grade my teacher said to me, “Danny, why don’t you smile?”

“I’m smiling right now,” I told her. It took me decades to realize she was right, I don’t smile much. That bothered me. Perhaps my right-hemispheric dominance contributes to this situation.

The Thing

I wrote my first story that same year. A real-life author came to our class, and we wrote stories for him to grade. My story was a regurgitation of The Thing From Another World. In retrospect, perhaps that movie resonated with me because the theme of it was something like, even the most terrifying problem can be overcome, as long as you can work out the proper solution. Surely he recognized my shoddy copy. Graciously, he didn’t mention it.

That same year, one day during art, I drew a house, a tree, a cloud, and the sun. Typical. But I had seen the sun drawn a different way in the children’s show Villa Alegre. The energy from the sun was depicted more like emanating waves than pointy spears. So I drew my sun that way. Simultaneously original (nobody else’s suns looked that way) and derivative. The boy sitting next to me insisted I drew the sun wrong. He called the teacher over to settle this. “Yes,” she told me, “you drew it wrong.”

The battle between good & evil is commonly cast as one vs another. More often it is one vs. oneself.
The Hero’s Journey. Interestingly, Genesis and the New Testament map to this perfectly.

In 1977 Star Wars happened. I cannot understate the impact that movie had on me. Joseph Campbell later explained why: because it follows The Hero’s Journey. If you’re not familiar with The Hero’s Journey, I discussed it during a recent public speaking engagement, you can watch here.

I was then, and for many years since, someone brimming with hurts and insecurities. I needed something to feel competent about, so I took solace in the fact that I was smart. There were many things I was not, but at least I was that.

Despite the error in chronology, I led with my sixth-grade drawing, as it perfectly illustrates what drives me; the rest is just color. Check out what I drew on the back:  

The New World, verso.

 There is a metaphorical poetry to the fact that I drew on one side an aspirational image and on the other a horrific scene. Tragedy can either shape our growth or delay it, or do both.

My mom was regularly lucky at gambling, and she credited her luck to metaphysics. She believed electronics were sensitive to emotions, and she even seemed to show me as much. She also told me of her near-death experience, where she met beings who told her Earth is a classroom. Science dismisses experiences that do not fit into conventional frameworks, and I find that unsatisfying.

In high-school, I loved Dungeons & Dragons. To get my friends to play, I needed to be the Dungeon Master, which I thought would be a drag, but instead, I loved it. I drew elaborate maps of my fictitious world:

A small sampling of my maps.
I made my own traps, aptly kept in my Trapper Keeper.

I wanted to create stories that grabbed my friend’s attention and imaginations, but I didn’t know how, so the stories ended up being hack & slash: move from room to room, killing and looting as you go. Psychologically, the game was an exercise in power grabbing. I was disappointed with all of my work.

It took me writing that paragraph to finally realize that a more compelling game would be an excercise in competency.

I read Creative Visualization (Shakti Gawain) and Journeys out of the body (Robert Monroe). (Do you see the theme that’s starting to form?) I got really good at realizing I was dreaming, sometimes as many as five times a night. I took on a mission to realize I was dreaming and launch into an Out of Body Experience (OBE). When I was finally successful it shook me to my core. I instantly lost my ability to realize I was dreaming. I suspect my subconscious refused to give me another opportunity. (I have had about four experiences in my life that I believe to be legitimate OBEs, and I’ve had many dreams that pretended to be OBEs, but upon awakening, they were too suspect, so I disregarded them as mere dreams.)

Apparently, none of that was enough high strangeness for me, as I read The Silva Mind Control Method, (José Silva), and dabbled with self-hypnosis and hypnotizing others. The details of those times are too bizarre and personal to recount. I’ll just say that one of my subjects took to hypnotizing herself throughout the day so she could live in the fantasy world of her favorite book series, Dragonriders of Pern. I had also made some monumentally dumb decisions that caused me great shame and will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Mid-high school a new guy came into our class. He was handsome, extroverted, charismatic, athletic and intelligent. Sh*t.

Graduation. Not shown: my braided rat tail died bright blue at the end. 

I’ll skip the story about me not receiving Confirmation from the Catholic Church. That’s for another post. tl;dr, while I liked Christ’s teachings, I found the Catholic Church fell woefully short of embodying them.

That was high school. I got the English award when I graduated, and I reasoned that they made a mistake.

In college I decided it was time to outgrow D&D; I left my passion for bringing worlds to life along with it. Or at least worlds made of words. I majored in Fine Art, specifically oil painting. So I’ve committed myself to a life of creativity, and I figured visual arts was the way to go.

My unacknowledged resentment of elementary school rejection at kickball finally manifested in me as becoming a feminist. I’d have to wait a half a decade for me to realize my resentments were the poison that drove me to be reactionary, declaring masculinity as fundamentally tyrannical, and my only way out was to disavow masculinity. I won’t say unresolved resentment defines feminism, but I will say it defined more feminists than just me, and feminism as a movement needs to come to terms with that if it hopes to gain widespread support. People may not be able to articulate it, but they are repelled by others’ resentments that they do not share. (The converse is true too: people recognize and are attracted to others with the same unresolved resentments. This has the unfortunate side-effect of creating a mutual admiration bubble, where pathologies are rationalized, encouraged, and magnified, stunting emotional growth).

Art Inspired by Comics: No way to make friends in the Fine Art department.

At a party, one of the more senior art students (whom I admired) came up to me and complimented my work. An opportunity for a new, competent guy friend! I told him I was inspired by comic books. Without another word, he turned and walked away. Still, I lacked the emotional maturity to articulate the hurt.

Figuring my future was as a visual artist, I took just one writing class, to fill a prerequisite.

By the time I graduated, I was a young adult carrying around a lot of hurt, self-loathing, resentment, and shame. I was a bundle of incompetence struggling to find my way.

Looking for summer work, I became a camp counselor at a camp for special-needs boys. Young men with various pathologies. One did things to a dog— the details are too shocking to recount. Anyway, I was in way over my head. I was told the kid to counselor ratio would be 1:3. That wasn’t the case, and I was managing seven challenging boys on my own every day. So I gave my two weeks notice. In what I can only describe as poetic irony, the head of a camp to help wayward boys proceeded to berate me for my pathologies. “You can’t quit, because you’re fired! You’re a WIMP! Pack your things and get out!” (Non-hyperbolic all-caps and exclamation points) As I walked out, I managed what little self-advocacy I could, in the form of a sarcastic, “Thanks for understanding.”

His adult son also worked there, and as he processed my final paycheck, he struck a much more compassionate tone, asking me what went wrong. But by then I was speechless. The trauma of that prompted a daytime OBE the next day that to this day I cannot explain, other than sometimes we react to shock by profoundly withdrawing.

What’s a young college grad with nothing to do to do? I took up meditating! I had my first precognitive vision then; it took me more than a decade to unpack its meaning.

I read Mental Radio (Upton Sinclair), and his ESP experiments inspired me to do my own. Just as with Upton’s, my experiments showed uncanny similarities that I couldn’t chalk up to coincidence or post-hoc assignment of meaning to otherwise random data.

That moment when I scratched my head in disbelief. Two lines intersected by 4 lines.

I had my first mystical experience around 1992. I signed up for a New Agey weekend course called, cornily enough, the Prosperity Workshop. The ideas they laid out on Saturday I found so radical and shocking, and I loathed the idea of spending another day with a room full of strangers, so that night I wasn’t sure if I’d go back for the next day.

So I went to bed troubled. After I had fallen asleep but before the first dream of the night, I became what felt like awake and aware, but utterly disembodied, in blackness. I felt completely relaxed, my emotional response was awe at bearing witness to this strange experience. I became aware of distant voices; it felt like a Council of Elders discussing if I was ready for what’s next. I remember their verdict was one word: relax. I not only attended Sunday, but I spent the next seven years actively deepening my understanding of the topics they presented, then, the next 30 trying to reconcile all that I liked about what they had to say with the fact that a lot of it was couched in a New Agey, big-on-aspiration, light-on-evidence way.

In the early 2000’s I created a website comparing Mac OS to Windows. I supplied a downloadable PDF of the site. The PDF was downloaded a quarter of a million times and was over 200 pages long. So perhaps I liked writing. But then there was my son and chronic pain.

My chronic pain started in 2000, and I ignored it, absolutely the wrong thing to do. It was an overuse syndrome, from typing (and gaming… damn you StarCraft!). When my son was born in 2004 I could no longer ignore it. I had to abandon personal computer use (aside from my job), which meant I had to abandon a web site that had started to hit the big time (I was called by the BBC and also by Apple).

Late 2000’s I told a friend who had also taken the Prosperity Workshop (which propelled her to become a life coach) that I wanted to write a book about positive thinking, that I thought I could explain it in a way no one else has, and keep it simple. Early drafts didn’t get far.

At this same time I had been reading ESP books by Russell Targ, and at that time I intentionally triggered my first precognitive dream. Three adults witnessed my shock when something showed up in our hotel room that I had dreamt about literally moments before.

I created my own precognitive dream diary database for my phone. I’ve logged hundreds of dreams, and scores of them have come to pass. I dabbled in predicting stocks with my dreams, and in 2013 I predicted the shape of the AAPL stock chart for the day. I predicted the shape correctly the next day too, but alas, I didn’t write it down, so no trail of evidence.

In 2017 I studied Remote Viewing, which validated for me personally the reality of ESP.

Sometime between Remote Viewing, precognitive dreams, and Generalized Anxiety. I had a dream about a change purse, but that you put things in it that you wanted to change. That seemed both a great analogy and double entendre, and I started an outline for a children’s book. 

2017 was a big year for me. I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. Turns out high dream recall is a symptom, not a superpower. I wasn’t sleeping deeply, which allowed me to remember my dreams; it also made waking life difficult. I was also diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety. Turns out that ever-present compressed chest, stage fright feeling in me had a name, it wasn’t normal, it was causing me to behave less skillfully in the world, and I didn’t need to live with it.

Super Human
(1st edition, out of print)

Shortly after Christmas of 2017, I was watching a UFO video online, and the narrator said something (I won’t repeat it because it contains spoilers), and suddenly I knew what book I wanted to write. Less than a year later Super Human was a reality.

The book follows a boy who doesn’t know he has anxiety, and through a series of strange events, he learns that he has possessed all along incredible powers, but he doesn’t know how to harness them. And they are so great they terrify him, so he refuses to believe in them. Forces conspire against him until he is forced to rise to the call of his own greatness.

Sometimes fiction can convey truths that non-fiction cannot. Every one of us has a superhero inside calling us to let them out, but for one reason or another, we don’t heed their call. The book is an inquiry into the nature of the upper limits of human potential, and the story lays out a possible path upwards.

I once quipped I’m a superhero whose powers come out when I’m at my worst. The irony of the expression makes me smile but doesn’t accurately articulate the relationship between the best of me and the worst of me. The two are in constant struggle. It’s like Superman trying to get his job done, but Kryptonite is everywhere he turns. Forthrightly examining my own incompetencies has let me update myself for the better. Superman is at his best not when Kryptonite is gone, but rather when— despite the presence of Kryptonite everywhere around him— he struggles mightily, and prevails. 

It’s time to take the call.

Addendum: I found this post from four years ago in my unpublished queue. Apropos, so I published it today, here it is: How to Uncover Your Weaknesses.