Asher's Maxims

Asherisms: For Asher, maxims are a way of storing his voluminous thinking on any given subject via easy-access file labels in the soul. He's been writing them since 1992, when he read Kahlil Gibran's aphorisms in Sand and Foam, and he was spurred on a bit by Oscar Wilde. Some of his maxims are personal, and some are about the world, life, the universe, writing, love, pain, monsters, and nearly anything else he encounters. Some are things that go into making characters and stories and should be considered merely speculative and not taken too seriously.

Asher's Maxim 351

The socially pathological person can deceive, betray, and neglect without compunction or any sense of responsibility or accountability – the sociopath serves only itself. Which lasts until it meets the psychologically unbounded person who has no limit to what they will do in response.

Asher's Maxim 350

To the unobservant, the man with no values is fearsome and dangerous. The man with no values is the man with insufficient heart for battle. Bet on the one convinced that something transcendent is at stake – something worth more than safety and worthy of sacrifice. He’s dangerous if opposed, ferocious if engaged.

Asher's Maxim 349

In a standoff, bet on the man with less to lose and more to gain. Always ask what values are in play.

Asher's Maxim 348

Threatening someone’s life presumes they value that life in the first place. If they don’t cling to life or avoid death, it’s like all misguided threats – a false assumption about one’s values.

Asher's Maxim 347

When a woman says she likes “bad boys” (let’s use Megan Fox for example), she doesn’t mean she likes men who burn her with cigarettes or will take a bat to her if she betrays him. She means she likes boys in bands who pose as bad – wear leather jackets and chains, have lots of tattoos – poseurs. It isn’t punk, it’s a style, like you can buy at Hot Topic or copy from a James Dean movie.

Asher's Maxim 346

The head is not the heart.

Asher's Maxim 345

Everyone should have someone they’re sworn to protect and defend at ultimate cost to life and limb. I have such people, and I am such a person to more than one person. And it’s freeing. Your mortality is no longer your own. You no longer have the entire burden of your life. You know when you can spend it freely.

Asher's Maxim 344

Half of the strife and agony in the world is misunderstanding, and the other half is disagreement. If we could overcome this misperception of each other’s intentions, we’d eliminate half of what lies between us. Help me understand. Try to understand.

Asher's Maxim 343

Write like you talk, and talk like you write. Literature is an act of speaking and, writing that way is, effectively, an express act of performance.

Asher's Maxim 342

People who say there are only twenty five plots should advocate classifying film and lit by plot, instead of genre. Unless they’re intentionally trying to obscure things.

Asher's Maxim 341

A hurt and an offence are not the same thing, any more than a sin and a tresspass.

Asher's Maxim 340

I can never harm those that hurt me, because they wouldn’t be able to hurt me if I didn’t love them. I let them harm me, and I go on loving.

Asher's Maxim 339

If you want to be scary and dramatic, say that you do violence to yourself so you don’t do it to other people. If you want to appear noble, say that you keep other people from harm by turning it on yourself. It’s a matter of order, which synonym you use, and whether you’re saying you’re the source of the passion, or its an inescapable capacity of the world that we always have to deal in – in some way.

Asher's Maxim 338

Art is a means of creating external organs for one’s soul. You can touch art, when you can’t touch a mind. You can show art, when your feelings escape notice.

Asher's Maxim 337

When I break rules, it’s mostly curiosity – to see what it would be like without them. But when I conflate things, or put things together that don’t belong, it’s outright mischief.

Asher's Maxim 336

I am not a bad boy. I’m a bad man.

Asher's Maxim 335

One word can change the world. Guillotine! Traitor! Charge! Like a bullet in a gun. You just need one.

Asher's Maxim 334

There’s a method to my sadness.

Asher's Maxim 333

The second most painful thing about loss of love is the love she showers on other men, seemingly endless, always everything, a torrent, a blizzard of love, and you long for a single drop of it. Words are like that, and the words of the eyes.

Asher's Maxim 332

I always mean what I say, at least in some way, and mean only what I say and nothing I don’t, because I always say all that I mean, sooner or later. Steve: “This is an odd thing about you, Asher, but helpful. Other people always have a second channel of the unspoken and unconfessed, so we have to second guess, but not with you.”

Asher's Maxim 331

The source of corporate power is the same as that of parental power (expressed as the power of economic class and cultural eldership) and institutional academia and religion and even marriage – which is why they each mutually support one another and mutually dominate our lives and our culture: it’s the ability to dispense approval or else withhold it and criticize, which directly affects the core realities of our lives. These institutions hold our identity itself in their hands – the ability to think of ourselves as decent people, productive people, with self-directed lives, worthy of mating and reproducing, with access to transcendent meaning. (a Pruneau rule)

Asher's Maxim 330

People don’t do anything radical in their lives because it exposes them to less criticism (examples: corporate change, entrepreneurial venture, lifestyle heresy) – performance criticism, societal criticism, parental criticism – we’re trained to avoid it. (a Pruneau rule)

Asher's Maxim 329

It’s not a sale until the money hits the account, and I refuse to celebrate. I only believe when they pay.

Asher's Maxim 328

When a man loves a woman’s mind, he will learn a whole language just to hear her say “Hello”. And when he is hungry for her, and starved, he will listen to her every word as though it were the last time he could hear words.

Asher's Maxim 327

I am a literasexual. I make love over words.

Asher's Maxim 326

My garden is full of horrible trees that bear easily accessible fruit. It’s fascinating to me that I have consistently little trouble discovering which tree a story must have fallen from. Oh, that one again. Of course.

Asher's Maxim 325

What set me free to write was the discovery that agony is actually the basis of stories, in general. I simply found that to coincide with my own life. I don’t claim to be great at it, but it certainly fits well – it’s like me and story telling were made for each other. I doubt I’ll ever question that magnetism again.

Asher's Maxim 324

Horror is the quintessential story form. Fear that supplants desire brings the essential conflict, without which there is no story (“I was unopposed in all I attempted. The end.” is not a story). Frustration that encroaches on intended success is what moves the story forward (otherwise it’s simply “we made it on time as planned, and all else went just as smoothly”). Sadness that shapes and distorts the characters themselves is what makes it human (if the characters show no proof of vulnerability to being fundamentally bent out of shape by what occurs, then they’re not human at all – they’re dolls – and if we give them no basis for demonstrating it, they might as well be). In effect, storytelling relies utterly on the horrible to succeed.

Asher's Maxim 323

One solution to intractable problems is lay out all possible options, until you are certain the solution, for you, is on that page. Then, even if you have to try them all, you know how it will be solved – it will be solved by one of these.

Asher's Maxim 322

Asking advice on something in particular is not an invitation to audit every other aspect of one’s life. I learn to stop asking wisdom from people who can’t resist fixing all the “wrong” they see. Wisdom and the compulsion to set people straight are mutually exclusive.

Asher's Maxim 321

We claim to know that motivation comes from either intrinsic or extrinsic sources. But this isn’t knowledge, it’s formulae. It’s circular reasoning – knowledge of the results of a presupposition. Of course any such assumption will be self-validating. You have to work, in our culture, to dismiss binary formulae and ask about things like reward or inspiration from the collective unconscious – things that don’t fit the formulae. What we “know” often interferes with what we could know, if we allowed for it.

Asher's Maxim 320

Short stories taught me that sometimes I write from the intellect and sometimes from the emotions. When I’ve tried to write a novel from the intellect, I haven’t had the emotional involvement to sustain it. But I can stay intellectually involved in anything that’s coming from deep in my emotions. The long form, for me, will have to come from deep, untapped recesses of feeling.

Asher's Maxim 319

To move reality, and do the impossible, you have to first utilize imagination, as the prime capacity. You imagine ‘what if’ and when you see it fully, only then can discover how you will move the world. If you wait for reality to shift, and only then imagine, you’re at the mercy of events – not a maker of events.

Asher's Maxim 318

For me, the ability to do extraordinary things, sometimes the impossible, has come from first imagining that it were so. The discovery of extraordinary things has generally begun with a “what if”.

Asher's Maxim 317

A lot of people carry around the superstition that if a thing is meant to be, it’ll show itself and, if you run into a lot of crap, you must have done something wrong. This notion that there’s a script for our lives comes from fundamentalist religion, but it leaks into the wider culture. The opposite may just as easily be true, if we need a narrative. The more crap that rises up to meet you, the more likely you’re going the right direction. Their way is circular reasoning.

Asher's Maxim 316

There are times when I don’t feel it, and I have to write anyway. It might have less soul, but finishing is a form of soul.

Asher's Maxim 315

I watch some friends continually posting debate points with conservatives. I get that it’s because the other guys are not just believing bad things, they’re destroying people’s lives. I get that it’s because it’s offensive to live in a world of dumbed-down everything, when we’re exceptionally bright and informed – intelligence is the new jilted ethnicity. But I think the most constructive thing to do, if you need to push something out, and you don’t make art, is push out the epistemological reliance on objective knowledge itself. Ask people what they think the population of the earth is, or what year the US invaded Iraq the 2nd time, etc. Encourage people to start thinking objectively by asking them objective things, and you’re building the culture you want to live in. Where our culture is really divided isn’t just on ethics, but on epistemology, which is how we arrive at our ethos.

Asher's Maxim 314

It is a moral and ethical imperative for the mentally strong to defend the mentally impaired. I will die in it, if need be. I will give my life. There’s a man like that where I live, and they persecute him, because he says all the wrong things. What do people expect? You taunt or berate or physically harm someone for being sick. Expect *me*.

Asher's Maxim 313

There are people in our lives that don’t treat us like human beings because, in their solipsism, they actually forget that we are. If you’re ever kidnapped, they say to try to get your captor to see you as human, with a life, with feelings. Sometimes it doesn’t work – they persist by saying “don’t try to make me feel guilty” or they simply are too far gone to understand what human life really is. Trying to cultivate empathy is still the only solution I’ve come to when faced with someone who doesn’t accord us any dignity.

Asher's Maxim 312

I am, fundamentally, a builder. I solve problems and mysteries by deconstructing them, because I achieve new things by building them, and I need to learn the parts and understand the math and architecture of the construct. To learn to make buildings, you must first explore a lot of them, and meticulously. But really, you need to take them apart, a piece at a time. In this way, building begins with demolition and a builder is at root, a hacker of constructed things.

Asher's Maxim 311

You don’t have to be religious to be a fundamentalist. You blame people for acts of God that befall them or acts of victimization by man, and you’re essentially saying you’re morally superior and they deserve it. Next you’re attributing the rape of the Central Park Jogger on her sparse clothing and the Haitian Earthquake to their sins.

Asher's Maxim 310

It’s actually not true that you can’t die of a broken heart. Depression, stress, substance abuse – all of these have very serious effects. The heart is powerful but also vulnerable. Ironically, the greater its capacity to feel love, the more potential for it to kill its host by poisoning the body as surely as hemlock. Love is a life and death matter.

Asher's Maxim 309

It’s a sweet deal that women that were hot to me 20 years ago still are. Boys that never grow up are screwed. In their forties, they’ll be stuck trolling schoolyards.

Asher's Maxim 308

I will strangle someone on their assumptions and bigotries, but never with something that wasn’t their own or not made for that purpose.

Asher's Maxim 307

The certainty with which one indicates what is intrinsically valuable and what isn’t, what ethically matters and what doesn’t, what’s aesthetically good and what isn’t, what the world is, what life means, what identity is, all the questions an individual decides for himself, never for someone else, is directly proportionate to lack of experience. In that sense, the 20-something crowd, fundamentalists everywhere, and relatively isolated parochials are operating the same way. Experience breeds ambiguity, not certainty. Think my generation is ridiculous, my music is crap, and my values are misplaced? Doesn’t matter if you’re older or younger or quoting scripture, the vast majority or the beleaguered minority, you’re still showing inexperience.

Asher's Maxim 306

When I know I’m near the end of dying, I will not quit working, at least not creating, until the last breath. I will want to, perhaps. I will break, perhaps. Losing dignity, losing the ability to go among people, losing even my sense of self, I may not be able to do business or make love or see friends or do more than weep bloody tears, but I will write with that blood in some way, if I must. And if I am spared a bit longer, then let it be to not forget that it’s that important.

Asher's Maxim 305

The nihilist, in rejecting the possibility that people can change intrinsically, when trying to telling a story, must revert to a thesis that, for him, is fundamentally alien. It’s an astounding thing to watch and has resulted in a number of comical attempts at prose, even if they were meant to be taken seriously. Personal change is the story’s sine qua non.

Asher's Maxim 304

All stories presume the possibility of metanoia, of some character changing at an intrinsic level. Even if it doesn’t occur, the possibility must be held out to the reader. In that sense, story telling is innately Christian, even if there’s a historical process by which the pagan Epic of Gilgamesh resolved into the art of the Hebrew Torah. We say a certain art is Greek, even if the Phoenicians contributed to it, because the Greeks extended and perfected it to such an extensive, world-changing degree. I’m not afraid to give credit.

Asher's Maxim 303

We make of woman’s hair a great many illusions about what she is and what it means, under the pretense of aesthetic beauty. Beauty pageants should begin with the shaving of heads. If she’s beautiful without our deepest yet most superficial cultural script for women, then maybe she’s actually beautiful.

Asher's Maxim 302

If you don’t have to take responsibility, then I don’t have to take you seriously. That’s the social contract. You say, “We’re twenty something, you can’t rely on us.” So I respond, “You’re twenty something, so what do you know about anything?”

Asher's Maxim 301

I don’t dispute there may be guide books for one’s life. There is scripture, as it were, but there is no script for one’s life. The story is utterly unwritten. Other people have formulae for our lives – even the atheist can be fundamentalist in this way, and we can adopt pieces of those canned dramas, if we’re inclined toward weakness of will or being merely derivative. We’ve seen the same film under more than one name, too. We can become personal versions of pulp serial novels. But if one is an original, there’s a certain degree of bewilderment and guesswork that comes with not knowing how the story goes except as you’re living it. In a sense, being adventurous means not being certain what step to take next, or whether to take it. Certainty does not go on adventures.

Asher's Maxim 300

In St. John’s eyes, the apocalypse has occurred. He doesn’t explain it but merely describes it.

Asher's Maxim 299

Asking the mysteries of life from someone who doesn’t love you is liking asking for water from a desert. Only love can know the world as you must dwell in it. Only love knows what is necessary for you to go on living.

Asher's Maxim 298

It would be nice if we died of the things that hurt us deeply. We’d be a lot more careful, with each other and ourselves, and life would be more bearable.

Asher's Maxim 297

I am delightfully inconsistent.

Asher's Maxim 296

We’re a culture that has lost the vitality and drive of its males to video games and comic books. I’ve seen the TED talks. I don’t care. I’d like to see even 10% of that devotion put into making art instead of consuming pop culture. Do the same with our compulsions toward sports, action movies, politics, and religious fervor, and we’d have a cultural Rennaissance of Greco-Roman proportions.

Asher's Maxim 295

A story is a homonculus made of the cast off, vestigial, or stolen body parts of real lives. It’s the most diabolical sorcery committed by reanimators.

Asher's Maxim 294

Like an installation artist, or a craft artist, a story teller picks up whatever junk is lying around – half felt emotions, other people’s suppositions and half-baked theories, wrong but fascinating hypotheses, bad choices, illicit characterizations, fabulized footnotes – anything he can lay hands on and especially what is neglected or discarded that no one is currently using. And stitching those bits together, he comes up with something he hopes feels for all the world like it’s real. The most real feeling things, broken down, often consist of the unreal.

Asher's Maxim 293

Life without making art isn’t life, if the life you’re made for is making art.

Asher's Maxim 292

Everything seems to conspire to put a stop to creation. Creation is defiance. It’s martyrdom. The only way it works for me is to consider it non-negotiable.

Asher's Maxim 291

With art, one step at least, even if I’m exhausted and spent, is more necessary than any rest. Even if it’s feeble or hasty, even if it bleeds to do it. Every day there’s a reason not to take a step, and every step not taken makes not taking the next step easier to regard as normal, even if it’s not acceptable.

Asher's Maxim 290

People make light of honor, the most basic form of which is keeping one’s word. Imagine a society in which no one could be relied on to mean what they say. It would be as significant as a loss of gravity, and perhaps less survivable. And we don’t decide these things only collectively, where someone else always shoulders the burden when we fail, but each individual makes the effort in concert with society. Keeping one’s word is the most basic sign that one is fit to live among people.

Asher's Maxim 289

I don’t know why depression is not recommended more often as a means of weight loss; it works wonders.

Asher's Maxim 288

I will say “I disagree” if pressed to adhere to some ideology, but really all such statements are non sequitur. An idea doesn’t require agreement, if it represents anything real, and then too disagreement can’t alter its reality.

Asher's Maxim 287

Why do people continually offer “I agree” or “I disagree” – this binary response to thought? It shoves one’s personality in front of anything we try to look at together. What does it matter what you or I agree or disagree with? To what does it matter? It doesn’t matter to a film, a fashion design, a piece of architecture. Can’t we look at things and keep adding perceptions without deciding one of us must win over the others? A thing is ugly, it’s beautiful – yes it is both – let’s continue to love it and be horrified. Can we share nothing, unless we agree?

Asher's Maxim 286

I feel about writing short stories like I do about religion. There’s no credible market for either one. If you’re in it because you need other people to be in it with you, and like it, you’re not only screwed, but it’s probably not real then anyway. I know that’s cultural heresy, on all counts. I’m OK with that. For me, both things are a path and, on a path, you’re traveling.

Asher's Maxim 285

I don’t need another man’s name on my stuff to improve my self image – my name is the one that matters. That said, Calvin Klein hasn’t let me down, even if his labels are sewn on so tightly they can’t be removed.

Asher's Maxim 284

I am not a gentleman. Courtesy does not require the pretense of Victorian manners or the myth of Mediaeval chivalry. I will treat you like a human being, not a delicate and merely ornamental snow globe.

Asher's Maxim 283

World-building doesn’t have to proceed from scratch. Change one historical event, make a slight tweak to the laws of physics, give birth to one extraordinary person who wasn’t there before, or barely alter the results of ‘natural selection’ and Obama still gets to be president, but now we have tails – and that affects everything.

Asher's Maxim 282

Any author who consistently touches the supernatural or supernormal will, for consistency, formulate or elaborate at least one system of ‘magic’ or phenomenon, even if the system itself is inconsistent.

Asher's Maxim 281

In an evangelical environment, even the atheists are evangelists.

Asher's Maxim 280

The evangelical impulse possesses people in the middle of the country, who offer advice as easily as a section of the paper. The rednecks, the hippies, all the demographics are so quick to tell you how you’re supposed to live, that I dismiss all such attempts without consideration. It’s incessant. In my experience, the more a person tries to fix you or guide you, the less they know about the world. Worldliness breeds ambiguity, not doctrine.

Asher's Maxim 279

Some women are enough for any man, and one girl is quite enough for any man.

Asher's Maxim 278

We will never overcome racism (not end – that’s impossible – but overcome) until we cross economic boundaries to care for the poor, cross health boundaries to care for the sick, cross social boundaries to care for prisoners, cross tribal boundaries to protect immigrants, cross national boundaries to care for all of these in other countries, and cross the boundary of species to accept animals as persons. A direct attack on racism will never work, and I refuse to focus on a sniffle when the cause is a virus.

Asher's Maxim 277

You can’t argue with people who have a magic world view – because nothing is their responsibility – the most obvious cause and effect is automatically discarded, along with physics, logic, and basic math. It’s always the good fairies and the bad, with them, whether that’s corporations, the illuminati, or the other political party – it’s never the need to change their oil, check their spam filter, or balance their checkbook properly.

Asher's Maxim 276

Empathy for monsters is the chief source of my empathy for myself, ability to love myself, and therefore empathy for other people. Because other people have sometimes been monsters, as have I, and love is the only way to understand.

The Ashernet

Visit Asher's Other Haunts