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Sunday, February 18, 2024

Alien Brain Fog - Episode 002 - What is an Ontological Crisis

Transcript of Episode

Hi. I’m Joseph Murphy and welcome to Alien Brain Fog, a science-focused podcast on memory, identity and the systems of oppression that effect both. How do you know who you really are?

In the last episode, I gave you my hypothesis. The reason everyone in the world is a little big crazy right now is we are all undergoing an ontological crisis. So the heck is an Ontological Crisis and how do we get out of it?


I’m a word nerd. I love etymology, which is the study of how words evolve over time. Whenever you see this part (ology) it means “study of.” Sociology is the study of how societies work. Psychology is the study of how the mind works. And so on.

Ont comes from the Greek “on” or “ont”, and means “being” or “existence.” So ontology is the study of what it means to exist. The Wikipedia page says this:

An Ontological Crisis occurs when the nature of reality is very different than you thought it was. You’re shown evidence that is so fundamentally against the world you believed you lived in that you don’t know what to believe any more.

It’s a metaphysical crisis. Like Barbie leaving BarbieLand.

Or realizing that aliens are real.

In laymans’ terms, it’s a crisis of faith. We have faith we understand the world around us. We do not what is real.

My ontological crisis began when I systemic racism was real. I learned we don’t have a capitalist democracy. We live in not in a neo-feudalistic state ruled by a plutocracy. Slavery never ended. We just traded in chattel slavery wage slavery. We are not as free as we think we are. 


What does Ontological Stability Look Like?

This paper speaks specifically to the impact home ownership has on sense of self. Extrapolate. Does the world still feel like your home? Or do you no longer recognize the world you’re living in. 

Dupuis and Thorns’ four traditional markers of ontological security. Those markers are to have a place: 

  1. of social and material constancy;
  2. where daily routines can be enacted and carried out; 
  3. “where people feel most in control in their lives because they are free from surveillance;” 
  4. “around which identities are constructed” (Dupuis and Thorns, 1998: 29). 

Source: Home, Home Ownership and the Search for Ontological Security (Ann Dupuis, David C. Thorns

So what could cause an Ontological Crisis?

  • Home Ownership – do you have a place in this world? Is your home secure? Do you constantly worry you might lose your home and be unable to find another? Unprecedented inflation has eroded perceived wealth.

  • Crisis of faith – your religion is not what you thought it was. Or elements of your religion are at odds with established science (otherwise known as reality).

  • Robots and Artificial Intelligence – have you lost your job because of a robot or AI?

  • Covid and the governments response to it – Misinformation spread faster than the government could control it. People expected to be safe. They no longer feel safe. Death rates were higher compounding the grief.

  • Lockdown - Endless months of Lockdown forced us to re-examine our freedoms.

  • Long Covid – increased physical and mental illness around the world. The World Health Organization estimates 771, 191, 203 infections. 700 million. What percentage will develop long term symptoms? Around 10-20. That is a lot of newly disabled people all at once. Covid can also lead to mental health problems like anxiety, depression, derealization and depersonalization. Cognitive disfunction.

  • Me Too Movement  - The movement clearly showed we are living in a patriarchy where large numbers of women do not feel safe.

  • Gender Studies - the existence of trans men and woman, the existence of non-binary people does not fit into the established worldviews of many people. Rather than integrate new evidence they reject it and say it can’t be real. They truly believe trans people can’t exist so they must be mentally ill. Or demons.

  • Aliens – the existence of UFOS, or UAPs and If non-humans are real and there there goes all of our specialness. How are we any different than squirrels?

  • War between Russia and the Ukraine have shown us the world is not as safe as we thought.

  • Donald Trump showed us any idiot with a following can get in power. And we started looking at all our leaders.

  • Climate Change and the idea that human race could go extinct within a century

All combined, the world we live in is not the world we thought we lived in.

And now we have to integrate the fact we’re not alone? It’s too much for the brain and the mind to take. So we disassociate. Get a little crazy


How do you solve an ontological crisis? The answer is simple to explain but hard to do. All you have to do is change your mind. Changing your mind is not easy. That’s where all your programming is. Everything you believe to be real. The hardest part is realizing our brain may be lying to you.

Here are four steps to solve any problem.

  1. Admit Reality – Acknowledge the Problem
  2. Evaluate and Consider Solutions
  3. Choose the Best & Implement Option
  4. Evaluate the Outcome

The first step to overcoming an ontological crisis is to acknowledge it. If it seems like the world is not what you thought it was, it’s time to act like Bo Burnham and go inside. That’s where all the work has to take place.

See in an ontological crisis, the main problem is the way your brain processes information. It is not equiped the world no longer functions. Our brains run on algorithm. The old algorithms can’t process the new data.  Which is why we need new ones. 


Since the first step to solving any problem is acknowledging it, it’s time to break through all the lies. Deal with reality as it is instead of how we wish it was. 


Join me next time on Alien Brain Fog as we take a closer look at reality. What is the Rule of Law? And do we currently live under the rule of law? Or are we fooling ourselves.


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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Should You Design Your Own Book Cover

On the latest edition of Open Book, I lead a discussion on whether or not independent authors should design their own book covers.

It comes down to three basic questions.


If the answer is you've never done anything artistic or related to graphic design in your life, then NO, you should not design your own cover. You can learn. It is never too late to start. However, the cover for your own book is not the place to start.


There are other programs out there, some of them free. However, in my experience there is no substitute to Photoshop. Unless you are extremely talented, you are not going to get a professional cover with most other programs.


As a child, my goal was to become a comic book artist. I spent 3 hours a day drawing and kept that up until my mid twenties. My mother was painter and I took several classes with her. I've used the slimmed down version of Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, for about 5 years.

Even with that background, I still had to spend 3-4 hours a day for over six months before I felt competent doing cover art.


Never ask your friends and family if they like your cover. They are all going to say they do, even if they don't. Unless they are graphic designers, their opinion is not valid.


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
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Monday, July 3, 2017

How Music Impacts the Writing Process

Sean T. Poindexter leads the EPTV team in a discussion on the impact of music on the writing process.


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Friday, June 30, 2017

When to Turn a Book Into a Series And When You Shouldn't

Back in March, 2017, I joined a taping of The Writer's Edge to discuss when you should turn a book into a series and when you should not.

If you are considering turning your book into a series, here are a few questions you should ask yourself.


Some genres (e.g. fantasy) almost require a series. In the video above, we tried to think of a fantasy novel that was not part of a series. Although I'm sure they exist, we couldn't think of one. Similarly, mystery and science fiction also support serial writing. However, be cautious about writing romance series, especially if you're dealing with one main couple. The audience is only going to last so long with the "will they, won't they" question before they get bored.


Is the story you want to tell big enough and complex enough to span several books. One of the fastest ways to lose your audience is trying to spread out a very small story across far too many pages. The panel discuss the TV series How I Met Your Mother. The consensus was that series should have ended years earlier. It was only kept alive because everyone was making money. While this is tempting, it diminishes the entire work. Remember, works of art, like people, are defined just as much by their endings as their beginnings.


The panel discussed a noobie mistake: ending your book on an incomplete cliffhanger. Cliffhangers, in general CAN work, but, if done improperly, can insult your reader and ensure they never read another one of your books. When you start the book, you make a series of promises to your reader. You are promising that certain plot points and certain character arches will be fully contained in that one book. You need to deliver on that promise. Remember, this may be the only one of your books the reader ever reads.

It's easy to determine what points you are promising to deal with in this book. Each book in a series should have a specific theme or a "beat". Think of the Guardians of the Galaxy Two. It was about fatherhood and redemption. If it had ended with Yondu floating in space instead of showing his funeral, it would have weakened the entire movie. The funeral was the sign that Yondu had finally redeemed himself. It also allowed Peter Quill an chance to see how Yondu had been a real father to him.

Endings are hard, but you owe it to your reader to wrap things up.


As a staff member of Ellysian Press, I recently edited a trilogy that had been written all at once. All three books were completely written before the editing process began. This does offer benefits. It speeds up the process with which books can be released. This increased momentum may  improve your sales.

One problem with it, however, is it is very easy for the writer to miss giving specific cues to the reader. As a rule, you should never assume the reader remembers every detail from the previous book. As a writer, it is usually very clear in your mind. However, you may leave necessary reminders off the page.

Also, over time, each time you go through the editing process, you will become a better writer. Readers fully expect that book three in a series will be stronger than book one. If you try to speed up the process, you are risking your growth.


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tips for Writing Query Letters

Are you a writer looking to attract the attention of a publisher?

Maer Wilson and Jen Ryan, the publishers of Ellysian Press discuss how to write a query letter to attract the attention of a publisher. They are joined by staff members and writers of Ellysian Press to discuss the dos and don'ts of submissions.


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
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Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review - As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

S.A. Larsen leads the group in a discussion and review of the YA thriller As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka.


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
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Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to Care for Book Addicts

Join the EP Team as they discuss how to care for and feed book addicts. They also discuss the pros and cons of physical books vs ebooks.


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
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