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The Art of Hunting Trolls

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The forest of Rold in Denmark includes an area that is known as the troll forest owing to the eerie shape of the trees. There is a perfectly natural explanation for that, but that will have to wait, because this is about the secret behind troll hunting.

Troll hunting is difficult because you cannot enter the troll forest with the desire to hunt trolls. Everywhere you look you will see oddly shaped trees but trolls are nowhere to be seen.

Troll Forest in Rold Skov
Troll Forest in the forest of Rold in Denmark. But where are the trolls?

The secret behind troll hunting is that the trolls will not appear until you cease looking for them. It is when you forget your business that the trolls begin to appear. Often a curious face will peek from behind the roots of a fallen tree, or a troll may be napping against a trunk. Soon you will see trolls everywhere in all shapes and sizes, and you feel them blowing down your neck and wink at you in time with the movement of the trees. But as soon as you begin looking for more trolls, you will not find any.

A somewhat camera shy troll, but visible nonetheless.
The same thing happens if you attempt to find a good topic to write about. You cannot simply choose a topic and expect to find profundities. You must study the topic carefully, and suddenly meaning emerges. Of course, not all forests are troll forests, and some topics are more prone to insight than others.

Trolls are shy and will hide when you approach them. There is often but a piece of wood or bark left when you walk towards them. But if you keep a proper distance, you will often be able to point them out for your companions who may not have seen them yet.

Not all troll hunters are skilled. The trolls usually hide from troll huntes with too much sense in their heads who see nothing but trees. When they hunt for trolls, they search for the darkness with flashlights, trying to create trolls where there are none. When they are asked to describe the troll, they can rarely point at the nose, the eyes, and the mouth at the same time, seeing the entire face of the troll. They often describe a single closed eye that soon turns out not to belong to any troll. They also have difficiulties recognizing trolls that are found by more skilled hunters.

Hush! This troll has not seen us yet.
Such people are rigid, and trolls are afraid of that. Trolls are part of the forest, and they quickly hide if they sense that a person lacks the life and movement of the forest. (This is also the reason why it is very difficult to take photographs of trolls, because the trolls know that the photographs will freeze them.) This is what makes troll hunting so difficult: you cannot become part of the troll forest until you forget that you are hunting trolls.

The unfortunate troll hunters generally have difficulties understanding abstractions, analogies, symbols, and intuitive explanations, are are rarely creative.

It is the unfortunate troll hunters who attempt to find profundities in their favorite topics or activities even if there is nothing to be found. Skilled troll hunters will find that certain topics provide a myriad of trolls.

Some mystery cults would probably have sent the apprentice into Rold forest with no explanation but an instruction to come back once the apprentice had learned something. I will wish you happy hunting instead.
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On the Author's Mind

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As a strict atheist, I prefer non-mystical explanations, yet for creativity I have no choice but to apply mystical words such as "soul" or "spirit" and similar symbology because inspiration, creativity, emotion, and feeling cannot be described by Aristotelian logic. I could perhaps refer to Antonio Damasio's somatic marker model, but since this model is also ontologically incomplete (as Damasio himself recognizes), this detour would eventually be wasted effort. So please bear with me on the mystical language, and try not to imagine metaphysical entities as I use mystical expressions.

Pile of Books

Anyone is an author these days; write an in­co­her­ent article that in­cludes a few of your darling phrases and you're an author. Change a few fonts to the worse in a pre­man­u­fac­tured tem­plate and you're a web de­sign­er­. Submit some video footage of your­self to YouTube and you're an actor and a pro­du­cer­. There are plenty of options for you to earn your 15 bytes of fame.

Aim higher, and you may become one of those authors that have learned the han­di­craft of writing, ap­ply­ing strong lan­guage skills, mas­ter­ing com­pos­i­tion and power­ful state­ments, who can state some pro­fun­dit­ies and maybe even have stories to tell, yet somehow leave the reader with a feeling that he or she has just read a user's manual.

Al­ter­n­at­ively, become a no-style writer whose spe­ci­alty is sim­pli­city in every sense of the word: no one can dis­t­in­guish the authors from another; sus­pen­se is all, and words and phrases are de­lib­er­ately without char­ac­ter­ to enable the pages to be turned faster. It prob­ably helps if you're a re­li­gious person or a con­ser­vat­ive, because their views in­var­i­ably tend toward the sim­pli­city of bi­fur­c­a­tions.

But some authors charm their readers. Their readers have experienced the captivating feeling that made it impossible to put the book aside. As a reader, you did not merely read the book. You reacted spontaneously to the story as it entered your heart. You let yourself drift in the story with no safety jacket and found yourself sometimes carried gently along and at other times rushing in a deadly torrent. It felt natural and meaningful, but barring bland explanations about a stimulated imagination or entertainment, you could not explain where the meaning was found.

If you have never known this feeling, don't bother reading on, as it will make no sense to you.

The author feels a "higher sensation" within him, call it spirit or muse, which inspires him to ideas that give structure to his composition. The author feels part of a flow, or feels an insight experience, or a love experience; it may feel as a "mystic" experience where a larger whole is perceived. It is as if separates within the author unify and opposites resolve. Anxiety, inhibition, and restraint are lost, and intellectual self-criticism, fear, and doubts about himself are left behind.

Being more himself, the author is more spontaneous and expressive, and everything is done with greater ease. Although authors excel in verbalization, they live far more in the real world than in the verbalized world of abstractions, beliefs, and concepts. They see the raw, the fresh, and the existing in addition to the abstract, the categorized, and the generic. They combine a childish ability to perceive and express with a sophisticated mind. They sense in themselves both a strong ego versus ego-less behavior, their head versus their heart, self-love versus altruism, selfishness versus unselfishness, concreteness versus abstraction, any many other apparent contradictions and polarities that others would see as dichotomies or mutually exclusive; but these people are natural integrators that synthesize separates and opposites into a larger whole. As within themselves, so without themselves, they put together forms that fight each others and combine dissonances into unity: their works of art.

It is in this experience that the art is born in a slow but intense flash of inspiration, but it also requires hard work and training. The spontaneous leads to the planned, the Dionysian to the Apollonian, the feminine to the masculine, yin to yang, or being to becoming, by any expression. We yield to the darkness of our souls for inspiration, and only then turn it to form by control, criticism, judgment, and hard work. The experience of inspiration or heightened being happens to the person, who in turn creates the art. The latter can be learned, but is heartless. The former is innate, but is headless.

And thus the spirit works through the author to manifest itself as letters on paper. Many an author can testify to feeling as if being the tool of a higher purpose.

Now the process is reversed. The letters on the paper are perceived by the reader's body, which senses the contrasts and forms and combine them to words, then sentences and continuity in the brain. The perception of the text invokes feelings and wakes emotions in the reader which collectively create a gestalt, a feeling that is more than the sum total of the individual words. This higher sensation is the story that is told, and is exactly the higher sensation that the author felt as spirit; it is a sensation that, although manifest in words, cannot be expressed in words.

You are the story while the story unfolds, and you sense the spirit that originally inspired the author. It is mind that contacts mind; it is the spirit that speaks through the author's soul to the reader's soul. You may like what you experience through the author, or you may not, and the author's soul may contain both beauty and horror.

But like rays from the sun will cause only growable things to grow, the creativity emitted from the author will be lost on rocks and other dead material. The reader without a soul will never sense the spirit.

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