Shifts of consciousness:
The FRAMESHIFTS Series
I believe that we learn our way out of our dilemmas. Messy decisions, heart-stopping grief, ridiculously selfish leaders—all take our attention from what most concerns us: our next breath.
Breathless, anxious, and hurried, we find our ways when we turn obstacles into challenges, our wreck-sites into studios—all by a shift of mind, a frameshift.
Frameshifts was a practice before it was a fiction. Human beings can see beyond the worlds and wounds they have created. They have imagination–but, as Mark Twain said, you can’t “depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” Every frameshift is a change of magnitude, scale of observation, viewpoint, and metaphor. To shift frames frequently is to overcome the provisional ideas we have about ourselves, the way things are, and the way to tell the story. There’s nothing wrong with provisional truths as long as we don’t settle for them.
That’s what the Frameshifts series is about. Transforming consciousness like the Shift Network of Stephen Dinan? Yes, but not the way you may think. No sermon, screed, tract, self-help book, or manual of arms for the new millennium, Frameshifts are stories—a history and a vision, but told through stories in prose and verse:
Stories about a quiet deal made by a city councilman unaware of the lethal consequences; about a young Air Force officer’s choice between career and corruption; about how the suicide of a young gay teacher draws friends and enemies into a tangle of betrayals; about the slander, Joe-job and murder of an activist, and stories about a strange theocratic community, its technology, and its Supreme Prophet.
Left with the debts of a husband who invested in start-ups as if he were ordering pizza toppings, June Brightman could only stare at the wreckage of her life until she met Harry Pettiford. That’s when her perspective began to shift.
Everyday shifts of view, slight changes of routine, learning something new, taking on a new duty or responsibility, small acts of resistance to authority—frameshifts.
If consciousness evolves, it is because we pay attention to the resistances in our lives—and to our dreams. Learning occurs at the pressure points.
Caught between his wife’s need for 24-7 nursing care and his disappearing retirement income, Harry Pettiford leaves Roanoke to live with his aged aunt near Alexandria so that he can do public relations for a politician struggling to retain his seat on the city council. When the councilman is murdered, the pressure on Harry closes like a vise.
Like all good survivors, the characters in the Frameshifts learn to work with what they have—a bit of science, a potted plant, a poem, a math theorem, a few pieces of gravel from the malpais lands of New Mexico. They put their imaginations to work. For readers, each story is a different kind of discovery, each a different genre, each a different journey, each with a slightly different cast of characters. But there’s more.
The stories add up to something—a larger story that had been going on all along in the background. This is the story that the eccentric Hank Randall discovers at the end of his own rope, or, as he puts it, “at the other end of my arm.” But the full story doesn’t become clear until Hank begins living in a different scale of reference, like what Charles Yu describes as living in a “science fictional universe.”
The stories in Frameshifts are for readers open to a path that twists through mysteries, suspense, philosophy, poetry, history, military escapades, dramatic dialogues, letters, lectures, adventure, fictional memoirs, science fiction, dystopia, and political intrigue. Whether you want a whodunit, a lost missile launch code, the sinister results of the petty politics of town councils and school boards, genetic engineering gone awry, or a utopian reform of agriculture and society that seems almost too perfect, then these stories are for you.
The Frameshifts site also comprises book reviews, commentary, librettos, poetry, and announcements of new stage productions. The artist Robert Henri wrote that the first material artists must master is themselves. My parents were always working on themselves, learning and giving. I have tried to do the same. This site is not a sales promotion; it is a gift outreach. Perhaps my poetry, stories, commentary, and music will help you to work on yourself, to make a frameshift or two, and to work with sustained attention and creative engagement on your own contribution to the Great Procession. As Walt Whitman said, in “I sing the body electric” :
Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the welloff . . . . just as much as you,
Each has his or her place in the procession.
All is a procession.
The universe is a procession with measured and beautiful motion.
Do you know so much that you call the slave or the dullfaced ignorant?
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight . . . and he or she has no right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffused float, and the soil is on the surface and water runs and vegetation sprouts for you . . . and not for him and her? . . .