Between the realms of the optimistic pursuit of self-help and well-being and existentialist notions of darkness and doubt, there exists a chasm that is rarely bridged.
This divide seems logical when one considers the seemingly unending positive energy of self affirmation and the unlikelihood of exploration of themes of self-doubt and uncertainty about one’s place in the world. If a meeting of these two minds were to occur, what would the end result be? And would it be, dare we ask, funny and enlightening?
Enter Andrew Boyd. In his latest book. “Daily Afflictions”, Boyd has managed to construct an alternative set of instructions that revel in self-criticism and dysfunction and do so in an extremely amusing way. Boyd’s adeptness at humor can be a potential double-edge sword for it is possible that some may dismiss his book as merely a witty take on the world of self-help. This book is, however, much more than that. As Boyd explained in an interview, his goal is to “inject humor and irony while maintaining the seriousness of his views on personal philosophy and enlightenment.” Boyd uses subheadings to divide his ideas into short and succinct chapters on various topics. My personal favorite was “The nurturing power of dysfunctional families.” While the cleverness and wit with which Boyd writes are undeniable, the real significance lies in the unique and insightful wisdom that he puts forth for the reader.
Boyd began his pursuit of social activism and writing while studying at the University of Michigan, interestingly enough. It was here that he experienced, as he put it, “an explosion of becoming who I was”. Boyd became deeply involved in acts of political and intellectual rebellion while in Ann Arbor, and he recounted several instances of these protests during the interview. One rather amusing story involved Boyd and other fellow students taking over a lab that they believed was keeping military research classified illegally. According to Boyd, he and his cohorts entered dressed in lab coats and calling themselves “the Nuclear Saints of America,” stated that they had come to perform military research and refused to leave until it was done.
Given Boyd’s outlandish stories of student protest and the unconventional philosophies found in his latest book, it is hard to imagine him at a standard and yes, sometimes boring book event. As is to be expected, Boyd has his own unique take on the average book reading. Boyd refers to his book readings as more of “happenings”, or to use a phrase of his that I found particularly intriguing, “stand-up tragedy.”
The event will involve Boyd, a.k.a Brother Void, in a monk costume performing a comic church service complete with affliction therapy. This process will include “transformative therapy,” in which audience volunteers experience a laying of the hands for their specific affliction. Boyd explained that the goal is to create tantric energy and an interactive environment in which the book acts as a sacred text and “scripture of performance”. The event will also include a guided meditation.
This description is sure to garner some skepticism, but I strongly encourage readers to keep an open mind. Boyd’s innovative approach will assure that the audience will, at the least, have an experience unlike any they have ever had at a book reading. And you never know, they could leave feeling enlightened as well.
Boyd will be presenting his “stand-up tragedy” at Shaman Drum Bookstore on Friday, May 10 at 8 p.m. and his cleverly presented website, dailyafflictions.com, also merits a visit.