The Transcendence has finally come

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Today is the second anniversary of my decision to join the Baha’i Faith, and to mark the occasion, Ben Harvey and I figure it’s about time that we release our long-awaited first book, The Transcendence, which you can download at directly from this post by clicking here.

The file is a simple PDF, a mere 14.8 MB in size and 60 pages long. It launches on full-screen scale when you first open it, but you can escape that if you want.

I should note that this is not the book I’ve been working on for neweurasia that was funded by the HIVOS Foundation. That’s CyberChaikhana, currently completing production at GRACO-Verlag in Berlin and set to be released later this month or in March.

Friends will recall that The Transcendence was my pet project from early 2006 through 2008. It was ambitious: combining poetry, the Rock concept album, and the manga graphic novel to tell a story of a young poet who goes on a quest for revenge against God, along the way exploring several theological, literary, and personal themes. My friend Bruce Schimmel, founder of the Philadelphia City Paper, once called the project “an old-fashioned epic poem”.

In 2007, I enlisted Ben’s talents to illustrate the manuscript, transforming the project into a co-authorship. At the time he was an intern with Studio IL (he’s since moved up the ranks), an up-and-coming artist collective in Philadelphia. Together we share the license, which by the way is a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. My poems may vary in quality, but Ben’s artwork is consistently stunning, even all these years later. I also contributed some artwork. You can view the entire gallery above.

If you’re curious to know more about the back story of The Transcendence, click “Read More” to continue. Otherwise, Ben and I hope you, our readers, find our creation an exciting and powerful experience — and that you’ll do us the big favor of passing either the PDF or this URL around!

So, why are Ben and I releasing the book now, and why informally as a PDF to friends, colleagues, and blog readers? That has a lot to do with the twists and turns our lives have taken, especially mine. The project was 90% completed by the end of 2008. Our original plan was to get an ISBN and publish it via La Salle University’s printing presses, and we were in negotiations to do so, but then I was beckoned across the Atlantic, where I ended up going to university and writing CyberChaikhana. Alas, as a consequence, The Transcendence was sidelined.

But now releasing the book feels very timely for me personally. For one, my time in Israel, back in 2004-2005, figures prominently in the middle section of the storyline. The poem “Mélange” is even set in Akka (and “Xerxs” prophesies about it), which was one of my favorite cities in the Holy Land and which was instrumental in my first encounter with the Baha’i Faith. I’m repeatedly struck by the ironies and continuities in my life, in this particular case, how the signs of my destination were all there long before I made the decision to turn down the road.

For another, because I’ve recently returned to some of its problems, in particular, the riddle of embodiment and the struggle to overcome dichotomy and duality. While preparing this PDF, I’ve re-read the afterword several timers, and I’m struck by how much I’ve gone in a kind of circle — like a wheel, moving round yet forward, revisiting the same issues and insights, but with deeper insight or from different perspectives each time.

Not only that, but I’m entering another crossroads in my life, as my current academic program ends and I begin to think about my future. Ben is also itching for some forward movement in his life. Thus, perhaps The Transcendence can serve some valuable role for us again. To quote one of my poems, “The Mantle”, So I pull the mantle over my head, and set out across my life toward that horizon of dread…

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