Derek J. DiRisio
State of the Framework 2021: Closing Chaos
Updated: Jul 18, 2021
Welcome back, folks—this is the third part in a series of blog posts refreshing the state of Rochester Grimoire. If you missed them, read the first and second posts here.
This post will be dedicated to what's become of the series which started it all in 2015—The Chaos Within Our Walls and Falls, or simply, Chaos. 'TCWOWaF' never really stuck.
To preview, the series grew in waves these past 6 six years, and I've not been able to dedicate time or energy to actually finishing the book I started and cultivated in private. This blog acts as closure for those who've invested in this fictional world, as well as suggestions for external media which scratch this book's intended itch.
For full comprehension I encourage you to click through to linked examples and definitions. I would link to individual cards, but unfortunately Wix's structure isn't working as intended—I'd advise you keep the series open in another tab to reference cards.
Card No. 1. Left: 4:05PM EST, 1/4/2015. Right: 8:56PM EST, 1/4/2015. 5th-gen iPod Touch.
On that day, I had made plans to hang with a friend and role model of mine at the time, Collin Zweigle. A friend he'd considered family, Fiona Henry, joined us to my surprise. I don't recall whose idea it was—but the viral call-to-action #ExploreRochester was in full swing at the time, and one of us had inevitably seen an Instagram photo of the cave at Lower Falls Park.
This was our task for the day, a hike down to the cave in search of adventure, and finding something else.
It's a treacherous hike, from the top of a ravine down slippery slopes, eventually alongside a rushing Genesee River. We made our way through makeshift pathways and along naturally placed or fallen rocks. The closer to the namesake waterfalls and the tucked-away cave, the slipperier the rocks, the harsher the mist, and the higher the anticipation.
Inevitably drenched, we reached the cave with bated breath and found glory in the sheer size of the man-made cavern, one carved into the gorge for storm/overflow management. Like a fireteam of three stepping into the Vault of Glass, we moved forward. I asked Collin and Fiona to pose as I ran inward to take the photo—and this was the result. Later that night, I'd apply a partial VSCO M5 filter for Instagram and type out a caption in the spirit of Destiny's grimoire cards. External validation from a number of people had me convinced that I'd created the coolest thing since sliced bread. And thus, Rochester Grimoire cards were born as a concept and art medium.
Non-Linear Storytelling, Multiverse Theory, and Godhood
In the coming days, weeks, and months, I became enamored with the art style I'd adapted for myself. Alongside #EclecticEffect and other experimental cards, #TheChaosWithinOurWallsandFalls became my flagship storyline. I realized the potential in Card No. 1 and sought to emulate a kind of literary device present in much of Destiny's lore—non-linear storytelling. TVTropes has a great article on the topic with examples in media. I intended to gradually reveal the reality of this alternate universe—a version of Rochester in which the use of nuclear energy had brought on grand, paracausal effects. Akin to how this grimoire card simply describes an aspect of the Destiny Universe, and this grimoire card dives into the deep lore ramblings of a mad Destiny scientist, I sought to gradually convey the reality of the Chaos universe with varying cadence and complexity. At gatherings and in coffee shops, I excitedly talked about how the chronological sequence of numbered Chaos cards was open-to-interpretation.
This vision was immediately apparent upon creating Chaos card no. 1. The piece evokes a kind of theatrical, dramatic, and post-apocalyptic tension. If those silhouettes aren't zombies, they at least seem menacing—and who is the narrator, D? What is he running from? This seems like a climactic moment—what is its purpose at the beginning of the series?
In the spirit of a simplified many-worlds theory, it occurred to me that as I wrote these cards, I was creating an alternate universe. Our own Universe became neighbor to at least one other within a multiverse. How exciting.
Now—I'm not a quantum physicist. I can't hope to explain these vastly complex concepts past the point of layman's terms. Community college was a great starting place. What I can speak to is the idea that the creation of art is the closest thing we humans have to the act of playing God. I discussed this thesis in-depth in an undergraduate essay of mine, 'Video Games Create Universes' here on my portfolio site. In a nutshell, that essay claims that the creation of art emulates godhood. Especially in mediums like video games which integrate multiple types of art, the act of synthesizing smaller art mediums into a grand piece is the closest thing humans can aspire to in creating worlds. Artmaking emulates, on a lower existential level, the same actions and processes performed by that entity/event which created our own Universe. While I personally find it depressing to think of our lives as if we live in some objectively meaningless simulation, I can't deny that our own integrative artmaking is an act of simulation. And that's okay.
(Side note: whether our Universe is a simulation or not, I do agree that it's objectively meaningless. Then, it's up to us to create our own subjective meaning. This school of philosophy is called Absurdism, and is a direct counter to nihilism.)
So what is even happening in Chaos?
That's a great question and one you all deserve some reasonable answer to at this point, 6 years later. I'm going to write candidly, it'll be more enjoyable in contrast with the gravity and ambiguity within the actual series.
Cards no.1 thru no. 25 were meant to comprise a sort of "Act 1." Through the lens of multiverse theory, the events and moments depicted generally occur in alt-2015. That is, as I wrote them, they were occurring in the same general time-frame as our own Rochester. It's helpful to view these events as I did, through the lens of eternalism: the theory and view that all of time (past, present, future) exists simultaneously in a 4-dimensional block, or loaf of bread, in which a slice is a moment. Both universes, then, are two parallel loaves of bread.
There are a lot of things happening, presented non-linearly. We've got sketchy silhouettes in the cave entrance; chaotic and unpredictable things happening, from bizarre weather patterns, to misty embodiments of ##voice## appearing throughout the region; historical accounts of similar events; a fucking seance(??); a princess's return; and the supposed death of our occasional narrator, D.
It's at this point that I'm realizing how tough it's going to be to divulge what I'd intended without entirely spoiling a story I've held secret for 6 years. I have to let this go, but with enough discipline that I'm not completely exposing a story which I might come back to.
The Significance of Shivaron
Here's the truth: the silhouetted characters depicted in card no. 1 are manifestations of paracausal entities respectively named, left to right, Leondeger and Shivaron. The latter you might've heard me mention at some point. The former I haven't publicly spoken until now.
I realized their names on two very serendipitous nights, both stories for another time. Periodically feeling Chaos's intertwine with my own life over the years, I only managed to deeply connect with Shivaron. As a character of mine, I connected with her backstory emotionally and personally. I remain curious about the backstory for Leondeger, though I feel it's one of a protector/familial leader role.
Shivaron began to share her backstory toward the end of 'Act 1' in cards 23 and 23.5. She poetically reflects on the final moments of her life in the early-to-mid 1940s, homeless and mentally struggling amid Rochesterian wintertime. Upon sensing Leondeger's death, she makes the irrational, chaotic decision 'join his fortune.' She treks northward to the newly constructed Reactor 235, a rudimentary installation pioneering nuclear energy on the American East Coast. 'In a clean kill,' she finds Leondeger's body laid next to a leak in the operation. Shivaron's mental state leads her to accept that same radioactive fate.
This moment is Shivaron's (re-)admittance to 'the Boundless:' a metaphysical sort of coven she founded herself, at the birth of the universe.
Shivaron's death at Reactor 235 is a pivotal moment in the timeline of this universe. Her death readmits her to the extradimensional power she'd previously claimed herself—effective godhood—when the budding universe's explosive entropy grew to need a mediary. A chaos manager. Order, as necessary.
Her human death in the early-to-mid 1940s is effectively a rebirth, one returning to her rightful role in hidden dimensions, an all-seeing, all-knowing agent of determinism and free-will. Like waking from sleep, her human death transfers her consciousness from her avatar back to the Void from which she came: the space between spaces.
Of course, this also implies that her birth as a human in the mid-1920s was a "temporary" departure from godhood. Part of her reign over entropy requires her to experience and understand entropy as life does; this time, chaos, as humans do. With each cycle of this universe, entropy demands a divine aspect to teach. With each cycle of this universe, Shivaron, her predecessors, and her successors must each experience biological suffering.
Throughout the series there's commentary from a sort of omniscient, omnipotent narrator within ## hashtags ##. These represent dialogue from the Boundless with Shivaron as a mouthpiece; commentary from agents outside the linear events of this universe. Simply put, Shivaron and the Boundless exist "outside of time." It's important to note Shivaron's use of "We" pronouns. Her existence and voice pervade those others in the Boundless. Shivaron's human ego dies with her, such that her extradimensional form is One with the Boundless, One with the Void, One with her universe.
At this point I find myself slowing down. It feels fair to reveal and expand upon breadcrumbs I had somehow, barely seeded at the age of 18—but I feel a need to keep some secrets from this blogpost. I'm taking guidance from Destiny's 'Unveiling' lorebook which revealed 6-years-worth of hotly anticipated secrets concerning the metaphysics of that universe, and yet, there's still so much to learn about the Traveler and the Darkness. If anyone reading had significant involvement or interest in this book, I'd love to have a more in-depth conversation.
What about the others? What about D and Silence?
I realize that I created a cast of characters who, generally, weren't invented to be expanded upon in-depth. Many of them were revealed in the non-linear style for the sake of expanding upon the nature of this universe, AKA worldbuilding.
I want to say more on some major players as well as supporting roles.
As I've grown older I've realized how significant my characters were in reflecting or helping me process or understand my own psyche. Without getting too personal in this blog post, I, funnily enough, came to identify more with the personality and experience of Shivaron than my own alter-ego, D.
If Shivaron has been an existential understanding and expression of metaphysical and quantum topics, then D, officially short for Dice, became a tool to understand my freedom and mortality at the time of writing: 2015. That year was so full of life, for me. It followed 2013 and 2014, the darkest years and chapter of my life at the time, and the first time I was entirely free from constraints by love, relationships, or parental proximity. I finally had the opportunity to heal myself after 2 years of debilitating anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and suicidal tendencies. I was 18 and I was free! In starting community college, exploring Rochester, and visiting coffee shops I found myself lustful, every day, for the experience of discovery. I would be outside with friends, new acquaintances, or lovers every day, climbing abandoned buildings or seeing what the actual city of Rochester had to offer. It was an incredibly Light time in my life. In writing Chaos, I wanted to immortalize that time in my life. Thus, I created Dice as an alter-ego. It's important for me to comment on what happened in cards no. 19 and 20. After Léa has a deadly encounter with the Boundless in the Rochester Abandoned Subway, our princess-esque Silence returns to the city and a tragic scene. Of course, Silence has been gone for some time, and her human mind can't possibly fathom what's just happened between Léa and the Boundless. I intended for miscommunication to be a driving theme in this series—how could a human understand messages sent by extradimensional beings? Ultimately, D succumbs. Processing internalized abandonment in final moments, D decides it's best to die, and leave this life behind for whatever the Boundless's seduction has to offer. In retrospect, it's clear to me that I had to write these events this way to keep myself alive at the time. In leaving two years of Darkness behind and finally finding Light, I had to find a way to make my suicidal tendencies matter, canonically. Intended as a sort of failsafe, I created a symmetry in that killing off D as a character would allow me to continue living my life. Of course, D would go on to exist amongst the Boundless until the end of his universe, anyway. Not a bad gig!
On Silence... originally named 'Princess Silence' before I decided that was too Super Mario, Silence represented an ideological foil to Shivaron. Played by my first friend ever, pre-school age, Breyanna Weimer helped me visualize a royal lady returning to 'free her city' from the unpredictable chaos to which it was falling. Silence's visual embodiment of white, which is associated with peace and order, couldn't initially match up to the power and influence of Shivaron and the Boundless. Where I originally intended for Silence's alignment with order to counter the apparently chaotic Shivaron and Boundless, it's become clear to me over the years that Silence and Shivaron have similar goals in managing entropy. Where Silence's desire to lessen entropy can only apply to the human fate of her city, Shivaron knows her balancing actions are contributions to this universe's fate.
D's friend Léa, again, succumbed to the Boundless in the Subway and thus joined the coven. I was super grateful to have my good friend and model Lea offer her emotion and ability for photoshoots around that time, as I first explored portrait photography.
Polaris and Lucina are actually characters borrowed from my fellow explorer and then-collaborator Meredith Kinsman. She and I became great friends as I was first building RG and I was glad to have her contribute to the Chaos plot. Polaris and Lucina refer to characters within her own creative writing archives.
Mary the Natural... of course, her character references one of my best friends Mary Vacca and the way in which she introduced me to Mother Nature. Given that I chose Mary as long-term family early on in our friendship, it seemed... ~natural~ to give her character the ability to see the future. Though not yet a member of the Boundless, she leads a coven (with Emily and Lucina) attempting to commune with them in upstate New York.
Professor Ferera, played by my childhood best friend Chucky, was set to act as an in-universe knowledge base on the topics of chaos, entropy, and thermodynamics. His further scenes would've acted as a means to flesh out the worldbuilding of this alternate universe. It felt only right they incorporate my second oldest friend and best friend to this day, Chucky Ferera!
Brady and Steven were written respectively to flesh out the numinous vibe surrounding chaotic events in alt-Rochester, as well as the emotional impact left by D's disappearance.
[I hit 'Publish' hours ago and forgot this crucial section. I genuinely hope you catch this recommendation.]
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic I had the great pleasure to watch a certain Netflix series: Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese's Dark (2017—2020).
Now, I typically don't watch television. It takes a lot to get me to sit down and binge a show. This show sounded like it vibed with a lot of my interests and ideas, and I was completely sucked in.
I'm not going to shit on my own concepts and the world that my collaborators and I have built with RG and the Chaos series—but I have to say, I was absolutely mindblown with how this show played with ideas I've been playing with since 2015, and they did it better.
I don't want to spoil the show, but it shares a ton of themes with Chaos. Time travel. Timelines. Caves and cavey shenanigans. The potential of other universes. The metaphysical effects of radioactive contamination. Character arcs which span generations. Often while watching the show, I half-jokingly felt like the Chaos series was being plagiarized. Then, I was grateful, grateful that the co-creators had an entire team to build this masterpiece of a TV series. Nothing is original, and the showrunners pulled from a ton of inspiration to build something extremely impactful.
Please give it a shot and with the original German dialogue—for Shivaron's sake. It is complete and holistically mind-blowing to the caliber I wish Chaos could've been—could be.
I'm returning to this blog draft 3 months later, life considered... and definitely ready to let this go. If there was anything else to write, I'd be glad to talk about it personally.
Where Chaos was a tool I created to help me understand the concept of freedom, I've gradually reached a place in life where I need to be free of this past project. I need to be free from dreams which couldn't fully come to fruition, so I can pursue what's next on a 5-month long road trip around the country. D would be proud!
I'm so grateful for the memories, lore, and existential significance this story has provided my life. If you've read this far, I'm surprised—to at least a couple individuals, I know this story used to be pretty important. Thank you for being a part of that chapter of my life.