Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Plan B

A contingency is an event or behavior that has potential to take place but whose outcome is not certain. Contingency is our pole star. We use the sextants of our hopes and desires to plot our courses among the bright stars of the night, but their light has left its source and has been traveling toward us since before many of us were born. Contingency is what we will do if we get what we want, if we do not get what we want, if we trip over something following an otherwise clear path toward what we want.

Contingency is Plan B, and maybe the thought of it is so abhorrent that we shift gears into denial or worse, acting-out lunacy, just one of the consequences of having achieved everything we've wanted until now, when the fear of not achieving THAT THING becomes so enormous and fearful that we come forth with Plan B, Well if that doesn't work, I can always...

It is usually after a novel or story or poem is completed when the fear emerges that a Plan B might be necessary, but in fact the completion of a novel or poem or short story or even a book review or personal essay or a blog posing represents two bodies moving away from one another at the speed of--well, of light from a distant star. There is the individual who created the work, who has learned something from having done the work. There is the work, with a life of its own. The creator looks at it in the way a parent looks after a child. The work wants to show off. The parent is embarrassed by the inherent vigor and audacity of the work.

Things do not work out the way we intend. From the moment of the idea or what if or inspiration through the execution to that triumphant there!, the work slithers and slides away from us and there is a moment of wanting to get the toothpaste back into the tube, get it out properly this time, then a moment of, ah, what the hell.

Some of the finest rewards of all come when, during other, more structured circumstances, I am looking for something, come across a pad of note paper or even the print-out of a manuscript, pick it up to see what it is, then become pulled in, wondering how many times do I have to remind students to put their names on their papers, then realize the only person I know of who does not do so is me. This that I am reading is mine, but it is as though someone had gone to considerable effort to capture the things I'd write about, then slip it in among my papers, a kind of existential joke.

1 comment:

Wild Iris said...

My mom once told me that in her time living in another state, the fall back plan was always to go back there, should disaster strike. Then she decided why wait for disaster to strike? If she was already in her secure place then there wasn't a need for a fall back plan.

Contingencies are difficult for me to plan for. I'm more of a fly-by-the seat-of your-pants kind of person. Life inevitably alters your plans anyway, so you might as well go with it.