Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Have Said It Thrice

"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.
"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true."
The Hunting of the Snark
Lewis Carroll

Being the person I am, tidal in nature, certainly as mercurial as my September birth would indicate astrologically, I would nevertheless try to give as concrete, earth-bound answer as I could were you to ask me if I knew where, at a given moment, I was. High probability of an I-don't know answer, equally high chance of exact coordinates or some similar sense of exactitude. Almost no chance you'd get an it-all-depends answer. Travel with me has certain risks involved. If you are the sort who insists on knowing your destination and arrival time in advance, whether the travel is automotive, ambulatory,or in such literary excursions as essay or story, we are probably going to experience certain friction.

I am most likely to stop and ask for directions if involved in a story, proportionately less likely if engaged in an essay, bordering on surly if forced in real life to ask. Previously involved closely in the lives of three Blue Tick Hounds (the second-best nose in dogdom), and currently partnered with Sally, a compact mix of Aussie Cattle Dog and Aussie Shepherd, I have come to recognize the ease with which scent hounds become distracted, drawn off task as they say, by an interesting smell. My own life has become a fond imitation, drawing me off the lesser scents to the scents less traveled.

Accordingly, I have been drawn off scent by such recent distractions as denouement and roman a clef, finding myself drawn even farther afield by blog chum Marta's meme for willing suspension of belief, our collective token tossed into the collection bin at the phantom toll booth we have come to think of as story.

In the real sense, story is an impossible construct, a hopeless and helpless bystander to the formulas of quantum physics, those no-nonsense depictions of how things behave in the universe, how they combine or not, how they influence or do not, where they go, how much they weigh, and what they'll do if cornered. From observation, we know a certain amount about how our species and others will behave in many situations, but not all situations. The quantum persons are working on articulating how it all began, a seemingly impossible story to articulate, which makes the comparison between story and physics formula lass tenuous than it might seem.

Story is a systematic accumulation of cultural and mythic data, personified, placed in the laboratory beaker of the imagination, and subjected to the heat of conflict, tension, suspense, and agenda. The storyteller applies enough heat to cause combustion, then reports the results. My chum and collaborator Digby Wolfe visualizes the dramatic big bang as a riddle:

"The core [or plot ] of the riddle should be cleverness – hiding that which is in plain sight.

The tension of your riddle should come from the conflict between what happens as opposed to what seems to have happened."

We begin the process of buying into the riddle--suspending disbelief--when the individuals involved become human enough and vulnerable enough to cause us to feel--repeat, feel--concern for them, to become curious, even worried about what will happen to them. Rational, scientific, practical as we are, we want to push the boundaries of physical behavior on their behalf, extending our own wish to supplement with magic our impatient desire to cause things to happen or to withstand impending events on our own behalf.

And there it goes; we're in. To a degree, we're more than in; we're in love, we're smart, we're powerful. In the accelerated process of identification with characters and rooting for them, we experience the sensual thrill of running, swimming, moving briskly and efficiently through more than air and water; we move instead through obstacles, limitations, problems, physical and mental conundrums.

Only one problem: we have to give our fantasy legs, make it seem do-able, bring the miracle from the macro to the micro, and the starting point, the big bang for this process is to feel the inherent life and possibility of our fantasy with such clarity that we are able for just enough time to see the miracle in everything.

1 comment:

Kate Lord Brown said...

Haven't you always found it's precisely when you don't know where you are going in life and literature that the miracles start happening? (Just as you always fall in love when you least expect it).