Friday, November 6, 2009

XYZ

 Taking a moment from time to time to examine and attempt to define your intentions in your writing activities produces more questions than answers, which is surely Nature's way of reminding you you are still alive.  

There were times when, to be sure, you were not alive, bored instead or wallowing not so much in the pools of discovery as the adjacent ones of self-pity.

The occasional pop quizzes that ask you to compare and contrast the exhibited arms of a furca are more productive than the essay-type questions in which you are enjoined to write at least five hundred words on What is it all worth? or, alternatively, What does it all mean?

For reasons you've already expanded upon elsewhere, your early writing goals were centered on attracting attention, which, having been achieved as in Who is that person?, evolved to attracting admiration, as in, Isn't he remarkable?, which, to your credit, you tired of quickly because while it is better to be thought of as wonderful than, say, despicable, it nevertheless suggests a manipulation of an audience to produce an affirmation for its own sake rather than for some greater end such as information or entertainment or cultural exchange or enhancement of point of view.  

Exploring the individual self and the collective self is a bit like melding archaeology, anthropology, history, a fondness for antiques, popular culture, and garbage, discovering the driving forces for survival along with the unspoken delights attending them.  

Thus your goal has become unearthing unnoticed and/or unspoken delights in behavior and in artifact. You have yourself been driven to boredom by others with such goals, making you aware of not wanting to bore nor to be bored, which brings us to a place where possibilities bifurcate:  You must write to entertain and amuse yourself as opposed to the expressed goal of teaching others.  You must endure the risk that your entertainment and amusement will have the potential to give offense, confusion, indifference, boredom.

For the second time in recent memory, as you moved about the warp and woof of this small, coastal resort city where you have lived for thirty-five years, a homeless person confronted you with the admonition, "XYZ," a mantra that, in past years would have sent you into pages of rambunctious enjoyment, imparting mystical, Thoreauvian, even Whitmanesque implications.  

These two more recent times were not without their own epiphany.  It took you almost no time at either occasion to recall the non-mystical import of that mantra, XYZ= examine your zipper.  Role reversal at work; these XYZers were passing on cultural information to you; you were being acted upon, informed, given the kind of amused heads-up a writer broadcasts to the cosmos, a service that is, when you think of it, pure altruism, and has at its roots the things you are learning as you read into Frans DeWaals's remarkable work on empathy among primates.

Until a better definition of what it means to be a writer, there is this:  A writer is a person who with good cheer and intent advises another primate of an open zipper that culturally speaking should be closed.

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