Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Point-of-View: Our Inner Control Freak

It would be nice to be able to say there is a rational explanation for everything, then be done with the matter, confidant that all the many things you cannot explain will continue to take place or not take place in complete innocence of or disregard for the rational explanation. A rational explanation is a sort of neural spreadsheet, plotting out the orderly progression of forces that result in a particular behavior. Water will boil if heated to two hundred twelve Fahrenheit degrees. If it does not, we may assume the water is somewhat above sea level or that the liquid may not be significantly water but rather water mixed with something else. In the open universe, water does not need to "know" this information in order to boil, it will boil at 212 because, as the taxi driver explained to Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, relative to ducks in ponds during the winter, "it's their nature."


Point of view enters the picture with the introduction of rational behavior. Thus does our control freak nature want to take command of the universe; we see the reason for the sun rising in the east and setting in the west and thus does the sun, our sun, as if by permission from us, continue to rise in the east and set in the west.

Story reassures us because there are progressions of facts that appear to explain the behavior of things--us included--on this planet. We lurch through our days, sometimes painfully aware of how much we take for granted, other times painfully aware of how much we do not know about the way things work in this universe. Sometimes, when story has too many ambiguities in it, we snarl the snarl of disapproval because we are already aware of how beyond our control things are. Other times, such as the times when you happen to be reading such eighteenth- and nineteenth century works as Ivanhoe, you are aware of the causal elements being packed in by the author and related as much by the author as by the characters. In its way, such managed reading, which is to say reading that has not evolved beyond its time, makes us impatient because it reminds us of our parents and elders and other teachers, intrusively reminding us of things they wanted us to know.

We become impatient in such cases because we have already, we think, learned these lessons and do not want to hear them repeated to us in a voice other than our own or, if we are truly curious, through the voices of characters who are, after all, creations of authors whose voices we have come subjectively to admire.

Is it fair to suggest that the truths and working descriptions we internalize best are those freighted in our own voice or in voices we have come to respect on a peer level?

You think so.

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