Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Letter to a Young, Middle-Aged, or Geezer Writer VIX

If we take the adverb "where" at face value, it signifies "that place," as in over there, or right there, or the more ambitious over there in that corner.  You could add such prepositions to it as in, to, or at for even more fine tuning.  "I'm going in there."  "I'm going (to) there."  "I'll be at that place."

As a rather innocent-seeming word, where opens the doors of possibility, going so far as to infer, if you use it adroitly, an interior landscape of self, a place where your darkest fears or brightest hopes or most radiant reaches of creativity reside--perhaps even simultaneously.  A perfectly democratic word, where also indicates the place of origin for itches, which leaves yet another door open, the door to places where urges inhere.

Where has more tricks up its linguistic sleeve; look what happens to this remarkable, serviceable word with the mere addition of a question mark.  Is there anything so arresting as "Where?"  Uttered or written thus, where? becomes a glorious challenge to the Cosmos, to the deeper natures of existence and our human understanding of it.  A single mark of punctuation transforms a useful word into a mystery we are programmed to wish to solve.  The addition of the question mark to where brings forth from the shadows the origins of poetry and story, just as the incessant, ant-like march of primary cells stalking out of the primordial sludge foreshadowed us.  Where? is the perfect adjunct to what if?, a first cousin to why not?  It is the presupposition of mystery, the hidden, the occult, answers that will grant us some power of understanding we did not have at the outset.

Until we understand their meaning, answers are hidden.  Where? you say.  Why, right out there in plain sight, waiting for us to trip over them, interpret them, make over them.  The danger with answers is that having had enough of them, there are those among us who feel entitled, others still who begin to feel powerful.  How fortunate, then, we are to have chosen (or to have been chosen by) writing, which is the incessant, army-ant-like quest for answers to the conundrums that confront us.  Where?  Why right over there, in that as yet unwritten story.

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