Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Certain Restrictions Apply

  Few things are as unsettling as certainty.

  For a long time, when you were younger, you were certain about the world around you, certain you had powers to change or fix things or that those you knew had those powers.  In any case, you were certain they could be fixed.  

Then you reached a stage where certainty was lost, but you thought it was innocence.  There were more things at the time you were certain about than you were innocent of, thus the irony of you mistaking the one for the other.

  Your father, who was neither a cruel man nor notable for being not generous, once played a prank on you that he spent some considerable time trying to atone for.  The prank was taking you to the convex window of a jewelry shop in Beverly Hills, then telling you to reach into the display for one of the wristwatches on display.  

You were innocent of experience with concavities and convexities, causing you to take your father at his word.  Bingo, lost innocence.  Frustration,  Infantile rage at the betrayal if the certainty afforded you by a faulty vision of reality.  Although the event still rankles, it is in memory of the frustration that you experience emotion rather than emotion against your father.  An enduring series of baseball games, time spent talking, playing, or merely spending time together brought you back to the certainty that he loved you and you returned the depth of regard.

  Now that you are well along toward the outer reaches of middle-age, you have had experiences coping with uncertainty and with certainty.  Of the two,you vastly prefer uncertainty because there is a kind of comfort in the awareness that there are few things of which you are certain, in simple measure because things are so mutable, because in fact you are mutable.  

There is a kind of responsibility inherent in certainty that you are no longer willing to accept as your due.  Certainty breeds pomposity while uncertainty leads you to audacity, the audacity of knowing you are either going to have to look "it" up or find someone to explain "it" to you, possibly both.

  Uncertainty surrounds you with the drama of possible knowledge and understanding or the deep, existential darkness of not knowing and wondering if you will ever come upon a solution.  To be certain deprives you of some of life's most inspirational moments, times when, out of the creative despair of artistry, you compose something you hope will stand some test of time with you and perhaps even for the rest of humanity.  

A writer who strides into story with certainty is bound to come against the brick wall of formula.  A writer who is certain of gloom and despair is taking certainty off on another tangent of pomposity, a vehicle that will surely deposit him in the same, overcrowded parking lot of vehicles each looking pretty much like the other.

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