Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cause and Effect

If the events in Life begin to seem as though they were part of some story set in motion, our first response is to suspect some extra normal editorial agency is stacking the cards.  “Extra normal editorial agency” is code for an entire range of sources:  God, astrology, Fate, karma, no name a scant few.

Although Life is not simple, nevertheless it is simplistic; somewhat like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, lurching forward with the resident dignity imparted it by Boris Karloff, the actor who portrayed it.  Life is a patchwork of event, incessant, endless event, bringing to mind the eternal activity of Sisyphus, a man who came to grief as a result of his hubris-related activities.   You don’t mess with a god such as Zeus without at least a pair of aces in the hole.  Much of a piece with some of the neo-conservatives running about today’s political landscape, waving their arms to call attention to themselves and their woefully inarticulate catechisms, Sisyphus was not happy with the status quo—his status quo.  The gods were, he reasoned, having too much fun.  Being a mortal sucked; he wanted to join their ranks.

Events in life happen whether there are consequences resulting from them or not.  The absence of anyone being in the neighborhood to hear a falling tree does not preclude the next tree falling on deaf ears, no matter what you call the situation.  Trees and their counterparts fall all the time because they have become a part of an event.

We as a race and you as an individual have taken steps to secure survival, tradition, and values, but none of these events insures there will always be open conversation about a matter or, indeed, that any form of open discussion on all matters will be considered a good thing by individuals who have the power to make and sustain such judgments as well as those equivalents of the wonderful contemporary equivalent of “Occupiers,” men and women who chose to participate in a dialogue.

Open discussion is a lovely abstract, as ethereal and ghostly in its transient beauty as a dramatic sunset.

Life is the same sort of abstraction; individuals are born, they progress, they witness and perform rituals, they pass over the bar, not all of them as sure as Tennyson that they will meet their maker face-to-face when they make such a crossing.  Everything happens in life, is repeated to such a degree that many of us do not experience the full reign of possibilities much less the nuances. Sometimes, listening to acquaintances engaged in banter, so few things happen that you hope some aspects of story comes their way, even for a short time.

Small wonder how many of the better writers are so artistically and personally involved with control, as though the exercise of it is a lasting and tangible matter; it is no such thing; Life simply is, and because it proceeds in so multifarious a texture, we are happy to give it attributes that speak of invisible forces and as well to see in it patterns that speak of the who-places, the what-places, the where-places, the why-places.  

Story is an attempt to control life to the extent of giving it a sense of precedent.  Story is deterministic where life is random.  You might say story is an analog of law, trying to build precedent into discussions about Life, its focus and direction.  Critical theory is an attempt to codify the causes and effects, placing them in some perspective, where there is neither too much elitism nor mind numbing accommodation.

Artists must take their chances along with the rest of us; they must work their way to the edges of convention and civility in order to observe both, then, like the Mars probe, report back with samples and impressions.  While artists are taking their chances, we must sample their reports, risking the discomfort and occasional pain of their visions lest we become so assimilated and acculturated that we can no longer be sure if our vision is the group vision or the voice of individuality.  As much risk as there is in artistry, there is greater risk in the place where politeness surrenders to conformity.

You are gnawing at bones of decision as they relate to what your mentor, Rachel, called in a short story, “The Next, the New, the Promised.”  The newness of all the things you have neither thought, written, or experienced crowd about you like alumni at a reunion.  The visions are distracting, fireflies of wonderment.  The promised is the covenant you make with a new project, like a puppy brought home from the animal shelter.  You offer this new project a home and somehow it snuggles against you and now as you bring it to your work area, you wonder what kind of home you will be able to provide for it, wonder did it do the right thing by agreeing to come with you.

Of course you are simultaneously using the pathetic fallacy and anthropomorphizing, imparting a human-like shape to the new project.  It has taken a risk, you are taking a risk.  The two of you, in the existential night of work, are trying to effect some sort of relationship you can live with in some kind of creative harmony.

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