Sunday, November 13, 2011

Let's Hear It for the Elephants

The living rooms of most effective stories are filled with elephants, pachyderms being, of course the metaphor to indicate the unspoken.  In the case of story, the unspoken is a huge presence; it is the thematic impact on the reader, gift of the writer.  Story is all about the unspoken, material that each of the characters is certain the other characters are aware of and, thus, why be repetitious?

Your name for this particular elephant is subtext, the no-man’s land between what a character says and what she feels.  For social and dramatic reasons, we are not always free to speak the ongoing scenario our mind produces, even in our sleep, as filtered through remembered dreams.  For reasons of our own experience, however much we nourish leading a lifestyle of being able to respond as we wish, we proceed in slow fashion, mindful of the consequences when we spoke out.  Not always worth the landslide we may have triggered.

How comforting it is to be in situations where you can say what you feel.  How remarkable to have individuals in your life with whom you can exchange such conversations.  How remarkable to have one such person for a confidant.  Being so fortunate requires as a prerequisite an extraordinary degree of intimacy.

How do we address the matter of intimacy in the first place?  It helps to have a history of comfortable back-and-forth with another person, but such dialectic often begins with calculated risk.

Here you are, considering the mechanics of speaking your mind and already the living room is filled with smaller elephants such as risk, trust, familiarity, loyalty, each in its specific way crowding the original elephants, driving us, Homo sapiens sapiens, in possession of the remarkable gifts of speech and articulate thought, into defensive behavior or, worse, non-communicative behavior.

Solutions await us, but first we need to clear our own psyche of the resident elephants, the squatters who have taken up residence in the living room of self-interest.

We cannot deal to any effect with the elephants in the living room of culture until we have dealt with those elephants crowding reason and interconnectedness out of our own agendas.

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