Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Moral high and low grounds

What are all these mysteries of which you are writing to discover the answers? For some time you have urged the vision of storytellers—of which you count yourself one—setting forth on a narrative, deliberately tweaking the circumstances and occasions for moral choice, in order to box yourself into the metaphoric corner, thence to see what your characters do as a way of demonstrating to yourself the answers to stresses and choices you have no real-time answers to ascribe.

All most convenient, isn’t it, this notion of you at no physical or true moral risk, sitting back in your garden-like dwelling here on East Sola Street, walking distance to some remarkable parks, equally convenient to a number of coffee shops, restaurants, at least one book store and at least one art gallery where you are known by name and greeted as though some collector or critic.

What mysteries?

What about the email you received from the Assistant Dean for Administration of the College of Creative Studies, addressing you thusly, “Hello Professor,” asking you questions about the name of the course you will teach in the Spring of 2012 and how much you expect to be paid for doing so.  These are in essence existential mysteries you will need to puzzle out or, if you wish to look at it in a certain way, you will need to discover.

This approach leads you to wonder if you are as baffled by the world going on about you as you sometimes feel?  Do you trust the information you glean from your surroundings?  Were you overstepping your boundaries when, only this evening, you told an anthropologist about Clovis Point projectile points?  Were you on stronger or weaker ground when you told him his descriptions were evocative and interesting until he slid into the first-person narrative, using, of course, the pronoun “I” as thought were a Kevlar vest, insulating him from his deeply held convictions and feelings?

These are in part some of the “things” you hope to discover through writing, which is an ironic tie-in to your belief that irony has become a major narrative tool in memoir, short story, and longform fiction.

Irony, skepticism, and cynicism are tools useful in coping with the mysteries you confront.  Will you, you wonder, be able to interpret the extent and depth of mysteries you observe about you in reality, then transform as code into the characters of your creation when you write your own narrative or read the narrative of others?  What an irony would result were you able to note a mysterious behavior, track the irony down, and in the process completely misinterpret it?  If Noam Chomsky is right about so-called primitive peoples not in fact being all that primitive but rather more than a little sophisticated, can’t you assume some of these so-called primitives were really having on visiting anthropologists who walked among them, noting and interpreting behavior.

You continue in your belief of the story containing coded language, which you, as a storyteller, helped instate.  You are drawn to so-called novels of suspense and mystery, in whose pages you have long ago lost interest of discovering who killed the momentary equivalent of Cock Robin, but rather instead which facts you have taken down with artful energy, then gone on to misinterpret as far as it is possible to misinterpret observable facts. This is a safe position in relationship to moral high grounds, which have the most slippery footing of all.


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