Monday, March 5, 2012

Deficit Emotional Spending


How long has it been since you have read or heard via interview some writer’s complaint that the world of Reality is outstripping his or her ability to contrive over-the-top, exaggerated events?  How long since you, yourself, have found yourself working to provoke a dramatic situation you believe the right degree beyond plausible, this in the spirit of wanting to make a sociological point?

The answer to both these rhetorical questions is the same:  not long.

Through the process of subscription, Internet trolling, podcasts, and public broadcasting, you have access to more information and accounts of human behavior than you can process.  You have long since become aware that factual information alone is more apt to provoke within you a sense of boredom than factual information about a particular individual, be that individual an animal or a human.

Indeed, in your scrolling through the accounts of nearly six hundred Facebook contacts, you see individual reports from an advocate of the spaying and neutering and feeding of feral cats, of the day-to-day dare you say warp and woof of the Los Angeles County German Shepherd Rescue Association, not to mention your literary agent’s preoccupation with the bounty being placed on wolves in Idaho, or indeed your publisher’s concern for the immediate health of one of her two rescue dogs.

Through such media as podcasts, you are able to “keep up,” a euphemism at best, with events on Public Radio.  Wishing to keep track of breaking news, you consult via your computer two relatively reliable news sources, their reliability being quite relative in your mind to some abstraction related to depth of coverage.

A number of political sources you have some idealogic affinity with bombard you on a daily basis with some new outrage somewhere, be it police abuse of peaceful protestors, the Department of Justice dragging its heels about some position, or some individual or group, clearly hopeful of attracting notoriety, taking an extreme stand on something.  You are inundated with the details of outrageous behavior.

In addition, you live in a sort of ideological bubble.  It is the rare occasion when you are confronted with the opinions and behavior of someone whose positions differ to some wide degree from yours.  Although there are, indeed, such individuals in the city where you live, although today you saw something you’d thought unthinkable in the city where you live—a Ron Paul lawn sign—simply that, on a lawn right next to another sign announcing that the lawn and, presumably the house to which it is attached, are protected by an electronic security organization.  This is what you mean by a bubble.  Portions of California lay outside the bubble; men and women herein oppose same sex marriage, affirmative action, even the existence of Roe versus Wade.  Most of California is inside the bubble.  So are vast portions of the Eastern seaboard, with tiny pockets—likely university towns—of bubble scattered across the continent.  Such places as Texas and Kansas and Oklahoma might as well be on another continent, in another galaxy.  The men and women who represent then in the House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate are well known to you for their opinions which reflect to you their lack of education and/or their adherence to a religious or anti-scientific belief system.  In many ways, such out-of-the-bubble places and their inhabitants represent the majority, that nameless, faceless chunk of humanity which is the armature about which the democratic process is wrapped.

You could be out of your bubble with a drive to Simi Valley or Palmdale, certainly Bakersfield.  You could in theory be out of it without leaving the county in which you have lived these thirty-seven, going on thirty-eight years.

This is neither a positive nor negative thing; to believe it is such is to miss the point of individual choice, including the choice of which data to believe, and how to believe it.  The point is that you live in a civilized world where the law enforcement agencies, responding to your peaceful protests, are less likely to shoot you with a projectile powered by gunpowder, more apt to turn a Taser on you or perhaps pepper spray, or rubber bullets.

Like you, there are other individuals who feel out on some kind of edge or in some kind of bubble or fringe, watching nervously as pop culture icons come and proliferate, do progressively more outrageous things.

If you started with that most fanciful of all novels, Don Quixote, then read your way forward, through the centuries, you could more or less form a picture of yourself based on which stories you chose, thinking as you read them how they were merely entertainments in comparison with the things you’re able to read now.

The now has an agenda of its own, just as you do.  Now is relatively conservative; it wants to hold on to its excesses, hates to see them eclipsed by the newer, more extreme stuff.

The trick, as you see it, is never to become an old novelist or story teller, because the minute you do, you have nothing but conservatism in which to wallow; no experimentation, no added dimensions of outrage or outrageous behavior.  Old novelists are, thus, cranky novelists, unwilling to invest in the truth learned along the way and, alas, forgotten:  Unless the next story is begun fresh, as though there had been no foundation, it runs the risk of being derivative of the previous story.
Spend it all in the current story, even to the point of taking on the emotional equivalent of deficit spending.  Empty out the surplus.

The time between stories is a time of replenishing the storehouse of feelings and insights.  If the process is learned correctly, the material saved from the last venture has no place in the equation.

Spend it all.  Then start again.  The old excesses and outrages are so yesterday, so conservationist in nature, so very, very old novelist.


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