Sunday, April 22, 2012


Vision can be a precarious, risky business.

You are often unsure if your vision of reality—say a relationship with an individual or a client or a student or a project you were retained to edit—is coincidental with what you will call uber-reality, that splendid abstraction of an event as it really took place.

You often enter relationships with guarded optimism, happy at the prospect of some evolutionary progress.  You might call that stage one.  Stage one is thus filtered by optimism as opposed to neutrality, indifference, or, worse case, suspicion.

Stage two is still positive.  You find yourself wondering from time to time if there is in fact the possibility for uber-reality, the abstracted and unfiltered truth of what is happening.

You were fortunate to have two persons you still consider your mentors, one a writer, the other an actor.  The actor frequently spoke of “the truth” of a character she was portraying or that character’s perception of the truth or lack thereof in other characters.  Your mentor was encouraging rather than defensive when you argued with her use of the concept of truth in these contexts.  She seemed to enjoy your progression as you came to realize, then espouse as though it were your original idea that truth is idiosyncratic.  Your truth might be another’s lie…or indifference…or ignorance…or the reverse of all these options.  She seemed even more to enjoy your accepting the fact that your vision of truth is pure idiosyncrasy, that there is yet another point of view that is more insightful and in the bargain more accurate.

So then, there you are at stage two, wondering if your vision of a person, place, thing, or dramatic idea resonates for you, and perhaps the added tail of the dog, wondering if there are things you can do to make it more so.  Can you, in effect, articulate it with greater clarity or insight?

Many of the valued persons, places, things, and projects of your life are at stage two, progressing toward long and short-term goals. Others have reached advanced stages where you began to see there were wide if not insurmountable differences in vision:  The person, place, thing, and you were woeful in your utter lack of being congruent.

Among your favorite things to read, write, and think about are such mismatched visions, come to the point of argument, with each side vocal in the expression of non-responsive arguments, you, for instance, arguing for pasta with broccoli topping, your correspondent arguing for some entire new subject matter.  In such cases, act two builds to the point where each believes he has “convinced” the other, where each goes forth thinking an agreement has been achieved.

This last is, you believe, one of the staples of irony in literature, whether that literature has comedic pretensions or not.  Any sort of agreement ends or flattens story on sight, the animal control officer approaching the stray dog with a restraining noose.  The joke is on the characters, shared by the reader.  The joke may well be on you if you do not remain alert to your own agenda, making sure you are signing the right contract, agreeing to the same thing, expecting similar or near-similar results.

In recent years, thanks to developments in computer and programming technology, the trope “what you see is what you get” has entered the language to the point where, on page 2001 of the fifth edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language has WYSIWYG as an entry.  This can and does work for some things, but what you in particular see is not always what you in particular always get for the pure and simple reason that no one else is apt to see with certainty what you see.  You work to make yourself as clear as possible, increasing the potential for you emerging with less clarity.

Some individuals about you have begun to bump into physical things, resulting in their growing unwillingness to enter darkened places or to drive at night.  What they don’t see is beginning to become what they get. Some individuals have begun bumping into realities of another sort, where what they see—or have written—is not always what other persons get.

In one case, notorious to you, a first-time novelist who was given an enormous advance for his work, complained about the editorial suggestions he was asked to consider.  In later years, his career foundering, he is complaining that his publishers are too busy to offer him editorial support.

Yet another case involves a writer who cannot apply Euclidian geometry to his version of his work and the critics’ views.  What he sees is not what he gets.  That verb, to get, becomes the instrument of punning here as well.  This author is the Rodney Dangerfield among writers:  He gets no respect.

The former writer could care less what you think; he barely recognizes you to the point of having called you Fred the last two times he saw you.

The latter writer is another matter.  He knows you well enough to have asked you to review his latest novel.   What he saw was not what he wished to get.

In some existential abstraction, each time you begin a relationship, continue one, begin a project, take on a new client, or begin a new class, you are courting the disappointment of your optimism and expectations.  The man you came to Santa Barbara to work for, nearly forty years ago, and of whom, despite your political and philosophical differences, you were most fond, told you often how he always saw the bottle as half empty and had no expectations of success.  It was easier to apologize when he was wrong, he said, than to suffer disappointments.

There are things you have written and done of which you are pleased; many others were disappointments, things that did not pay off as you’d hoped while in stage one.

This does not stop you from trying, nor from loving the process of trying, nor of thinking the bottle half full.

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