Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Preaching to the Inner Choir

By their impulsive nature, associations arrive with little or no advance notice.  They are as opportunistic as mosquitoes on a long, summer evening.  Like Reality itself, they seem to have no other agenda than to remind you of things or cause you to connect things you’d not thought to be connectible.

Associations are not put off by guest lists or polite amenities; you see something or feel something or taste something—hell, you remember something or overhear something being said by persons you don’t know, and an association comes.

A favored practice of yours is to encourage the associative process by writing at more or less warm-up pace until an association of some sort arrives, announcing its presence by connecting what you’re writing about with a parallel or an opposite or some memory that causes you to see something as you’d not considered it before.

You were therefore not surprised this evening on your customary walk when, a tad past the half-way mark, the bus stop bench on Micheltorena Street, about a quarter block below State Street, looked inviting.  You accepted the invitation, looked across the street at the stark masonry of the All-Saints Episcopal Church, then prepared yourself for the arrival of the association “preaching to the choir.”

In recent days, you’d observed how the two recent political conventions were essentially preaching to the choir and although much is said about the need to convince so-called independent voters, the major candidates and their regional acolytes were doing the equivalent of preaching to their neighborhood choirs.

Slightly prior to that, you found yourself expounding on a favored theme of the politics of the interior, how in effect each of us is a congress, a veritable Italian parliament of diverse voices, all clamoring for their agendas, all expounding their views.  Resident in each of us is a spendthrift, a physical conservative, a social conservative, a liberal, a socialist, and yes, even a fascist.  Cynics, snake-oil peddlers, over-the-top optimists, romantics, and gimme-gimme types augment them.

Preaching to the choir is making speeches and delivering position papers to them, the interior equivalents of altos and sopranos and tenors and bassos profundos. 

The writing produced in any given day is done over the clamor of the inner voices which, on occasion, are so rancorous and divisive that you feel compelled to seek refuge in coffee shops where, in order to get your daily pages accomplished, you must focus beyond the inner choir and whatever demographic happens to be abroad on a given day.

You must not allow the temptation to equate your impression of Governor Romney’s abilities or lack thereof to maintain an articulate position for any length of time to attract too distracting an association even though you do believe in the importance of giving incoming associations the use of the hall, even though doing so may mean a distraction of some pages, most of which will have to be trashed.

Nor must you allow whatever tendencies you have to want to please your entire inner choir to take control.  It is one thing to hope to interest these individual segments of you, even to transport them places where they might not thought have visiting, but this is not accomplished by being political, accommodating, or nice.  This is accomplished by not taking them where they want to go, by causing them to care in spite of and not because of themselves.

A story is not a philosophical argument, a syllogism that pays off with a therefore and a statement.  Story is an emotional adventure that pays off with a sense of something just beyond reach that triggers an association that had been orbiting about all the while.

The choir may not like sermons, it may be up-to-here sick of sermons, but it is always vulnerable to a good story.

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