Friday, November 23, 2012

The Writer's Toolkit: Fear, Uncertainty, and Accidental Solutions

Driving east along Interstate 40 toward adjunct destination Albuquerque, then north on Rte 25 to primary destination of Santa Fe, you became aware of the changes in Reality since your last venture into this part of the world.

I-40 is, as you noted a few days past,  a major artery, a thruway for impressive amounts of commerce, a pivot point for the transmission of power, a platform for an array of types of transportation in such laundry-list segments as cars, RVs, trucks, trains, motorcycles, bicycles, and animal-drawn carts.

What you did when writing about it, in a thematic sense what you do when you write about anything, is give interpretation to Reality.

The word "interpretation" is at least a first cousin to translate.  The Italians have a telling, two-word definition for the process of translation:  "Tradditore, tratore."  Those wonderful folks who gave us the Borgias as well as Virgil and Dante, tattoo the vision onto our literary skins of the translator as the traitor.  You are as well reminded in this context of the definition of history being an account of events written by "the winners,"  to which you offer your own definition, informed in some part by your undergraduate major in political science and your major in literature.  A political screed is an exaggerated account of events and their consequences written by the losers.

What you're edging toward here is the enormity of securing, editing, polishing, and presenting your view of any Reality, including your reality of, say, hearing a particular composition of music, watching a dramatized version of a narrative, close observation of a painting or drawing or fresco of some aspect of Reality.

You venture as well to include the Reality of another person, even another group of persons.

By an elaborate and pleasurable process of associations and memory, you ventured into this landscape of this essay as you drove eastward on I-40 to share the Thanksgiving meal with a significant part of your family.  There are two other family members at this level of closeness who are miles and lifestyles away from you and for whom you feel the close draw of affection.  There five others, one of whom you've never seen, at this level of kinship closeness with whom you do not share the special bond of closeness.

When the friends of your hosts had departed, when the guests were gone, there were nine of you, sprawled lazily about the kitchen, fussing over pies and coffee, conversations ranging like a dropped garden hose, spraying everything in its path.  You do not recall which of the assembled dropped the first tentative pebble into the existential pond.  Perhaps it was a dread of some work-related event or an un-welcomed chore, or some conversational venture into matters of health and/or happiness.  But there was another and another, and suddenly someone recalling your past encounter with cancer and how you appeared to cope with it, and your late wife's encounter with her own cancer Reality after being a part of yours, and how she coped with hers and how you coped with the Reality.

Your I-40 venture was enhanced by the signs of the turnoffs to various Native American locales you'd visited relative to your wife's book project including most of the local tribes.  You were also aware of the presence of casinos and the ready access to them.  Into the equation of dinner conversation about the relative changes in Reality for some of the tribes and ongoing poverty as a Reality for others, your thoughts were rich with tribal thoughts as a part of the Reality you have options of investigating.

That is all background to the after dinner family chatter not breaking off until you found yourself in an election you had no thought to join.  You were elected tribal elder, a position that seems to you to require a minimum level of respectable and demonstrable wisdom and a minimal  presence of judgment.  You have neither.  You have abundant theory.  You are well schooled in doubt.  Even by your own view of the matter, you are not lacking in ego, which adds up to your growing sentiment that the visible divide in the past presidential and congressional elections has had its way with the nominating process.

When you think of tribal leader sorts, you do not think of yourself in their number.  By some accidents and whims of Reality, you emerge as candidate through seniority.  You are reminded of the trope:  God favors fools and drunks.

Yours is the writer's toolkit of fear, uncertainty, and accidental solutions, which do seem to appear on the workbench at about the same time, one leading to the other until you have produced something that seems upon rereading a number of times to draw you into its midst, where you are better positioned to see which seams need caulking and which doors need to be rehung if you ever expect to get more use of them.

In some ways, when you think about it, there might be a connection between your blundering into being tribal elder through seniority and your arrival as a writer for the same set of reasoning.

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