Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Edge

At first, when you were setting forth, you listened to authority figures because you were surrounded by them, first your parents, then your older sister, trusting them and their pronouncements because you were still gathering opinions and judgments of your own.

After a time, there were more authority figures, doctors your parents spoke of with tones of respect, an occasional religious figure, and a growing succession of teachers.

Good fortune was with you.  Even when a much favored teacher read you out, you knew it was because you'd overstepped boundaries.

You did not start conflicting with authority figures until those critical moments when your opinions and judgments began to form, take shape, then petition for a voice in the ongoing conversation of reason and reality.

There were a number of years in which your voice in the conversation became strident, judgmental, and contentious.  Again good fortune was with you because those years were not as long as they might have been.  Although some of the results were painful, they were only so in relative terms.  In retrospect, they seem a tad less severe than your middle school/junior high years, which linger now as a painful blur.

Without realizing it, perhaps even until recent moments as this is being composed, you were in a conversation with the three r's, reason, reliability, and responsibility.  For a reference point, you recall all those qualities and your performance relative to them as the equivalent of the N gradings you received in your personal habits on middle school report cards.

Suffice it for now to say you'd reached a place with reason and reality where you found your own voice and level of conversation, by no means contentious nor by most standards over-emphatic in cooperation.  Perhaps it was the other r, the responsibility, that led the way, reminding you of the direct tie between what you do and do not do and the resulting consequences.  Imagine you in a sense becoming the big brother you never had (because the real one died in infancy before your time), learning your way through your willingness to take, as you started to think of it, "either the heat or the hit," the reputation and/or the feelings the consequences left you with.

You think some times of what might have been had you been a more reasonable person, contrasting those scenarios with your observations of the results of times when you thought you were at the end of your rope of reason.  For instance, had you followed your instincts at a particular time in your first real editorial job, you'd have quit in protest.  You didn't quit and the rewards became enormous, not only in the job but your attitude.

There've been many times since when your emotions arm wrestled with your reason.  You feel a narrow edge of comfort now, when you are at a point you could never have imagined when you bade farewell to that first job, then moved on to the New York-based job.  Your narrow edge comes more from not being a failure as it does from being a success.  You've not failed to pursue the things that matter in feelings.  This is the edge that allows you to write the words that matter in feelings more than they compute in reason.

In the formative stages at which you hint in these paragraphs, you were more inclined to make statements, often dismissive statements, directed at things that displeased you.  In all the times you've done the equivalent of measuring your stature with pencil marks against the door frame, these statements have become more conversational, allowing the feuding parties to have their time at the podium before making a decision.  This, too, is a narrow edge of success.  You are thinking warm thoughts about recently departed humans and a canine friend with whom you've had meaningful conversations.  These, too, contribute to the edginess in your narrative voice and the edge you hold in self-regard.

In story, you've learned, it is not the conversation, it is the dialogue.

In reality, you've learned, it is not the dialogue, it is the conversation.

In story, you tell reality to go be fruitful and multiply itself.

In reality, you ask, "What next?"  And then you stop what you're doing to listen.

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