Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reality as Editor

You are comfortable at your favorite coffee shop, your gear spread about you on your favorite table.  The music is hard bop, a particular style of jazz you enjoy for its energy, imaginative harmony, and apparent traces of gospel tonalities.  Indeed, many musicians from the hard bop school learned their instruments in a church.

Although you have your Mac Book Pro with you, today's preference is a lined note pad of the sort you use for editing the work of others, for making outlines for lecture notes, or for personal observations still too informal to merit a place on the hard drive of your computer.

The coffee before you is your favorite blend, Espresso Forte, a strong, dark roast with an acrid overtone.

You are a few sentences into a paragraph that has already begun to demonstrate some potential for carrying you along toward understanding something you'd never considered before, about some small, minor, elegant aspect of the extraordinary vistas of life about you.

Expectations shiver through you, turning you into a boy venturing to ask a girl on whom he nourishes a crush for a dance, which is in itself daring enough, but then you add to it the boy's recognition of how poor a dancer he is.  It is that degree of expectation, a timid request for an imagined spectacular result.

Then you become aware of a man standing at your table, in the posture of a supplicant.  His mustache is as unruly as your own eyebrows, his facial wrinkles Grand Canyons in comparison to your own gullies after a brief, afternoon rain.

"Excuse me,"  he ventures.  "I see that you are at work and I do not wish to detain you with needless conversation."

At the moment, you are still enough filled with expectation and the pleasure of anticipation that his comment is even less an irritation than the buzz of a single fly, estimating possibilities of finding its lunch on you.

You raise your unruly eyebrows as though they were a drawbridge, your gesture of encouraging him.

"I wish to tell you how much your last book has meant to me and how it has changed my life."

This is a great kindness.  You immediately are reminded of similar sentiments extended to athletes, when you were of an age, then writers, actors, individuals you felt had set the boundaries for admirable performance at high, inspiring levels.

You offer profound thanks.  Kind of you to take the effort.  The sort of thing a writer rejoices in hearing.

But soon, all too soon, it becomes apparent through your awareness of anomalies in your exchange, that this kind gentleman has confused you with not only another writer, as well he has confused you with someone you do not particularly like.

However mistaken the would-be admirer is, you have been drawn into a moral debt.  To inform him of his mistake would embarrass a person who'd gone out of his way to extend kindness to you.  A brief revenge fantasy invades you.  You could be curt, insulting, perhaps even worse; you could be supercilious or arrogant, thus tarnishing the reputation of the writer for whom you've been mistaken.

But your admirer, his admirer, really, might never learn of his mistake.  You'd be taking advantage of trust and admiration to damage a reputation.  However mistaken the man, he was trusting and admiring and had in some way, opened himself to the potential of growth and awareness.

You stood, thanked the man, gave him a brotherly embrace, then pardoned yourself to return to your paragraph aborning, transformed by the encounter to the point where you return to the reasons you often find for being so devoted to story.  Any story is a sequence of events of which expectations are the fulcrum and outcome the dramatic weight of closure.

In these later years of yours, where loss attends you in small ways and large, you are no less aware of wanting things, in particular things and individuals with whom to share your life and experiences.  You are more aware of the risks of wanting anything or anyone in that special way, as well as you are aware of the benefits of expecting the cosmic laws of such expectations to provide you a fire over which to warm your hands.

You got this from the expectations that come from the ideas that produce story.  At times, when the going in a story is problematic, you are guided by your expectations of the outcome, all the while knowing you are negotiating settlements with reality with each draft, with each reach for the greater recognition of your vision.

In its way, visions of potential relations with individuals produces the same kind of energy, and you are inspired by it to continue your positive expectations.

Reality as Editor:  the result is always better than your expectations or a good deal below them.  You, of course, are perfectly willing to settle for the realization of your original expectation.

But you know better.

And yet you still try, with story and individuals.

How many times in your life have you approached an individual, as the man in the coffee shop approached you, to say, "Excuse me, but I believe you are wonderful," only to have that person be faced with the same quandary you faced when you realized your admirer had mistaken you for someone else?

How many times have you approached a story with that same greeting?

And yet, because you wonder how that story will respond to your hands or that person to your fondest hopes, you are at the exact prime of life, where you say, "Excuse me, but I believe you are wonderful" to all the miracles about you.

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