Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Because of your interest in writing stories, there are few times when you are in a neutral, I-don-t-care, or It-doesn't-matter mood.  Most of those are the immediate moments before sliding over toward sleep or awakening from it.

Neutrality speaks to you of no agenda.  Even a decision to accept sleep or reject its presence by awakening in fact speak to the beginnings of agenda.

A student asked you today to speak about writer's block.  Your reply was a confrontational "What's that?"  You are aware of doing things to avoid writing, but there are more often than not agendas behind that, as in being close to recognizing something about yourself you'd not wished quite yet to deal with.  Can't we just do this instead?  Such as playing with railroad train aps on your iPhone or listening to music or even the most sneaky of not writing agendas, beginning a new writing project.

The concept of writer's block is your own way of telling yourself you are too neutral to undertake composition.  You are not engaged enough, neither curious nor pissed off nor ecstatic about some thing or condition.  

In this sense, it is the absolute knowledge you are in bed at five fifty-five in the morning, with an alarm set to go off at six or, better still, six-thirty, which means trying somehow to sleep for five minutes or thirty five minutes, and good luck.

Neutrality is also a cop-out defense against taking sides.  Do you wish to be funny or serious, knowing the possible consequences of both?  Being funny means, of course, rethinking, then doing, or doing then thinking something you find amusing, and what will you find amusing except something serious that has gone wrong?  What will you find serious?  

You can start being serious by being contrite, regretting your attitude toward something you believed was funny, something you approved of being funny, but then came to recognize that you were going to pay a price for it.  This could also lay you vulnerable to being a moral coward, in your own eyes, if in no others.

Seriousness and funny are of extreme consequential natures.  That's not funny, is a judgment rendered on something you said, did, wrote or performed all three in concert.  That's not funny could be egotistical, racist, or sexist, thus you need to try to think ahead, looking for downstream consequences.  Being funny that has gone wrong invites admonitions for you to grow up, stop screwing around, get serious.

Getting serious does not preclude egotism, racism, or sexism; in fact, the more serious you become, the greater the potential for causing people to think you are funny.  This raises the important question of unintended humor and its first cousin, satire.  If you are unintentionally funny, is this a serious matter or a funny one?

You've tried for portions of your life to be serious and to be funny.  At one point when you were a junior at UCLA, you were writing humorous pieces for daytime television.  At another time, when you were living in Mexico City and trying to write a novel, you were writing  jokes for the grainy, vaudeville-like short subjects that were shown in movie theaters, essentially brief skits, for ten dollars a piece.

You've spent a good deal of time trying to be serious, and look where that landed you, as the editor in chief of a scholarly publishing house where the publisher would ask you how you were able to rationalize wearing a striped necktie with a houndstooth sports jacket.  You tried sometimes to be serious in academic situations, which got you into any number of confrontations with a department chairman who would;t speak to you for over a month because of a conversation you'd got into with the new dean at a reception for the dean, who'd come from the Department of Linguistics at MIT, and with whom you argued about the validity of the Wharf-Sapir hypothesis of linguistic relativity to the point where the dean took you away from the reception and into his office to conclude the conversation.

You don't know if the differences in cultural encoding have an effect on the way people think, but since the dean had studied with Wharf, you thought it would be interesting to know his view.

The Arse Poetica did not think this a good way to welcome the new dean.

As of now, you think it safer to be funny, but that is a funniness that must come without trying, which, as previously noted, has its risks.  Also as of now, being serious is a weapon, which can be used to bore people you wish to effect a polite distance from without having to say to them, Hey, I wish to effect an immediate distance from you.  If you hit the right serious tone so that they are bored, they will begin looking for excuses to leave your company, allowing you in effect the last laugh.

Last laughs are a kind of gravitas that does not come with ease or with being too serious.

Your father had a number of nicknames for you, most of them affectionate.  He also had one that seemed to ride the cusp between affectionate and, shall we say attitudinal.  What are you, he'd say, some kind of wise guy?  Often he'd say this after an action or comment from you that you'd more or less borrowed from his tool kit.

In real life, there was no answer to this rhetorical question.  You were supposed to take note of it and either get serious or stop being so serious, as the occasion warranted.  Or to stop being so funny, as the occasion may have warranted.

In the conversations you have at the thought of him now, when in dreams or thought, he asks you if you are some kind of wise guy, you answer yes.

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