Friday, January 31, 2014

Story 2, Reality 0

Among the many things we may say of Reality without edging over into areas of being too judgmental, the quality of relentless seems almost an understatement.

If not relentless, what then?  Sorcerer's apprentice comes to mind.  To employ yet another kind of rhetorical fallacy, we could even say of Reality that it is steroidal, should be investigated for abusive use of performance enhancement.

You take as a base point for measuring Reality a metric used for determining various aspects of electricity.  On a simplistic level. electricity is the flow of electrons past a given point, directed toward another point.  In the spirit of retaining simplicity of levels, Reality is the flow of the totality of events, as seen from one vantage point.

Therein crouches at least one fallacy in logic.  The single vantage point.  But it does begin to suggest the enormity and randomness of what Reality is in operation.

No help that you are a part of it, adding to it with each movement you make or do not.  No help either that you are part of a we, a species, thus the sense of you as a drop of water in parallel with an ocean.

Then, to add additional notes of texture and mischief, all the other species, contributing to Reality each in its own way.

Small wonder our species--your species, you--flies to the medium of story much as iron filings rush toward the magnet or, to keep some pretense of living metaphor alive, as pigeons flock to breadcrumbs.

Story hates endlessness and beginnings buried in detail.  Story hates randomness and loss of structure.  About the only thing story and Reality have in common is the momentary potential for a person, place, or thing to appear to be winning or having some kind of run of good fortune before being battered by a Hurricane Katrina or the explosion of a Mt. Etna, or The Titanic, having an encounter with an iceberg.  

Over the years of your own growth span, you have evolved from a person well aware of his impatience with things and his excruciating wish to have them happen now, only to discover that things have their own agenda and time frame, Reality has its own time frame, but no discernible agenda.  Understanding this and your own relative lack of control over the two reference points, yours and Reality's, you've managed to drop a few degrees of impatience along the way.  You might even see yourself as moderately patient at times, although perhaps the best way to look at the matter is to consider yourself accepting things you cannot hope to change.

This last is yet another reason for your interest in story.  Within its paragraphs, you can evoke your own Reality, therein to nudge characters of your own creation to some larger measure of control and structure.

Reality is as shapeless and formless as that accident you caused by including a treasured woolen sweater in the wash, only to be greeted by its own end-of-cycle transformation to a sodden lump.  All right then, Reality is a sodden lump.  But it does not care.  Even if our species--your species--were to be obliterated, there would be enough things happening as a result of Reality to keep the survivors occupied.

Reality does not need you, even though you contribute to it.  To show you how insignificant you are, Reality has been around for millions, possibly billions of years.  You haven't.  In spite of the fact that people now hold doors open for you, you are still a relatively new kid on the block.

Reality can do without any number of things; the best you can do in the face of loss or impending designations of endangered species is accept.  A favorite story of yours involves the Transcendentalist writer-philosopher, Margaret Fuller (1810-50), who at one point announced, "I accept Reality."  To which the noted Scottish philosopher, Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), said, "By God, she'd better."  You don't see that you have much choice, not until you begin thinking about story.

For a few moments, if you ply your craft with sufficient care and concern, you can create your own simulacrum, your own sense of Reality.  Then, to the extent of which you are able and the conventions of story permit, you can change that Reality or at least send it off on the wrong direction for a page or two.

Writers are far from being alone as control freaks.  Musicians, artists, photographers, actors, gardeners, all of them try to get the real Reality to sit up and take notice.  And readers, persons who visit museums and art galleries, patrons of the ballet, or bebop lovers who attend sessions at The Village Gate are all control freaks as well.

We are driven to story and the constructs of story by impatience with the soggy formlessness of Reality and the belief that we can create a better pattern or series of dramatic events than Reality.

Those of us who are writers and readers of course have favorites, which is another aspect of being a control freak.  There are wide legions of writers you admire as well as a growing number you cannot abide.  You have a few words to say about all of them, including such epithets as tin-ear for dialog, lousy stylist, creator of unreliable or unbelievable characters and/or settings.  They are awful writers, but even at that, they have to be loved because, awful as they are, they are our writers; they are our control freaks, and we are all in this together against the common, formless hulk of an opponent, Reality.

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