Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Time Will Tell

Story is about time, either the time relating to the events within it or the time when you read it.

You were quite fortunate, for instance, to have read a number of books when you were eighteen that you don't think possible for you to read now, not without bursting into gales of laughter at the book, itself, the author, and you.

Disclosure:  You have no trouble laughing at yourself.  In many cases, doing so has become a hobby,  In many other cases, the laughter is deserved.

Some of the books you read when you were eighteen included most of the work of Thomas Wolfe, early Fitzgerald, and the one you are thinking of right now, "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand.  When you were eighteen, that book stirred your anarchy, your absolute belief in the sanctity of art, and the equally firm belief that the philistines were out to destroy the integrity of art.  You had, in fact, undertaken the rereading of "The Fountainhead" twice, once at thirty-six, and the last at fifty-four, thus twice and three times the age at which you'd first read it.  The last two readings were instructive.  They were also occasions of laughter.

Somewhere in that magical time, when you seemed to be reading a great many books, and in the process messing with your individual time frame in having girlfriends, you came across a number of books by French authors, notable among them Flaubert, Stendahl, Proust, Balzac, Voltaire.  The Flaubert stayed with you to the point where, earlier this year, you taught a course on him, reminding you in the process how much you'd learned from him in the past.  

You were impatient with the 1839 novel of Stendahl,"The Charterhouse of Parma," which you sought to reread in later years, only to discover you were correct in your assessments, driving you to consider his earlier work, "The Red and the Black," which worked out to be a draw; you were able to finish it, even find yourself able to relate to a degree with young Julien, its protagonist.

The Proust may have been overwhelming.  You're thinking of the first novel, "In Search of Lost Times," although you'd managed to get through it to the point of working into "Swann's Way," and you know that impressed you because you went on to put in considerable time working on a character-based account of a major figure for your own work.  You'd even borrowed from the French of Proust's title for your own, "Le Cote du Chez Lessing."

You are beginning to consider another run at the Proust, in particular because you've come to understand that the title to the first novel could also be taken to mean "In Search of Past Times."  For your part, you are not so much interested in retreating to the past for refuge as you are searching your own past history to see if there are things you could have learned from it--such as how to laugh--that you have not already learned.

A favored novel of yours, L.P. Hartley's "The Go-between"  begins, "The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there."This has influenced you to consider "The past is a mystery novel in which the reader must match wits with some investigative force to see who can come closer to understanding the truth."

Story for you comes close to being the equivalent of the scapular, an invested medallion which serves as a reminder of devotion, and which you hasten to add has little to do with superstition and much to do with commitment to awareness and devotion.

Some of your devotion to story brings forth the curiosity to revisit things read earlier in the awareness that you may have undergone changes which will better allow you to see yourself and the universe in the true irrational-yet-lovely jumble it is.  You would hate to think you've become more invested with such qualities as seriousness, dignity, and conservative-oriented visions as consequences of your experience.

In brief, your experiences have helped you edit unnecessary words from your past history, caused you to accept the things you were, felt, and did in the past as an equivalent of family.  All about you, individuals tend to do things of remarkable intelligence, beauty, and compassion, even when others seem to think and do things bordering on cruelty, self-destruction, and misanthropy.

Your senses convince you of the enormous difference between the human, homo sapiens sapiens, and the ant or bee or other forms of social insect.  These sense argue with you from time to time to accept the humor of the reality you see about you and within it the need to demonstrate the importance of story as a tool for communicating wisdom, love, devotion, and the running record of a species of which you are a member.  This species is simultaneously working at top speed to make this planet uninhabitable; it is also aware of a challenge which is several million years hence, the challenge to find new planets on which to colonize.

Story is about you, reading and interpreting the stories of others, writing your own.  Story is also about your experiences, activities, and intentions as you move along the arc of your life, and the ways in which these experiences, activities, and intentions have effect on the stories you tell as well as the ways you interpret the stories of others.


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