Sunday, March 30, 2014

Zone Defenses of the Inner Self

When the term "zone defense" is applied to basketball, we imagine the area to be defended as divided into zones, with players assigned to defend a specified area as opposed to a "man -to-man" defense, which has each player, on defense, being assigned to guard against or defend a particular player.

The purpose of each of these defenses is to have an impact on the ability of the opponent to score points with ease.  An effective zone defense could, for example, prevent an opposing team to develop plays in which allow their close-range shooters to gain proximity to the basket, forcing the opposing team to take scoring shots from a greater distance.  

So the argument goes, a zone defense means a greater opportunity for the defending team to gain the rebound, should a distance shot miss its mark.  Depending on the talents of the two opposing teams, both zone defense and man-to-man defense have advantages and disadvantages to be considered.  Potential combinations of each defense are also possible.

With respect to basketball, two paragraphs in this context are enough. There is an interesting counterpart of the zone defense in the narration of story.  The zone to be defended has to do with two vital parties in the storytelling calculus, the writer and the audience.

The zone at issue is the comfort zone, one for the writer, the other for the reader.  In arguments, classrooms, conversations, workshops, and within the context of editorial support, you've frequently heard the equivalent of "I don't want to go there," from writers and from readers.

In some cases, you, too, said the equivalent.

The "there" which you, brother and sister writers, and any number of readers have not wished to go is somewhere beyond the zone of comfort, which is located at some distance from feeling threatened with the need to acknowledge painful truths.  True enough, most memorable literature and story come from this "there," which is more often than not an internal place rather than a geographical one.  By this, you mean the "there" is a sense of being a prisoner of a particular culture, familial, or social constraint.

The primary defense against trespassing into this "there" is the one of having enough sense of being trapped in daily life that one more venture will be too painful to bear.  Adjunct defenses are cultural, social, certainly financial.  To those adherents of this defense, the opening line of the Wordsworth sonnet, "The world is too much with us, late and soon..."is a tocsin, warning us to look away from reminders of our own circumstances and implications of the metaphorical jungle "out there" seeming all too threatening in nature.

Such individuals wish for no reminders of their own plight, even though they may well have enough experience with storytelling and literature to recognize how often storytelling and literature supply us with anodynes if not sophisticated solutions.  You have heard their pleas of near agony.  No more darkness,  No more dark side.  Can't we please have a return to the good old story, where--and this is where the true darkness appears--no one is awful, and only good things happen?

With a few strokes of effort to get all the misery out of literature, they banish the likes of Thomas Hardy, much of Herman Melville, and, moving forward to the times of William Faulkner, most of his work from anything approaching a canon. Much of John Steinbeck is swept away, leaving us with Sweet Thursday, and Tortilla Flats.  No Lenny, no George.  No rabbits.  Only Steinbeck and a French Poodle named Charlie, driving about in a flatbed truck with a camper top, experiencing the inherent grand humanity of the U.S. of A. Of course George Eliot and Mrs. Woolf are out the window, and Jane Austen, bless her, why, she gave us novels in which more often than not, protagonists were last seen walking down the aisle toward a "good" marriage.

The comfort zone defense has kept many a reader away from experiences that seem closer in keeping to the way the human psyche works than those works whose intent was to proselytize to a good will triumph and love will win out over all kind of ending.  This is not to say that there are no remarkable times when good will triumph or that love does not indeed win out over all.  Rather it is an observation that prolonged happiness, accord, and growth are not always possible.  The  DNA of Reality is filled with skinned knees, cut fingers, broken hearts, and control freaks who get off on doing for the rest of us things they believe are for the good of mankind--their version of mankind.

If Humor and Pathos have taken up as bedfellows--and you believe they have--then darkness, gloom, despair, depression, Depressions, and mean spiritedness have their own committed relationships with companionship, trust, empathy, soaring spirituality, and friendships.  All are actors in the theater of human interaction and the inner landscape of the individual.

Characters are capable of all these qualities, sometimes quite simultaneously.  To deny this is to deny portions of ourselves, sent off as by children disowned by their parents.

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