Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Impatient Narrator

For reasons you can address only in a speculative sense, you came into this world with a built-in predilection toward impatience.  Certain life events, among them years of driving or attempting to drive an automobile in Los Angeles traffic, did nothing to lessen your finger-popping, let's get the show on the road attitude.

Perhaps moving away from your place of birth helped, but also in the perhaps area, the fact of growing and observation caused a lessening of your tendency to want if not results right now then at least a clear path toward the necessary activities for producing results.

Another perhaps:  At age thirty-six, you developed that great occupational disaster, the gastric ulcer.  Your doctor, on discovering this, said you had two choices for treatment.  The first was to go to Mexico for six months.  The second involved a bland diet, alginates, and frequent doses of chalky carbonates of calcium that in effect protect the stomach wall and ulcerated areas from digestive acids.

Your doctor, who was also your cousin, urged you to take what he called the Mexican cure.  You were tempted, picturing yourself in such gulf places as Guymas and, on the eastern side, Vera Cruz or Tampico, but you were also well on the way to becoming an editor, and you were  eager to continue on that path.

Well, let's say you did continue the non-Mexico approach, then discovered being an editor required you to read materials that also added to your impatience index, which probably did not do your ulcer any good.  But let's also say that somewhere in the growth process, you managed to turn down the fires of impatience a notch or two.  Perhaps even three.

But consider what's happened while you were giving some effort to tuning down your driving impatience, not only with your own progress in learning and growth in your chosen craft, but the simple acts of getting necessary things done.

Since you're on perhapses and potential situations, consider also the way you have a yearning for tangible growth in three craft-related areas as well as the ongoing personal one.  The world about you has also grown in similar measure, requiring individuals you have some contact with to make decisions about putting certain priorities on hold because of true difficulty in taking steps to implement them.

There is inherent difficulty in developing technique.  You'd not thought to be sidetracked into editing, then teaching.  Then, for the longest time, fell victim of recriminations for taking time--necessary time--away from writing, compounded by taking time away from editing by teaching.  There you were at about age fifty, thinking you were only so-so in three things when, with a more concentrated effort, you could be so-so in one thing, hearing one of your heroes, Mark Twain, as he said, "Put all your eggs in one basket, then watch that basket."

If he is to be believed, Henry, your often waiter at Sly's restaurant, would like to retire, then spend his remaining days writing scholarly works, a fact that came forth last night when he made some statements about the sudden shift in the quality of Shakespeare's writing.  You did your best to sit on your impatience, because you had a sense of what was about to come, the tired old argument that Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare.

What was meant to be a working dinner with your agent turned into a debate.  While good to have, debates are best experienced as planned events.  Wordsworth was certainly prescient in his sentiment that "The world is too much with us, late and soon."  Having an unexpected argument with a waiter about Shakespeare, or, shifting points of view, a waiter having an argument about Shakespeare with a customer, can be unsettling.

You have no wish to retire, thanks in some degree to your enjoying the aspects of composition as you now see them.  Twain was more than a writer, he was also a gifted speaker.  Although he had a notoriously poor sense of business, having lost huge sums on things of a speculative nature, he was also a successful publisher of sorts.

Once again, he, via his works, got you to thinking that there was in fact an amazing relationship between writing, editing, and teaching, which impressed you with such force that you were back to square one, which is being so-so at one thing, dealing with dramatic material.  Seeing this connection has led you to the most freeing revelation of all, relating to retirement.

You not only do not look forward to retirement and, thus, taking up some hobby, or becoming a volunteer; you look forward to not retiring, to working to what you hope will be a day or two before your arrival at ceasing to be.

The greatest joy of all of this is the absolute certainty that you will die with one or more projects of great moment to you, left hanging.  These could be resident in the clutter of notes and notebooks, or the one or two things still in your head but not yet set down in any written form at all.  

You could say you are impatient to get at these things even though in so doing they will be bringing you closer to death.  But these two things, your projects and your mortality, are parallel lines.  Unlike the parallel lines in fiction and some dramatic nonfiction, these parallel lines need not meet.

Thus you are cheerful in your awareness of the tsunami of clutter and chaos that await you.  There is much joy to be had in life.  For certain, clutter and chaos, the two defining moments of Reality, are areas where you have graduated from so-so to pretty good.

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