Sunday, May 11, 2014

This Oak from This Acorn? No way.

Entelechy is a lovely word for a form-giving cause which contrasts with a potential existence.   The word came from Aristotle,  a man who had a genius for categorizing things, for seeing the potential of things in their various states. In one of his many works, Poetics, Aristotle defined the essential ingredients of story.

Thus the potency within a thing, say an acorn, to become as idealized oak as possible.  Or the potency within a group of whirling emotions and wishes to become something more tangible, perhaps a story.

A concept has within it elements, straining to be a story, relying on its energy.  The writer enters the picture by merging with these elements, taking them into the writer's consciousness, giving them a fitting form.

You sort through events about you, events you see as actual before you and as in your imagination.  There is no telling where some of these elements will originate; they are much like the volunteers, springing up in paved sidewalks or in clusters of poppies alongside the highway.

There is, of course, energy in you.  Some of the energy seems to generate from visions you have, recipes of events and details that impel you to get a descriptive paragraph or two down.  You read a passage in some book or magazine.  

There may be a lurking idea or concept within those pages, adding to the sense of something live and hungry within you, adding to piles of books and papers, causing you at night sometimes to have the most exquisite dreams, which you realize are confabulations of all those unclassified scraps of paper and vagrant ideas, seen by you for a moment or two as this entelechy or potential energy.

Then you mix actual events with scraps of reality, or you write them in some notebook or argue them to some conclusion here.  That produces occasional dreams of great happiness and the added sense of something you are working toward.

In some ways, there is a dangerous presence behind your process, arguing a part of you that has managed to elevate itself to the point where it can see outcomes before they are even pieced together.  You have no problems with working away at pieces and details to seek an entelechy, then work to help it materialize, but you want to draw a line at all-seeing forces within you that know before you do.

Trouble enough being a writer, or an editor, or a teacher.

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