Friday, June 27, 2014

Got Any Spare Changes?

There are a number of forces buoying, driving, governing, and opposing us as we attempt navigation on, through, and against them during the course of a day and, of course, during the arc of a lifetime.


During a given day, you find yourself confronting one or more of them, a confrontation that often comes as a complete surprise.  When, for instance, you peer into the bathroom mirror of a morning such as this one, you are looking to see such variables as the possibility of residual shaving cream or the related potential for having missed a patch of nascent beard.

You are also looking--because in another context, you've trained yourself to do so--for change.  To the forces mentioned above having effect on us, you add yet another, change.

At some time in your life, you were handed story, much as a city-dweller youth such as you is handed his first pet.  You are charged with taking care of it, advised to understand it, see to its needs even before seeing to your own.  You are responsible for cleaning up its equivalents of indoor messes, are subject to frequent advice about how and where to exercise it.

In some ways, there were hopes that both, story and a pet, would enhance your growing experience and provide you with a storehouse of enriched memory and behavior.

At your own pace, you indeed learned from story and pets.  Change, which is so universal, is resident in story and pets.  At one point in your life, when you were writing furiously on a red Olivetti portable typewriter in order to provide enough operating expenses to keep you from working at a number of distasteful non-writing jobs, you had adopted your first real pet, a short-haired domestic named Sam.  

In Sam, you recognized change, thinking at the time that he was growing older and smarter, while you were growing older and typing faster.  Part of your love for Sam came from your awareness of the ironic buffer zone between your paths, which began simply enough, with your mutual decision to become room mates.

Change is an important element in story.  Landscapes change or, conspicuously, upon revisit, they do not.  Characters, in particular lead characters, change in some significant relationship to the goals they set themselves, the problems they must face.  All story has some established metric between event and change in character.

You could say, and you do, that change in a character comes from the precipice edge of landscape as they know it.  Your character is driven by event and goal to the precipice.  If the event and goal do not push the character over the edge, you must do it for her or him.

After that point, there is no going back, and the character is not the same person as he or she was at the outset.  Midway through Macbeth, King Malcolm is murdered.  The person who performs the murder, Macbeth, is never the same.  Before, he was a good, loyal, successful soldier.  After, he was a driven man, pursued by the ghosts aroused by his actions.

You cannot help looking in the mirror for more than shaving cream or neglected swathes of beard.  This is because you've also noticed changes of one sort or another.  You're looking for effect.  You already know the cause, which is the passage of time.  In any number of ways, you're approaching what you'd hoped at age seventeen to become.  Would the seventeen-year-old you, a college freshman, recognize the visiting professor who is you today?  

Perhaps that was a trick question.  When you were seventeen, you were quite impatient for the changes you wished to take effect, to click into place as useful tools, some mechanical, others of a more intuitive nature.  

You are still impatient at this age for things to click into muscle-memory use, tools of judgment and execution you can rely upon without the need to search the Internet for user guides.  You think now you'd want to take that seventeen-year-old for a beer or two, recommend some books, share some tricks of the trade with him.  

You understand now, as you understood then, that he would not listen to all the tricks.  Even then, one of his habits was beginning to form, the restless stalking of used book stores for the literary equivalent of the Holy Grail, the life-changing book that would cause him to see his own vision, hear his own voice.

Your present cat, Goldfarb, stops by your desk, reminding you of his ardent desire for his supper.  You tend to this, reminding yourself of the earlier you and your roommate, Sam, the parallel paths of then and of now.

You think of Heraclitus and his "discovery" of change, which was formulated about four hundred years before the Common Era, and still resonates with a freshness over nearly three thousand years.

You think of your characters, and you wonder what changes they see when they look in the mirror.

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