Monday, December 1, 2014

'Tis the Season

 These early December days are predictable to a fault, here in Reality.  There are about three weeks for many of us to grow tired, then irritated with Christmas carols, ditto with earnest letters from Charitable organizations we'd once, in a moment of weakness, or sentimentality, or a moment of feeling grateful for what the self had, sent a generous contribution.  Now, the holiday season has come and the charitable organization is reminding us of all those who are in want.  

Now, in these early December days, a puffy bank of cynicism seems to loiter, much like the marine layers of Summer.  You are aware of an edge at yourself for having given to the charitable organization in the first place, no doubt because you've totted up the unit price of the subsequent mailings they've sent you.  

By your account, they've long since burned off your contribution with expensive mailings of letters, four-color booklets, and in some instances, forty or fifty self-adhesive address tags to save you the chore of writing your name and return address on your holiday mail.

They have no idea you've been put off, nor do the other charitable organizations that call you, in spite of your do-not-call notifications, wanting you to contribute to some organization of which the caller is not a member, but instead a paid fund raiser.

You have withstood pre- and post-Thanksgiving sales, but now there are notices of black Fridays, Syber Saturdays, and Go-for-the-throat notices cluttering your email in box to the dismay of the things of actual necessity in your email.  

In spite of this early jump into the season, and the waiting tide of cynicism, you're still in comfortable, curious spirits, concerned about the three or four worlds of immediate concern to you and the more remote ones that are in their way, more important.

Concerns about your own writing, your own education, and your editing and teaching careers are not new events, thus you chew on them the way you often chewed gum or toothpicks while in the process of weaning yourself from smoking. The chewing will get you plans, enhanced resolve, and a healthy curiosity directed toward seeing how you can move forward.  The other concerns, those you realize you have little to no control over, give a boost to your existential frustration, add to your sense that many of the issues you care about outside your work as a writer, teacher, and editor, involve issues in large part insulated from anything you can do to effect change.

Welcome to December.  One by one, your classes are coming to an end.  One by one, the places you visit to buy groceries or out-of-the-house coffee breaks are playing Christmas carols during their open hours.  Your mail box bulges with catalogues from companies located in such recondite places as Georgia or North Carolina, or Virginia, informing you of the variety of clothing now available to you.  

You would not consider wearing a solid ninety percent of the clothing listed under any circumstances, nor would you consider the potential for finding something in the remaining ten percent because the prices are causing you to reconsider your place in the social spectrum of this country.  Are you in fact middle class?  How many middle class persons do you know who'd sign up for sweaters costing seven- and eight-hundred dollars.

Such background causes you to picture yourself, hunched as close to fetal position as possible while you walk your way about the city, planning strategies whereby you may sink no deeper into the December doldrums than you already have.  You remind yourself you are a happy person, one who has not been put off target for too long by the routine of dispiriting events.  

By its inherent nature, the destiny of story is to throw obstacle at protagonists, sometimes in the form of conflicting arguments, sometimes via the sense of ordinary disasters such as burst hot water heaters, a chipped or cracked crown, or a tire developing a slow leak.  You read and writer your way into such encounters, alert and chipper because you know the major offering of story is to suggest ways protagonists may be down but they always find a way to mount one more try, even after they've given up.  

Whether the character wins or loses is of less consequence than the way the character mounts and then executes the last venture.  This is what we ask for ourself, the ability to compete with a measure of grace.  Even though incidents of high personal relevance take place for us in Reality, we understand, if we work at it, how Reality is too massively concerned with outcome to be able to afford the luxury of judgment.

Things happen in Reality, some of it downright random.  A small event, someone forgetting to replace the cap on a tube of toothpaste, may be the trigger of a massive tragedy, compounded in its tragic elements by the absurdity of its outcomes to the point where we point a finger at it, then laugh.

Things happen in story for different reasons, the reasons of causality, determinism, consequence.  In Reality, a large rock may be undermined by a rain storm, lose its stability, then begin to rumble down a hillside.  The consequences in story may be the same, but the rock--ah, the rock--will have somehow worked its way out of the protective sphere of Sisyphus, who was pushing it toward the top of the hill.  The rock would never have been on its way up the rock in the first place is not for Sisyphus, and Sisyphus would not have formed his connection with the rock, had he not messed up with Zeus in the first place.

In a provocative essay, "The Myth of Sisyphus," the philosopher, Albert Camus, argues Sisyphus to have been a happy man, because he had a purpose.  The essay in many ways triggered the philosophy of existentialism, which argues for purpose and responsibility.  Reality has many qualities and attributes, but neither purpose nor responsibility; it simply is.

Go figure.  And watch for falling rocks.

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