Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Between the Dentist and a Wannabe Story

For the longest time, you had a small flashlight on your keychain, given you by a dear friend who happens to be an ombudsman for the local bank at which you are a patron.  Difficult to say how many times you used the flashlight, but each time you did, you were glad you had it so close to hand.  

The flashlight helped you find many items dropped in dark or inconvenient places, illuminated keyholes you'd be a long while trying to probe, allowed you to read things you'd not have been able to read had you been without a source of light.  When the battery finally gave up its ghost, you removed the flashlight from your keychain, bidding it a fond farewell.

That flashlight made you realize the times you'd blundered about in the dark, delighted to find so close to hand some reliable source of illumination.  After a month or so of feeling somehow underprepared for the adventures of being out and about in the dark, you discovered a number of flashlight applications available for your iPhone.  Soon thereafter, you were out and about, your old, insouciant self again.  

There is a kind of important confidence in knowing you have illumination available when you need it.  Illumination is a reality unto itself and a metaphor for being able to see what was once hidden.  This kind of illumination leads you to extend your range, encourages you to take chances, allows you to feel the confidence that you have resources close to hand.

At some speaking engagement where you'd been invited to address a group of angry and impatient writers, you were given an innocuous lunch, an envelope filled with coupons for one free meal of equal price to the meal you paid for at various franchise restaurants, and another keychain device, a flash drive.  This was a valuable tool you've used on a number of occasions, more than taking away the memory of the innocuous lunch.  

The flash drive has allowed you to download large documents from friends or clients computers, then transfer them to your own, also to transport documents of your own to a print shop where you made copies of such things as syllabi or handouts for classes.

Of course the very keys on your keychain are tools of a sort, devices that allow you a measure of security, entrance and egress in dwellings, offices, post office boxes, and vehicles.  Thus your keychain and your iPhone remind you of your kinship with if not your direct linkage then at least brothers and sisters of the same species of a thousand or more years ago, in that they carried tool kits about with them for the chores and tasks confronting them in the warp and weft of their days and nights out in the existential world.

In some extremes, you are reminded of the potential dangers of being out in the existential world.  One of these extremes was in a spot you'd passed hundreds of times, ranging into at least thousands of times, US Highway 101, parts of which in Los Angeles are known as the Ventura Freeway, as it approximates the interchange with US Highway 405, a bustling, well-trafficked north-south artery bridging a mountainous ridge that separates the part of Los Angeles known as "The Valley" from the part of the Los Angeles Basin known by its denizens of self-appointed sophistication as "Regular" or "Real" Los Angeles.  

Another, opposite kind of existential locale, in its way the very opposite of Los Angeles traffic extreme is US Highway 40, an east-west artery that takes one across the lower portions of California, into middle-to-southern Arizona, and corresponding locations in New Mexico.  You would not wish to do so, but with your keychain and your iPhone, you could be in either extreme with a high probability that, whatever disaster might befall you, you could help yourself out of it or within a reasonable time summon persons who could assist or extract you.

You are at comfort with your current toolkit resources; they could help you in most of the disasters you're likely to encounter.  That is to say, they could help you with most of the disasters you're likely to encounter "out" here in the real world.  They are of no use to you when you are faced with the need to orient yourself, chose a direction, solve a riddle, or decode motivation in a story.

Discomfort and awareness of too much presence or too little of it are different things in the real world than when you try to find your way in a story.  At the moment, within a particular set of circumstances that tell you they wish to be a story, you are at such a place where none of the tools you have can help.  One immediate consequence is something you've just hinted at:  the material tells you it wishes to be a story.  There are five characters and one walk on; their interconnectedness is intrigue, itself.  But it is not a story yet because you have no idea what the lead character wants and, worse yet, what is wanted of him.

The discomfort is excruciating and, you have to admit, exciting, as though discomfort and excitement are arm wrestling for beers within the center stage of your awareness.  This morning, your dentist is asking you to stick your tongue out, and you are barely aware of her presence because you are in effect trying to find your way within the darkness of this story.  Your dentist repeats the request.  

You comply, whereupon she grasps your tongue between two pads of gauze, moving it this way and that, looking for mysteries of her own, asking you if there is sensitivity here? or here? or perhaps up here?  and you, unable to answer because your tongue is being held hostage for the moment.

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