Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tribal Elders

The magnets of coincidence bring the concept of First Americans tribal elders to the front stage of your brain, beginning with their appearance in the manuscript of a student, followed by their appearance in a television drama.  In both cases, these tribal elders were the sorts you would bring into your own writing.

You've, in fact, been thinking about an other level of tribal elders as the equivalent of a cup of coffee or a pause to read a magazine, vacation from a booklength project that is about fiction but not actual fiction of yours.

The tribal elders of your invention go back in time to the transitional cusp between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon, therefore they cannot, as the tribal elders do in your student's novel, talk about such things as the Golden Gate Bridge or major league baseball nor can they, as in the television drama, have a hankering for gummi bears or be hooked on diet soda.

In a deliberate move to distinguish your tribal elders from any others, yours do have an edge, however, which is to say a strong enough agenda so that they are human as well as the kinds of bi-culturalism you have come to associate with another kind of transitional cusp, more profound yet than the gap between the Neanderthal and Cro-magnon.  This gap is the one between the concrete, close-to-boring world of the ordinary, the day-to-day routine.  

If you were going as far back in time as the cusp between those two remarkable species, the Neanderthal and the Cro-magnon, an exciting event might be the sudden appearance of a stalk of scallion in the evening stew.  The exciting event could in fact be anything at all, much less a stem of scallion.

The concept of there being tribal elders, men and women who are wise from experience of the rational, but every bit as wise from their experience with the terrain of the shaman,is most agreeable to you.  This becomes the ethereal world of woo woo, where an event may be triggered by some catalyst having little or no relationship with any of Newton's Laws or the Periodic Table of Elements or even the laws of gravity, although that's getting back toward Newton, isn't it?

You have gone through a stage of writing what you called magical realism, meaning a terrain where the boundaries are not at all clear, least of all to you. The best you can do is have characters who take such fuzzy boundaries for granted to a greater degree than you do.  It is not that you have foresworn these gray areas as much as it is the case that your experiences over all these years has led you to expect a universe where behavior is relatively more rational than not.

You had a splendid double curve ball that would have revolutionized the game of baseball.  If that seems as young and naive as it was, there were others involving invisibility, the ability to read animals' minds, and a time right after you learned about shape shifting when your imagination prompted you to imagine such abilities as the one of sight possessed by an eagle.  At one point, you were even willing to settle for a crow.

Your fictional tribal elders are able to do things ordinary persons cannot do for one reason or another, and because you have on frequent occasions wished the abilities most if not all persons did not seem to have, you also took the next step of imagining how you would behave if you were a tribal elder.

To become such an individual, you'd have to, as you see the matter, become humble, although the humility would be directed to things of the inner life and spirit rather than to the worlds of business or political acumen. You could be confident because, some how, you'd have some ability to cause reality to change in some way.

For certain, you have one of the requisite characteristics of the tribal elder, which is the chronology.  You may look younger than you are, you may even behave younger than you are.  While admirable, these are no guarantee.

The best you can do at the moment is write an occasional paragraph that renders the known world in a different light, where the powers are distributed differently than they are in this part of the universe.  That will in a sense be you, as tribal elder, writing about reality and thinking, Hey, that's not too bad.  But you have to keep that sort of stuff for the most part hidden, or people will begin thinking your paragraphs have gone to your head.


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