Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ledges and Borders: Dramatic Jumping-off Places

You know this much is true:  When you consult a work of nonfiction, you are reading for information that will allow you to be a better participant in conversations with friends, associates, students, and yes, even complete strangers.


When you read fiction, you are looking for ways to validate one or more of your feelings as they relate to existential matters, justifications, as it were, of how you actually behaved in similar situations, how you would hope to behave were you to be involved in excruciating situations, what you would hope to carry away from intense existential situations.

In each case, nonfiction or pure invention, you are looking for useful information to guide you on some chosen path, where factual and emotional information will help forge you into a closer approximation of the person you are in constant hope of becoming.  

When you write nonfiction, you are attempting to connect disparate sources of information, with the result of enhancing your sense of the intense interconnectedness of animate and inanimate things.

When you write fiction, you are placing yourself on ledges and borders from which you would probably not dare leap in real time.  You are manipulating an incessant and shapeless progression of event that may have some form of inertia but at the cost of having no volition or agenda. 

You are the product of forebears who responded with suspicion to a rustling in the tall grass and who often would rather go hungry than take a chance on the fungi you've come to regard as mushrooms.You appreciate the surge of adrenaline behind the stimulus of a conspiracy theory, even as you recognize the intellectual properties resident in a suspicion of a person, place, or thing meaning to cause you some harm from which you may not recover.

You are used to being vulnerable, helpless, bored, frightened. At times even worse, you are aware of situations and circumstances for which you have less understanding than you have a wary suspicion. You are aware that writing nonfiction and, when appropriate, fiction, are mechanisms for investigating your hard-wired and hard-won survival instincts. With these tools, you are more inclined to take risks than to seek the less perilous paths of safety.

In a broader sense, you are constant in your questioning of the information you receive and the sources from which you receive it. When you read the fiction of others, you have the option of questioning the outcomes of the writers' scenarios. When you write fiction, you have the option of staying on safe paths, but the increasing awareness of dissatisfaction when you discover you have done so.

From time to time, you are struck by the irony of how questioning received information first presents itself to you as disorienting before it reveals the greater fact of your preference for the comfort of doubt. The similar irony from fiction leaves you doubtful of self and lonely.

Perhaps it is too soon in the process to acknowledge that you are driven to confront your own conspiracy theories, recognize their presence, and find comfort in them rather than the agitation and despair resident in the received conspiracy theories of your culture. Like the more fully characters you hope to realize in your own work, there is no comfort. The moment there is comfort, the story stops.

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