Tuesday, September 6, 2016


There were many surprises in store for you during your years at the university, one of the more useful being a process you learned in a required course you would not otherwise have considered, since it was a pathway to a direction you had no thought to follow.

Another of the more useful surprises was the discovery that studying for midterm and final examinations became times when your fiction composition seemed to take off in the manner of a hound after its quarry.

In recent weeks, a narrative presented itself to you, bearing a title which is in fact a line from the old folk song, "The Streets of Laredo," and which has what you believe will be the narrative's beginning in a landscape similar to some of your more memorable days as a cadet in the Reserve Officers Training Corps.

You are reminded of those ROTC days  thanks to your pursuit of yet another pathway you discovered while at the university. The useful process was revealed to you when you were a cadet in the then mandated Reserve Officers Training Corps, specifically in map reading, where you learned of triangulation, a process by which one could use two known points and a few triangles to determine a third, unknown or apparently uncertain point.  You were so intrigued with the process and its implications that you went on to learn from it how to measure distances not readily apparent.

Since those times, you've expanded your use of triangulation in ways that have less to do with maps than with emotional and motivational landscapes, with the result that you know where you are within a strange landscape without knowing where the landscape is located in relationship to Reality. 

This puts you in the position of knowing, in effect, where you are to a degree where you might possibly be able to write your way out or toward some more conventional landmark. The cold comfort to be taken from this is the sense of kinship you feel on occasion with the early navigators who, without GPS, sextant, compass, or even a starry sky to guide them, at least had coastlines and landmarks.

In your years of wander and wonder, you began to notice a gradual shift from the accuracy with which you could judge where you were by the landmarks you'd assumed to be reliable. Some years later, when you were able to question the reliability of the narrator in someone else's story (or, indeed, your own), you began to question as well the coastlines and landmarks of your inner and outer worlds, taking comfort in the awareness that things and narrators were not always as they seemed. This comfort, coupled by a supposed ability to triangulate, lasted only until you began to question any and all process , including your own, that came your way.

Easy to see in retrospect how un- or dis- located you were, that is until you began to see that disorientation as a universal condition, meaning you had less cause to cope with the condition and more to write about it, creating landscapes or realities your characters were attempting to understand.

Certainty is not all it is reputed to be any more than uncertainty does not have to be the albatross its condition would suggest.. Nothing, in fact, is what it seems to be. With these two points, certainty and nothing, in mind, you begin to explore the delicious possibilities of what story is.

You have it in mind to have one of the ROTC instructors in your story tell your principal character, "Look at it this way. You are not as fragile as you think. Not all discipline is bad discipline, not all structures are confining."

You also have it in mind to have the showrunner of a TV series tell your principal character some years later, "Listen, you have to understand. Some things aren't as funny as they seem. There are times where the funny isn't enough to cover the pain of funny."

At the moment, you are looking hard at the shoreline, hopeful of finding a landmark or two.

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