Friday, December 23, 2016

The Smug Certainty of a Well-Buried Guilty Knowledge

In a most general way, knowledge is a combination of facts and relationships that add to our ability to survive and flourish at increased levels of comfort and civility. Among your favorite types of knowledge, so far as story is concerned, two have become paramount as valid sources for motivation. One of these is guilty knowledge, awareness individuals have about their complicity in attitudes and behavior they find, to say the least, distasteful. 

 The other knowledge is secret knowledge, awareness about the self that may be more linked to the potential for humiliation or degraded self-esteem than guilty participation.

Filed away in your own locked drawer of guilty knowledge are a few files of the equivalent of cold cases, those unsolved crimes which become solved thanks to the efforts of compulsive, persistent detectives. Most of your guilty knowledge relates to things you did with full awareness of their impropriety, their flat-out wrongness, or of the times when you might have done something to prevent some offense being carried out against another individual. 

To a degree you cannot quantify, your own guilty knowledge informs activities you perform as a payback, with no expectation of having the record expunged but with the awareness of a sense of the privilege inherent in having been born to the parents you were born to, of having a life on this planet, and in some ways regarding many of those about you the way you'd respect the waitstaff at an agreeable restaurant.

This equivalent of being a generous tipper to an outstanding waitstaff or to any but the most rude and self-involved in service professions is only one way of recognizing on an individual level those persons who bring awareness and enjoyment to your life on a daily basis. Another way of extending appreciation is by giving sincere smiles and good cheer. 

Yet another way is giving appropriate individuals your in-the-moment time, which is to say a direct, eye-contact presence, and another way still is by writing letters or emails commending employees with whom some exchange or interaction made you aware how significant friendly human contact can be.

One more way of being in the game is acting on the privilege of being able to write letters commending students to potential employers or to graduate schools. 

Secrets are another matter. Being trusted with one or more from another individual becomes the great gift of that person trusting you with sensitive information. Conversely, although there are individuals with whom you've shared secrets,  you recognize how you've more or less given away a trace of power when you confide in another. In addition, your mind races ahead to fictional, thus imagined, situations where you recognize how volatile the power can be.

By sifting through your list of secrets, you're amused to discover how much these bits of information must be to you, as related in direct proportion to your concerns about outcome, were these secrets made public. Such thought often lead you to the inevitable confrontation with the matter of how many secrets are you keeping from yourself, you who find it easy and comfortable to see yourself as calm, well centered (but not in any political sense), not concerned you will one day soon be discovered and recognized as that consummate, Bernie Madoff film-flam your Interior Critic knows you to be.

When you are auditioning characters for appearances in short stories and novels, you often ask of them, "What do you feel the most guilty about?" or "Tell me one thing about you that you've not told more then one or two other persons during the course of your life to date?"

These two aspects of the self, as they relate to fictional inventions, often lead you to uncomfortable destinations you might not otherwise have thought to visit. These are places where the pillows are hard and cranky, the showers never have enough hot water, and the persons upstairs are off-the-charts inconsiderate about making noises. Yet you do understand how, if you are to create characters of any dimension and stature, you must visit such places, aware of the irony inherent in the knowledge that comfort zones are for the civilian travelers and whatever your secrets and backstories of guilty knowledge, you gave up being a civilian traveler many years ago.

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