Saturday, March 4, 2017

Never Mind Buying a Bridge in Brooklyn, Check out Your own Trip on The Pequod with Capt. Ahab at the Helm



The great binary in life among humans persists in calling each of us to consider the struggle between The Random and the Ordered. In celebration of this binary, we allow a Zen-like openness to possibility to camp free of charge within our senses, right alongside the Determinists, those who believe everything is the cause of some previous activity.

Our best candidates for protagonists in the stories we favor are the men, women, and children who are beset by forces from both camps, in exaggerated example the equivalent of a Determinist stepping next door to the Buddhist to borrow a cup of milk.

Because we recognize both camps within the shaky confines of Self, we are drawn to others like us, with some deliberation giving a wide berth to those about us who dwell entirely with one population. 

To the extent we are forced in the warp and weft of out daily experience to work, play, and trade with others of more singular resolve, we take the escape route of reading, where we retreat whenever the need overcomes us.

Like that other brother-through-fiction, Ishmael, we seek time away from real Reality as he sought refuge aboard The Pequod. Most of the time, such refuge was effective, but those are neither the times for which we read or Ishmael expected. Deep within our reader's bosom, we want the full fury and purpose of Captain Ahab. 

It may be a jungle, out there in Reality, but in here, within the reader's and writer's bosom, it is a primal struggle for sanity. We could--and some of us do-choose the bland pablum of boredom rather than risk. Most of us prefer the riskier solution: Story.

Most of us have emerged from some cultural cocoon, heads and entrails filled with fables, sermons, and catechisms of information represented to us as variously morality, common sense, and conventional wisdom. Those of us who attempt to bring story forth from the fable and into Reality reach a point somewhere along the way where we recognize the propaganda of our culture sneaking its way into our narratives. 

For the same reason actors need to learn to stop copying the traits and qualities they see in the performances of other actors, we writers need to search out and destroy the landmines of our particular culture.

It is not a bad idea to love one's neighbors as one loves one's self or to treat others as we wish to our self be treated. Nor is it an error to consider some of our inner aspects such as conscience or self-respect any more than it seems prudent to consider our limbs and sensory organs. But it is limiting to take these aspects at cultural face value and not try to push them if only to determine their weaknesses and limiting factors.

We set sail on our individual Pequod every time we begin a new narrative, whether it is a review of a book for a newspaper or local TV station, a short story, or a novel that presents us a surrogate boundary to explore, a new terrain on which to trespass, mindful how, in fact, our forebears, most of them immigrants, trespassed on land occupied by aboriginals. A new idea is a trespass on a previously held, perhaps even trade marked or copyrighted by another. 

Our difference is that we are not usurpers. We are Lewis and Clark not sent to chart the Northwest Passage, rather to explore the terrain of our imagination, take notes, perhaps even pick up a few souvenirs, then return home to tell of it.

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