Tag Archives: philosophy

Matters of no importance

Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor.

“Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.” – Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), Superman

During the month of March I made a consistent effort to blog every single day, and for the most part, managed to stick to that schedule.  (Sundays were a little scattershot depending on the preceding Saturday night’s extracurricular activities.)  Both the news and the mundane quirks of my life offered ample fodder for linguistic rumination – and there could always be additional pontificating about The West Wing if either of the former were found wanting on any given day.  Lately I’ve gotten a bit lazy, and it isn’t for a lack of inspiration, but rather that I find myself less satisfied with writing things that have no deeper meaning.

Perhaps it’s a natural evolution as time and experience add up.  Maybe it’s the pressure of starting to build an audience – there is certainly a form of liberation to one’s self-expression when few are listening that diminishes as expectations begin to rise (don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for each and every one of you out there reading me!)  When one occasionally scratches at the edges of greatness, or, more to the point, writes a post that really touches someone else, the demands of living up to that standard increase exponentially.  It isn’t a matter of seeking constant validation – it’s more that when you see what you can do with that space, you find yourself less comfortable wasting it on posts about space vampire zombies.

Lest this be dismissed as the lament of another struggling writer feeling sorry for himself, let me first say that I too find literary navel-gazing to be tiresome.  I still recall watching a panel discussion of scribes about fifteen years ago and finding myself repulsed by a pretentious cigarillo-smoking douche who droned on about how he’d hadn’t been able to write a play in ten years.  It isn’t by any means that I think I can’t write, or that I’m finding the muse elusive.  I just don’t want to write crap.  I don’t want to write it, and I don’t want to ask anyone out there in Internets-land to read it.  I want what I write to be meaningful and thought-provoking.  To be consequential.  I’d rather let a day or several go by without a solitary word than publish hackery for the sake of having something to post.  So yes, when you’ve written in tribute to President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage and its greater historical and emotional context, what do you do for an encore that even comes close to a subject of such importance?  Reviewing The Avengers or talking about the sixth season of a TV show that’s been off the air for nearly seven years doesn’t quite cut it.  That, I suppose, is the danger in “very special episode” syndrome – you run the risk of making the rest of your work look like substance-less piffle.

Yet you can’t shy away from tackling the big questions if you feel you have something to say about them.  To do otherwise is to not be truthful to who you are and what you believe.  And that brings up an interesting point.

Writing is therapeutic for many people; a chance to process our confused feelings about a world that fails to make sense most of the time and strip away the layers of contradiction to find the truth at the core, and at the same time, peel the layers of self to unveil the essence of our soul.  It’s rather like sculpting – the masterpiece is there underneath, you just have to chisel away the unneeded bits of the stone.  Devoting a post or two to cotton candy instead of meat and potatoes can still be a worthwhile exercise, inasmuch as there can be a sculpture waiting inside every size and shape of rock.  Some stones may shatter into pebbles when you begin to carve them, and some may turn out to be nothing more than misshapen lumps, but the potential of art always remains, the supply of stones is endless, and each stone contains a grain of truth.  So maybe those posts about breakfast and reality television interspersed with the grand philosophical musings are all necessary stops along this journey, and we shouldn’t fret so much about whether or not a less-imposing topic is worthy of our discussion here.  You’re arguably more likely to stumble across something unexpected and wonderful when you start from an otherwise innocuous premise.  For me, the potential of that discovery is worth saddling up more often than not, because regardless of what you think the destination is, you don’t really know where you’ll end up until you actually start moving.

Remembrance of simple pleasures

WordPress is a fascinating place.  On any given day you can glide through it like the waves off Kilauea and find tales to lift your spirit, make you laugh, or inspire you to punch through your screen.  Throughout history, the human experience has been in sharing our stories with one another, and what goes on here in the virtual world is a natural progression from and extension of those drawings on cave walls and epics of heroes told around a dying fire.  Cruising through, I find myself often amazed by the level of writing talent out there or dumbstruck by how fascinating other people’s lives are when compared to mine.

Yesterday was not a day to make anyone’s history books in terms of the events that unfolded in my particular corner of the globe.  The activities undertaken were perhaps best described as the mundane pursuits of the first world – cleaning, cooking, shopping, decorating.  Yet I can seldom recall days that have felt more fulfilling or invigorating, or have led me to fall asleep at their close so contented.  I’ve spent the morning wondering why – what was it about what I did on this particular day?

The spooky fruits of yesterday's labor.

Waking up to silence in the sunshine.  Attaching Christmas lights to the eavestrough before the cold weather sets in.  Carving pumpkins for tonight’s trick-or-treaters.  Vacuuming the bedrooms.  Letting the cat fall asleep on my lap.  Drinking a sumptuously rich hot chocolate made, surprisingly, only with pure cocoa, skim milk and artificial sweetener.  Gloved fingers in mittened hand with the love of my life, taking a post-dinner stroll in crisp night to view the Halloween stylings of our neighbors’ front porches.  A simple day, but one filled with smiles, good work, vigorous exercise and the company of the most special person in the world.  What more can one ask of a single day?

Writers are accustomed to dreaming big, as we shape accounts of things that were or conceive of things that never shall be.  Compared to the worlds we concoct with our minds and fingertips, reality often seems smaller, monochrome.  Yet the true treasures of life are not to be found on a remote mountaintop or in a galaxy far, far away.  They are the diamonds we call moments, especially when shared with those most dear to us.  Moments like yesterday.  They are visceral, to be savored and relished, and lived again when they’re needed, even unexpectedly – when summoned like Marcel Proust with his madeleine.  The challenge for a writer is to find the words to share them in a way that conveys even a fragment of the true experience.  Does the most unflinchingly accurate description of a diamond ever truly capture the sheen or the lustre of a viewing of the real thing?  More to the point, does it really need to?  Maybe this is one of those times to put down the pen, look away from one’s navel and stop trying to assign a philosophical meaning to something that doesn’t need to be over-analyzed to be appreciated solely for the magnificence of what it was.

Yesterday was a great day.  A peaceful, uncomplicated, rewarding day.  And perhaps in its own peaceful, uncomplicated way, that’s more than enough.