The writing life is a constant bout of amnesia. Each time I return to it after too long an absence I am shocked to discover how joyful it is; how rewarding.
How is it that I keep forgetting how integral writing is to my vitality? Each time the habit derails upon collision with a busy schedule or laziness or a pursuit of some addiction (but really, always some combination of those things), how quickly I forget that writing is my truest companion. Then we're reunited finally and yet again the blank page surprises me, revealing that only here upon this endless white field am I - at home.
And just as this certain knowledge is repeatedly stolen from my wretched consciousness, so is this piece: That the thoughts which spur me to write at any given time are never the meat of the story but only the doorway. Always as I struggle to convert those thoughts to meaningful words, so the real questions emerge and the real ideas follow.
These twin crimes constantly dull the urge to write and I dare not suggest their origin - because I am not a poet of enough merit to slander those ancients before me by denouncing the beast or the pit, nor am I scientist enough to test the tale of genetic sub-code; of a dedication to species, not self, lying at the heart of the master non-consciousness. As I strive to acquire discipline, my only weapon against that ruling force (as mirrored in the messages of poets and Buddhists), I go against the interests of speciesism; I pervert our ruthless core programming.
Yet I sense with almost certainty that both claims, poetic and scientific, are versions of the same truth but written in different languages.
I look at my neighbors and they show me no indication of awareness of this harsh reality. They seem only to circle this great monopoly board that we dare label life and seem only to see through the eyes of their token. They seem to skitter in a constant panic on the surface of life, like those squat little waterbugs. Do they ever stop and peer below?
You have to slow down to see beneath things. But that is what art is all about, isn't it? Literature, music, theatre, film and the visual arts. They are reflection. They are components of real life but rearranged and concentrated. In them we seek to understand the nature of humanity by looking at our communal selves through other perspectives.
Of course there is an endless swarm of "false art." The bulk of action movie material for instance, which is fast and shallow and appeases the dedicated surface-skimmers by speeding them faster and faster along the surface. "What happens next!" is the constant question, never "What is really happening?." And the answer is bullets and fast cars. Things that appease the base instincts but at least let you explore them in the safety of the cinema; not on the streets.
But for those occasions when we bear a little courage; a little bit of respect for our innate complexity of mind, there is the literary fiction and its counterparts in film and other mediums, there is that patient contemplation; that exploration of fragile human diverseness. Here our empathy is awakened and we become someone else for a while and we laugh with them and we hurt for them and we feel connected and we get just a little closer to understanding ourselves and our kind; an infinitely greater adventure, I suggest, than any bank heist.
I just watched Julie and Julia, a true-ish film about a couple of writers with a passion for food (How could I possibly relate?). I quite liked it. Meryl Streep's performance was of Oscar quality in my humble opinion and Amy Adams was perfectly cast. I shed a couple tears in places where no man should be expected to and not because anyone got cancer or anything, but because the human spirit is miraculous and fragile and because it is at once inspiring and pitiable to watch - nay feel - someone clinging to their dreams.
Empathy. I feel it is at the core of our imagination, our creativity, our love. our connectedness. It is the hinge upon which the human being's unique evolution swings. I am in stunned awe of it.