There are days
The dark objects of our lives
Out of control
The internet is a huge place. I wouldn’t even know where to begin guessing how many words are out there. There are millions of people writing billions of words every single day. It is pretty impressive if you think about it. With all those billions of words, why add my own?
First, I think everyone has a story to tell. It is the story of their life, in whatever form they feel like telling it. There are as many ways to tell the story of your life as there are words being written on the internet. Those words are just tiny slivers of the vast tree of life that is continually growing, continually sprawling, continually expanding.
Second, I think serendipity plays a role. I know it has played a role as I have wandered the internet over the years. I’ve found, been referred to and stumbled over some excellent web sites, with words that have enriched my life. You never know if the story you are about to tell is the story that someone is just waiting to hear, that someone needs to hear. That is pretty dang cool if you ask me.
Third, like singing in the shower, writing without worrying whether or not someone is going to read it is actually very liberating. It makes your inner censor take a back seat. I sing in the shower, I dance alone and I often write things no one will ever read. I kind of like that.
Fourth, of course, when what you write connects with someone (T.R. and I powerfully connected through an expansive love of the written word), it’s an incredible feeling. You can’t beat it. You can only write about it.
I was lingering over lunch here at my desk (which is a short story in its own right) and I got to thinking about the stories we tell as we go through life. I was thinking about that point where our lives intersect with other people’s lives and inspiration flares.
There are two types of inspiration that happen at that intersection.
First, there is purely imaginative inspiration. Purely imaginative inspiration happens when something about the event or person fires a spark and your imagination creates another tale, completely removed from the current tale, based on the most tenuous of sparks. An example of this type of inspiration would be walking down the street and seeing a stranger almost stumble on the curb, which leads your imagination into a tale about a person who stumbles on the curb and pitches headlong into an alternate universe where no one believes them when they tell the tale.
Second, there is what I could call “imaginative imitation” inspiration. This takes the form of the classic “inspired by true events”, where you are sitting at lunch with a friend and they tell you the tale of the time they went to visit their aunt and their aunt’s cat attacked them without warning, sending them screaming from the house, with a tabby in hot pursuit. A simple change of name and perhaps place and a tale is born.
My question, my contemplation, involves the second type of tale. The first type is pretty clearing our imagination at work, weaving imaginary threads together to create something out of almost nothing. In those cases, I think it is pretty clear that the tale belongs to the first person to tell it.
But, what about the second type? Who does the tale rightfully belong too? The person writing the story about the cat attack or the person who initially told the story about the cat attack, or both?
What about the other areas of inspiration in our life? Who does inspiration belong to? Who should get credit? Who is the creator? Who is the imitator? At which point does imitation become imaginative theft?
As usual, I don’t have any answers, save to say that as a creative person I am often uncomfortably telling tales that do not belong to me, especially when the tale is very close to the true event. Part of this train of thought is something that T.R. inspired in me, and that is a sort of question at well. At what point are we stealing from our muses?
I was getting ready to go to work the other day and I was starting to feel harried. I kept having to circle back and pick up one last thing before I left for the office. Out of curiosity, when I got in, I sat down and made a list of all the incidental “stuff” that goes into my pockets or hands as I leave for work. In no particular order…
Keys, wallet, change, pedometer, Blackberry, Blackberry Case, Blue Tooth, eye drops, wrist watch, blood glucose meter, small brown leather notebook, pen, gloves, hat, sunglasses, reading glasses, employee badge, mints, and a traveling coffee cup.
Whew. No wonder I feel like I keep circling back.
I continually find myself searching for a single theme as I write. I’m not really sure what drives the desire. I keep thinking that if I can focus down on a single theme or a single subject area, I will be more productive. I am not entirely sure that is true, but it is a thought that keeps revealing itself, which may indicate my subconscious thinks it’s true. It’s pretty rare that my subconscious steers me in the wrong direction.
The challenge is I have a lot of things that interest me. A lot of things that go on around me. A lot of things that I participate in. The substance of life swirls around us constantly, the substance of life and death and everything that lies in between and interwoven. We cannot help but be touched by it as it swirls by. What I am looking for is the ability to reach out and pull back gems. I am not sure I ever had that ability. If I had it, I am not sure that I ever lost it.
So, I still find myself searching for that single, unknown theme, that weaves it’s ways through the incidents and accidents of life.
I’ve said a rosary each day of the last couple of days. Periodically, as a Catholic, there are events and incidents and accidents that lead me to into more prayer filled time. The events of this week has refocused me on the importance of prayer, the importance of faith, the importance of worship.
As human beings were are but very brief flares of life in a vast universe, a vast eternity that is beyond our ability to comprehend and that leaves us, if we are honest, ultimately, with merely faith and mystery.
I am not much of an individual who proselytizes his faith. I fall more into the category of the quiet faithful. I believe in God (insert the whole Nicene Creed* here), and I also believe that God is, fundamentally, Mystery.
Everything unfolds according to God’s plan, whether I know that plan or not. One of my favorite parables in the bible is the story of the faithful centurion (Matthew 8:5 – 8:13). I am simply a faithful soldier, going here and there, content in the sufficiency of my faith alone.
For all of those who have lost a parent, or are losing a parent, or will soon lose a parent, my thoughts and prayers are with you. It is not enough, but it is all I have, here and now, in this world. (And especially for you my love, and for your family.) When we lose a parent, when we lose a loved one, I remind myself of this – though we may, for a while, be apart from them, they are the ones who have, at last, gone home – while we are the ones who are still wandering. We may think of them as having left us, as having gone beyond our ken, as moving beyond the pale. But they are the ones who have woken up. To paraphrase Paul, they see clearly, while we see through a glass darkly. We weep for our lose, while they rejoice as being found, at last. It is a paradox of faith I guess. For myself, a faith that lies squarely in the Mystery of God.
It dawns on my that some may not be familiar with the Nicene Creed, so let me lay a link here, for you, if you are interested. It is the fundamental profession of faith for Catholics. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11049a.htm
I probably should have included this is my earlier fragments, as it is something that was wandering through my imagination over the last week or so. I was thinking about the difficulty of “finding the moment” in the modern age. As I move though each day, I often find myself “somewhere other than the present”. I am thinking about past events. I am contemplating future events. I am thinking about past events that only happened in my imagination. I am contemplating future events that will only happen in my imagination.
When I catch myself doing thing I make the effort to “find the moment”, that is to pull myself back into the here and now. I am usually successful, but often only for a while. Then, suddenly, I become aware that I am somewhere else in my imagination as I walk down the hallway.
I find myself frequently contemplating the unreal. I may be imagining past events and imagining different outcomes or I may be anticipating future events and rehearsing for them. I may be mentally practicing the options, or trying to get my brains wrapped around future outcomes.
I definitely find myself defaulting to the dancing mind.
The last week or so has been pretty busy. I’ve contemplating writing a couple of times, but never managed to find a relatively uninterrupted window. Since I didn’t seem to have time to write a longer essay, I thought I would write a series of short fragments, focusing on the variety of things going on, internal and external.
The Tucson Shootings
This has dominated the news cycle as all political sides rush to take advantage of it, a process that only seems to feed my general sense of contemptus mundi.* After contemplating the events that unfolded my observation is largely apolitical. The whole incident illustrates the difficulty of dealing with the mentally ill in modern society. The difficulty of finding the proper points to intervene, the level of intervention, and the challenge posed by dealing with individuals who may not yet have committed an act of violence, but are believed to be at risk for committing an act of violence. How do you intervene? When do you intervene? At what point do you decide to intervene? Who makes the decision? What are the rights of the mentally ill individual absent a prior act of violence? There are no easy answers, just as there are no easy answers to what happened in Tucson.
The Struggle To Find Balance In A Technological World
I was observing this week the difficulty in finding balance in our world as technology rapidly advances. We often find ourselves with access to a tremendous amount of data and sometimes the decision to embrace the data occurs in a vacuum, lacking a careful ethical and moral evaluation of the consequences, real and potential, of the subsequent data interpretation. There seems to have arisen a sense of “argument by volume”, where the overwhelming volume or amount of data serves as a substitute argument, without ever actually being analyzed and interpreted. Who is the Gatekeeper? Who holds the responsibility for interpreting the data? Is it an individual responsibility or a collective responsibility?
The Ongoing Search For Simplicity
My quest for simplicity continues, as I spent part of last week purging some more “stuff” and put together some processes to purge yet more stuff – some of it to be disposed of, some of it to be reorganized into a more compact method of retention. I had two boxes of technical drawing supplies – paper, pencils, instruments – that I used to use in the days before the rise of computers. I’d held onto them because…well, because. It was largely a perception of value, but since I hadn’t used them in years, it was obvious that whatever value they had was not a functional value – so out they went. There will be more stuff to follow.
As I read through a variety of articles, I did come across one that solved a problem I had. I have several boxes of old documents and papers. These documents are of no value in and of themselves, however, I would like to retain the data they contained. One of the articles I read on reducing incidental home paperwork was to simply get in the habit of “scan and discard” anything where the information on the document matters, but the document of itself doesn’t (i.e. bills, receipts, records, correspondence, etc.). I like that idea and picked up a basic flatbed scanner to implement it.
In terms of the overall quest for simplicity, I am often struck how one step toward the simple leads to another step toward the simple, which leads to another step…until ultimately we find the heart of simplicity.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, here is one very good working definition of it.
Contemptus mundi, therefore, is simply the recognition that the world—the human world, in all its vanity and in all the fraud hidden behind the man-made veil of science and technology—is really nothing more than our futile attempt to hide from God by stifling our desire for the good and the holy.
"Set aside justice and what are Kingdoms but enterprises of robbery." St. Augustine, City of God
I have charged full-speed into a few windmills over the course of my life. Somewhere along the line, I developed a strong sense of justice under the law, that argument that above all other things all persons ought to be treated fairly, given the circumstances.
I am, perhaps to my detriment, an advocate of proportional justice. I believe that there is a balance in the universe and that in order to sustain that balance people need to actively seek and support justice. Proportional justice can be summed up as "an eye for an eye" and that may not be the best approach to justice. I arrive at proportional justice from exposure to the pragmatic realities of life - that unjust individuals are willing to exploit the systems and procedures of the just for their own unjust ends, which is why I feel any attempts at an absolute justice are naive at best and manipulative at worst.
Oh, I most certainly believe in the power and importance of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a healing act. But, I also believe that in order to be forgiven a person must repent AND provide the appropriate, acceptable, level of restitution to make the aggrieved part whole again and so fulfill the fundamental requirements of proportional justice. So things are easier to forgive then others. Some things cannot be forgiven.
That sense of proportional justice has been on my mind for the last couple of days, what it means, what it entails, what it obligates. I don't have any answers, just thoughts, prompted by the incidents of life. The whole train of thoughts was prompted by a rather small “almost mistake” at work that got me thinking along the lines that sometimes injustice is allowed to arise with the best of intentions. We design systems and processes and procedures with good (that is to say just) actors in mind, and yet those systems can be exploited by bad (unjust) actors. Consequently, we must design into our systems, processes and procedures, the safe-guards necessary to ensure that the systems cannot be co-opted by the unjust.
What I am planning on doing is working my way through the collection in its entirety and carefully read, consider and contemplate O'Hara's work. I'd like to reach the end of the year with a deep understanding of his work. I consider O'Hara's poetry to possess a startling and all encompassing intimacy. He writes with an immediacy, with the ability to transport the reader into the world of the specific poem. I'm looking forward to it and I will share some of that journey here.
(Special thanks to my beloved T.R., who shares her passion for O'Hara, which in turn feeds my passion.)
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