Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Damn! It Has Happened Again

In the years I have been writing I probably have had one hundred first lines pop into my head.  Maybe two lines.  On rare occasions a whole concept emerges.

It happens like this.  I am sitting watching the news or a favorite TV show or reading a book.  Something triggers a thought and I know I have to write that down.  But first, I have to finish whatever it is I am doing.  Then it happens.  The first line is either gone or the story that was supposed to follow it doesn’t materialize as I hoped it would.

Well, here I am again with a first line.  No, I’m sorry.  That first line disappeared and I am stuck with the one you see at the head of this article. Damn!  It has happened again.  This time, however, I decided to go ahead and see if starting to write would reproduce the “creative” urge that first struck my consciousness just a short while ago.

What follows may turn out to be the ramblings of an aging person who cannot string even a few words together into a meaningful sentence, or if I am lucky, I may actually tell you what is on my mind.  Let’s see what happens next.

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an ending.  Without those three elements it is unlikely that what is written or told will make much sense.

Here is a beginning.

What I am generally feeling when the urge to write strikes is a connection or a lack of connection where I feel one should exist.  It may be about a person, an idea or an experience.  It surges up within me as strong emotions that are difficult describe, but clearly understood within my being.  I think one of the articles I have written in the past that most closely approximates those feelings was after I had watched the annual Kennedy Honors Program in 2006.  I wrote about the experience in my book, Moments.  After hearing the story of each of the honorees, I had almost indescribable feelings of love flood my whole being.  I felt a closeness, not only to the characterization of those being honored, but to my family members and friends whom I have loved through the years and the experiences we shared.  The connection was beyond my ability to put into words as clearly as I felt it.

For some, love is easy to understand.  It is something that is just there.  No explanations are needed and no qualifications are required.  Love is!  For others love may represent the toughest of times.  It may surround a loss of some kind.  It may seem unrequited, unfulfilled.  And for yet others there may be the tragedy of being so bound to another person that unbelievable abuse is tolerated until one somehow breaks free.  I know that not everyone will see these as examples of love, but for the person so involved at that particular time with their particular state of being, that may be all they know.

Here is the middle.

I have experienced many levels of love and loss.  I know I am not the only one who has. They have produced impressions on the slate of my soul that are like the certificates of accomplishment of a job well done or the scars of some abuse.  In all honesty I have to admit to recognizing the scars of some form of abuse, mostly those I have been responsible for inflicting, more than any supposed certificates of merit.  There are heavy emotions associated with those events.  I am sure the depth of the emotions has much to do with the fact that the experiences behind them are unresolved, unfinished.  What else could be the reason that they surface so emphatically that they sometimes bring tears to my eyes when they happen? 

I can hear someone out there saying, “For heaven’s sake, man, get a life!  Get over it.”  I hear you.  I know some of the many ways in which one could bind together these unraveled ends of life events and “get over it.”  After all, I have spent most of my life dealing with, exploring, using and enjoying a philosophy of life that seemed to bring results that satisfied.  Then the story line was interrupted and I have not yet been able to reconstruct the point at which the fabric of my life began to unravel.  So the healing has not come forth.  Worse than that, there are times I really don’t care.

This is where the ending should occur.

This is where I should be telling you how I worked everything out and remembered what was so important in the first place.  At the beginning of this article I said,  “I decided to go ahead and see if starting to write would reproduce the ‘creative’ urge that first struck my consciousness just a short while ago.”  Well, I never quite got back to where I thought I wanted to go.  The emotional content seemed to evaporate like a wisp of smoke.   Sometimes life is like that.  You think you are heading toward point A and somewhere along the path you change directions and are heading for point B without knowing if that is really where you intended or wanted to go.  There is a point C in the offing.  If I choose to head there, will it be where I hoped to go? 

As you may note, I have not succeeded in explaining, at least to my satisfaction, the emergence of the “connecting/disconnecting” emotions.  Such events will continue to come, I am certain, and I will continue to experience and attempt to understand them.  When the opening sentence, or paragraph, presents itself I will offer it an opportunity to take fuller form.  In the meantime . . .


Lloyd said...

Dan: This is very good. Perhaps the moral of your piece, rather than CARPE DIEM, "seize the day" is CARPE TEMPORIS PUNCTUM, "seize the moment." While I have not given much thought to this phenomenon until I read your piece, it inspires the following. The flash of inspiration is indeed an inspired or inspiring moment. A connection, linking two formerly compartmentalized bits of information (and as we grow older, I argue, we get more and more compartments). Some people see this as a painting, some as a poem, and some as song or music, and they "make sense" of it through their own particular medium of expression. Your medium seems to be primarily verbal, and thus to "make sense" of it it has to be placed in a context of a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. That is, you "make meaning" of the event. This is what humans do. To Native Americans Nature was a huge sacred text to be studied and reconciled with, but to the invading Europeans, it was a resource to be exploited. Such are the timber, oil, extraction industries of today.

Somewhere in my disorganized library in the garage I have a copy of a text titled "Making Meaning" that I used for a couple of years in Freshman English at Casper College. It was a collection of descriptions of a wide range of differing customs of different peoples around the world and their rituals involved in coping with the uncontrollable mysteries we confront--conception, death, natural disasters, disease. Death is celebrated in Ireland by a raucous wake, in Russia some sit at the grave and toast the dead and leave the partially filled bottle and glasses at the tombstone--all because for them it gives meaning to an otherwise meaningless event. These family and cultural traditions--weddings, funerals, rites of passage--are preserved by families, ethnic groups, and cultures in spite of the ebb and flow of the pressure of standardization under the assault of mass culture that plays an ever-increasing role in the standardization of our lives.

Such, I suggest, are the flashes of inspiration generated by dreams, events on T.V., and in the literature and politics we encounter. Thus, the value of a dream journal or pocket notebook we carry in which we can scribble our flashes in a few lines and recall them later harvest or exploration or file 13. But let it here be confessed that I no longer regularly practice what I preach, except on rare occasions, though I also confess that I should.

But thanks for the article. I have often wondered in reading your blog how you managed to pull so many disparate topics seemingly "out of the air."


Dan Perin said...

I kept journals for nearly 40 years, first they were handwritten and later on the computer. Several years ago I decided it was time to let them go and I did! Valuable reading for comparing aspects of one's journey.